June 10, 2016

A Weekend In Amana Colonies With Kids

Amana Colonies is one of the biggest tourist attraction in Iowa, and being only about 3½ hours east of Omaha, it sounded like a good weekend trip for our family.

We spent two nights in nearby Williamsburg, making several trips to the towns of Amana Colonies (there are seven). You could easily do it by staying one night, but you’d feel a little rushed. And there’s no rushing things when traveling with kids.

Two Days In Amana Colonies With Kids

 

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My family’s stay was hosted by the Amana Colonies. The visitor’s center recommended several places to visit, and they helped me pick a weekend to visit when there was a festival.

Here’s what I dreamed of doing.

Now see what we actually managed!

Where to eat in Amana Colonies

"I'll take one of everything." My son was an awe of the pastry display at Amana Colonies Bakery & Cafe in Amana, Iowa.

“I’ll take one of everything.” My son was an awe of the pastry display at Amana Colonies Bakery & Cafe in Amana, Iowa.

First, let’s talk food.

When researching where to eat in the Amana Colonies, there were three biggies that kept being mentioned in blogs and travel shows: Ox Yoke Inn, Ronneburg Restaurant and Colony Inn; all located in Amana. We made it to the first two.

All three serve family-style meals, a vestige of the colonies’ past when they had a communal way of life. No homes had kitchens back then; instead they all dined together on meals made by women in the kitchen houses.

Ox Yoke Inn is located on the main drag of Amana, Iowa.

Ox Yoke Inn is located on the main drag of Amana, Iowa (also known as 220th Trail).

Our first dinner on the trip was at Ox Yoke Inn, where are fantastic waitress, Rhonda, explained a bit of the area’s history and why dinners are served family style there.

We ordered the Family Banquet Feast to really start the gorge-fest vacation off on the right foot. It came with bread and homemade strawberry jam, two cold salads, fried chicken, roast beef, ham, green beans and the best buttery potatoes ever.

Stuffed after the family banquet feast at Ox Yoke Inn in Amana, Iowa. The fried chicken was the clear favorite with the kids.

Stuffed after the family banquet feast at Ox Yoke Inn in Amana, Iowa. The fried chicken was the clear favorite with the kids.

We were stuffed, but still ordered a dessert to split. They’re known for their pies, so we tried a chocolate pie.

We went back the next day to buy strawberry jam for us and for gifts. It’s that good.

Update:We never gifted the jam. We’ve been hoarding it.

Breakfast is served daily at Ronneburg in Amana, Iowa. Don't skip the pancakes.

Breakfast is served daily at Ronneburg in Amana, Iowa. Don’t skip the pancakes.

We had two breakfasts in Amana Colonies: Another family style affair at Ronneburg Restaurant and a variety of pastries at Amana Colonies Bakery & Café. Ronneburg’s breakfast included some delicious Amana pancakes, so thin they were borderline crepes. The service was slow despite not being terribly busy.

Satisfy your sweet tooth at Amana Colonies Bakery & Cafe in Amana.

Satisfy your sweet tooth at Amana Colonies Bakery & Cafe in Amana.

Amana Colonies Bakery & Cafe was a cute little place with outdoor seating. There isn’t much for savory breakfast options, so this is for those with a sweet tooth.

Walk around Amana and you’ll find places doling out samples. I didn’t make it to many of them – you know, the whole “traveling with kids” excuse. There’s a place to taste different flavors of fudge, or if you’re a meat eater, head to our favorite, the Amana Meat and Smokehouse (don’t skip the summer sausage and beef jerky there).

Samples at the Amana Meat and Smoke House included delicious summer sausage, beef jerky and some snack mixes.

Samples at the Amana Meat and Smoke House included delicious summer sausage, beef jerky and some snack mixes.

A couple of our meals were not in Amana – there’s only so much family style my stomach can handle. We ventured one evening to Coralville to try some pizza at The Wig and the Pen. It’s about 20 miles east of Williamsburg.

Farley contemplating another bite of thin crus pepperoni at The Wig and Pen in Coralville, Iowa.

Farley contemplating another bite of thin crus pepperoni at The Wig and Pen in Coralville, Iowa.

Our other meal was an ill-fated trip to Kalona to see the Amish community. We went on Memorial Day and nearly everything was closed…save for the Mexican restaurant. This is what typically happens when I try impromptu outings.

While we didn't get to sample any Amish foods in Kalona, Iowa, we did spot the traditional mode of transportation for the Amish community.

While we didn’t get to sample any Amish foods in Kalona, Iowa, we did spot the traditional mode of transportation for the Amish community.

Kim’s note: Our Mexican restaurant fiasco in Amish country is why I feel the need to overplan trips – no surprises.

What to drink in Amana Colonies

My flight of Millstream Brewing Co. beer was in the cutest beer mug ever at Ox Yoke Inn.

My flight of Millstream Brewing Co. beer was in the cutest beer mug ever at Ox Yoke Inn.

For being a small town Amana, in particular, has its fair share of wineries (four), as well as Iowa’s oldest microbrewery, Millstream.

You can find wine all over Amana, but if you're visiting with kids, you can just day dream about visiting them all.

You can find wine all over Amana, but if you’re visiting with kids, you can just day dream about visiting them all.

If you enjoy microbreweries, don’t miss Millstream. I tried a beer flight at Ox Yoke Inn – all three were smooth, but my favorite was the Schild Brau Amber.

The Millstream Brewing Co. in Amana, Iowa, is the first microbrewery in Iowa. The brewery has a pretty nice patio that we didn't get to enjoy.

The Millstream Brewing Co. in Amana, Iowa, is the first microbrewery in Iowa. The brewery has a pretty nice patio that we didn’t get to enjoy.

Like wine? Iowa wines are on the sweet side. I sampled a few at the Village Winery near our hotel in Williamsburg, the Ramada Wasserbahn Waterpark. I tried dandelion wine and peach wine.

Mom got a 10-minute break by "shopping" in the Village Winery next to the hotel in Williamsburg. By shopping, I mean wine tasting.

Mom got a 10-minute break by “shopping” in the Village Winery next to the hotel in Williamsburg. By shopping, I mean wine tasting.

What to do in Amana Colonies With Kids

The Amana Colonies are a National Historic Landmark. It’s a picturesque set of towns that reflect the pride citizens have in their Amana heritage. Everything is well maintained.

Nearly every street in Amana, Iowa is straight out of a storybook or how I envision every village in Germany to look like.

Nearly every street in Amana, Iowa is straight out of a storybook or how I envision every village in Germany to look like.

You can do the 17-mile loop on the Amana Colonies Trail to see most of it and stop for tourists attractions.

With kids, though, a scenic car ride wasn’t going to be leisurely. We had to move with purpose.

We drove by most picturesque sites and tourists attractions when taking the 17-mile loop through the Amana Colonies.

We drove by most picturesque sites and tourists attractions when taking the 17-mile loop through the Amana Colonies.

Shopping. I use this term very loosely. We shopped in a Little Red Wagon toy store, a book store and a the general store in Amana. The kids got some toys in Amana and, in Williamsburg, we got a bottle of wine and some beer.

My kids enjoyed the Little Red Wagon toy store in Amana, naturally.

My kids enjoyed the Little Red Wagon toy store in Amana, naturally.

Photography. We took gorgeous photos of the scenery. If it couldn’t be snapped in 2 minutes, it wasn’t going to happen, though.

How this for Iowa farmland? The area around the Amana Colonies is straight out of a Grant Wood piece.

How this for Iowa farmland? The area around the Amana Colonies is straight out of a Grant Wood piece.

Go back in time. We went to the Iowa Renaissance Festival held that weekend in Middle Amana.

Kim’s tip: Never mention it’s your first Renaissance Festival. You’ll be called a faire virgin for the rest of the day.

There are several festivals that harken back to another time in the Amana Colonies, including Maifest.

Mooch was invited to be a part of a pirate play. The kid's not shy.

Mooch was invited to be a part of a pirate play. The kid’s not shy.

Play. The kids loved playing at our hotel. The Ramada had the Wasserbahn Waterpark inside, plus a wooden playground and putt putt golf outside.

You can't miss the Wasserbahn sign from Interstate 80.

You can’t miss the Wasserbahn sign from Interstate 80.

Guess what the kids enjoyed the most?

The waterpark at the hotel.

Nothing on our trip could compete with the draw of the Wasserbahn Waterpark at the Ramada in Williamsburg. Don't even try.

Nothing on our trip could compete with the draw of the Wasserbahn Waterpark at the Ramada in Williamsburg. Don’t even try.

Where to stay in Amana Colonies

There are several bed and breakfast options in the Amana Colonies, and a motel. However, when traveling with kids, B&Bs might not be suitable.

My kids want a pool and that’s all they ask for. Ramada Williamsburg  Hotel and Wasserbahn Waterpark delivered mightily on the pool request, though, technically, it’s outside the colonies.

The main draw of the Ramada is that it's home to Wasserbahn Waterpark. It also has a large wooden playground and a putt putt golf course.

The main draw of the Ramada is that it’s home to Wasserbahn Waterpark. It also has a large wooden playground and a putt putt golf course.

We were provided two night’s stay at the Ramada plus complimentary admission to the waterpark so I can tell you all about it. It’s located about 10 minutes south of the Amana Colonies Trail, at a convenient site just off Interstate 80.

It’s a bit dated in the rooms and hallways, but that waterpark is a modern day attraction that is a lot of fun for all ages.

Mooch and Mr. Wonderful playing putt putt in Williamsburg at sunset.

Mooch and Mr. Wonderful playing putt putt at the Ramada in Williamsburg, Iowa.

The hotel is ideal for families, and it also has an arcade, playground and an 18-hole putt putt golf course (give or take a hole under construction), as well as weekend movie screenings on a small screen. If it were just me and Mr. Wonderful visiting, I wouldn’t stay here, though. This is a kid magnet. I’ve grown used to excited kids and their chatter, but vacationing couples probably don’t want to hear that.

Read my review of the hotel here.

Tips About Amana From A Mom

Farley doing a fine Zissou point signaling possibly another sample at the Amana Meat and Smoke House.

Farley doing a fine Zissou point signaling possibly another sample at the Amana Meat and Smoke House.

1. The kids did fine exploring Amana, especially places like the Amana Meat and Smokehouse where they could sample a lot of food.

But, there was always the call to return back to the hotel pool (and the hotel’s putt putt golf course…and the hotel’s playground).

Keep that in mind if you’re bringing really young ones. If you dream of pleasant strolls along a picturesque street, you’re better of taking a parents-only getaway.

Mooch having a swig at the Iowa Renaissance Festival held at the park in Middle Amana. Relax. It's cream soda.

Mooch having a swig at the Iowa Renaissance Festival held at the park in Middle Amana. Relax. It’s cream soda.

2. Attending one of the festivals in the Amana Colonies can be fun entertainment – there are annual ones, even, that tie in with the Amana and German heritage (hello, Oktoberfest!). However, it does eat up a huge portion of the day.

I didn’t make it to half the stuff I wanted to on my Amana Colonies bucket list. Plus, there was a number of things not on my list that I realized I wanted to do once I was there: Rent bicycles at the Amana Colonies Visitors Center, take a culinary tour, canoe, walk a couple trail, and shop at the outlet mall in Williamsburg.

I’ll just save those things for a kid-free trip.

If you go

Amana Colonies Visitor Center

Where: 46th Avenue and 220th Trail, Amana

Tip: There is plenty of parking in Amana. It’s small enough to park and walk everywhere if you’re in a regular walker.

Finding the shops: Most stores and restaurants mentioned are in Amana. The main strip is found along 220th Trail, with the Amana Meat and Smokehouse and Millstream Brewing Co. a short walk from it (north on 45th Avenue and South on 48th Avenue, respectively).

 

Read more about the trip

My Amana Colonies Bucket List

What Families Love About Ramada Williamsburg  Hotel & Wasserbahn Waterpark

Amana Colonies Food Kids Will Eat (July 5)

 

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