It’s time to gather your friends for a weekend full of shopping, culture, and adventure. The Amish County of Northern Indiana is calling with serene farmlands and the clip-clop of horse-drawn buggies. Shipshewana is home to the largest flea market in the Midwest, in addition to a plethora of charming boutiques it is a perfect destination for a Girlfriend’s weekend away. Here are five experiences to have during a Girlfriend’s Weekend in Shipshewana, Indiana. This post is in partnership with La Grange County CVB. This post contains affiliate links. As always opinions are always my own.
Experience the Amish Culture
The first stop upon arriving for your girlfriend’s weekend in Shipshewana needs to be the Menno-Hof Museum. The Menno-Hof Museum offers an inside look of the Amish faith and culture. Gaining an understanding of the Amish faith will help as you navigate through the third largest Amish community in the United States. The museum teaches the difference between Amish, Mennonites and Hutterites and how they came to be. Opt for the guided tour, as the tour guide directs you only through the first couple of rooms with an interactive display or videos. The guide will then leave you to explore the rest of the museum meeting up to take you through the final two interactive rooms at the end. The guides are extremely knowledgable and are happy to answer any questions you may have.
In-Home Amish Dining
If you only do one thing in Shipshewana it should be an in-home Amish dining experience. A few Amish families open their homes to guests who would like to partake in a meal with them. All meals are family-style with options for large groups or smaller parties. We had the pleasure of visiting A Taste of Shipshewana. We joined a small group in the family’s kitchen for a remarkable meal. The pleasant evening began with a hands-on cooking demonstration. Everyone participated in making Amish Peanut Butter. The Amish are known for their speciality peanut butter which differs from traditional peanut butter. The marshmallow fluff adds a new dimension to the flavor! This was served not only on the side but also as a take-home souvenir. Big containers of the creamy goodness were packed up and sent home with guests with handwritten recipe cards.
As everyone was gathered around the table the food was blessed and platter upon platter of homemade comfort food was passed around. Savory meatloaf, grilled chicken thighs, the creamiest mash potatoes, and freshly baked bread were only a few pieces of the delectable meal. Ensure there is plenty of room for the homemade pie. Three tempting pies were served and I will be the first to admit I had to sample them all. Raspberry cream, decadent peanut butter and one of the best coconut cream pies I had the pleasure of eating, all found a spot on my dessert plate.
The family is very open to answering any questions about their beliefs, culture, and Shipshewana. We enjoyed asking questions about what is going on around town, talking about an upcoming wedding in the family and the new grandchild. After visiting the Menno-Hof I had no need to ask questions about their way of life as it is laid out beautifully at the museum. It was a joy to get to know this sweet family on a personal level.
Horse and Buggy Ride
A new flow of traffic takes shape as horses and buggies become as frequent as automobiles on the road. The black buggies can be seen all throughout the town with buggy parking at local establishments. Curiosity will strike those who don’t see this as an everyday occurrence. If you have ever wondered what it would be like to ride in an Amish Buggy its time to find out. There are plenty of locals who operate buggy lines to give guests the experience of riding in a horse and buggy. Keep in mind, many of these Buggy Lines are locally owned and hours may change.
During your ride, be mindful of photos and videos and ask your driver before snapping away. Many will not mind so long as they are not in the photo. Be sure to ask plenty of questions as well! Did you know the average Amish family will only go through five horses and buggies in their lifetime? I have already been through five cars! Don’t forget a little tip for your driver as well.
Kayaking Down Pigeon River
The scenic Pigeon River is the ideal spot to spend a relaxing morning kayaking. Right outside of Shipshewana in Mongo, Indiana the Trading Post has your next outdoor adventure waiting. The Trading Post has multiple trip options available via kayak or canoe ranging from one and a half hours to an all-day event. The owners are incredible and take great pride in making sure every guest experience is excellent.
I recommend renting one of the waterproof boxes that clips to the kayak. It is the best money you will spend to ensure valuables are safe and dry. Be sure to pack sunscreen, bug spray, drinks, and a snack as you may end up taking longer to get down the river than expected. Finally, pack a towel or change of clothes to change into after your ride down the river. I would recommend keeping these items in your car until you arrive back at the Trading Post. There they have bathrooms and showers that you can change at. A bus will transport you to your drop off point and depending on the trip you with either end up paddling back to the trading post or have a pickup time. Employees will help in loading/unloading the canoes and kayaks. They will even push your kayak in the water if needed!
The river is magnificent as it winds its way through picturesque forests and ponds. This lazy river is flat with depths ranging from one to five feet. We went during a dry spell and I would say there were spots even lower than that. However, it could have been the big breakfast I ate earlier at the Garden Gate Inn.
A Few Tips
- For those going on one of the East Trips, you will need to portage your canoe down a small slope at the dam towards the end of your trip.
- Alcohol is allowed on the river, so if you choose to go Ca-brewing, drink responsibly.
- Please don’t throw your trash in the river. The Trading Post has garbage bags to take with you to keep the river clean. If you come back with a full bag of trash you get a prize!
Feed The Bison At Cook’s Bison Ranch
For a unique experience during your Girlfriend’s weekend in Shipshewana head over to Cook’s Bison Ranch to feed a herd of bison. Board your wagon to visit the fields where over fifty bison roam. The bison have learned that tractor wheels are the equivalent of a dinner bell. Before long the entire herd has surrounded the wagon. Pellets of food are available for you to hand feed the bison. Leaving the wagon is not permitted as you will get trampled! Since the bison’s teeth are located in the far back of its mouth the likelihood of getting bit is low. It is quite a slimy, entertaining and memorable event.
We happened to be visiting during their Bison and BBQ event which included a chuck wagon meal, live music, and bison feeding. The local bison was delicious! We thoroughly enjoyed our evening and would highly recommend adding a visit to Cook’s Bison Ranch to your itinerary the next time you are passing through.
Pumpkin Vine Nature Trail
The town of Shipshewana shuts down on Sunday as many recognize it as a holy day. One thing that is open in Shipshewana on Sunday is the Pumpkin Vine Nature Trail. A scenic fall bike ride is always a must as the trees are ablaze in rich colors. Bikes are available for rent at the Farmstead Inn seven days a week.
The Pumpkin Vine Nature Trail takes you through the gorgeous Amish countryside, farms and small towns. In the event you choose to bring your own bike there are many trailheads with parking that allow for easy access to the trail. The trail is roughly 25 miles long, therefore, we did bike the entire thing. However, locals told the tale of a Dairy Queen at the end of the trail which would be the sweetest way to end any bike ride.
A Perfect Shopping Excursion for your Girlfriend’s Weekend In Shipshewana
Shipshewana is famous for its auctions and flea markets, in fact, they host the largest one in the Midwest. Every Tuesday and Wednesday over 40 acres of flea market booths spring alive as visitors from far and wide flock to find the best bargain on any merchandise imaginable. There is even an app to download to help you navigate your way around. Download the free Shipshewana Trading Place mobile app to enhance your experience. Auctions happen throughout the weekend as well.
Other great shopping areas can be located throughout the town. The Davis Merchantile is home to 21 shops, restaurants, and a carousel. Swing into Millie’s Market Cafe for a tasty lunch, grab a famous JoJo’s pretzel or satisfy your sweet tooth at Aunt Millie’s candy. Boutique shops line the small street as many folks venture over to the Blue Gate Resturant and Theater. My only piece of advice is don’t miss the Blue Gate Bakery to bring home a few treats.
Blue Gate Garden Inn
This delightful hotel is full of fantastic amenities and top-notch hospitality. A unique feature of the Blue Gate Garden Inn is the wide variety of room types offered. They have options with living rooms, two bedrooms, suites and more. I couldn’t imagine staying anywhere else with friends or children in tow. The rooms are full of Amish charm, clean and cozy.
The complimentary breakfast in the morning is the best way to start your day. Omelet stations, waffle bar, and breakfast staples are all available. Be sure to use the waffle maker that makes the little horse and buggy! Looking for a snack later in the day? Visit the Ice Creamery located inside the hotel and enjoy it out to their beautiful patio. From a swimming pool, a basketball court to an arcade there are plenty of amenities to keep everyone busy.
Know Before You Go On Your Girlfriend’s Weekend To Shipshewana
- The town of Shipshewana is dry, meaning no alcohol is available within city limits.
- La Grange County, the county that Shipshewana is located in is not dry with local pubs and eateries serving up brews and spirits. A great spot to stop for drinks is Beauty and The Bull. They have homemade mozzarella cheese sticks to die for!
- Be mindful when taking photos of Amish families. For instance, ask permission before snapping away.
- The town of Shipshewana closes up around 5 pm which the exception of a few shops and restaurants.
- Look for local festivals and events going on in the area.
- Remember that the Amish are just like you and me, however, they choose a different way of life. They don’t appreciate strangers knocking on their doors or creeping in their personal space just like us. Be courteous, mindful and keep in mind that sometimes the best way to have your questions answered about the Amish is to ask an Amish storekeeper or business owner.
The Amish County of Northern Indiana has so much to offer visitors, therefore, one weekend simply isn’t enough. Discover even more great things to do in Northen Indiana during your next Girl’s Weekend Getaway!