If you are looking for an Amish experience, don’t go to Lancaster Pennsylvania, go to Wisconsin.
While Lancaster is the most well known place to see Amish, it has become quite touristy and many of the Amish are choosing to leave Pennsylvania for places like Wisconsin, Kentucky and Tennessee. The Amish I encountered in Wisconsin seemed to be not interested in tourists. However, they were open to tourists and many have little furniture shops in their barns that you can go and explore. As of 2011, there were about 16,000 Amish people living in Wisconsin. While there are many small Amish communities, there are three that seem to be the most popular and open to tourists.
Important things to know about the Amish before visiting
- Do not stare or be disrespectful of the Amish. They have ears and can hear what you are saying. One thing I noticed is some of the locals are very rude when talking about the Amish, I asked some one in a tourist office where to go see Amish and she said, “you don’t want to see our Amish, they are dirty.” So know that the Amish might feel some tension with outsiders and be respectful of them
- Slow down and watch for Amish buggies. Do not drive fast or honk the horn as it might scare their horses. Do not turn the brights on at night.
- Do not take photos without asking. As a rule do not take photos of their faces, but some do not mind, just make sure that you ask. I recommend taking a powerful zoom lens so you they don’t feel like you are getting close to them taking pictures.
- Do not enter their property unless it is clearly marked that you can. Usually you know you can if there is a sign for furniture for sale or a bakery.
- Do not go on Sunday. This is their holy day and they are at church.
- Bring cash if you want to buy things. Most Amish do not take visa.
I went to see the Amish in Cashton WI. This small town is outside of La Crosse WI and is easy to find many places to see the Amish. There is a store that offers tours or a driving map, however, if you drive around, you will see plenty of buggies and farms that have furniture sale signs up that you can drive into their property.
Enjoy your time in Amish Country, and remember to be respectful.