One of the huge benefits of traveling with your kids is the the chance to show them that the world is full of all kinds of different people, cultures, and landscapes and I’d love to take my kids all around the world to experience all those rich cultures that make up our planet but my budget doesn’t always allow for that.
So finding a way to incorporate those values into travel right here in the Midwest is a huge plus!
Shipshewana, Indiana is home to one of the largest Amish populations in the United States. While Shipshewana is perhaps best-known for their huge weekday flea market, it also makes for a fantastic weekend getaway for your family as your kids get an opportunity to experience a new culture just a few hours from home.
Find out why we loved our weekend with kids in Shipshewana!
Visiting Shipshewana With Kids
Special thanks to Visit Shipshewana for hosting our visit and providing accommodations and attraction passes. As always, all opinions are my own. This posts contains affiliate links which allow me to earn a small commission. You can read more in my full disclosure policy.
There are some important things you need to know before you plan your trip to Shipshewana. First, check out all the great information at Visit Shipshwana. The folks at the LaGrange County Visitors Center are happy to help with any questions you might have or to offer suggestions for your trip.
You also need to keep in mind that almost all businesses in Shipshewana are closed on Sundays so that the Amish can worship with their families. There’s still plenty of nearby attractions open in the rest of the county, but you’ll need to plan your itinerary carefully.
Slow down! Yes, you really will be sharing the road with horses and buggies while in Shipshewana, so make sure you drive carefully. My kids loved seeing all the different ways that Amish families use transportation so enjoy the slower pace as you explore.
Bring cash. Many of the Amish-run businesses don’t take credit cards so you’ll need to have more cash on hand than you’re probably typically used to carrying.
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What to Do In Shipshewana with Kids
Cook’s Bison Ranch
About 20 minutes from Shipshewana, Cook’s Bison Ranch offers weekend tours of their farm so you can get up-close and personal with their herd of bison. Head out on the covered wagon tractor with a bag of bison food (purchased in the small store on-site) and wait for the buffalo (we learned that bison and buffalo are the same thing) to come and eat from your hand.
After your tour, you can stop in the main barn for some fresh cooked bison burgers (available only with reservations). The meal includes chips, a drink, and dessert. I love supporting families who clearly have a passion for their business and Cook’s Bison Ranch is certainly one of them!
Dutch Creek Farm Animal Park
Another place to get up-close and personal with a whole host of exotic animals, Dutch Creek Farm Animal Park allows visitors to wander through the petting zoo of typical and not so typical animals (hello, Charlie the camel) and then hop aboard a horse-drawn wagon for some animal meet and greets.
Each visitor gets a huge dish of feed to pass out to the animals along the ride. Our tour was at least 30 minutes and we were able to view and meet everything from long-horned cattle, to farrow deer, and even a zedonk (that’s a zebra-donkey for those of you won didn’t know).
My kids loved all the animals and being able to get so close. Be prepared for lots of dirt and animal slobber by wearing old clothes when you visit.
There are tons of places to shop when you visit Shipshewana but it’s probably not how you’ll spend most of your time if you’re visiting with your kids. For kid-friendly shopping stop by Davis Mercantile which houses a bunch of stores within one building. There’s a toy store and candy store to visit, plus you can take a ride on the carousel on the third floor. I also recommend Yoder’s Meat and Cheese Shop for lots of samples and great Amish crafted meats and cheese.
Amish Buggy Tour and Dairy Farm
One of our main reasons for coming to Shipshewana was to allow our kids to experience a different culture and if that’s one of your goals too, you need to schedule a tour with Buggy Lane Tours. We took the buggy tour with a stop at an Amish dairy, and it was by far the highlight of our trip. John, our driver, was a delightful tour guide and was kind and thoughtful in explaining his Amish culture and beliefs to our family.
At the Amish dairy, we took a tour of the barn, got to help bottle-feed some young calves, and then stopped into the milking parlor to chat with the family who runs the farm. The farm tour ends with some tasty ice cream and then a quick buggy ride back to town.
John and his family also offer an Amish dinner and buggy tour as well which will definitely be on my list for next time. I can’t emphasize enough how much my whole family loved this experience as a chance to learn and understand more about another culture.
Menno-Hof Amish/Mennonite Cultural Center
If you want more information on Mennonite and Amish culture you can stop by the Menno-Hof Cultural Center. I recommend this for older kids, probably 10+, since the only tour offered is a guided tour which takes about 90 minutes. There’s lots of interesting displays and info about the history of the Amish and their beliefs but it’s definitely geared more towards adults than kids.
Canoeing and Kayaking
Our last day in LaGrange County was spent on the Pigeon River in Mongo, Indiana about 30 minutes east of Shipshwana. We rented 2 tandem kayaks from Trading Post Canoe, Kayak and Campground. It was a first for us and we had so much fun, plus it was a great way to beat the heat. We took the short 4 mile Nasby Dam route since we didn’t know how the kids would do, but they both loved it and I would definitely extend it for a longer float next time.
Most trips leave from the main location and you call a shuttle to come pick you up when you are finished. They provide everything you need and the campground looked really pleasant as well if you wanted to make a weekend of it. I can definitely say we are hooked on kayaking now!
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The Pumpkinvine Nature Trail runs right through Shipshewana and you can rent bikes from the Visitor’s Center if you need them. The trail runs from Shipshewana to Goshen for 17.6 miles (all paved except a small section near Goshen). We didn’t have time to experience the trail on this trip but it would be a great way to explore the area as a family.
Grab your Frisbee and play some disc golf at Delt Church Park! There are also picnic areas, a playground, and hiking trails to take if you want to give your kids a chance to run around. Delt Church Park is south of Shipshewana.
Where to Stay in Shipshewana with Kids
Blue Gate Garden Inn
My kids would have been perfectly happy if we simply stayed put at Blue Gate Garden Inn the entire weekend. This lovely hotel is right in the heart of Shipshewana so it’s easy to get to all of the area’s attractions. In addition to having your standard amenities I was blown away with all the ‘extras’ you can find at Blue Gate Garden Inn.
Accommodations range from standard rooms to several different types of suites. We stayed in a Family Fun Room which was a highlight for my kids with TWO sets of bunk beds, a sitting area, kitchenette, bathroom, and a separate bedroom. I highly recommend it for families who want a little more room to spread out.
Breakfast, which is included, was several levels above your standard hotel breakfast and included a make-your-own omelete bar as well. Make sure to visit the Ice Cream Parlor for a sweet treat or to pick up a pizza. There’s even an Amish buggy you can dine in, which my kids thought was totally fun.
Between the giant indoor pool, basketball court, fire pit, family ‘living room’ area for TV and games, and the cute little arcade with super affordable games, my boys were set for days! Blue Gate Garden Inn is certainly family-friendly and offers so many great amenities that I wouldn’t think of staying anywhere else.
Where to Eat in Shipshewana with Kids
Ben’s Soft Pretzels
You might think you’ve had a soft pretzel before but throw out your old idea of the stale ballpark fare and get ready to have your taste buds explode when you try Ben’s Soft Pretzels. Much sweeter, these pretzels are buttery and delicious and you can try them with lots of different dipping sauces, including their special sweet mustard sauce.
We got a behind-the-scenes look at pretzel making and this homemade recipe is totally worth a stop. If you’re nearby for lunch, grab one of their stuffed-pretzel sandwiches (kind of like a calzone). They’re enormous and super yummy and a great deal for families to split for lunch.
The Blue Gate Restaurant & Bakery
You can’t miss The Blue Gate Restaurant with its charming front porch and colorful flowers. Inside there are two restaurant options – a buffet and a sit-down restaurant. For kids, I recommend the sit-down option so you don’t have to juggle plates and drinks for everyone.
The menu offers lots of Amish home-cooked favorites like fried chicken, pot roast, and chicken with noodles. I appreciated the kids menu and crayons plus the loaf of bread with Amish peanut butter and apple butter that arrives with the meal. Nearby, you’ll find Blue Gate Bakery (definitely grab a pie to-go) and Blue Gate Theatre with concerts and performances throughout the year.
In the tiny town of Howe, Indiana, about 15 minutes east of Shipshewana, you’ll find this gem of a restaurant built in a old house. Iannarelli’s is classic mom and pop Italian restaurant. The food was delicious and we saw lots of families and couples enjoying themselves. The best was the live piano music (which my kids said made this restaurant “super fancy”) on the Saturday night we visited. Such a charming little place and unexpected in a small Indiana town.
Stop by Rise’n Roll in nearby Middlebury for breakfast or to grab their famous cinnamon rolls or a box of donuts. The bakery also has a nice variety of other Amish goods like jellies, pickles, and mustards. I suggest traveling with a cooler so you can bring home some extra treats from the many Amish food stores in the area.
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Family Getaway to Shipshewana
Don’t miss the chance to give your kids an amazing introduction to a new culture right here in the Midwest. With outdoor fun, animal adventures, and family-friendly accommodations, Shipshewana is the perfect reason to get out and explore in your own backyard!
Have you visited Shipshewana? What other cultural groups can you visit in the Midwest? Make sure and leave a comment if you have a question about any of these suggestions. I’m always happy to answer questions about your upcoming trip!