When you visit the Amana Colonies Iowa you might get the strange feeling that
you've stepped into a Grant Wood painting, like his iconic American Gothic
that hangs in the Art Institute of Chicago. This is no accident, as the celebrated
American artist created several of his famous landscapes right here. One of
the Amana attractions today
remains the bucolic rolling hills, pastures, and timeless farm life portrayed
in his paintings. As artists continue to flock to this picturesque area, one
of the things to do in the
Amana Colonies is browse the many galleries and crafts shops, looking to bring
home a piece of classic Americana.
In 1855, a group of immigrants fleeing religious discrimination in Germany
came here and began an experiment in communal living. By 1861, they had founded
the seven villages that they called the Amana Colonies Iowa and began to have
a significant impact on the history
of the state.
Today, these charming historic villages remain, both architecturally and traditionally, intact and they comprise one of the major attractions in the state. While Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia is an authentic recreation of a historic settlement, the Colonies survive as a functioning community, and many of the residents are descendants of the original founders. Many of the 400 buildings that are on the National Register of Historic Places are homes, workshops, museums, and restaurants. The buildings are Amana attractions themselves.
Part of the heritage of Amana Colonies Iowa will be found in the cuisine, which you can experience while dining at any of the restaurants. Schnitzel, strudel, sausages, and sauerkraut are among the popular German recipes, as well as cookies and other German pastries. You can sample (and come home with jars of) a number of homemade pickled specialties, like beets, chutneys, and relishes. Local wineries specialize in the fruity wines that are famous in Germany made with ingredients from local orchards and vineyards. Hot, spiced apple cider is served during one of the state's premier events, Winterfest, occurring in January. The barley and hops fields feed a thriving micro-brewing tradition. Things to do in the Amana Colonies include eating well and often.
Other things to do in the Amana Colonies include golfing at one of the top-rated 18-hole courses in the Midwest, and hiking in the lovely pastoral countryside. While this isn't one of the state's official wildlife refuges, you'll find trumpeter swans, river otters, wild turkeys, coyote, hawks, deer, fox, and eagles. Wetlands along the Iowa River Valley have been restored with native wildflowers and grasses. And, there is camping in a 60-acre, full service facility along Price Creek. Also included in the Amana attractions are antique shops offering handmade country primitive furniture, pottery, rugs, wooden boxes, and more. There is even Opa's (German for grandfather) Tractor Barn Museum, located in an 1883 barn and full of historical agricultural memorabilia.
If you're looking for lodging, you'll find that Amana Colonies Iowa boasts a number of family-run bed and breakfast inns in historic houses, some of which are still owned by descendants of original settlers. There are also more traditional Amana Colonies hotels and motels quite close to the villages.
Top image: ShanMcG213 (flickr), CC BY-SA 2.0