This post is part 4 of 5 in the series Quick Trips from Des Moines.
The Amana Colonies have been welcoming travelers for over 150 years with great German food and a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere.
Amana History in a Nutshell
The seven colonies were settled, each no more than an hour’s ox cart ride from the next, by the Community of True Inspiration in 1855. The Amana Colonies would go on to become one of the longest lived and largest communal religious societies in America, voting to set aside the communal way of life in 1932.
The Amana Colonies were declared a National Landmark in 1965 and welcome visitors year round to visit these villages that celebrate the future while cherishing the past.
For a more in-depth look into the history of the Amana Colonies, be sure to visit the Amana Heritage Museum.
Visiting the Amana Colonies
Exiting off I-80, the Amana Colonies are five miles north of the interstate. Laid out in a circle (mostly), it’s easy to explore the villages whether you have a day or a weekend.
At the “entrance” to the colonies a large map of the area welcomes you. Turn right, passing through the edge of Homestead, and proceed to Amana. This has become the main center of tourism in the area, and here is where you will find the fabulous Visitors Center in a beautifully converted corn crib. Ask questions of the wonderful staff and peruse the brochures of local businesses. Before you go, climb to the top of the building and peer out over the town from the cupola.
The village of Amana is made for wandering. Park in the free lot across from the Visitors Center and choose a direction to walk. Shops, restaurants, homes, and wineries line the main street. Take your time and just wander through. There is no rush in Amana.
A Few Places the Kids Will Really Enjoy
The Amana Furniture and Clock Shop
This is Amana’s original furniture shop and even today you can watch craftsmen from the workshop viewing gallery as they create handcrafted Amana furniture.
Amana Woolen Mill
Known worldwide for their quality woolens (movie studios come here for custom pieces), the draw for kids here is the working looms. Often you’ll find ladies in historic costumes hand carding and spinning wool and offering your kids a hands-on experience.
Millstream Brewing Company
Iowa’s first micro-brewery is just across the street from the woolen mill. Viewing windows allow a look into the brewing and bottling areas, as well as the fermentation cellar. Sample their beer and sodas in the hospitality room, then choose your favorite (they make the best root beer) and buy a bottle to enjoy in the biergarten.
Amana Colonies Bakery & Café
Huge Monster cookies, crumbly gingerbread men, and flaky pastries. A perfect treat.
The Chocolate Haus
Handmade chocolates and mouth-watering fudge. Need a warm-up? Their hot chocolate is incredibly rich and creamy.
Don’t Leave Amana without Enjoying a Meal!
Three traditional restaurants offer delicious German food served family-style. You can’t go wrong at any of them – just be sure to bring your appetite. And save room for dessert. Tip: Order a “sides plate” for the kids instead of a children’s meal. This lets them enjoy the tasty side dishes like herbed cottage cheese, slaws, potatoes, kraut, and veggies, as well as letting them try new foods. And the entrees are often big enough for two.
And Don’t Forget the Wine!
I’ve been known to joke that Amana is German for “drink more wine.” (It’s not – it actually comes from the Song of Solomon and means “remain true.”) Wineries line the village trail, each offering samples of their tasty fruit wines. Even non-wine drinkers like me can find something to enjoy.
Out from Amana
Though the village of Amana is the hub of tourism, there are terrific sites to visit in the other villages, as well. Following the Amana Colonies Trail clockwise, these are some other great stops.
Amana General Store, High Amana
Little has changed since this store opened in 1857. Shelves are stocked with reminders of “the good old days.” Discovery of old favorites and new treasures is imminent.
Broom and Basket Shop, West Amana
The big draw here (if you’ll pardon the pun) is Iowa’s Largest Walnut Rocking Chair. This is a photo opp you shouldn’t miss. Hand woven baskets and handmade brooms will delight you, but the kids will really go nuts for the wooden marble runs.
Opa’s Tractor Barn Museum, West Amana
Located in what was the West Amana Horse Barn, hand-built in 1883, this museum is filled with farming history. If that doesn’t interest the kids, the Amana Colonies Largest Bowling Ball Run surely will.
Mini-Americana Barn Museum, South Amana
The largest collection of 1/12 scale miniature replicas built by one man. The attention to detail is absolutely amazing.
Explore the Amanas’ Natural Beauty with Walking Stick Adventures
Guided walks led by Maria Koschmeder share the natural assets that led the Inspirationists to choose this fertile Iowa land.
Visit the Website
All the information you need – from lodging, to dining, to entertainment – can be found on AmanaColonies.com.
Special Savings for DMMB Readers
Die Heimat Country Inn in Homestead is offering Des Moines Moms Blog readers 25 percent off their stay in the month of March (2015). Just mention Des Moines Moms Blog when you make your reservation.
Save 10% at Ronneburg Restaurant when you print this coupon.
Have you spent any time in the Amana Colonies? What’s your favorite spot?
Read more from our Quick Trips from Des Moines series!
- Destination: Omaha
- A Weekend Getaway in Kansas City
- Take a Lake-cation: Clear Lake, IA
- Pella: America’s Dutch Treasure