The Amana Colonies are one of our favorite day trips from home. We go at least twice a year.
The history of the Amanas is an interesting one, centered around religious freedom and escaping persecution in their native Germany. After 10 years near Buffalo, New York the Inspirationists came to Iowa in 1855 and established 6 villages, a mile or two apart (in a circular fashion). The village of Homestead was established later to give the communities railroad access. The Amana Colonies would go on to become one of the longest lived and largest communal religious societies in America. Soon Amana became synonymous with high quality goods (think Amana appliances and woolens). The Amana Colonies are now a National Historic Landmark; be sure to visit the seven historic sites maintained throughout the colonies.
There are always great festivals and events in the Amanas. You have to expect, with the German heritage, that the Oktoberfest is a big bash. And Maifest welcomes spring. Our favorite time to visit is during Prelude to Christmas.
The shops and streets of the Colonies are decorated for Christmas. The
barn in Amana is full of Christmas trees and “live” rag dolls and toy soldiers. Santa is on hand for photos (no charge! Bring your camera!) and traditional treats are available.
But the Amana Colonies are great any time of year. I’ve eaten in every restaurant there (some of the best German food outside of Germany) and haven’t found one that I dislike. My favorite is The Colony Inn. It was the first restaurant in the Amanas; “where family style dining began”.
Amana is the main town of the colonies and that is where you will find most of the shopping. The main street is lined with wineries offering free samples. You’ll also find The Chocolate Haus- hand made candies, The Amana Stone Hearth Bakery- some of the greatest breakfast pastries I’ve had, plus lighter fare for lunch and The Amana Meat Shop- some of the best meats in the country. And, of course, lots crafts and hand made items you just won’t find any where else.
There are plenty of places to stay while in the Amanas. We love the B&B’s but with the kids you will probably want to make a reservation at the Wasserbahn Water Park. Just minutes away from the Colonies the Holiday Inn is located in Little Amana right off I-80. If you golf you’ll definately want to stay at Colony Oaks. The condos are very nice and the golf course is one of the best public courses in America. The condos at Colony Oaks are also great if you are a bicyclist or a nature enthusiast. The trails that run through the Colonies are easily accessible from there.
Honestly, there is so much to do in the Amana Colonies that I can’t begin to list it. Download the Visitor’s Guide and start planning your trip. I promise you’ll have fun.