A Visit to Ohio’s Amish Is a Trip Back in Time
Editor note: This is in the first in a series of occasional articles featuring road trips within a day’s drive of the DMV.
A visit to Holmes County, Ohio, about an eight-hour drive from the DMV, is a trip back in time to when settlers drove across the county in horse and buggy. Located southwest of Canton, Ohio, Holmes County is home to the largest Amish community in the world.
The Amish first arrived in Holmes County from Somerset County, Pa., in 1808. Today, about half of the county’s population is Amish and includes 11 distinct affiliations ranging from the progressive New Order to the Old Order and more conservative Dan Weaver Amish and the Swartzentruber Amish, a very tradition-minded group resistant to technological change.
Most of the Amish live in the eastern part of the county including Sugarcreek, Walnut Creek and Berlin running from south to north along State Route 39 and then to Mount Hope on County Road 77. Other Amish towns include Charm, Farmerstown and Winesburg. The western part of the county is wine county with many wineries to visit.
Unlike the Amish in Lancaster County, Pa., most Amish in Holmes County have left the farm in the face of growing populations and scarce land. Small business is popular among the Amish in Holmes County, with many furniture shops, manufactures and homebuilders. If you visit, make sure to take cash for the farm markets, quilt shops and bakeries since most don’t take credit card.
If you go, be aware that while the county does allow alcohol sales, there are pockets of the area – mainly where the Amish live – that don’t sell it. So if dining or staying east of Millersburg, you won’t be able to order a drink. Also, Sunday is known as the day of rest and family in Amish culture, so many of the businesses are closed. There are some restaurants and businesses in the area that are open on Sunday, but they will be the “non-Amish” experiences and businesses in the area.
History and culture
When arrive in Amish Country, your first stop should be the Amish & Mennonite Heritage Center, which shows a free 15-minute video on the history of the Amish and Mennonites. While there, you will also want to pay $13 for a guided tour of Behalt, a 10-foot by 265-foot circular mural that tells the Amish and Mennonite history from their Anabaptist beginnings in Zurich, Switzerland in 1521 to the present. If the weather is nice, you can tour a one-room schoolhouse and a barn.
Another must is a guided tour to learn about the Amish and get inside places you don’t usually see, like a buggy shop. Troyer’s Amish Tours offers 2- and 3-hour backroad excursions in a 15-seat 2019 Mercedes high top Sprinter van. Owner Rich Troyer’s grandparents and parents were Amish. His parents left the religion when they got married. The 2-hour tour is $49 for adults and $29 for children 6-12 and includes two stops of the groups choosing, while the 3-hour tour is $69 for adults and $49 for children and includes four stops. Tours begin at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Troyer also offers a tour and meal combo. With at least 8 people, you can add a meal in an Amish home. Smaller groups can enjoy a meal around the table of a local family restaurant with Amish cooks and an all-you-can-eat meal. The cost is $89 for adults, $65 for children 6-12 and $20 for children younger than 6.
Where to stay
Why stay at a chain hotel when you can be pampered? The Inn at Honey Run is a boutique resort on 56 acres of forest. The adult-only hotel is perfect for a honeymoon or quiet getaway since there aren’t any screaming kids running around. There are deluxe rooms, suites, hillside honeycombs built into the side of a hill and private cottages. The property features walking trails and the Open Air Art Museum, which features large-scale, original works from local and regional artists. No two rooms are alike, but all include a king-size bed, forest view, plush robes, coffee maker and free coffee, free wi-fi, a 32-inch HDTV with blu-ray player and DVR systems and more than 100 channels. Some also include outdoor decks or patios, gas fireplaces, wet bars and outdoor hot tubs. If you want to relax after a long day of sightseeing, the hotel has an extensive library of free movies on blu-ray. Tarragon offers contemporary American cuisine for breakfast and dinner, along with cocktails and in-room dining. There is also a flock of sheep that guests are welcome to visit and 12 beehives that produce honey sold in the gift shop and used in the restaurant.
You won’t find many fast food restaurants in Amish Country, but there are plenty of places to stop when you get hungry. From modern cuisine to homestyle Amish cooking, there is something for everyone.
Der Dutchman in Walnut Creek, Plain City and Bellville, Berlin Farmstead in Berlin and Dutch Valley in Sugarcreek is a local chain that all have the same menu. The menu includes country-style cooking with fried chicken, homemade mashed potatoes, noodles and desserts baked in house. For $15.99 you can get the Barn Raising Buffet with all you-can-eat salad and hot bar. You will definitely want to try the noodles over mashed potatoes. It may sound strange, but once you taste it, you will want it every meal while you are in town. The dish is available on the buffet as well as on its own for $10,99. You can add turkey, roast beef or a broasted chicken breast for $3.59. The breakfast menu includes fried cornmeal mush and biscuits and gravy. Also, don’t overlook the small bottles of apple butter and Amish peanut butter spread (creamy peanut butter, marshmallow crème and corn syrup) on each table. Try both on a roll or biscuit. The restaurant is open 6 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and closed Sunday.
Mrs. Yoder’s Kitchen in Mount Hope in northern Holmes County serves authentic Amish food. Just down the street from the Mount Hope Auction, which sells livestock, hay, produce and hosts the Mid Ohio Draft Horse & Carriage Sale, machinery sale and Horse Progress Days, you are likely to see horse and buggies hitched up in the parking lot and an Amish family dining at the next table. There is a buffet with salad bar for $14.99 or order a la carte. Specialties include fried chicken, roast turkey and Lake Erie perch. Don’t forget a slice of homemade fruit pies, which vary depending on what is in season. If they have the peach cream pie made with a layer of cream cheese mixture topped with fresh peaches, order it.
Colorful Cookery in Berlin is a hidden gem down a tiny alley off main street in the town’s oldest building. The tiny shop specializes in handmade pizza and bubble waffles. It doesn’t offer indoor dining, but in the summer there are outdoor tables to eat at while you watch the people walk by. Pizza by the slice is $3 for up to three topping and $4 for more than three. It also offers side salads, garlic cheese bread, whole pizzas with regular or gluten-free cauliflower crust and stromboli. There is always a pizza of the month, currently mac and cheese with pulled pork, mozzarella/provolone and a BBQ swirl. For dessert, try the bubble waffle — a Chinese egg waffle filled with fruit, ice cream and other toppings. Colorful Cookery is open from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Closed Sunday and Monday.
Tarragon at the Inn at Honey Run offers contemporary American cuisine prepared with local and seasonal ingredients for breakfast and dinner. Set in a 56-acre forest, the restaurant features high ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows with views of the surrounding woodlands. It is perfect for a romantic meal for two, anniversary dinner, birthday brunch or just a special night out.
Things to see
The Age of Steam Roundhouse Museum is a must-visit for kids of all ages. The working roundhouse was founded by Jerry Jacobson, owner of the Ohio Central Railroad. When he retired, he bought 34-acres beside the railroad’s mainline to house his fleet of railroad old-timers. He built an 18-stall, brick roundhouse around a 115-foot turntable and pit. Today, the site includes storage tracks, a store house, coal dock, wood water tank, ash pit and shop where workers restore old steam engines and train cars. The collection includes 23 steam engines, four electric locomotives, along with freight and passengers cars, cabooses and work equipment. Guided tours are available at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays May through October. Tickets are $20 for adults, $17 for seniors and veterans, $12 for children 3-16 and free for children younger than 3.
A former Amish farm, Yoder’s Amish Home allows you to take a guided tour of two Amish houses, a 119-year-old bank barn and a one-room schoolhouse. Tickets are $13 for people ages 13 and older and $9 for children 2-12 years old and include the tour, as well as a buggy ride. The final stop of the tour is the working bakery, where you can purchase fresh homemade bread, cinnamon rolls and many varieties of cookies along with jams and jellies made on the farm by Amish bakers.
Sugarcreek is a quaint little town with plenty of shops to keep you busy for an afternoon, but it is also home to the World’s Largest Cuckoo Clock. Featured on the cover to the Guinness Book of World Records in 1977, the clock is located in the center of Swiss Village. It is more than 23 feet tall and 24 feet wide. On the hour and half hour from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. April through November, a cuckoo bird pops out and a polka band emerges playing music as a couple dances.
For more information or help planning a trip to Ohio’s Amish Country, contact the Holmes County Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau.
- Amish & Mennonite Heritage Center, 5798 County Road 77, Berlin, Ohio 44610, 330-893-3192
- Troyer’s Amish Tours, 4579 County Road 114, Sugarcreek, Ohio 44681 330-600-4948
- The Inn at Honey Run, 6920 County Road 203, Millersburg, Ohio. 800-468-6639
- Der Dutchman, 4967 Walnut St., Walnut Creek, Ohio 330-893-2981
- Mrs. Yoder’s Kitchen 8101 State Route 241, Mount Hope, Ohio 330-674-0922
- Colorful Cookery, 4829 E. Main St., Berlin, Ohio 44610 330-641-3799
- Tarragon, 6920 County Road 203, Millersburg, Ohio 800-468-6638
- Yoder’s Amish Home, 6050 State Route 515, Millersburg, Ohio 330-893-2541
- Age of Steam Roundhouse Museum, 213 Smokey Lane Road SW, Sugarcreek, Ohio 330-852-4676
- World’s Largest Cuckoo Clock, Corner of Main Street and Broadway, Sugarcreek, Ohio 44681
- Holmes County Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau, 6 W. Jackson St., Millersburg, Ohio 330-674-3975
Editor-in-Chief Mark Heckathorn is a journalist, movie buff and foodie. He oversees DC on Heels editorial operations as well as strategic planning and staff development. Reach him with story ideas or suggestions at dcoheditor (at) gmail (dot) com.