Visiting Ohio's Amish Country in 2021

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Doyle Yoder

A year-long variety of compelling events, historical places and the splendor of nature makes Amish Country one of Ohio’s premier tourist destinations.

Beginning in springtime, the five-county region of Coshocton, Holmes, Stark, Tuscarawas and Wayne counties hosts numerous town festivals and historical activities and celebrates a cornucopia of local food.

Summer begins the most popular tourist season in Amish Country, as families converge on the area to take in the fresh air, picturesque landscapes and the casual feel of a simpler life. Then, as the air takes on a chill and green landscapes morph into a natural canvas of reds and yellows, families flock to the area to view the visual spectacle while enjoying fall festivities.

The spirit of Christmastime electrifies Amish Country and the surrounding region as local communities celebrate the final weeks of the year with festivals, ceremonies, musical performances and, of course, shopping for unique gifts in quaint, interesting boutiques.
Whether you’re a wide-eyed child in search of fun and adventure, or a grown-up looking to share some magical family time, it isn’t hard to find just what you’re looking for during your visit to Coshocton, Holmes, Stark, Tuscarawas and Wayne Counties.

Here’s a look at some of the what you might experience during your visit to the Amish Country region throughout the year.

Coshocton County
From fascinating glimpses into the region’s rich history and heritage to stunning scenery to sports and entertainment, Coshocton County has compelling events and activities throughout the year, said Mindy Brems, executive director of the Coshocton County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Historic Roscoe Village, situated on the old Ohio & Erie Canal, is the focal point of Coshocton County tourism all year round. But the charm of nature throughout the county may be the first thing that visitors will notice, Brems said.

“Springtime is beautiful here,” Brems said. “Everything is turning green, from the farms to the rolling hills. The dogwood will be in bloom, which is beautiful along the banks of the rivers.”
In fact, the annual Dogwood Festival, held in May, is one of the events that marks the start of the summer tourist season. The festival, which features a variety of free and paid events, is a celebration of the literary, visual and performing arts.

Memorial Day provides a sure sign that winter has been long gone, as Roscoe Village’s Monticello III canal boat begins its season. The restored vessel offers visitors the experience of canal travel as it was almost 200 years ago. Once you return to land, you can casually browse through Roscoe, the uniquely restored 1800s canal town that features living history, quaint shops and eclectic dining for all budgets.

To relax upon your return to the present, you might sample the 17 wineries within a 45 minute drive of Coshocton County, including eight on the popular Three Rivers Wine Trail. Or you can spend some outdoor time on the Coshocton Crow Geotrail, using your GPS device to locate 13 geocaches.

Coshocton County is big on trails. Along with the geo trail and the wine trail — which also features beer and distilled spirits — visitors also can cruise the countryside over the paved 105-mile Three Rivers Ride Motorcycle Trail, or find one-of-a-kind gifts on the Antique and Unique Shopping Trail. The Heritage Quilt Barn Trail also offers an opportunity to casually take in the county’s history through the reproduction of old family quilt patterns and family stories, reproduced on barns.

“Coshocton is a hunter’s Mecca,” Brems said. “It is Ohio’s number one county for deer harvesting and number two for turkey harvesting.”

Holmes County
Holmes County offers plenty of entertaining and enlightening activities — even on Sundays and evenings, said Tiffany Gerber, group tour and Lodging Council coordinator for the Holmes County Chamber and Tourism Bureau.

“There is a misconception that we roll up the sidewalks at 5 p.m.,” she said. “Downtown Millersburg has several shops that are open on Sundays and pubs and eateries with evening entertainment.”

The Millersburg nightlife, said Judy Lamp, executive director of Historic Down-town Millersburg, gives visitors a lot to do when daytime activities are finished.

“When many Amish Country towns are shutting down for the evening, Millersburg is just getting started,” she said. “We truly embrace the Amish culture, but that’s not the only reason to visit Millersburg.”

If you want to learn about the Amish culture, Gerber suggested, the Amish & Mennonite Heritage Center, in Millersburg, is an interesting place to begin.

“It’s not only the national archives and library for the Amish and Mennonite community, but it’s also the home of the 265-foot Behalt cyclorama,” Gerber said.

“The cyclorama depicts the entire story of the Anabaptist movement from its roots in the reformation in Europe to their persecution and their migration into the United States and other parts of the world. You can learn about the daily life of Amish people and why they do what they do.”

The county’s German and Swiss heritage also is kept alive through nationally recognized cheese making shops, Gerber noted.

“People have always enjoyed visiting Holmes County for our antiques, shopping, great food and bakeries,” she said. “Over the last few years, we’ve added a theater component which has been increasingly popular.”

Also relatively new to Holmes County is the Ohio’s Amish Country Quilt Festival, held in September in Mount Hope. “Visitors have been asking about a quilting show for years and now we have one,” Gerber said. The festival features a vendor mall, a quilt show, open sew, quilting classes, national speakers and trunk shows.

Throughout the year, Holmes County visitors have the opportunity to step back in time. One place to do it is Millersburg’s Victorian House and Museum, a 28-room Queen Anne style mansion that was highlighted by HGTV as one of the best examples of Queen Anne architecture in the country. “Few homes spark as much curiosity and fascination for so many different reasons,” Lamp said.

Stark County

Stark County may be best known as the host of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, in Canton. However, insisted Tonja Marshall, director of sports tourism at the Canton Stark County Convention & Visitors’ Bureau, the county offers a diversity of indoor and out-door activities.

Among them are interesting learning activities, such as the McKinley Presidential Library and Museum and the National First Ladies Library, in Canton. Many visitors are surprised by how kid friendly Canton’s historical attractions are, Marshall said.

“People think the McKinley Library is only a presidential history museum, but it is so much more than that,” she insisted. “It is actually a very interactive science and history museum with a lot of activities to keep children occupied. There is a whole interactive level called Discover World that takes you back to the time of the dinosaur.”

Fascination Station features hands-on physical science activities for the young and young at heart.

“A lot of people aren’t aware that we have two accredited art museums in Stark County,” Marshall said. “Both are open on Sundays, so there is always something to experience on the days when some of the customary Amish Country activities aren’t available.”
Outdoors, Beech Creek Gardens, in Washington Township, offers a variety of ac-tivities for visitors of all ages. The 175-acre site includes forest area and more than 150 species of native plants.

“Beach Creek has wonderful programming all year round,” Marshall said. “There are the lovely gardens you can tour during the spring and summer, but there are also pro-grams in the winter.”

Tuscarawas County
Tuscarawas County offers visitors a wide range of experiences covering history, and culture throughout the year.

The annual Ohio Swiss Festival, held each fall since 1953 in Sugarcreek, celebrates the region’s Swiss heritage with four days of wine and cheese samplings, races, contests and parades. The festival was created to acknowledge the achievements of the local cheese makers and the other hardworking Swiss families who chose Sugarcreek as their new home. Festival highlights include the traditional Steintossen — or throwing of the stone — and the playing of the alphorns.
Sugarcreek, the “Little Switzerland of Ohio,” is among the favorite tourist stops throughout the year. The mighty Alps may be absent from the horizon, but apart from the missing mountainous vistas, Sugarcreek’s visitors might easily imagine themselves touring the streets of a small Swiss town.

The Dandelion Festival, said Teai Warner, communications manager for the Tuscarawas County Convention and Visitors Bureau, is an entertaining — and delicious — way to get outdoors and enjoy the spring. Held on the first weekend of May near the Breitenbach Winery, the Dandelion Festival offers wine sampling, dandelion sangria, cellar tours, arts and crafts and live entertainment. Kids get to pick dandelions and make their own dandelion jelly.

Also during the first weekend of May, in New Philadelphia, Art on the Alley celebrates the public’s identity and culture through the local arts, businesses and community. The festival is an invitation to embrace the spirit and pride of Tuscarawas County, Warner said.

The Tuscarawas Valley Farmers Market, held June through October, in Dover, is designed to bring together families, neighbors, visitors, and local food producers to create a sense of community and social gathering, enhancing quality of life and strengthening the economy.

Evening entertainment in Tuscarawas County may include a compelling show and dinner at the Ohio Star Theater, in Sugarcreek.

An old-fashioned train ride may be just the vehicle to transport you and your family from the vivid colors of autumn to the magical visions of Christmastime. Relaxing train rides through the fall foliage depart the Dennison Railroad Depot Museum on weekends. Then, in December, the Dennison Depot is the starting point for a magical journey to the North Pole. The Polar Express, a family focused re-enactment of the award-winning book and movie, is a train ride that features visits with festive elves who entertain passengers with songs and delicious hot chocolate served by Mrs. Claus.

Wayne County
Growing towns like Wooster and Orville provide modern gateways to the quaint attractions of Wayne County’s rural surroundings. In the heart of Amish Country, Wayne County features rolling hills, lush woods and scenic farmland. An abundance of cultural activities and events make Wayne County an intriguing destination any time of the year, said Marty Starkey, executive director of the Wayne County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Along with charming, isolated small towns, Starkey noted, Wayne County also boasts a growing dining, retail and nightlife atmosphere in its larger towns.

“After spending the day in the country, visitors can come back to the excitement of newer upscale restaurants in Wooster and Orville,” Starkey said. “More and more young people are starting to move here, which creates a more active and lively environment.”

The fusion of rural and urban events and attractions might entice tourists — or locals — to take in the excitement of the Cowboy Mounted Shooters during an afternoon, then relax and enjoy a performance of the Ohio Light Opera during the evening, capped off by an upscale dinner and a glass of wine. Each summer, between seven and nine titles are presented in a revolving format of 60 performances over a seven-week period. On the bill for the 2020 season, which runs from June 13 to Aug. 8, are “Carousel,” “Damn Yankees,” “Let ‘Em Eat Cake” and others. “The Ohio Light Opera features high-quality talent that is recruited from all over the country,” Starkey said.
Among the other summer highlights in Wayne County are the entertaining monthly shoots of the Northern Ohio Outlaws — an affiliate of the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association — at the Wayne County Fairgrounds.

Wayne County also is an ideal place to welcome spring. Each March, the village of Shreve marks the impending return of spring with the Spring Migration Sensation, a spring bird migration event that includes self-guided tours with experts located at help stations in the nearby Killbuck Marsh, Shreve Lake, Brown’s Bog and Funk Bottoms wildlife areas, Ohio’s largest inland natural wetland complex, which covers almost 6,000 acres. The event features work-shops held by well-known experts in their fields.

Autumn is highlighted by a variety of festivals, corn mazes and the annual self-driving farm and agricultural business tour organized by the Ohio Farm Bureau of Wayne County.

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
Tiffany Gerber

Visit Canton
Tonja Marshall

Tuscarawas County Convention
and Visitors Bureau
Dee Grossman

Wayne County Convention
and Visitors Bureau
Marty Starkey