Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Staycation Adventures: Ohio's Amish Country, Part One

Recently we had Grandpa and Gramma from New York come for a visit and we were thrilled they brought another guest, my son's cousin. The boys are very close in age and had a blast the entire weekend while visiting the LEGO store, camping out in the basement, and, believe it or not, visiting Amish Country! The trip can be a fun experience for young lads if you plan it right and know where to go. My family is very familiar with the trip because we go often to get more popcorn kernels. Not familiar with our popcorn addiction? Click here.

The key to touring Amish Country is getting an early start and seeing everything in the right sequence, as many Amish stores close at 5:00 pm. The trip that follows will take you into the heart of Amish Country around Walnut Creek, and Sugar Creek, Ohio, then slowly ween you away from the Amish and into regular farm country, like Kidron, Orrville, and Smithville, where venues are open later. And, if you live in Northeast Ohio, it's a way to break-up the trip while heading back home.

Warning: The trip itinerary you are about to experience is fun, but with purpose. We purchase our popcorn, dry goods, and cheeses (bring a cooler) while we visit so, although we are getting errands accomplished, we go to really interesting and fun places to accomplish them. And, if you're in the market for Amish furniture, well, that's a whole 'nother trip. We do avoid tourist traps, though. We don't do the Yoder's Amish House tour, although you are more than welcome to visit if you're in it for the tourist aspect. Finally, authentic Amish buggy rides are available to tourists. Personally, you couldn't get me in one of those things for anything because I'd like to live to see my son's future. I can't imagine sharing the rode with cars the English (that's you) drive at 55 mph on rolling hills in the unfamiliar countryside. No thanks, I don't trust you English (again, that's you) drivers!
Stop #1
Shearer's Foods Inc.
692 Wabash Avenue, North
Brewster, OH 44613 (330.767.3426)

Shearer's is Ohio's #1 potato chip factory. Unfortunately, Shearer's no longer gives factory tours, but the outlet store is open right next to it; great deals on potato chip "seconds". When you're crunching, who can tell the difference? It's all good! In addition to potato chips, Shearer's makes cheese puffs and a whole bunch of other stuff. If you like caramel, check out the Caramel Dittos.
The giant bag of cheese puff balls - no one said it was a healthy excursion.

Stop #2
Wendell August Forge
7007 County Road 672
Berlin, OH 44610 (330.893.3713)

Since 1923 Wendell August Forge has been producing beautiful pieces of tableware and gift items out of aluminum, pewter, copper, etc., making it the world's largest and oldest forge company. As you enter the store you are greeted by a smiling grandmotherly type offering you a fresh baked batch of cookies. Mind your manners, take only one!

For $2 the kiddos can try their hand at forging.

World's largest Amish buggy

Stop #3 (lunchtime)
Der Dutchman Restaurant
4967 Walnut Street
Walnut Creek, OH 44687 (330.893.2981)
Lunchtime is the right time to head on over to the Der Dutchman in Walnut Creek. It sits way up high on a hill overlooking the farmland valley. If you're lucky to get a seat by the window, then you're lucky to have the best view so enjoy it. This place gets mega busy around both lunch and dinner time so I'd head that way for an early lunch, about 11:30, to avoid the long line waiting to get seated. The food is authentic Amish fare but I highly recommend the vegetarian-fed, steroid-free chicken. Be sure to ask for it broasted and you'll be thanking me. I love the salad bar because it's hard to find one these days, let alone a good one. Grandpa ordered a cinnamon roll for dessert and it was as big as a baby's head, ooey and gooey with icing all over it - YUM!

Stop #4
P. Graham Dunn
across the street from the Der Dutchman Restaurant

When you're done feeding your physical side, walk across the street to P. Graham Dunn and feed your spiritual side. This store has beautiful scripture and verse laser carved into natural wood pieces to decorate your home. Just walking through the place is very uplifting for the soul.

Stop #5
Carlisle Gifts
next to P. Graham Dunn and across from the Der Dutchman Restaurant

As soon as you walk in, a wafting of sweet perfumed air greets you at the door and your peepers go into eye-candy overload. There is just so much to see here at Carlisle Gifts. It's like a little treasure hunt on 3 huge floors of stuff, stuff, and more stuff. Personally, my favorite thing in the store isn't for sale: the beautifully curved staircase leading to the downstairs floor. As you leave this store to get to the next stop, which is walking distance, take the brick-lined garden path up the hill. Then, take in the view because it is truly breathtaking. When you've reached the top of the hill, cross the street at the Carlisle Inn to get to the next stop.

Stop #6
Coblentz Chocolates
on the same side as the Der Dutchman, just a little ways up the hill but walking distance

We actually skipped this place on our recent trip but if you've never been, Coblentz Chocolates is worth checking out since you're right there. After getting your chocolate fix, visit the cemetery right next to it. Looking at all those ancient tombstones is really remarkable.

Now it's time to get back in the car and travel to Sugar Creek. This Staycation Adventure only took one day, but writing about it will take me two days so look for Part 2 next week! 
Stay tuned...

Disclaimer: I was not paid to advertise any of these venues but if you're reading this and want to talk money I'm all ears and the fun factor is based on my own gauge. As I am unfamiliar with your own definition of fun, I am not responsible for any un-fun that you may experience during your trip.

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