Editor’s Note: During this period of social distancing, Group Tour magazine will continue to provide group travel inspiration. Many attractions and destinations are closed at this time; please contact them directly for updated information.
With its astonishing 700 vendors sprawling over 40 acres, the Shipshewana Flea Market in Shipshewana, Indiana, is an established destination for Midwest bargain hunters.
The outdoor market, which welcomes groups large and small, offers everything from handmade birdhouses made by Amish crafters (from local business Green Meadow Birdhouses), to coral and silver jewelry created on Hawaii’s Big Island, where Pacific Polynesian Enterprises relocates during northern Indiana’s cold weather months.
These products are the tip of the iceberg, of course. The flea market offers thousands of products ranging from furniture, perfume and clothing to herbs and other farm products, including spices and jams.
“When people come to visit us, the hardest thing for many of them is locating specific items they are looking for,” said Lora Gates, director of marketing and customer experience at Shipshewana Trading Place. “But we can help them find almost anything with our free (smartphone) app. If someone is looking for, say, handmade soap, every vendor who sells that here will come up on the app.”
The flea market grew “organically, about 75 years ago” out of livestock and antique auctions that still operate on the site, Gates said.
Tour groups, which most typically bring 40 to 55 visitors, can hit both the flea market and a massive weekly antique auction during a single day, or overnight at the 153-room Farmstead Inn and Conference Center, adjacent to the flea market.
Because Shipshewana is home to the third-largest Amish community in the United States, Gates also suggests visiting a handful of Amish attractions in the area, including the Menno-Hof Amish Visitors Center. The nonprofit information center educates visitors about the faith and life of Amish and Mennonite people through colorful displays and presentations.
Group tours are welcome to explore the flea market independently, but Shipshewana Trading Place also can provide extras, such as electric scooters for people with disabilities or custom hands-on tours, Gates said.
“We’re happy to offer, for example, visits with Norm the Painter, and demonstrate how people make beautiful paintings on antique windows just like he does,” she said.
For more information on Shipshewana Flea Market call 260-768-4129 or go to shipshewanatradingplace.com/flea-market.
Article by Mark Shuman