The rural town of Kalona, Iowa has about 2500 residents and half of them are various orders of Amish. The Old Order Amish came to Kalona in 1846 and the town was officially established in 1879. There is so much to be said about this rich history, and you can learn more in this short overview. Kalona is the perfect, idyllic stop outside of Iowa City and there is much to learn, see, eat, and explore. If you are just passing through, or here for a longer visit, this is the best family-friendly list of "must-dos".
All information was provided by Kalona resident, Kayla, from Under A Tin Roof
There are many charming Amish shops and places to visit in Kalona! When you first arrive in Kalona, stop at the Kalona Historical Village. Here you can tour small collections of artifacts, extensive English & Amish quilt collections (fun fact: Kalona is the Quilt Capitol of Iowa), historical buildings from the area (the original train depot, an Amish Grandpa House, an original one room school house, Wahl House, and Grout Church), and a Mennonite Museum filled with various artifacts belonging to Mennonite and Amish families in the area, including an old dress from the Civil War period!
Don't forget to pick up a map of Amish Country before you leave! If you have the chance, you can hop on a tour bus at either the Historical Village or the Kalona Chamber of Commerce and take a guided tour of the Amish farms and small shops open to the public. Kalona is not a commercialized Amish area like some other parts of the US. The Amish people who live here are simply living their lives, though they have integrated more with the "English" in the area. You can visit and shop for Amish goods at various stores such as the Community Country Store. This Country Store is the best place to buy fresh eggs, their hens are right outside the door - and they are only $1.50 a dozen!
Most of the other Amish shops are similar - they all feature traditional Amish clothing, kitchen wares, some toys, books, and herbal medicines. These stores are placed randomly throughout the country and are meant to be for the Amish, so no commercialized products! The best place to stop is Stringtown Grocery, it's the biggest and most welcoming. The entire store is bulk foods - when you first walk in, you are tempted by candies and chocolates, Amish noodles, and spices. This is a wonderful place to pick up bulk herbs for an herbal medicine cabinet, or to purchase local, seasonal produce. If you are shopping in the off season, fresh food is really difficult to come by!
Amish shops are not open on Sundays.
Other than the Amish shops, touring the Kalona countryside is truly breathtaking. The town is surrounded by gorgeous farms, rolling fields, and all of the farms are truly picturesque. There are always livestock out roaming, gorgeous kitchen gardens, and laundry hanging on clotheslines. The best time to come visit is in the spring, summer, and early autumn. Then you can really see the peak farming times!
Tour season is April - October.
Eateries & Shopping
Downtown Kalona is pretty small with only two intersecting blocks but there are a few noteworthy places to stop. The Shop is a junk collection shop filled with lots of treasures! You can also peruse all the local antique shops.
If it's food you're after, you might like to stop in The Kalona Brewing Company. This place is really something special! Beers brewed right in the building, you can watch them working on the brews through a giant glass window while you are dining. Their menu is spectacular, featuring new specials every night; delicious burgers, unique salads, and my personal favorite, the meatloaf covered in a stout sauce with beer mac & cheese! So good!
The brewery is open Wednesday - Sunday. Closed on Monday + Tuesday.