4. Elkhart, Indiana (population 50,949)
Elkhart is one of seven Indiana towns that make up Amish Country, an area of northern Indiana where thousands of Amish families have lived and done business for generations.
According to Honest-to-Goodness Indiana and the Elkhart County Convention and Visitors Bureau, Elkhart is situated along the 90-mile Heritage Trail, which is lined with riverside parks, Amish shops and communities, and peaceful rural views that led LIFE Magazine to name the trail one of best choices for your bucket list.
You can buy handmade quilts, browse exquisitely hand-crafted dollhouses, take home Amish sugar cookies that taste like fluffy tea cakes, or enjoy home-cooked meals in one of many authentic Amish restaurants.
Amish Country’s official website calls Elkhart a “city with a heart”, citing its friendly and creative residents and the laid-back pace of daily life.
In a surprising advantage over the other towns that make up Amish Country (Goshen, Shipshewana, Middlebury, Nappanee, Bristol and Wakarusa), Elkhart offers an eclectic, artistic atmosphere that you won’t find elsewhere.
Thanks to its plethora of downtown art galleries and museums, from the Midwest Museum of Art to the Thompson Gallery, Elkhart even earned its own biannual Art Walk and the nickname SoMA (short for South Main Downtown Elkhart).
And if you prefer the stage to the canvas or the clay, you’re in luck. The landmark Lerner Theater showcases plays and ballets regularly, while up to a hundred world-class musicians have performed at the Elkhart Jazz Festival every year since 1987. Every Tuesday from June through August, a municipal band performs under the stars at McNaughton Park.
From March through September, you can take in a movie like they did in the 1950’s.The Simonton Lake Drive-In is open seven days a week and is almost as famous for its mouth-watering hamburgers as for its outdoor double features.