Two hours from Chicago, our family traded our car for horse and buggy to explore the quaint town of Shipshewana and scenic backroads in the heart of Indiana Amish country. Many visitors come to Shipshewana for the Shipshewana Auction and Flea Market, the largest of its kind in the Midwest held every Tuesday and Wednesday, where you'll find everything from handmade quilts to cows.
We started our journey by hitching a guided ride on a horse and buggy with Buggy Lane Tours, a small, local tour company. My two city kids were thrilled when our buggy led us to a working Amish dairy farm: they frolicked with barnyard cats, milked cows and tried milk direct from the cow's udders for the very first time.
We capped our visit to the farm with a family-style Amish dinner at the Blue Gate Restaurant, where we enjoyed a hearty meal of country fried steaks, mashed potatoes, tender green beans and blueberry pie.
Davis Mercantile is downtown Shipshewana's shopping mall, where local vendors sell handcrafted, souvenir-worthy goods, including Amish quilts (available at Lolly's Fabrics on the first floor) and hammered dulcimers (at Simple Sounds, also on the first floor). Don't forget to take a ride on the antique carousel, created in 1906 and featuring hand-carved farm animals. Grab a few homemade pretzels from JoJo's Pretzels (first floor) to go.
Twenty miles east of Shipshewana, Trading Post Canoe invites adventuresome families to take a 10-mile kayak or canoe ride down the shallow, slow-flowing Pigeon River.
This excursion was just right for our 3- and 11-year-old kids: our 11-year-old chose to travel in a one-person kayak while our 3-year-old kept my husband and me company in a canoe. We made sure to bring along snacks (Amish popcorn from a popcorn stand on Harrison Street in Shipshewana) and drinks, and stopped halfway down the river on a tiny island, where we kept watch for turtles and frogs.
Our home base in Shipshewana was a tiny log cabin at Amish Log Cabin Lodging. Though small-one room with a queen and a bunk bed-the view from our window of a quiet farm with horses grazing on the fields at sunset and the budget-friendly rate made it worth our while.
Year round, Shipshewana makes for a great family weekend escape.
Amy Bizzarri is a writer, Chicago public school teacher and mom to two kids - a preschooler and a middle schooler - living in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago.
See more of Amy's stories here.