Kalona Tourism, Iowa

Published by Darron Toy on

>>In this part
of east central Iowa, horses and buggies aren’t
a thing of the past. Just about 30 minutes from
the bustle of the University of Iowa campus and downtown
Iowa City is an enchanting small town where you can
catch glimpses of a unique way of life and sample
some of its treasures. ♪>>With a population
of about 2400, Kalona offers modern
conveniences amid the old-world charm of the Amish
and Mennonite communities. Many people who live in
Kalona work in close by Iowa City. The town’s biggest
employer is Civco, a world-class medical
instrument facility. But what brings people to
visit here is a peek at Amish life.>>Kalona’s
niche is tourism. That’s our biggest
driving factor here. Individuals want
to come here. They want to see the Amish. They want to see
the heritage. They want to see quilts. They want to see Amish
driving down the street. They want to eat Amish-style
meals and be able to interact a little bit.>>It’s so charming to watch
Amish ways mingle with modern society, but I take
care to be respectful of people’s privacy. Many of the Amish prefer
not to be photographed, and I’m told visitors
here usually honor that.>>My logical first stop on
a town tour of Kalona is the Kalona Historical Village. Amid the historic structures
I spot an old train depot and learn that Kalona
was started in 1879 as a railroad town. But the Amish were in the
area even before that.>>They first
moved here in 1846, the same year Iowa
became a state. And there’s been Amish
people moving here ever since.>>As I head back to the
main area of downtown Kalona, I can see cement
quilt patterns dotting the walkways. What a unique tribute to
such a well-loved Amish folk art.>>We did a $3.2 million
downtown renovation here. It does incorporate 42 quilt
block designs which that are 6×6 and inlaid
into the sidewalks, all unique to the Midwest
and specifically to Kalona with some local
individual designs. We have a tour, a walking
tour of our new downtown, and it takes them in front
of all the shops and allows them to learn a little bit
about why those quilts are important and where
they derived from.>>One of those quilt blocks
decorates the sidewalk right outside the Kalona Bakery,
where the irresistible smells wafting outside lure
me inside to continue my Amish sojourn with
a culinary angle. The Kalona Bakery is an
eatery serving lunch and a bakery serving yummy
cookies, pies and pastries. But it’s the homemade egg
noodles that are really famous here. I chat with noodle maker
Carolyn Geigley as I sample the bakery’s chicken
and noodles dish.>>We also have recipes in
each bag that will tell you how to, how to make them.>>Oh, okay.>>If you don’t know
how to make them.>>Well, it looks like I’ll
be having hamburger and noodle casserole the Amish
way when I get home.>>Just down the block, I
find another town treat – Kalona Chocolates. Is your mouth watering yet? The husband-wife team
of Lyndon and Mattie Hershberger provide their
chocolates to several stores in the Kalona area. Some of their signature
items are tadpoles, java bites, and
the Wunderbar.>>It’s a solid chocolate
bar in either milk or dark chocolate. Wunderbar is a German word
that means wonderful.>>It’s so good.>>There’s another sweet
treat in downtown Kalona, and it’s more popular than
ever on this sweltering summer day. This is Yotty’s ice cream,
home of 16 flavors of soft serve ice cream and the
famed Kalona old-fashioned ice cream bar.>>Yotty’s ice cream came
about when we decided we wanted to make the Kalona
old-fashioned ice cream bar. We started in 1998 and we
wanted to make that bar because the gentleman before
us was no longer doing it, and I said, somebody needs
to make the ice cream bar.>>It’s so good.>>There’s one more
well-known Kalona area food stop I just can’t miss. The Cheese House,
just outside of town. You can watch the cheese
being made through viewer windows. Here at Twin County
Dairy, the official name, they specialize in cheese
curds made fresh every day! And yes, they do squeak.>>My self-guided tour
through Kalona has shown me so much, but there’s another
fun way to soak up the Amish atmosphere. The Kalona Byways Bus Tour. It’s a three-hour tour
of the Kalona area which includes stops that
range from strict Amish establishments to
modern places like J.K. Creative Wood
and Gifts. As the tour
loads back into the bus, they know they’re headed for
more scenic views of Amish life as they make their way
down the area’s country roads to a tasty finale.>>Our Father,
who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name.>>We’re at the home
of Salina Bontrager. She’s Amish Mennonite which
means she uses electricity, unlike the Old Order Amish,
and boy, can Salina cook.>>I’ve been
doing it for 40 years. And I’ve had people
from all over the world. From Iceland. I had a busload
from Iceland. I’ve had ’em from Romania,
Ukraine, Germany, I’ve had people
from just all over.>>With 8 children, 38
grandchildren and 6 great grandchildren, Salina has
extensive experience cooking for large groups. Traditional meat and
potatoes are passed around the table as we dine, along
with those awesome Amish noodles, and several other
mouthwatering dishes. The food just keeps comin’. Now, THIS is the way
to celebrate the Amish heritage! As I leave Kalona
and Amish country, I take one last look at
this beautiful and quaint destination and remind
myself how lucky I am to

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