If your group’s ideal holiday is more “It’s a Wonderful Life” than “Miracle on 34th Street,” Amish Country is a perfect destination. In this Northern Indiana region, the holiday season starts with a parade of lights through a twinkling 2.5-block town and ends with midnight fireworks over a pond.
“It is a warm step back into time,” said Sonya Nash, director of group and experiential sales and marketing for Amish Country of Northern Indiana CVB.
Shipshewana flips the switch
Each year, Shipshewana (pop. 550) lights up the holidays with its annual Light Parade and Lighting of Shipshewana, to be held November 9 this year. Horses, carriages and floats parade through downtown and crowds enjoy the view from lawn chairs or bleachers. Stores bedecked in lights stay open late, Santa drops by and a giant community Christmas tree is lighted. The evening, said Nash, looks like a Norman Rockwell painting.
More lights shine bright
Wellfield Botanic Gardens brighten evenings beginning Black Friday each year during its Winter Wonderland Holiday Lights. Complimentary hot cocoa warms hands as visitors wander a half-mile lighted path. Fire pits and benches are good for short breaks. The light show continues through the season.
Shipshewana’s Lights of Joy begins at the entrance to the Shipshewana Flea Market. With nearly 2 million lights, the drive-through holiday light display opens November 15 this year.
Songs of the season
Irish singer Daniel O’Donnell’s Christmas season show at the Shipshewana Event Center, December 7-14, begins with popular hits and ends with holiday favorites.
Ruthmere is wrapped in holiday finery
Get holiday decorating ideas, Christmas cookies and a dose of history on guided tours of Ruthmere, a Victorian mansion that Alka-Seltzer built. Local interior designers decorate, and visitors vote for their favorite décor.
Not your traditional Christmas show
“Noel” is certainly not your typical holiday show, with two hours of action that includes elves on horse-drawn sleds, circus-style aerialists, holiday singers and dancers, a live Nativity scene and Roman horseback riders. The show, produced by Hugh and Chelsie Warren from Tennessee, is in its first season at the Michiana Event Center in Shipshewana, with 10 performances from December 11-21. Next year, there will be 13 shows. A VIP experience includes front-row seats and behind-the-scenes meet ups and plenty of time for photos and questions with performers.
Go home with a stocking stuffed with gifts
Stocking Stuffer Tours live up to their name, as once-empty stockings overflow with goodies and gifts by tour’s end. Each tour itinerary is customized to fit a group’s time and interests. One group might visit two to three off-the-path Amish businesses; another might spend the entire day traveling country lanes to meet artisans and entrepreneurs. Some businesses present visitors with gifts, and all sell items that make wonderful holiday gifts, from cinnamon/caramel doughnuts and handmade wind chimes to wooden toys. Experiences can also be hands-on: feeding camels at a local farm, making cookies in an Amish kitchen or learning the art of fashioning blown-glass ornaments.
Midnight fireworks are the grand finale
New Year’s Eve at Amish Acres combines all that an end-of-year celebration should — song, dance, food, mingling. The package includes a family-style dinner, a Broadway show — this year, Beauty and the Beast — hors d’oeuvres and a cabaret with the show’s stars. The evening ends with fireworks over a winter pond. The Inn at Amish Acres books up fast, but plenty of overnight accommodations are available in nearby communities.