Road Trip: Ohio's Amish Country
Less than three hours from Pittsburgh, there's a section of the world where horses are transportation, not pets; quilts and furniture are crafted by individuals, not factory assembly lines; and twisty country lanes force stressed urbanites to slow down and admire the scenery.
Holmes County, in northeast-central Ohio, is at the center of what's known as Ohio's Amish Country.
About 36,000 Amish residents live in Holmes County and the five counties that surround it.
That makes the region the largest Amish community in the world and a big draw for tourists and day-trippers seeking a day or longer in the country.
According to the Holmes County Chamber of Commerce, about 4 million visitors arrive each year, drawn by the scenery, crafted items and locally produced food.
Millersburg, Berlin and Walnut Creek offer restaurants, lodging and stores that make them the best bases from which to explore the region. But there are also cabins, bed-and-breakfasts and campgrounds nearby.
Those hoping to simplify their trip planning should consult the Amish Country Ohio website at www.visitamishcountry.com or request a planning brochure by calling 877-643-8824.
Alice Carter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7808.
For an informative introduction to the local culture, visit the Amish & Mennonite Heritage Center.
It's a good place to learn about the history and beliefs of the Amish and Mennonite people who live nearby as well as a convenient source for free brochures, maps and visitor guides to local attractions, lodging and services.
Guides offer 30-minute tours that use a 10-foot-by-265-foot mural that illustrates the history and culture. There's also a 15-minute video that focuses on the local community.
Also on the property is a schoolhouse that predates the Civil War and a pioneer barn that houses a restored Conestoga wagon that brought early settlers to the area.
Details: 330-893-3192 or www.behalt.com
At the Farm at Walnut Creek in Sugarcreek, visitors can take a horse-drawn wagon ride to watch farmers tending crops in the field, visit the blacksmith shop, explore the barns, stroll through the non-electric farm house where someone is usually cooking, canning or quilting as well as feed the sheep, the pigs and the giraffes.
Wait, feed the giraffes?
Yes, in addition to being a working farm, it's also home to more than 500 animals from six continents.
While smaller animals are corralled in a petting area, most of the animals roam freely through the park and are happy to feed from buckets of food available for sale at the farm.
Details: 330-893-4200 or www.thefarmatwalnutcreek.com
With more than 8,000 bolts of fabric, hundreds of patterns and books and all the necessary notions to inspire a person, don't be surprised if you leave Miller's Dry Goods ready to make a quilt.
This family-owned business in Dalton opened in 1965 and has since expanded to fill two buildings.
If you like handmade items but prefer to leave the cutting and stitching to others, the store sells ready-made quilts in a variety of colors, patterns and sizes as well as quilted wall hangings, pillows and potholders
Details: 330-893-9899 or www.millersdrygoods.com
Gadgets for guys
Men say they hate shopping.
But turn them loose in Lehman's 32,000-square-foot retail store, and it could be hours before you can pry them away.
This is not your ordinary hardware store.
Jay Lehman founded it in 1955 to serve the Amish community. It has since become a destination store for people looking to buy practical items not powered by electricity — oil lamps, wood-burning cook stoves, gas-powered retro refrigerators and contemporary versions of vintage wooden and tin toys; cast-iron cookware; hand tools; beeswax candles; Fels-Naptha soap and an amazingly large variety of cookie cutters in tin and copper.
Thirsty? Check out the coolers in the food section for hard-to-find vintage soft drinks such as Dad's Root Beer, Grape or Peach Nehi and Moxie.
Details: 888-438-5346 or www.lehmans.com
Step back in time at historic Roscoe Village, a restored 1830s canal town that's alive with shops, restaurants and history in Coshocton County.
Costumed interpreters, traditional crafts demonstrators and old-fashioned shops, gardens and restaurants provide glimpses into early 19th-century life in an Ohio village.
Visitors can a watch a blacksmith, a weaver, a cooper and a broom maker go about their daily routines; observe old-time cooking demonstrations; or sit in on a re-enactment of an 1800s-era school lesson.
In addition to guided or self-guided walking tours, visitors can take a 45-minute horse-drawn canal boat ride along a 1.5 mile stretch of the canal.
Details: 740-622-9310 or www.roscoevillage.com
Slow lane travel
Get in sync with the rhythms of Ohio's Amish country by taking a jaunt along the Holmes County Trail.
The 15-mile pathway meanders through the heart of Amish country and passes through small towns, past swamplands filled with turtles, hawks and doves, across repurposed railroad bridges and along farmers' fields.
Walkers, cyclists, rollerbladers and horse-drawn buggies share the trail on adjacent paths, one paved and the other of chip-and-seal.
A good starting place is Hipp Station trail head at the restored Millersburg train depot.
The depot serves as headquarters for the trail as well as a visitors center with wildlife displays, restrooms, vending machines, a covered picnic area and playground.
Details: 330-674-0475 or www.holmestrail.com
Nearly a half dozen antiques shops on or near Millersburg's Jackson Street offer tantalizing treasures from earlier eras. Look for collectible glass, toys and antique art at Millersburg Glass and Collectibles; vintage furniture, books and locally hand-crafted rugs at the Antique Emporium or primitive art, crocks and small pieces of furniture at Starlight Antiques.
If you still have space in your vehicle, continue on to nearby Berlin for more antiquing opportunities.
Details: 877-643-8824 or www.visitamishcountry.com/shopping.php