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Amish country, Ohio

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Did You Know … ?

  • The 36,000 to 38,000 Amish residents in and around Holmes County comprise the world’s largest Amish community.
  • Every mile of state and federal highway in Holmes County has been designated an Ohio Scenic Byway.
  • Sugarcreek is home to the world’s largest cuckoo clock, 23-plus feet wide, 24 feet tall.
  • All the approximately 40 Amish subgroups reject television, in-home computers and car ownership.
  • A Supreme Court ruling (1972) exempts the Amish from state laws requiring schooling beyond the eighth grade.

About plain living

Amish live in 31 states and two Canadian provinces, but Ohio has the largest Amish population of the lot. While the Amish are scattered across large parts of Ohio, the center of what is generally called Amish country is Holmes County, plus the neighboring Tuscarawas and Wayne counties, in the northeastern part of the state.

The Amish are a religious group that originated in Switzerland in the late 17th century. Most Amish forefathers were German or Swiss. They began immigrating to the U.S. soon after 1720 to escape persecution for their beliefs. They adhere to Biblically inspired practices devoted to plain living and separation from popular culture. Their first language is either the Pennsylvania German (aka, Pennsylvania Dutch) dialect or a Swiss dialect; the Amish learn English in school.

Although the Amish don’t engage too much with modern society, they welcome visitors and, in fact, many of their small businesses rely on tourists for success. Some businesses — making chocolate and cheese — reflect the Swiss connection. Or, in the case of locally produced foods, furniture, handicrafts and quilts, businesses are a natural outgrowth of a self-sufficient way of life.

Holmes County and area receive about 4 million visitors a year, tourists who are fascinated by the unique culture, attracted to its slow pace and interested in buying the foods or other fine products for which the Amish are known.

But an Amish-inspired trip is more than a foodie’s adventure, a shopping excursion or a scenic drive. It has potential for rewarding encounters and some enlightenment regarding a group of people who, by design, do little to attract attention.

For this, the Amish and Mennonite Heritage Center in the town of Berlin is a good place to start. Further, local travel companies offer itineraries meant to introduce the Amish lifestyle and may include visits to an Amish home, meetings with Amish artisans and other behind-the-scenes activities.

Finally, the Amish don’t pose for photos and don’t want to be in photos that show their faces. This is less of an issue with children. Also, horse-drawn buggies move slowly. Drivers must take care, especially when approaching hills and corners.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Canoe or kayak on the Lake Fork branch of the Mohican River, near Loudonville, sometimes called the canoe capital of Ohio.
  • Shop for the kinds of heating and cooking supplies that let you work without electricity, whether at a cabin or when camping. The Amish are well equipped to do these things without electricity.
  • Camp and fish in the Mohican State Park, in western Holmes County.
  • Join an Amish culture tour that lets you visit an Amish home, visit an artisan’s workshop and travel the area’s back roads while learning more about the Amish way of life.
  • Hunt waterfowl at the Killbuck Creek Wildlife Area, in Coshocton, Holmes and Wayne counties.
  • In May, attend the Dandelion Festival at the Breitenbach Wine Cellars in Dover, and collect a few dandelion recipes for use at home.

Things to do for Centrics

  • See the rolling countryside of Amish country from horseback.
  • Take a cheese factory tour at Heini’s Cheese Chalet in Millersburg. Enjoy free samples of a wide range of cheeses made there. There are other cheeses, too.
  • Sample locally made chocolates and wines.
  • Overnight at the Historic Hotel Millersburg in Millersburg, the Holmes County seat. Listen for the clip-clop of horses on the road.
  • Drive the 160-mile Amish Country Byway in Holmes, Stark and Wayne counties, taking care to slow down on approaching hills in case there is a buggy on the other side.
  • Shop for quilts or furniture. Order a custom-designed quilt.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Shop at the open-air antiques market that is a regular part of the annual Antique Festival, staged each October in Millersburg. There are other events plus several antiques shops to haunt in Berlin and Millersburg.
  • Find a few restaurants for sampling traditional Amish-style cooking.
  • Pause for some enlightenment time at the Amish and Mennonite Heritage Center in the town of Berlin.
  • Photograph horse-drawn buggies as they move across the countryside.
  • Attend Amish Country Theater in Walnut Creek. It promises a comedic adventure for the entire family.
  • Ride in an authentic Amish buggy and tour a previously occupied Amish home at Schrock’s Amish Farm and Village in Berlin.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult the Holmes County Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau at www.visitamishcountry.com