Family Road Trip Guide: Shipshewana, Indiana

Take a step back in time and recharge in this Amish community with plenty of fun for families, great eats and shopping.

There are some places that you only want to travel once in your life and there are others that you want to keep going back to every single year (sometimes more than once). Shipshewana is one of those places for me and my family. We have been going to Shipshewana ever since I was a little girl and now, I take my 5-year-old son.

Most people have never heard of Shipshewana, so I get so excited when I tell someone that I’m going there, and they say that they’ve heard of it. I either get the “Ship-sha-whata?” or I get the, “OMG! They have the best pretzels!” If someone tells me that, I know they have been there and it’s like a little bond we now have when we talk about it.

Getting to Shipshewana

The drive there isn’t too bad. It’s just short of three hours from Detroit. We normally leave early to avoid all the traffic and stop and get breakfast on the way. It’s so funny how different the vibe is there compared to here in metro Detroit. It’s very calm in the country. We still look out the window and point out all the cows or horses that we see. I remember when I was younger, I would look out the window for the houses that didn’t have any power, the Amish houses. I was always in awe that they lived like that.

Photo credit: Kari Zaffarano

Things to Do in Shipshewana

What makes Shipshewana unique is the fact that it is completely the opposite of where we live in metro Detroit and yet, we still absolutely love the simplicity of it. There isn’t a Target or a Trader Joe’s in sight, and that’s OK.

  • Shop at the Davis Mercantile. There are four floors of fun inside this indoor shopping mall. The lower level has one of my favorite stores, Head Over Heels, which sells outdoor wear like The North Face and Patagonia along with other shoes, purses and clothes for men and women. The top floor is my son’s favorite. It has a candy store, carousel and a huge toy shop. We always find the most unique items at the mercantile.
  • Have a pretzel at JoJo’s. This is quite possibly one of the main reasons we go back to Shipshewana. You haven’t had a jumbo pretzel until you’ve been there. I’ve had many pretzels since, and none of them compared to the homemade pretzels here. They have salt, garlic or cinnamon sugar pretzels and a bunch of different toppings to dip in. They even sell their own spicy and sweet mustard to go.
  • Take a buggy or carriage ride around town. This is a must for someone who is here for the first time. The two tours there are Blue Gate Carriage and Buggy Lane Tours.
  • Catch a show. The Blue Gate Performing Arts Center and the Blue Gate Theatre offer shows every single week. The Performing Arts Center has had some of country’s best artists here and the theatre puts on some really great musicals.
  • Check out Dutch Creek Animal Park. Although you will see farms everywhere, this one actually lets you get up close with the animals. You can take the wagon tour, drive through in your own vehicle or do a walk through (my personal favorite). See antelopes, water buffalos, zebras and more.

Where to Stay in Shipshewana

Depending on the time of the year, we either stay in our RV or at a hotel. The places we love the most include:

  • Blue Gate Garden Inn. This place is the best! We stay here in February when we go for the pajama weekend. It has an indoor pool and jacuzzi, fitness center, arcade, 50’s-style ice cream parlor and a buffet breakfast.
  • Shipshewana Trading Place RV Park & Service Center. We stay here because it’s cheaper than most campgrounds and it is located right by the flea market we like to hit in June. The sites are full hook-up, pull through and back-in spots and free Wi-Fi. It is also pet-friendly.

There are plenty of other spots to stay at in Shipshewana. Some unique options include:

  • Amish Log Cabin Lodging
  • Brethren Retreat Cabins at Shipshewana Lake
  • Bright Morning Star B&B
  • Der Ruhe Blatz Motel (The Rest Place) built by the Amish
  • North Park Campground
  • Old Carriage Inn
  • Ole Tin Rooster Airbnb

Places to Eat in Shipshewana

There are so many great places to dine here. Some of my favorites include:

  • Blue Gate Restaurant & Bakery. We normally meet family here for breakfast after we shop all morning. You have a choice of the buffet style or a sit-down meal. The bacon is to die for! We then like to hit the bakery to bring home Amish-made breads, cookies and pies. They have so many different flavors of pie to choose from.
  • Kitchen Cupboard. Starbucks has nothing on this place! I love the vanilla chai tea latte and look forward to getting one each time I’m here. They have drink specials each month that always look so good, but I always end up getting my usual. My son says they have the best cookies.
  • Red Bud Gift Shop & Coffee. This place is so cute! They have a coffee and tea shop in the store as well. There is a whole wall full of different flavored loose-leaf teas to take home. They always have a couple flavors out to sample, and I have never tasted one I didn’t like.
  • Yup’s Dairyland. This ice cream and frozen yogurt shop always seems to be packed. Waiting in line is worth the wait, I promise.

Why Our Family Loves Shipshewana

Whenever we go on vacation here, we have a blast! We also find some of the best deals while shopping and enjoy hitting up all of our favorite spots to eat. We have family that lives 20 minutes from there, so it’s always a plus visiting with them as well.

Sometimes you go on vacation and it doesn’t feel like a vacation, but I feel like I can actually relax there. It’s a slower pace than what I am used to and when I am there, I just enjoy myself.

In June, we hit up the huge flea market. We hit every single row and find so many great deals. I am all about bargain shopping and the flea market is a great place to do that at. Some of the items I bought this last June were handmade earrings, a rose quartz pop socket and a handmade keychain from Ghana.

In February, we go for Pajama Weekend, which is an event where you wake up at 5 a.m. and go shopping! It’s similar to Black Friday, but you have to wear your pajamas in order to get the store’s discounts. Each store is different and it’s normally the earlier you go, the better. We go with friends and family, so there is a big group of us that shop together. It’s one of the things I really missed when everything was shut down because of COVID-19. The past couple years we went, we all wore matching pajamas, which made it even better.

My son loves Shipshewana, too, because there’s always something fun for him to do.

While I love going on vacation to new places, this is one place that I know I will never want to stop visiting.

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