Located near Iowa City, the seven villages of the Amana Colonies were founded in 1855 by members of the Amana Society from Germany (a utopian offshoot of the Lutheran church). They operated as a successful, communal enterprise until 1932, when they voted to abandon the communal approach to their business activities and instead form a profit-sharing business. Today, they function as an employee-owned corporation that operates several businesses, including Amana Refrigeration, the manufacturer of Amana kitchen appliances. A visit to the colonies allows visitors a look at the Amana community's interesting past and their ongoing enterprises. (Be aware that many of the attractions in Amana are open only in the warm-weather months, usually from April or May through October or November.)
A good place to start your visit is at the Amana Colonies Convention and Visitors Bureau, where you can pick up a map for a self-guided tour. If you see nothing else, you should at least stop at one of the great German restaurants in the villages (including Colony Inn, the Ronneburg, Ox Yoke Inn and others). If you have more time, two good places to include in your visit are the Amana Heritage Museum in Amana, which gives a thorough introduction to the colony, and the Communal Kitchen and Cooper Shop Museum in Middle Amana, where you can see cooking facilities and utensils used in the 1800s, as well as a barrel-making shop. We also enjoyed the Barn Museum in South Amana, which contains a collection of miniature buildings depicting 19th-century Iowa farms and villages. You can see local industry at work at the Amana Woolen Mill and the Amana Furniture and Clock Shop. There are also several wineries in the area that offer tours and tastings, as well as the Millstream Brewing Company that makes beers in the German tradition. 90 mi/145 km east of Des Moines.
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