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Amana Colonies

In east-central Iowa, the historic Amana Colonies provide captivating insights into the traditions and crafts of 19th-century communal society. Opening their doors to visitors and history buffs, the hamlets form a compelling tapestry of over 500 historical buildings, including brick homes, a schoolhouse, trade shops and a mill, giving way to an Arcadian landscape of gently rolling hills, tranquil lakes and deep forests.

Amana Roots

The Amana Colonies, known communally as the Amana Society, were settled beginning in 1855 as a series of villages by the Community of True Inspiration. The Inspirationists were German Pietists who existed throughout several provinces of Germany and Northern Switzerland. In the 1840s, migrants to America began to form a communal society, allowing all members to afford the arduous journey. In 1855, the whole group settled in Iowa.

An old water pump next to a planter filled with flowers.


Living History

Today, the area’s history is honored in Amana’s museums and trade shops. Managed by the Amana Heritage Society, the Noé House, built in 1864, houses a series of exhibits that chart the origins and evolution of the founding German sect. Evocative structures and living history exhibits include an 1870 schoolhouse, wine-making and gardening displays, a communal-era kitchen, a cooper shop, a blacksmith shop and a working general store.

Milling Around

The Amana Woolen Mill is the Amana Colonies’ oldest business and has been producing textiles and helping to fulfill the Amana’s mission for economic self-sufficiency since 1857. At the Ruedy Kitchen—the Colonies’ only remaining communal kitchen—guides provide demonstrations and relate historical events. The kitchen’s large brick hearth and dry sink with wooden tubs evocatively recreate the last communal dinner of 1932.

Communal Crafts

Since the mid-19th century, Amana artisans have gained worldwide acclaim for their furniture, decorative objects, clocks and textiles, all beautifully made according to traditional techniques that date back to 17th-century Germany. At the Amana Furniture and Clock Shop, you can watch these experts ply their trades in the viewing gallery and peruse handcrafted timepieces, including intricate Gelnhausen grandfather clocks.

A wooden building with a sign saying, "Little Red Wagon — Kids Stuff"


Rocking Rocker

A fabled roadside attraction, Iowa’s Largest Rocking Chair takes center stage in the West Amana Broom and Basket Shop. Visitors can climb onto the seat of the 11-foot-tall, 650-pound monster and feel the gentle sway. Shoppers can purchase smaller versions of the big chair. Also in the area, the Amana Meat Shop & Smokehouse preserves traditional Germanic methods of curing ham, bacon and sausage, while Opa’s Tractor Museum displays an assortment of agricultural tools, machines and memorabilia. This is especially popular with children.

Ode to Germany

The Amana Colonies’ German heritage finds expression with fun-filled festivals and events held throughout the year. Maypole dancers are the stars of Maifest, while locals don their finest lederhosen and dirndls for dancing at Iowa’s Oktoberfest. At the lighthearted Wurst Festival in June, attendees partake in lashings of sausages, beer, wine, music, games, contests and tongue-in-cheek seminars at Wurst University.

Amana Holidays

During the area’s Prelude to Christmas festivities, Amana’s glittering lights, whimsical decorations and seasonal delicacies impart a magical and indulgent aura. New Year brings Winterfest, which helps participants cast off the winter blues with a rigorous schedule of outdoor games and events.

Communal Living

The Amana Colonies’ utopian dream meant no salaries were earned or paid, and there was no such thing as individual assets. Distinct from the Amish and Mennonite religions, Inspirationists utilize and welcome all forms of modern technology. Small-scale tourism is celebrated, and the Amana residents have admirably maintained their authenticity in the face of tourism. Now the Amana Colonies are for the most part private property, held by a joint-stock company created for Amana business enterprises in 1932.

Lily Lakes and Fossil Gorges

Unfurling along the Iowa River, the Amana Colonies’ watery environs provide access to scenic waterways, marshlands and lakes. Canoeists can access the Iowa River from River Bridge in South Amana or Homestead. A short hike from West Amana, Lily Lake is a picturesque setting to experience Iowa’s native flora and fauna, including abundant birdlife and the lake’s much-photographed water lilies. For more recreational adventures, Coralville Lake lies a 25-minute drive southeast of Amana and provides boating, kayaking, lake and river fishing, and swimming.

American Gothic

The captivating tapestry of undulating hills and valleys that surrounds the Amana Colonies is pure Grant Wood territory; the famous regionalist artist painted the landscape in his seminal works, including “The Birthplace of Herbert Hoover,” “Woman with Plants” and “American Gothic.”

Hiking the Colonies

The Amana Colonies’ grassy meadows, oak savanna, wet prairie, low bluffs and country creeks can be explored on two public trails.

Starting at the depot in Amana, the novice 3.1-mile Kolonieweg (Colony Way) trail traverses the Amana Forest and flanks the Mill Race, a seven-mile canal that provided hydroelectric power to the colonies’ mills. After linking the villages of Amana to Middle Amana, the trail orbits the picturesque 170-acre Lily Lake. Look for trumpeter swans and river otters.

The Nature Trail leads hikers through the Amana Forest —look for wild turkey — and along a bluff overlooking the Iowa River. Hikers will notice three Native American burial mounds that date back more than 1,000 years.

For More Information

Amana Colonies Visitors Center



Iowa Tourism Office