Although it takes about 1 to 2 hours in the car to get to Amish country from downtown Cleveland, it’s definitely worth the hike. With its large fields and rolling hills dotted with barns and farmhouses, the areas of Ohio that make up Amish country are quite unlike the industrial downtown Cleveland area and the neighborhoods of the East and West sides. Driving into the more rural areas of Ohio, you know you’ve reached “Amish country” when you see a horse and buggy waiting in a supermarket parking lot or trotting along next to you on the road.
At about 55,000, the Amish population of Ohio is actually the largest in the United States, followed closely by that of Pennsylvania. There are Amish communities in several counties east and south of Cleveland, including Holmes County in central Ohio, which has one of the largest Amish settlements in the country. Yet as it is less than an hour outside of Cleveland in Geauga county, and thus pretty easy to get to, the town of Middlefield is a popular destination for people who want to explore Amish country. In Middlefield, you can find great Amish restaurants, shops, and inns. It’s a wonderful place to buy baked goods and high quality hand-made furniture year round.
Chopping down your own Christmas tree at Whispering Pines Tree Farm is a great winter excursion in Amish country. Owned and operated by a non-Amish family, Whispering Pines Tree Farm is located on 5138 Clark Rd in Middlefield, Ohio. Open from Thanksgiving to around Christmas Eve, the farm boasts numerous types of trees (fir, spruce, pine), and certainly has prices to rival any Christmas tree lot in the city or suburbs. When you get to Whispering Pines Tree Farm after a lengthy but scenic drive, you can take either a tractor or a horse-drawn-cart (driven by an Amish man) out into its numerous acres of pine trees. They provide you with a saw, and once you’ve picked your tree, you are free to chop it down yourself. After taking a cart or tractor back to pay for your tree, you can enjoy complimentary hotdogs, s’mores, coffee, and hot chocolate, as well as buy Amish baked goods, in the farm’s cozy lodge.
If you’re still hungry after you’ve eaten s’mores and hotdogs, or just happen to be in Middlefield, check out Crossroads County Cafe or Mary Yoder’s Amish Kitchen Bakery, which are both are open year-round.
The Burton Ohio Village – also in Geauga County but with a smaller Amish community – is also worth visiting. Founded in 1798, Burton is the county’s oldest settlement. The town is certainly rich in history and has good restaurants, gift shops, and numerous antique stores. On Labor Day Weekend every year, Burton hosts the Great Geauga County Fair, which is actually Ohio’s oldest fair.