Road Trip 2015: Why I Don’t Know More about the Amana Colonies

Sometimes you have to leave home to find the things you need. I tested that theory at the end of June, when I took Betsy and Emily on a road trip through Iowa.Today I share the unexpected things we found on the road to the Amana Colonies. Tips on touring the Amanas appear at the end of this post.

On the last day of our trip, we planned to tour of the Amana Colonies. I wanted to write a thorough and informative article about the Colonies for you, my Midwest-traveling audience. But something happened to cut our time short.

Now, I need to tell you a little story. I have a friend named Beth who lives in Iowa City. She’s been a good and loyal friend to me since college, but for a time, I was a really lousy communicator. No letters. No emails. No phone calls. For no reason. It was odd. I’ve felt guilty about it for years. When we planned our road trip, I wanted to call my friend, but then I second-guessed myself. I didn’t know which day we’d be there, and was it right to ask her to be so flexible? She’d probably be busy anyway, and we’d be a terrible imposition. But wouldn’t I feel awful if we ran into her? Then again, what were the odds?

Just to be clear: Beth is not a piece of work. I am.

Back to our road trip. That last morning we left our hotel in Iowa City, turned onto Highway Six and headed for the Amanas, only to be stopped short by the need for a bathroom. Seeing a Target store, we pulled in at the Coralville Mall. I walked into the bathroom, did my business and washed my hands. Then I turned to leave.

And there was Beth.

We took a picture and posted it on Facebook.
We took a picture and posted it on Facebook.

My sweet friend was standing right there in the Target bathroom, and she looked happy to see me. Surprised. But happy.

We took a picture and posted it on Facebook. Then we sent the girls off to window shop in the mall, and sat down together for a cup of coffee. With only thirty minutes to spend, we got right to the important stuff. The bottom line for our families, for us. Oh, and book recommendations. It was wonderful.

Sometimes, indeed, you have to leave home to find the things you need.

After our visit, Beth went on to shop at Target and we continued to the Amana Colonies, but by then most of our touring time was gone. And so, dear readers, I don’t know as much about the Amana Colonies as I wanted to. But here’s what I can share with you:

  • The Amanas are located north of I-80 and northwest of Iowa City. The exit on the interstate with the big “Amana Colonies” store is not the all there is to see. If you want to visit the colonies, you can get to them by taking that exit and traveling north. Follow the signs from there.
  • The Amana people are not Amish. The Amanas were founded by a German sect called the Community of True Inspiration. They have a fascinating history of their own, which you can study at the museums we didn’t visit. If you want to visit the Amish, you can go to Kalona, not far away.
  • Most of the shops, and a large museum, are located in the colony called Amana. This includes the woolen mill and the furniture store, where you can watch craftsmen at work. The Amana Colonies are known for their meticulous work in both areas.
  • It’s worthwhile to drive through the seven colonies. The road that connects them forms a loop, and takes about twenty minutes to complete. We appreciated seeing the smaller, less tourist-centered colonies.
  • Stay for dinner. Each of the three full-service restaurants will give you a similar experience. They serve traditional German food with family-style side dishes. It’s a unique and delicious experience.
  • Stay for dessert. The Chocolate Haus makes delicious candy.
  • For more information about the museums and history exhibits, click here.
  • Street scene in Amana, Iowa
    Street scene in Amana, Iowa


  1. I’ll never forget our quick trip to the Amana Colonies when visiting you, one time. I came away with a lovely sweater and lots of good memories.

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