If you’ve been to Shipshewana in the past few years you may have seen the Blue Gate bus cruising around town. What’s it used for though? The Blue Gate recently started offering back-road Amish tours, which have been a huge hit! I finally had the opportunity to take one for myself and see what all the hype was about.
The Blue Gate currently has two tours to choose from: “Up Close and Personal Tour” and “Evening in an Amish Home.” I took the Up Close and Personal Tour which involves three unique stops that highlight Amish culture. The stops are different each tour since the Blue Gate has over 10 to rotate between, so if you’ve already taken this tour, check back and see what new stops you might get to experience.
After we boarded the bus and headed to our first stop, you immediately notice the beautiful scenery. While I drive these roads daily, they look completely different as a passenger on a tour bus, especially when the driver explains what we’re passing. Minutes later we arrived at the first stop, Teaberry Wood Products. I’ve admired the craftsmanship owners LaVern and Rachel have been doing for years, but I had no idea how they created their products, especially the unique wooden baskets. They went into detail, demonstrating every step of the process while joking and having fun along the way. Before hopping back on the bus, visitors have the chance to browse their showroom for something to take home with them.
Our second stop was somewhere I never expected to visit, but it was such an awesome, rare experience that I was glad to have the chance. Now hear me out on this, it was at an Amish casket maker. They must come from somewhere, right? The owner welcomed us into his shop, as we stood around glancing at the beautiful woodwork he does. His first question to us was if any of us knew the difference between a coffin and a casket, which no one in the group knew (if you want to find out, you’ll have to take the tour for yourself, hehe). He also explained the process of an Amish funeral, which is a multi-day celebration of life with hundreds of friends and family. Of course, he showed us his display models, showcasing the beautiful craftsmanship that goes into these caskets.
After we boarded the bus, we headed on to our final stop to visit Rose, an Amish woman who paints like you can’t believe! She’s a new stop, so we were her “guinea pigs,” but you would’ve never guessed it. We walked into her studio set up with a bunch of her paintings on display, all created by her. The detail and depth she puts into her work is amazing, but you gain even more appreciation after talking with Rose. She allowed us to walk through looking at her work, all of which is for sale if you can find room in your suitcase to take home.
I’ve worked in this area for years, but when you take a tour like this, it’s a completely different view and appreciation of the Amish culture. The Blue Gate does a great job at hosting these, especially the driver/tour guide Allen, who is passionate about his work and making visitors feel welcomed. If you haven’t taken one of the tours, DO IT. If you’ve already taken one, call the Blue Gate to check their schedule, maybe you’ll be able to travel to some of the new stops.
Packed with stories, travel ideas and deals, you'll get the very best of Shipshewana & LaGrange County delivered right to your inbox.