Visiting Amish Country: from area visitors bureaus

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Offering a compelling balance of rural tranquility and city life, it isn’t hard to see why Amish Country and the surrounding region is such a popular summertime tourist destination. With a diverse calendar of festivals and special events and a map full of interesting places, the five-county region of Coshocton, Holmes, Stark, Tuscarawas and Wayne counties offers something to delight just about anybody.

Summer is the most popular tourist season in Amish Country, as families converge on the area to take in the fresh air, rolling landscapes and the casual feel of a simpler life.

Here are some of the many activities awaiting this year’s summer guests.

Stark County

Canton may be best known for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but the city and surrounding Stark County also offer a full summer’s worth of festivals, museums and other family activities. The county offers a growing availability of live music and concerts, said Tonja Marshall, vice president of marketing and communications for the Stark County Convention and Visitors’ Bureau.

“You can find performances almost every night of the week, from stadium concerts to intimate performances in small venues, dinner concerts and even orchestra performances,” Marshall said.

Highlights this year include a LeAnn Rimes Acoustic Concert on Saturday, June 29 at Umstattd Performing Arts Hall in Canton and Summer Serenades in the Park, a series of free, family-friendly performances by brass, woodwind and string ensembles featuring Canton Symphony Orchestra musicians.

The concerts are held at various times during the summer at various Stark parks. You can check for details.

One cool way to start the summer is the annual Canton Blues Fest, which will be held downtown on Market Square on Friday and Saturday, June 7 and 8. The festival will feature a jam-packed lineup on two stages during the two days.

Speaking of the blues, you can get your fill of a healthy and delicious fruit at the annual Pegasus Farm Blueberry Festival in Hartville on Saturday, July 20. The free event will feature everything blueberry — including blueberry sundaes — and will include food trucks, yard games, crafts, animals and garden tours.

History also will come alive at the Olde Canal Days Festival in Canal Fulton from Thursday, July 11 to Saturday, July 13. The festival, which will mix history with carnival entertainment, will feature canal boat rides along the Ohio and Erie Canal, tours of the Olde Canal Days Museum and Oberlin House, vintage baseball games, and a civil war reenactment camp.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival Balloon Classic Music Fest & Fireworks will take place on Friday, July 26 on the campus of Kent State University at Stark/Stark State College. The event will offer musical entertainment, mobile tours and children’s activities as colorful hot air balloons fly the skies of Stark County.

Holmes County

Visiting Holmes County, said Shasta Mast, executive director of the Holmes County Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau, is unlike visiting any other destination.

“Summer is the perfect time to visit,” Mast said. “With outdoor activities like feeding the animals at the Farm at Walnut Creek or taking a buggy ride or riding through scenic pastures on our Rails to Trails, our region provides family fun. Don’t miss our Buggy Trail scavenger hunt to earn a limited-edition poster and discover more hidden gems in Ohio Amish Country.”

The scavenger hunt involves visits to participating local businesses that will provide stamps. Visitors who collect at least three stamps can bring them to the Holmes County Chamber of Commerce to get a prize. Scavenger hunt maps can be obtained at the chamber office.

Outside the city areas, the Holmes County Trail is an ideal place to take in some fresh country air. Considered the first trail in the nation to accommodate Amish buggies, the unique and scenic Holmes County Trail offers 29 miles of equestrian and buggy trails — much of it paved — through Ohio’s heartland.

The 15th annual Holmes County Ohio Rails-to-Trails Benefit Auction and Road Apple 5K, to be held in Millersburg on Saturday, June 8, is a fun and exhilarating way to support the public trail system.

Holmes County is renowned for its antiques and crafts, which are in abundant display throughout the region. Among the notable places to scout are Holmes County Flea Market in Berlin and Millersburg’s twice-annual Antiques in the Alley events.

Antiques in the Alley will be held literally all over downtown Millersburg on Saturday, Aug. 3 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. All of downtown, from the alleys to the sidewalks to the courthouse lawn — and, of course, the local shops — will be loaded with antiques, refurbished and recreated household items, and other interesting arts and crafts — supplemented with plenty of food and lively entertainment.

The county’s rich agricultural tradition is celebrated at Doughty Valley Steam Days, from Thursday to Saturday, July 25-27 in Charm. The festival features demonstrations of the work and machinery that fascinates young and old alike.

The 96th annual Holmes County Fair continues to showcase the region’s agricultural tradition. The event will take place Monday through Saturday, Aug. 5-10 at the Holmes County Fairgrounds at Harvest Ridge.

Coshocton County

While the restored mid-1800s canal town at Historic Roscoe Village keeps history at the forefront of many a tourist’s itinerary, Coshocton County offers many other activities that range from quilting, to kids’ activities, to wine tasting, to hunting, said Mindy Brems, director of the Coshocton Visitor’s Bureau.

The 45th annual Coshocton Dulcimer Days Festival, to be held Friday through Sunday, June 14-16, gets the summer off to a musical start by celebrating the region’s rich Appalachian heritage with concerts, competitions, workshops and jam sessions. The event is free, but a fee is charged for workshops.

Coshocton’s Hot Air Balloon Festival, to be held Thursday through Saturday, June 6-8, is the longest running balloon festival in Ohio, with more than 25 balloons filling the skies. The free festival features musical entertainment, carnival rides, festive foods and crafters.

Moving from the skies to the water, the Monticello III canal boat at Historical Roscoe Village opens for the season on Memorial Day weekend. Rock & Bill and Willie & Sallie, the huge draft horse teams, pull canal boat passengers along an original section of the Ohio and Erie Canal, taking them back into the 1830s when Coshocton was a canal town bustling with commerce. A lively canal boat captain explains 1800s life on the canal with tall tales and history.

And moving from water to the roads of today, the annual Corvette Cruise-in at Roscoe Village is one of the most popular draws of the summer. The 20th annual Cruise-in, featuring about 200 vehicles and the tunes of the 1950s and 1960s, will be held on Sunday, June 9. It is presented by the Classic Glass Corvette Club.

Another popular way to cruise the scenic backroads of Coshocton County is the new 105-mile Three Rivers Ride, a paved, biker-friendly trail through the twists, turns and beautiful views of the countryside through the Appalachian Foothills. Points of interest include Historic Roscoe Village, the Helmick Covered Bridge, Gospel Hill lighthouse, the Old Stone Fort and adventure trails like the Three Rivers Wine Trail and the Coshocton Antique and Unique Shopping Trail.

And, of course, there is always something happening at Roscoe Village, the restored 1880s-era canal town. Roscoe visitors can explore the beautiful gardens, visit the Johnson-Humrickhouse Museum with its historic exhibits, tour the seven living history buildings and take some time for dining and shopping.

Wayne County

Like the rest of the Amish Country region, Wayne County offers the experience of a laid-back lifestyle yet also draws people who enjoy an exciting night on the town, said Marty Starkey, executive director of the Wayne County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“We have a real thriving downtown area in Wooster with some real nice restaurants,” Starkey said. “There are things to do in the evening and a lot of upscale places that draw a lot of people in. But we also have the more rural areas, like Kidron and Apple Creek, where people like to experience the ambiance of the Amish lifestyle and get away from the hustle and bustle of the big city.”

Among the cultural favorites is the Ohio Light Opera, which performs from June 15 to Aug. 10. This year’s shows include “South Pacific,” “Girl Crazy,” “Into the Woods,” “The Pirates of Penzance,” “Music in the Air,” “The Devil’s Rider” and “Perchance to Dream.” The Ohio Light Opera Orchestra will perform its annual pops concert on July Fourth.

While offering the cultural and dining options of larger towns like Wooster and Orrville, Wayne County remains an important agricultural center in the heart of Amish Country. Secrest Arboretum, located on the campus of the Ohio State University’s Agricultural Research and Development Center, is a major attraction for plant and nature lovers.

On Saturday, June 8 from 9-11 a.m., Secrest will host its first guided bird walk of the summer. Members of the Greater Mohican Audubon Society will guide birders of all skill levels to spot birds, learn their calls and discover their habitats in the arboretum. Subsequent bird walks will be held on the second Saturday of each month until Saturday, Dec. 14.

Similarly, Secrest also will host Tree Walks on the second Wednesday of each month from June 12 onward from 1-2 p.m. A variety of topics will be covered including proper selection and planting, insect pests, and diseases.

Folks who are nostalgic for old-time farm equipment are sure to enjoy one of the monthly tractor pulls in Marshallville. The Marshallville Antique Tractor Pullers have been putting on monthly summertime pulls since 1982. Competition ranges from three to 12 mph. This summer’s dates are Saturdays, June 22, July 27, Aug. 24 and Sept. 21.

Another summer-long favorite in Wayne County — the Northern Ohio Outlaws of the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association — hold their free monthly performances at the Wayne County Fairgrounds on Saturdays and Sundays on the following weekends: June 8-9, July 6-7, July 27-28 and Aug. 17-18. Perhaps the fastest growing equestrian sport in the nation, mounted shooting combines the disciplines of riding and shooting into a fast-paced, high-energy sporting event.

Wayne County visitors and locals alike can have a fun time for charity at the 54th annual Ohio Mennonite Relief Sale on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 2-3 at the Wayne County Fairgrounds.

“It’s a huge event that draws people from all over,” Starkey said. “Tons of quilts are auctioned off along with high-quality, donated, handmade furniture.”

Proceeds from the relief sale benefit the world relief work of the Mennonite Central Committee.

Tuscarawas County

“Summer is one of the best times to visit Tuscarawas County because all of our historic attractions and museums are open for the season,” said Jesse Rothacher, communications manager for the Tuscarawas County Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Where else can you step back in time and visit the Ohio Frontier?”

The home of Historical Zoar Village, Gnadenhutten Museum and Historical Park, Historic Schoenbrunn Village in New Philadelphia, and Fort Laurens in Bolivar, Tuscarawas County is a major center of Ohio history.

On Saturday, July 13 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Fort Laurens will be the venue of a Revolutionary War reenactment presented by the Brigade of the American Revolution. The event will allow visitors to travel back in time and spend a weekend at the fort, explore British and continental camps, meet soldiers from both sides of the conflict, and learn about early American life.

The Swiss, German and Amish heritage of the region can be experienced at the free Alpine Hills Museum near the World’s Largest Cuckoo Clock in Sugarcreek. The three-floor museum is open Monday through Saturday from April through October.

Historic Zoar Village will host its annual Harvest Festival with an Antiques and Artisan Show on Saturday and Sunday, July 27-28.

“You don’t want to miss out on seeing the beautiful Zoar Gardens in their full splendor,” Rothacher said.

For those who prefer their history a little more recent, the 29th annual Fabulous ‘50s Fling will be held on Friday and Saturday, June 7-8 in Sugarcreek. The Fling includes classic cars, music of the 1950s and food provided by local nonprofit organizations.

A somber day in American history will be recognized with the display of more than 300 quilts in Dover, courtesy of the 9/11 Memorial Quilt Project. The display will be held at Dover Middle School on Saturday, June 22 from noon to 8 p.m. The project was originally a dream of an Arizona resident who collected more than 20,000 quilt squares from all over the world — to honor each victim of 9/11. Although she passed away before she was able to complete this project, a Michigan resident took over the project and has made it her mission to take the quilts on tour to give others the opportunity to see them. Admission is free.

An exhibit at the Norma Johnson Center, outside Dover, will offer the opportunity to enjoy native Ohio butterflies up close and personal. The “All A Flutter” butterfly enclosure will be on display Thursday, July 11 through Sunday, July 21 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings and the role railroading played in ending World War II will be commemorated at the Age of Steam Roundhouse in Sugarcreek on Friday and Saturday, July 5-6.

“The Age of Steam Roundhouse is a massive, real-life roundhouse where they restore trains and everything locomotive,” Rothacher said.

For more information about what awaits you in Ohio’s Amish Country be sure to contact these helpful visitor centers:

Coshocton Visitors Bureau

Mindy Brems


Holmes County Chamber of Commerce

Shasta Mast


Visit Canton

Tonja Marshall


Tuscarawas County Convention and Visitors Bureau

Dee Grossman


Wayne County Convention and Visitors Bureau

Marty Starkey