I have been drawn to northern Indiana several times to immerse myself in the wonderful Indiana Amish and Mennonite culture, as well as everything that Shipshewana has to offer. Located south of Sturgis, Michigan, 135 miles east of Chicago, Shipshewana is a small Midwestern town filled with history, culture, and fun. This area has a lot of natural beauty.
Below are some of the amazing things we did during our visits.
My Shipshewana visits included a hosted trip along with a few family visits. All opinions are my own.
1. Shipshewana Memorial
The town of Shipshewana is named after Chief Shipshewana. His memorial is located near Lake Shipshewana close to the site where he died in 1841. Chief Shipshewana was chief of the Pottawattamie Indians. He was forced from the land on September 4, 1838, and removed to Kansas. The chief was then allowed to return a year later, but sadly passed not long after his return. His name is pronounced Shup-She-Wah-No, which means “vision of a lion.”
2. Blue Gate
One of the premier things to do in Shipshewana is visit the Blue Gate Theatre, Blue Gate Restaurant, and gift shop. We saw the wonderful play Our Christmas Dinner. This fun play was comedic, musical, and filled with faith. At the Blue Gate, they offer over 300 shows with 100 artists, along with outstanding Amish musicals.
Pro Tip: We loved the down-home country food at the Blue Gate Restaurant. Come during the holidays. If you are not already in the Christmas spirit, you will be before you leave because of the wonderful decorations and holiday lights. The only thing we didn’t do, that I wish we would have, is take advantage of one of the buggy rides. We also would have liked to visit Shipshewana’s Light of Joy.
One stop I want to come back to see is the fascinating Menno-Hof, a nonprofit information center in Shipshewana that teaches visitors about the faith and life of both the Amish and the Mennonites. This fascinating story began in 1986 with a massive barn-raising to build a structure to share the Amish-Mennonite story. The new facility opened in May of 1988. The history of the Anabaptist movement began in Zurich, Switzerland, and dates back to January 21, 1525. The name means “to rebaptize” because 16th-century Anabaptists rebaptized adults who had received the sacrament of Baptism at infancy.
4. Yoder’s Homestyle Cooking
Carolyn Yoder’s country home is where she offers her amazing Yoder’s Homestyle Cooking. Situated on a lake, the scenery is as lovely as her Amish food offerings.
During my trip, she showed our group how to make mouthwatering cinnamon rolls in large batches. Carolyn also provided a home-cooked Amish breakfast that included a haystack meal (eggs, veggies, and cheese piled on a biscuit then covered with gravy). We enjoyed meeting Carolyn and her husband as well as her father Orley Miller.
Orley is an Amish tour guide that provides tours of the Amish countryside, offering insight into the Amish lifestyle.
5. Amish Tour Of Shipshewana
If interested in hiring Mr. Miller to serve as an Amish guide, the best way to do this is to contact the Shipshewana LaGrange County Visitors Bureau and they can help set you up with a tour. After meeting Orley Miller at breakfast, I set up a tour for my husband Keith as a Christmas present.
What made the tour so special is that our guide, and other guides, patterned the visit to the interests of those in the group, whether it be a bus, van, or in our instance, just the two of us.
We picked up Mr. Miller at his home outside of Shipshewana where we met his wife Mary. He then shared information about the Amish way of life and we headed out to see various stops that he tailored to our particular tour.
Stops With Our Amish Guide
Orley Miller will determine what stops to make depending on the people in his tour group. Keith is a farmer that loves farm stores and his favorite stop during our tour was the Shipshe Farm Supply. He was amazed to see that they sell horse-drawn equipment. Keith was especially taken back by the new one-bottom, horse-drawn plows for sale. Orley Miller also took us to a horse auction barn.
Another shop was Riverbend Harness and Horseshoeing shop. Then, it was onto EASH Sales, The Outdoor Store, which had a little bit of everything! It is a huge store with 12,000 square feet of indoor space. What amazed me at this store was that they had appliances that were solar-powered.
6. Davis Mercantile
The Davis Mercantile is a story of history and commerce. Back in 1891, Hezekiah Davis, one of the founding fathers of Shipshewana, built a hotel for travelers near the train depot. In the late 1960s, The Old Davis Hotel was moved to Main Street. Then in the 1980s, the Miller family purchased the hotel and began refurbishing it. The story is that the building has had many uses and was once even a chicken hatchery.
Today, the former hotel is a huge shopping area with four floors and 21 stores. The historic site on the top floor houses a beautiful 1909 Denzel carousel. I rode this wonderful carousel and the operator provided me with a bit of history while I rode. There is also an amazing 300-year-old tree that is in the center of the building and is quite a conversation piece.
7. Cherry Pickers
Antiquing was one of the things we wanted to do in Shipshewana. I had heard all about the wonderful Shipshewana Flea Market, which is one of the Midwest’s largest flea markets. It takes place during the summer. We want to come back again for that!
An earlier stop in Middlebury, at the cool Varns & Hoover Hardware, led us to the antique store Cherry Pickers in Shipshewana. The woman at the counter told us this was the store to go to! Cherry Pickers is so cool!
The owners, Mark and Stephanie Liechty, are reclaiming this and that from furniture to barns, homes, and new and unique creations.
8. Riverwood Pottery
We loved Riverwood Pottery, where they create handcrafted pottery inspired by nature and farm life in northern Indiana. We brought home mugs with pheasants decorating them.
9. You-Nique Boutique
You-nique Boutique is a fun store in Shipshewana offering jewelry and unique fashions. I found my Christmas present here, a colorful top!
Pro Tip: You might also enjoy stopping at the Ace Hardware/Toy Store and a few other antique stores along the way.
Shops And More In Middlebury
The nearby town of Middlebury has fun shops like the Dutch Country Market. I purchased several jars of jam there! Here, you can also observe noodles being made. In rural Middlebury, we visited the wonderful Teaberry Wood Products, where they create custom handcrafted wooden baskets and vertical puzzles. LaVern Miller gave us a tour and showed us how he creates some of his wooden baskets.
Pro Tip: A great lodging option in Middlebury is the Essenhaus campus, which offers an array of things to do, a place to stay, a restaurant to rival all, and shops to visit! During my trip with Keith, we stayed at this wonderful place with the most wonderful Amish-style food around!
We stayed in the city of Elkhart at the historic Elkhart Hotel. This amazing hotel, originally constructed in 1923, features a coffee shop, restaurant, and various meeting spaces. They have 93 guest rooms, and best of all, the hotel is centrally located and within walking distance of the beautifully restored Lerner Theatre. It is also across the street from the Midwest Museum of American Art.