Weekend Escape Series: Spectacular Theater Getaways
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Weekend Escape Series: Spectacular Theater Getaways

Who would have guessed? A compact region of Indiana’s Cool North that draws thousands of visitors each year to experience Amish culture or relax at lakeside resorts holds a surprising secret – professional theater performances and concerts that definitely rank as showstoppers. Amish Country offers loads of daytime activities before you settle in for stirring, scintillating and often foot-stomping performances at top-notch venues.

We’re including lodging and dining options close to the theaters, but be assured….these performance venues are an easy drive from just about any place in the region where you might be spending your weekend.

Day One:  Blue Gate Theatre, Shipshewana, and Middlebury

The steady clop of horses’ hooves pulling Amish buggies seems like an invitation to slow down and enjoy the pleasures of small communities deep in the heart of a region that’s home to the second largest Amish population in the nation. It’s also home to a theater that spotlights professional performances year-round.

Play by Day

Shop in Shipshewana and Middlebury: This community of Shipshewana has more than 100 shops filled with Amish-made goods. You’ll find fine furniture and clocks, noodles and breads and more. Just 10 miles away, the tiny town of Middlebury is home to the Essenhaus Village Shops, six specialty gift shops filled with quilts, handbags, books, and other treasures (It’s part of the Das Essenhaus complex with an inn and restaurant – see below).

Visit Menno-Hof: Amish-Mennonite Information Center, Shipshewana: Your visit to the area may make you curious about the Amish-Mennonite culture that thrives here. Travel through the centuries at this center to learn all about the group’s unique history.

See the Show

Blue Gate Theatre and Shipshewana Event Center: You’ve come for great entertainment, and this state-of-the-art complex delivers. It includes the intimate Blue Gate Theatre, which adjoins with the Blue Gate Restaurant, the classy Blue Gate Garden Inn, and the Blue Gate Performing Center for larger concerts, both nearby.

Music abounds in both theatrical performances and concerts by top entertainers. Past shows have included everything from The Guess Who to Sawyer Brown to the Gaither Vocal Band at the Event Center. In addition, a host of country, rock, gospel, and oldies groups, plus comedians will take the Blue Gate stage.

Theatergoers have come to love the professional performers who bring wonderful, moving stories about Amish life to the Blue Gate Theatre during stirring musicals.  The Christmas season will bring a new fun and heartwarming musical.

The Blue Gate also offers a variety of packages that include dinner, lodging and theater, and add-ons such as Amish buggy rides and gift baskets in your room (see below). The theatrical performances often feature afternoon shows, so it’s possible to see a musical in the afternoon and a concert at night.

The Lerner:  The Lerner has been carefully restored to its original luster and beauty, and the year-round performances make this a theater that declares “life is a performance.”  The schedule includes musicals such as the Odd Couple, as well as concerts by  the likes of REO Speedwagon, Steven Curtis Chapman and Martina McBride.


Stay the Night

Blue Gate Garden Inn, Shipshewana: Spend the night at this upscale hotel with Amish embellishments right next to the Blue Gate Theatre. Enjoy the pool, hot tub, ice cream shop and a complimentary hot breakfast. Packages that include theater, dinner and more are available.

Essenhaus Inn and Conference Center, Middlebury: Lovely Amish decor surrounds guests throughout this 89-room  hotel, part of a complex that includes shops and a restaurant. The hotel features a pool, therapeutic hot tub, and a bountiful complimentary breakfast complete with Amish favorites.

Dine Out

Blue Gate Restaurant & Bakery, Shipshewana: Settle in for from-scratch Amish favorites such as fried chicken and ham. The breakfasts are phenomenal.

Das Dutchman Essenhaus, Middlebury: Don’t be surprised if an Amish family sits down at the next table. That’s how great the food is at this huge restaurant! You’ll find everything from Amish roast beef and noodles to Indiana favorites such as breaded pork tenderloin. Don’t skip the scrumptious pies!

Day Two:  Nappanee and Goshen

The drive is freewheeling, easy, green and serene as you head toward your next theater rendezvous in Nappanee, home of  Amish “shingle shops”  that entice you to stop along the way. These small stores on proud Amish farmsteads are distinguished by a sign or “shingle” announcing that authentic quilts, woodenwares and baked goods are for sale. The community of Goshen is a shopper’s haven that’s a must-stop on your journey.


Old Bag Factory

The Old Bag Factory

Play by Day

The Old Bag Factory, Goshen: Yes, they actually did make bags here! But that was back in the 1800s, and this historic brick building eventually was all but a heap of ruins. But not today! The refurbished masterpiece is filled with one-of-a-kind shops that feature handmade pottery, jewelry and other artistic creations.

Coppes Commons, Nappanee: This historic attraction was originally the factory for a leading manufacturer of the famous “Hoosier Cabinet” at the turn of the century.  The renovated factory now houses a variety of specialty shops offering locally-made, handcrafted and freshly-baked items. Get a glimpse into the history of the Coppes Kitchens while visiting the cabinet museum and shopping this rambling brick building.

See the Show

Nappanee: Take in a play at the round barn theater at The Barns at Nappanee

Goshen: There are places in Goshen to see a show, including a collegiate concert hall; a former garage that is now a live concert venue beloved by local listeners as well as performers and music fans far beyond Goshen; a theater that is under renovation making an historic landmark into a destination spot; and several downtown eateries that regularly have live music.

Dine Out

Nappanee: If you stopped to shop or just got on the road early, you’ll love the baked good and cinnamon rolls at Nappanee’s Bakery and Treat Shoppe located inside the Coppes Commons.

Goshen Brewing Company, Goshen: A family-friendly brew pub located in an old recycled power house. Watch the brewer at work through large windows overlooking the tanks, or enjoy your beer on the outdoor patio. Dinner is from a farm-to-table menu, featuring local and organic ingredients. Live music is often on tap, along with their beers.

Stay the Night

Countryside Inn, Nappanee: A cozy country inn situated in the heart of Amish Country includes a free breakfast and will make you feel right at home in Nappanee.

To see additional theaters and shows in Indiana’s Cool North, click here.