Elkhart, population 51,874, has a thriving RV manufacturing economy and entrepreneurial spirit. It is a great starting point for an exploration of northern Indiana's Amish neighborhoods. Here autos and horse-drawn buggies share the road.
The Elkhart County Visitors Center offers two audio driving tours of Amish country. The Heritage Trail follows a 90-mile loop through seven towns. The Furniture Crafters Tour showcases furniture shops and major attractions along the way. Along the way Amish restaurants and inns serve up homemade hospitality. Crafts and goods can be purchased straight off the front porch of many area farmhouses.
Nappanee, Shishewana, Middlebury, Goshen and Wakarusa are a few of the main stops along these routes. Amish Acres in Nappanee is a restored Old Order Amish farm listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The 80-acre farm has 18 historic buildings, restaurants, shops, an inn and theater. Shipshewana's downtown offers more than 90 specialty shops. The Shipshewana Flea Market has more than 1,000 vendors. Das Dutchman Essenhaus in Middlebury is famous for pies and breads. Goshen is a college town with eclectic restaurants, art galleries and hiking trails. Wakarusa's Maple Syrup Festival in April features maple-flavored Jumbo Jelly Beans.
In downtown Elkhart, the Riverwalk provides biking, in-line skating, hiking and picnicking. A footbridge connects the walkway to Island Park at the meeting of the Elkhart and St. Joseph rivers. This area hosts many of Elkart's festivals including the three-day Elkhart Jazz Festival each June. Elkhart's RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum displays recreational vehicles dating from 1913.
Elkhart is 15 miles east of South Bend and 100 miles northwest of Fort Wayne. It is accessible via U.S. Highways 20 and 33. Lodging is available in Elkhart and many of the surrounding towns and includes bed and breakfasts, inns, national chain hotels, RV parks, cabins and campgrounds.