Falling for Middlebury
Looking for a great fall getaway? Middlebury, Indiana, may just be your ideal destination. This small town – population 3,420 – is the “western gateway” to northern Indiana’s Amish Country, says Terry T. Mark, director of communications for the Elkhart County Convention & Visitors Bureau.
While the town celebrates its 180th birthday this year, the region traces its roots back to Native American settlements, says Grace Bonewitz, executive director of the Middlebury Chamber of Commerce. Later, Amish families traveled from Pennsylvania to settle the area in hopes of living simpler lives.
Middlebury’s agricultural roots and Amish heritage can still be seen in the community, says Mark. However, the growth of the RV industry has also had an impact. Today’s Middlebury blends old and new, offering visitors an eclectic variety of shops, restaurants and outdoor attractions while still retaining its small-town atmosphere.
If you’re new to the area, get the lay of the land with a free Heritage Trail driving tour, available at amishcountry.org/things-to-do/heritage-trail or on CD. The tour provides turn-by-turn directions and information about the region’s history and people. Since the website lists multiple starting points, you can explore the whole county or just a specific town.
Mark says first-time Middlebury visitors should definitely find time for a stop at Krider World’s Fair Garden. The gardens were originally designed by Krider Nurseries for display at the 1933-34 Chicago World’s Fair. The nursery itself closed in 1990. However, a re-creation of the exhibit with some additions remains open for the public to enjoy at no charge. “It’s a gorgeous park,” says Mark.
Middlebury's Upcoming Events
The gardens also house a trailhead for the popular Pumpkinvine Nature Trail. Open to walkers, runners and cyclists, the trail connects Goshen to Shipshewana via Middlebury. Mark recommends the trail – particularly the wooded section between Middlebury and Goshen – as a great place to experience the region’s dramatic fall colors. Plan a mid- to late-October trip if seasonal foliage is a priority.
Finally, no visit to Middlebury would be complete without a stop at Das Dutchman Essenhaus. This massive family-owned complex has something for everyone. You can shop for candles, quilts and handcrafted furniture, play mini golf (seasonal) or take in a show at Heritage Hall. The onsite restaurant boasts more seats than any other Indiana eatery along with an extensive selection of pies, says Mark. Struggling to decide between lemon meringue, Dutch apple and coconut cream? Mark believes the best pies are those made from in-season fruits.
Shopping and Dining Adventures
Das Dutchman Essenhaus isn’t the only place in Middlebury to get your shopping fix. Downtown, the Cinnamon Stick sells apparel, jewelry, shoes and more. Mark also suggests a stop at Old Hoosier Meats butcher shop, specializing in fresh and cured meats. He personally favors the ribs, available exclusively on Thursdays. Farther afield you’ll find The Tulip Tree, a boutique gift shop stocking everything from high-end children’s toys to home décor, says Bonewitz.
While Elkhart County may be known for hearty comfort food and decadent desserts, Middlebury offers some more unique dining options as well. Check out something new and fresh at 41 Degrees North, a gastropub serving up regional craft beer and burgers with a gourmet flair. If you’re looking for a light lunch, try Aunt Karen’s Café, where proprietor Karen Hochstetler offers soups, salads and gourmet coffees. “Everything is homemade, down to the bread she slices for your sandwiches,” says Bonewitz.
Plan Your Trip
Head to amishcountry.org for a searchable list of lodging options, plus detailed information on events and attractions for the entire county.