We enjoyed a lovely spring afternoon visiting the Amana Colonies, located approximately 75 minutes from Des Moines. We started at the far southern and western end of the 10 mile loop road, ending our tour here in Amana. Here there is the largest number of historical buildings and modern day shops, including restaurants and wineries. We first drop down through the main village street to get a general feel of what there was here to see and do, and parked at the far end at the Amana Woolen Mill.
At this end of the town, there was a lot to see and do, and plenty of places to spend money. We started in the Amana Woolen Mills which is celebrating their 150th anniversary this year! Today they largely use more modern equipment to weave their wool fabrics, but it was very interesting to read about and to see the photos of the original processes used over 100 years ago. There is also a video in the factory area that tells about how blankets are made today at Amana Woolen Mill.
The blankets and other products made here are beautiful and very reasonably priced. I was actually surprised at how affordable they were. While we didn’t have anyone to buy for, it was quite tempting since they were also offering a special deal on their blankets; buy two and get the third for free. Most typical size blankets ran between $50 and $75, with more being charged for those full sized beds. They also had a nice assortment of woolen mittens, mukluks, scarves, and ponchos.
Across the street from the woolen mill was the Millstream Brewery, one of several micro-brews still producing beers in the Amana Colonies an the oldest in Iowa. With drought beer available for onsite consumption, you can also buy six pack bottles to go. We were especially intrigued by the gentleman in front of us in the line, who had a clear gallon jug which he says is part of their refill program. You buy the empty jug for $9 and can come back to have it refilled for $9 as many times as you want for “take out” off premises consumption. Better yet, every 10th refill of the jug is free . . . a great deal for locals!
David tried their Generations White Ale and I opted for their homebrewed, old style root beer. They were served ice cold and were very good at quenching our mid-afternoon thirst. With our whistles wetted, we were off to the next site at this end of the road . . . the Amana Millrace. Completed in 1869, it took workers from all seven of the Amana villages to build the six and one-half mile canal system and hydro-electric plant. It’s amazing that the original settlers in this area understood enough to build such a technologically advanced system to harness the power of the Iowa River for the purpose of generating electricity for their mills.
From here, we got in our car and drove back up to one of the main parking lots atop the 220th Trail. We explored several of the stores and shops, buying some decadent walnut fudge at the Amana Colonies Village Store. Next we browsed in the leather shop next door which was a bit of a disappointment. While they did have some lovely homemade lace items, their leather goods were largely other brands such as Minnetonka and Buxton. Their selection of leather purses and hats were somewhat limited in choice, and didn’t really indicate where they were made, so we passed on making a purchase here.
Across the street and next door to the Ox Yoke Inn is the Ackerman Winery. With a nice walk through self-tour and free samples of their award winning wines, we really enjoyed this stop during our tour of the Village of Amana. Many of their wines were of the fruit variety, including apple, peach, rhubarb, strawberry, blackberry, raspberry, and dandelion. They also had their own chardonnay and merlot. If your shopping list includes wine related gifts including racks, glasses and novelty openers, this is a store you’ll want to make time to visit.
We wandered down to the Chocolate Haus where we enjoyed watching homemade chocolates being made. They had all different kinds of chocolate candies available for purchase including covered nuts, clusters, and fudge. Being a week after Easter, they still had some seasonal holiday items available at substantial savings.
Across the street and down about a block we ventured into the Amana Stone Hearth Bakery. By this time, it was late in the afternoon and the items still available for purchase were rather slim pickins. Known for their hard crusted breads and homemade pastries, this bakery provides baked goods for many of the local restaurants in Amana. We would later enjoy rolls at the Ox Yoke Inn that were baked here.
This is just a small representation of the shops found in Amana. Because we arrived rather late in the afternoon, our time had to be spent on those areas that we were most interested in . . . and to coincide with our desire to eat supper around 4:30pm before getting back on the highway to head home to Ames, nearly two hours away. Other shops and artisans of interest in Amana include the world famous Amana Furniture and Clock Shop, Custom Cutlery and Ironworks, and the Heritage Designs & Quilting Supplies. For those with children, you may want to pay a visit to the Little Red Wagon or the Christmas Room for kids of all ages.