The rolling countryside of Amish Country of Northern Indiana holds the tidy farms and fields of Amish farmers, Quilt Gardens Along the Heritage Trail, and family-friendly entertainment. We talked with Sonya Nash, director of group and experiential sales and marketing at the Elkhart County, IN Convention and Visitors Bureau about six fun places to visit in northern Indiana. Nash also shares some of her personal tips, favorites, and add-ons.
Alka Seltzer and the famous “Speedy” was created in Elkhart, Indiana.
Who remembers the famous Alka Seltzer advertisement, “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh, what a relief it is?” Elkhart was the home of entrepreneur Albert Beardsley who helped found the company that created Alka Seltzer and the popular “Speedy” brand. His elaborate 1910 beaux-arts-style house, Ruthmere, named after his deceased daughter Ruth, is available for your group’s guided tour. “You’ll see a fine art collection including Tiffany leaded glass, Rodin sculptures, velvet window coverings, hand-painted walls, and walnut woodwork,” Nash says.
Must-see add-on: Extend your time at the Ruthmere campus and see the newly restored Havilah Beardsley house located a short block from the Ruthmere mansion. Hear about the founder of the city of Elkhart, plus see inside an 1800s home.
2. Olympia Candy Kitchen
Chocolate-covered cherries, handmade at Olympia Candy Kitchen in Goshen, Indiana, were served at the inaugural balls of President Reagan and President George H.W. Bush.
Olympia Candy Kitchen has been welcoming visitors for almost a century in its unchanged location in downtown Goshen, Indiana. It remains a family-run business, passed through four generations over 100 years. All the candies are handmade from scratch, including the famous turtles, crafted with its own homemade caramel, and the famous chocolate-covered cherries. The company also provides a wide variety of the highest quality hand-dipped sweets, such as creams and chocolate-covered peanuts, plus a great selection of gummy candies, jellybeans, licorice, and other non-chocolate treats. Groups can enjoy this retro candy shop and take home some delicious treats.
Personal fave: The chocolate-covered toffee is Nash’s personal favorite candy treat.
3. Das Dutchman Essenhaus
Das Dutchman Essenhaus in Middlebury, Indiana, cooks over 3,600 chickens each week, offers 31 kinds of pies on its menu, and is Indiana’s largest restaurant.
This peaceful escape in the country offers a unique combination of dining, cozy country lodging, and shopping opportunities all at one location! The attractive Amish-style restaurant seats 1,100 and serves the famous buffet or traditional family-style meal for either lunch or dinner. Manicured grounds invite a leisurely stroll or perhaps a carriage ride through a quaint covered bridge. The multiple shops located on the grounds are open later in the evenings making it perfect to enjoy after dinner.
Insider tip: “Groups love to relax and enjoy a free evening at the Essenhaus to just enjoy all there is to do at one location,” Nash says. “So, make sure and plan some downtown time in your itinerary for that free evening.”
Must-see add-on: Choose to do this on a Thursday night in the summer when the free Classic and Collectible Car Cruise-in occurs to extend the evening fun.
Personal fave: The Coconut Cream Pie is to-die-for, according to Nash.
4. RV capital
Elkhart County is known as the “RV Capital of the World,” producing over 84% of all travel trailers, recreational vehicles, fifth-wheels, motorhomes and campers that are made in the world.
Groups can enjoy a free private group factory plant tour through a working RV plant that offers opportunities to see the Amish at work building these “homes on wheels.” Jayco RV in Middlebury also offers a free introductory film about its history, plus a walk-through display area of newly completed models, which are fun to see up close.
Insider tip: Secure your group tour time by planning this plant tour experience between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m., Monday through Thursday, to best accommodate the factories’ production schedules.
Must-see add-on: The RV/MH Museum extends the experience and includes Mae West’s personal movie trailer and Charles Lindbergh’s camper used after his famous flight.
5. Coppes Kitchens
Frank Sinatra and President John F. Kennedy both had kitchen cabinets in their homes made by Coppes Kitchens from Nappanee, Indiana.
The factory for Coppes Cabinets once produced the famous “Hoosier Cabinet.” The 100,000-square-foot renovated factory now houses a variety of small businesses perfect for shopping for locally made, handcrafted, and fresh-baked items. Groups get a fascinating historical glimpse into the Coppes Kitchens on a self-guided tour of this rustic and rambling brick structure.
Insider tip: “Don’t leave Coppes Commons without the creamiest ice cream in the state from Rocket Science Ice Cream,” Nash says. “It’s flash-frozen right before your eyes at 320 degrees below zero by the Amish!”
Must-see add-on: Take a short, guided walking tour with the Nappanee Center guides. See historic homes that housed the kitchen cabinet icons, including the “House the Depression Built.”
6. Bonneyville Mill
Indiana’s oldest operating gristmill is Bonneyville Mill in Bristol, Indiana.
Bonneyville Mill has been producing flour for over 150 years. Groups love to hear the rumbling of huge millstones grinding grain into flour as the friendly miller tells all about the process.
Insider tip: Visit in August when the Dahlia Test Garden is in full bloom for a colorful group photo op.
Personal fave: Ask for the cornbread recipe after you buy a bag of freshly ground meal, Nash says.
For more information, visit visitelkhartcounty.com/groups.
Rocket Science Ice Cream
Credit: Elkhart County IN CVB