The updated visitors center is near the best parking lots in the center of town. The folks here provide good orientation to all the Amana colonies. In the same building, on a different side is the Heritage Needle and Quilt, a must see place. Amana Colony Antiques is nearby.
A wind driven water pump does exist in town, although it's much less impressive than the Danish one of I-80 in western Iowa. It's included in a building known as the Powder House, because it produced a pharmacological product from hog's hoof powder. The complex of multiple addition buildings near it are dedicated to a rambling antique store.
Each building had a purpose in Amana, and although many are converted from the original into a new purpose, many also are part of the National Park Service effort to provide demonstration workshops for visitors to see. Find the list of sites to all the Amana Colonies Here
(Oh how it pains me to spell 'woolen' with only one 'l' !)
If I'd been by myself i wouldn't have bothered, but my companion (being a weaving addict) insisted. So she explored the mill and I explored the Millrace.
And then I was persuaded to go inside, because my companion wanted me to buy her birthday present. And, actually, it was a pretty good place. They have a wide variety of woven cotton and woollen (ha!) goods on sale, including some lovely blankets and throws, and I thought the prices were very reasonable indeed.
The mill was first established in 1857, although a fire in 1923 destroyed all of it except the weaving shed (and, according to the mill website, helped to bring about the end of the colonies as a communal economy). I'm not entirely sure whether the building which now stands dates from that time or later, but it is a typical mill..long and low, with many windows (good light is essential for weaving) and a tall chimney.
It's still a working mill, and you can see the weaving machines working (although you can't get very close, for obvious reasons).
Of all the commercial places in Amana, I think this one is definitely worth a visit.
Despite my slight disappointment at the commercial nature of Amana, there are still visible historical elements to be seen.
So spend some time just walking around the settlement. Many of the buildings date from the mid or late 1800s, and although many on 220th Trail are no commercial premises their exteriors are pretty much as they were when they were first built.
The Visitor Cente, by the way, is a converted 'corn crib'.
The Millrace, a six-mile long canal leading from the Iowa River which was cut in the 1860s to power the Amana Mill, has been repaired and restored following the 1993 river floods (which damaged the Millrace's levees). It provides a rather lovely, calm stretch of water to enjoy.
The Konienweg ('colony way') trail runs alongside for just over 3 miles, and would make a very pleasant (and easy..it's paved) walk on a day less hot than when I visited.
I just enjoyed sitting by the quiet water, watching the birds and various water-bugs..and spotting the fish popping up to the surface.
There's a convenient microbrewery/pub right next to the Millrace too: the Millstream Brewing Company. Had I not been driving, I'd definitely have sat in the garden and enjoyed a pint or two of their ale. But, as I was, I just had to be satisfied with the lovely malty smell spreading out over the village....:-)
....if only because it's so jam-packed with things to buy that you will probably spend at least a little money there.
And yes, what is on sale does look very nice and much of it does seem to be locally produced.
The building itself was of more interest to me. It dates from 1858, originally sandstone and timber with a brick extension built in 1890.
There are some original wooden fittings inside, which is nice, but the place is so crowded with items that it is difficult to imagine how it once was.
But no doubt you'll visit it anyway, just because it's there.... :-)
Open Monday-Friday 10am-6pm, Saturday 9:30am-8pm and Sunday 10am-5pm.
It's worth going to the Visitor Centre first (even though it may be some way from where you have parked if, like us, you park at the first place you see when you arrive in Amana!).
You'll find leaflets and maps and booklets and information, of course, and some rather lovely quilts on display as well. There's a visitor book to sign (your 15 minutes of fame if you are the only 'foreigner' that day!) and very helpful and pleasant staff to advise.
They also offer daily walking tours at some time of year, and also a twice-monthly walking tour of food/drink sampling in the villages.
There are also nice, clean, *free* restrooms (ok, toilets)...a boon and a blessing, as far as I'm concerned!
Mon to Fri 9am to 5pm.
Sun: 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
A converted Corn Crib now serves as the Visitor Center for the Amana Colonies [Amana, High Amana, West Amana, Middle Amana, South Amana, East Amana, and Homestead]. See my Corn Crib Travelogue for more images of the building.
Running between several of the Amana's is the Mill Race, which delivered water to each communities mill. Today, there is a paved trail that follows the race between communities. On wamr sunny days (like the 70's or even 50's F - 10 to 20c) this is a wonderful walk. The water has a steady current and you are away from the crowds and traffic.
The mix of buildings is marvelous. Each has been preserved and they are all in use today. You'll see cut stone buildings, wood frame buildings. Off the main road, there are industrial buildings supporting the farms nearby.
My favorite part of the Amana Colonies is the shopping and my favorite time to go is during the holiday season, before Christmas. But any time is nice.
There are wine and cheese stores where you can sample the goods. The Ackerman Winery in Amana is a favorite. They have all of these fruit flavored wines. My favorite is the blueberry! There are also chocolate stores, quilting stores, candle stores, General Stores, gift stores, and antique stores located throughout the Amana Colonies.
Between Main Amana and Middle Amana lies what is known as Lily Lake, a shallow lake full of water lilies. Bike paths and hiking paths circle the lake, blending a bit of nature with the Amana blue of the Amana Refrigeration factory in the distance.
Another interesting trail to take giving you a feel for the countryside of the Amanas is the Kolonienweg, a trail running from Main Amana to Middle Amana.
Employing over 2000 employees, this is the giant of Amana today. The appliances made here have a fine reputation for quality. Originally, Amana was the product of former Colonists, but the company left Colony hands long age and has recently been bought by another Iowan appliance giant, Maytag – itself of Mennonite origins. There are no factory tours, but you might want to position yourself on the hill in Middle Amana above the plant about 3:30 in the afternoon to watch the end-of-workday exodus.
My appliances are from Amana. How about yours? ;-\
Within this former general store you can see how Amana and the outside World interacted. There are several exhibits demonstrating how Amana created goods for sale outside the Colonies and what they needed in return.