The Amana Colonies are a collection of seven villages in Eastern Iowa, founded by German settlers in 1855. The people in these villages actively maintain many of the cultural traditions of their ancestors. The Colonies are located just west of Iowa City along I-80. They are: Amana (also called Main Amana), East Amana, Homestead, Middle Amana, High Amana, West Amana, South Amana.
In 1855, a group of German settlers decided to buy some 30 square miles (70 km²) of land in eastern Iowa. These settlers, whose spirituality was marked by a strong belief in mysticism and communal life, sought to practice their religion in isolation. The Great Depression made it impossible for the villages to continue their isolation, and the Amana people voted to end their communal life, convert their shares in the common property into a formal business corporation, and build economic ties with the outside world. To this day, residents still maintain some of the traditional industries—woolen textiles, meats and cheeses, furniture—that their ancestors brought over from Germany. Some of the largest businesses and farms in the area either are or were previously owned and operated by the Amana Society, the for-profit corporation that was created when the businesses were separated from the church.
The entire set of colonies was listed as a National Historic Landmark in 1965, and there are hundreds of historic buildings still in use across the seven villages, mostly as homes for the approximately 1,200 permanent residents or as small businesses that cater to tourists.
|Climate chart (explanation)|
Everyone speaks English. Compared to the rest of the region, a greater proportion of residents have learned some German in school. Some of the oldest residents also speak an older form of German, derived from West Central German, called Amana German or Kolonie-Deutsch.
The nearest airport with scheduled passenger service is the Eastern Iowa Airport, between Cedar Rapids and the Amana Colonies.
There is no public mass transit service, no bike rental, and no car rental service within the colonies. Transportation is by car, by joining a bus tour, by biking, or by walking.
Each of the small villages is a couple of miles away from the next, which means it is about an hour's walk from one to the next. However, few people routinely walk or bike between villages now, except to follow the bike trail between Middle Amana and Main Amana. Within each small village, however, walking from one shop to the next is often the best choice. The colonies were modeled after German farming villages, so they generally have a single main street with smaller residential streets branching off from the main street, and most shops are on the main street or very close to it.
- 1 Amana (Main Amana).
- 2 Middle Amana.
- 3 Homestead.
- 4 South Amana.
- 5 High Amana.
- 6 West Amana.
- 7 East Amana.
- 1 Iowa's Largest Rocking Chair, 618 8th Avenue, West Amana, ☏ . M-Sa 9AM–5PM. An 11-feet tall, 670-pound handmade attraction at the Broom and Basket Shop.
- 2 Mini-Americana Barn Museum, 413 P St, South Amana, ☏ . 9AM–5PM, April–Oct. The largest known collection of miniature models made by a single person in the world is displayed in a horse barn from Amana's communal era. The miniatures are built on a 1:12 scale and show scenes from the area's past. $3.50 adults, discount for age 5–17.
- Amana Colonies Recreational Trail (Kolonieweg). Trail for bicycling and walking, mostly paved, with some gravel. Bike or walk 3.1 miles (5 km) between the old Amana Depot in Main Amana and the trail's official end in Middle Amana. Stop for a picnic at Lily Lake on your way. The flowers at the lake bloom in late July and early August.
- Various festivals. Seasonal festivals are held several times a year, including a Maifest in early May, an Oktoberfest in early October, and a Tannenbaum Forest from Thanksgiving through mid-December.
- 1 Historic Communal Dinners, 1003 26th Ave (Communal Kitchen Museum, Middle Amana), ☏ , email@example.com. For reasons of efficiency, meals in the communal days of the Amana Colonies were prepared in kitchen buildings and served to groups of about 40 people at a time. Several times a month during the tourist season, the Amana Heritage Society offers a large meal in the only intact communal kitchen. The menu follows some of the original recipes used at that particular kitchen, as prepared by the Amana Meat Shop. The menu is set in advance, and typically includes meat, potatoes, pickled and fresh vegetables, plus cake for dessert. The meals are served family-style – a tradition carried on by some of the restaurants in town. Diners sit together on benches at long trestle tables, which makes this a unique opportunity to talk to some of the town's older residents. If you have a group of 15 to 20 people, contact the society about scheduling a private event. During the rest of the month, the kitchen and the cooper's shop is open a few days each week for tours. $30 per person.
Main Amana, in particular, is home to many tourist-friendly shops selling art, antiques, clothing, and gifts.
- 1 Amana Woolen Mill, 800 48th Avenue (in Main Amana), toll-free: , firstname.lastname@example.org. M-Sa 9AM–5PM, Su 11AM–5PM. Founded in 1857, it is the only woolen mill still operating in Iowa. Free self-guided tours of the small mill allow you to see the looms in action.
- 2 Amana Meat Shop and Smokehouse, 4513 F Street (North end of Main Amana), toll-free: . Ham, bacon, pork chops, other meats and cheeses. Good source of food for a picnic.
- 3 Broom and Basket Shop (Philip Dickel Basket Exhibit and Museum Gallery), 618 8th Avenue (in West Amana), ☏ . M–Sa 9AM–5PM. Handmade brooms and woven baskets. You might get to see a broom-making demonstration, and there is a frequently changing exhibition of baskets on display.
- 4 Hahn's Original Hearth Oven Bakery, 2510 J St (Middle Amana), ☏ . W, F, Sat 7AM until sold out, during warmer months. The last old-fashioned hearth oven in town, this bakery was built in 1864 and is original to the communal days of the Amana Colonies. The owner–baker still uses some of the original recipes, too. Pre-ordering is necessary, as Mrs Doris normally bakes only enough to fill the orders. Orders must be placed by telephone at least one day in advance. Tell her what you want: white or rye bread, cinnamon rolls ($1.50 each), streusel ($8), or coffee cake ($8). If you're not sure what you want, then try the "Zuckar Kuchen" (rich yeast dough with sugary streusel on top) or a filled coffee cake with your choice of fruit or cinnamon.
One of the main attractions of the Amana Colonies are its restaurants, which usually feature old German recipes and family-style service. Several of these well-known restaurants are housed in former communal dining houses from the earlier period. Many attract bus tours from considerable distances for a meal in the Amana Colonies.
- 1 Ox Yoke Inn, 4420 220th Trail, Amana, Iowa 52203 (in the middle of Main Amana), ☏ , toll-free: , email@example.com. Sun 11AM–6PM; M–Th 11AM–7PM; F–Sat 11AM–8PM. Lunch and dinner. A large restaurant that serves mostly German-style food with old-fashioned decor. Don't forget to save room for a slice of pie. $35 per person for family-style meals.
- 2 Ronneburg Restaurant, 4408 220th Trail, Amana, Iowa 52203, ☏ , toll-free: , firstname.lastname@example.org. Breakfast starts at 8AM, every day. Closes early, at 7PM or 8PM depending on the day of the week. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Similar to the Ox Yoke Inn, which is next door. $18 per person for all-you-can-eat family-style breakfast. Lunch or dinner, $15 to $25.
Although many restaurants offer beer and wine, there are few bars, no clubs, and little nightlife. However, there are several wineries and craft breweries.
- 1 Millstream Brewing Company, 835 48th Avenue in Main Amana, ☏ . Hours vary each month. Iowa's oldest microbrewery. Kitchen open for lunch and supper daily. $12 for lunch, $5 for beer.
- 2 Heritage Wine, Cheese and Jelly Haus (Ackerman Winery), 4402 220th Trail, ☏ . 10AM–5PM or later, depending on season. Mostly known for their fruit wines. Compare their popular, sweet Crimson Cranberry to the others, or pick up some wine, cheese, and crackers to make a picnic.
- 3 Village Winery, 752 48th Avenue, toll-free: . Su–F 11AM–4PM; Sat 10AM–5PM. Free thimble-sized samples of 15 different fruit or berry wines. Also a gift shop. They operate a satellite store near the Ramada Inn at I-80.
- 1 Zuber's Homestead Hotel (Iowa Prairie Hotel), 2206 44th Avenue, Homestead, ☏ , toll-free: . Check-in: 3PM–8PM, check-out: 11AM. A total of 15 rooms. Hot buffet breakfast. Not wheelchair accessible. $99–150 per night.
- 2 Amana Colonies RV Park and Event Center, 3890 C Street, Amana (Half a mile northwest of main Amana. Take Highway 151 to C Street.), ☏ , toll-free: . Open mid-April through the end of October. Full-service RV park plus tent campgrounds with 450 sites and on-site event facilities that can accommodate up to 1,200 people. Amenities include coin-operated laundromat, free wi-fi internet access, liquid propane, wheelchair-accessible restrooms and showers. $20/night for tent sites, $36 for full-service RV sites.
- 3 Guest House Motel, 4712 220th Trail, Amana, ☏ , toll-free: , email@example.com. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. The sandstone building was built in 1854 as a communal kitchen. It has been remodeled to create five guest rooms and two suites. Next door is a large modern motel building with 26 fairly boring rooms. A solid choice in an excellent location for people who don't plan to spend much time in the hotel. $71–95.
- 4 Die Heimat Country Inn, 4434 V Street, Homestead (V Street is the main street in Homestead), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-out: 11AM. This was built in 1856 as a stagecoach stop and railroad inn. 16 rooms. Hot breakfast provided. Ground floor is wheelchair-accessible via the lift at the back door. The Die Heimat Event Center is next door in the historic former Homestead General Store building. $85–140.
The nearest hospital is the Compass Memorial Hospital at 300 West May Street in Marengo, about a 20-minute drive west on Highway 6. It is a small rural hospital with 25 beds and an emergency room, but no intensive care unit. The nearest large hospitals are all about a half-hour's drive away: Mercy Iowa City and the University of Iowa Hospitals, which are in Iowa City, and St Luke's Hospital, which is in Cedar Rapids.
The church that founded the Amana Colonies still exists; it is formally known as the Community of the True Inspiration or the Amana Church Society. The old meeting houses look very much like regular buildings near the center of a village, although if you look closely, you may notice that the windows are somewhat larger. The old meeting house in Homestead is now a museum.
Services are usually held on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings the smaller Middle Amana meeting house. The large meeting house in Main Amana is used for Sunday School classes (8:30AM) and for special events, such as the Christmas Eve service. The regular Sunday services are either in English (10AM) or in a combination of German and English (8:30AM). At the earlier bilingual service, some prayers and the hymns are in German, and everything else is in English. Sunday meetings begin with quiet contemplation and a hymn. A portion of an inspired testimony by 18th- and 19th-century prophets in the Inspirationalist church may be read, followed by prayers, Bible verses – traditionally with each lay elder reading a single verse of the passage in turn – a sermon, and a Psalm. The service ends with another hymn and a closing prayer. The Sunday service is usually less than one hour long.
Some traditional practices are still observed, and others have been dropped or modified. Hymns and psalms are traditionally sung without accompaniment by piano, organ, or other musical instruments. Men and women do not usually sit together during church services, with men sitting on one side of the room, and women on the other side. However, the traditional seating arrangements are not enforced, especially for children or people with special needs. Women used to wear plain black caps, shawls and aprons to embody equality and the belief that inward devotion is more important than outward adornment. However, this is no longer observed, so you should expect to see modern clothing, such as colorful dresses, and if you attend the services, you should wear whatever you have with you that is appropriate and comfortable.
|Routes through Amana Colonies|
|Des Moines ← Grinnell ←||W E||→ Iowa City → Davenport|
|Ends at W E ←||SW NE||→ Cedar Rapids → Dubuque|