April 15, 2016

My Amana Colonies Bucket List

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We’re kicking off summer with checking off an item from the authority in family travel: the book “500 Places To Take Your Kids Before They Grow Up.” (It’s only available used now, so for a similar book, look at National Geographic’s “100 Places  That Can Change Your Child’s Life”) What sort of incredible adventure could it be?

A great list of things to do, eat and see in the historic Amana Colonies in central Iowa | List includes where to shop and what to buy and what festivals to attend #Iowa #Midwest #Guide

Time travel.

We’re going to explore the Amana Colonies in Iowa where some things haven’t changed much since their start in 1855.

Here’s what I’m looking forward to doing when I visit with my family the national landmark next month on a hosted visit to the region. As always, time is limited and my bucket list know no bounds of time, money or family patience.

Dining at the famous Amana restaurants

They’re famous for tasty German food and family-style dining. The names that keep popping up on blogs and in magazine stories include Ox Yoke Inn (gotta try the rhubarb pie, though the place was featured on Travel Channel’s “Food Paradise” for the Pork Paradise episode), The Colony Inn and The Ronneburg Restaurant (word is, they have the best herbed cottage cheese); all three are in Amana.

Amana Bucket List - Have a family-style meal at one of the famous German restaurants #Iowa #USA
Family style dining is common at restaurants in the Amana Colonies, including the popular Ox Yoke Inn which is known for its rhubarb pie. Photo courtesy Amana Colonies Visitors Center

Curious what kids will eat in the Amana Colonies? Read this post about Dining with Kids in Amana.

Sampling the artisan food and drink

Midwest Living tipped me off to a few must-try foods there, including ham, bacon, sausage and cheese made at Amana Meat Shop and Smokehouse in Amana (I may skip trying the Schwartenmagen, or head cheese) and baked goods from Hahn’s Hearth Oven Bakery in Middle Amana.  

Amana Bucket List - Visit one of the colonies' famous meat shops for cheese and sausage #Iowa #USA
Must-try foods from the Amana Colonies includes sausage from the Amana Meat Shop. Photo courtesy Amana Colonies Visitors Center

Then there’s the Chocolate Haus with a 100-year-old recipes – they have to be good if they’re still in use, right? And I can’t resist visiting a state’s oldest brewery, so lucky me, Iowa’s oldest brewery, Millstream Brewing Co., is in Amana. Or we can go to one of the many wineries (I’m not picky).

Tip: We went to Amana Colonies and the biggest hit was a surprise: The homemade strawberry jam at Ox Yoke Inn. It was so good, we bought a few jars. Read more about dining with kids in the Amana Colonies here.

Learn some Amana Colonies history

There are a few museums in the area that sound like my kids will enjoy. There’s Opa’s Tractor Barn and Museum in West Amana that covers farming history and also happens to have the colony’s largest bowling ball run. In South Amana, there’s the Mini-Americana Barn Museum with a collection of miniature replicas.

Amana Bucket List - Learn the history of the area at the Amana Museum #Iowa #USA
The Amana Heritage Museum explains the rich history of the colonies. Photo courtesy Amana Colonies Visitors Center

Our first stop should probably be the Amana Heritage Museum in Amana, though, with the communal kitchen and copper shop to see.

Old timey shopping

But, Amana Colonies has some shops that are a throwback to a different era. From the looks of it, I’d like to start at the High Amana General Store located in High Amana. We can shop classic toys at The Little Red Wagon Toy Store. I heard Edelstein Treasures is another shop to see… for dinosaur bones and a chance for kids to pan for their own treasures.

Amana Bucket List - Shop in classic shops #Iowa #USA
The High Amana General Store is known for its Christmas display within the store, the the beer steins could be appealing to a different sort of crowd. Photo courtesy Amana Colonies Visitors Center

Watch craftsmen at work

Amana, to me at least, makes me think of appliances, but there are craftsmen of different trades here to watch in action. Some spots we can check out include Amana Woolen Mill and the Amana Furniture and Clock Shop.

Amana Colonies Bucket List - Watch artisans at work #Iowa #USA
You may time your visit well and catch artisans at work at the Amana Woolen Mill. Photo courtesy Amana Colonies Visitors Center

See Iowa’s largest rocking chair

(or could it be the world’s)

This one’s more for the kids, really. I’ve seen enough photos of kids at The Broom and Basket Shop in West Amana to know my kids will want to climb up and have a rock. I heard there’s a marble run at the shop that is big with kids, too.

Amana Colonies Bucket List - Sit on the Iowa's largest rocking chair #Iowa #USA
The photo opp on the gigantic rocking chair cannot be resisted. Find it in The Broom and Basket Shop in West Amana, Iowa. Photo courtesy Amana Colonies Visitors Center

Catch a show at Iowa’s oldest professional theater

You have to time your visit to catch a show that’s right for you – especially when traveling with youngsters – but wouldn’t it be cool to see the Old Creamery Theatre Co. perform?

Admire the view

Several itineraries mention traveling the Iowa Valley Scenic Byway, which sounds nice to me but I can already hear the kids complaining. I think we’d all enjoy a hike better, and the visitors center recommended we check out Lily Lake.

Amana Colonies Bucket List - Find Lily Lake #Iowa #USA
Lily Lake is located within the Amana Colonies. Photo courtesy Amana Colonies Visitors Center

Visit during a festival

This trip won’t work out for seeing one of their most popular festivals – Maifest, but it is going to time well for us to be at the Iowa Renaissance Festival held in Middle Amana Park. I’ve never been to a Ren Faire so it ought to be interesting.

Amana Colonies Bucket List - Catch the Maifest festival #Iowa #USA
Maifest at the Amana Colonies. Photo courtesy Amana Colonies Visitors Center

Update: It was fun! Read about our experience in Amana Colonies and visiting the Renaissance Faire here.

A new festival starting in July this year is called Kinderfest, and it is what it sounds like, a kid-friendly festival. Christmas also looks like a lovely time to visit. And, let’s be real here, wouldn’t it be fun to be in the Amana Colonies for Oktoberfest?

Amana Colonies Bucket List - Not sure what to do or where to go in the Amana Colonies? Start with this list of things to do! Includes a wish list of restaurants to visit and things to eat. #AmanaColonies #Iowa #USA

Your turn: What am I missing from this list? What foods do I need to order when I’m there? Have a favorite winery? Share your favorites from the Amana Colonies in the comments below!

Wondering what we saw in the Amana Colonies?

We had a whirlwind of a weekend with the kids in Amana Colonies. Read all about Visiting Amana Colonies With Kids. We had some good food, so read up on that post, too!

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Comments

  1. Your list looks like a great start – especially your restaurants you’ve already picked out! I would recommend breakfast at Ronneburg, dinner at Colony Inn and supper at the Ox Yoke Inn. And I have to agree, Amana Cottage Cheese is the best!

    The only “warning” I have about the Amanas is that the villages “close down” for the night pretty early (most place at 5pm). You might want to keep in mind of activities you can do wherever you are staying or nearby places outside of the Amanas for evening entertainment.

    Have a great time! I’ve been to meetings there, been on girl’s weekends there (they have a lot of fruit wines), and our family has went to some of their annual festivals. It is a unique and fun place!

    • Thanks, Val! Very good tip about evenings in the colonies! I’m guessing we’ll be at the hotel pool whiling away the evening hours with the kids.

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