Step into a world of simplicity and explore Kalona, a friendly, bustling community located south of Iowa City. Kalona is widely known for the large Amish and Mennonite communities that settled the area in 1846. The area’s Amish residents dress conservatively, do not use electricity and primarily travel by horse and buggy. The Mennonite residents, on the other hand, are less conservative, use electricity and sometimes drive modern automobiles. Both cultures take pride in family life and self-sufficiency. They produce most of their food and sew most of their clothes. This unique, quiet lifestyle attracts visitors who are curious about this way of life.
The Kalona Historical Village’s Amish By-Ways Tour offers tours of the Amish countryside and businesses. The guided tour starts with an overview of the history of the Amish and Mennonite settlement in the area. About 1,500 Amish live in or near Kalona, and more than 50 families operate dairy goat farms as their primary source of income. They send their goat milk to Wisconsin where it’s turned into feta cheese.
The tour takes visitors along country roads to experience Amish- and Mennonite-owned businesses such as Sunrise Bakery; locals love its bread and donuts. After exploring the countryside, guests can dine on an authentic meal at a Mennonite woman’s home. Be prepared to loosen your belt because this meal includes fried chicken, potatoes and gravy, homemade noodles, green beans, coleslaw, tapioca pudding, and Amish peanut butter with homemade bread. Top it off with a slice of fresh, homemade apple pie, and visitors may need a nap.
After lunch, the tour visits J K Creative Wood, a family-owned business that has built custom furniture creations such as bedroom sets, kitchen and dining room tables for over 34 years. They also work with a team of skilled Amish carpenters to build custom pieces.
End the day with a stop at Kalona Chocolates, another family-owned business located downtown. Relax and enjoy chocolate fondue in their café, or buy a box of handcrafted truffles for the ride home.
Make the trip to Kalona to enjoy a relaxing, simple and educational day full of delicious food and family fun.