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Amish Enclave

A short trip to Marion reveals Amish culture, country cooking and Southern hospitality.
Story and photos by Patsy Bell Hobson

A visit to Marion, Ky., is a springtime tradition for many. Here, visitors can buy Amish-grown plants, handmade quilts or furniture and take a self-guided tour of this charming town that is known for its antique shops, country dining and Southern hospitality.

Amish Goods

Above and top: Visitors to Marion will find a plentiful selection of Amish-made goods, including food, furniture and other items for the home.

Marion Café is a good stop for break, lunch or dinner. Try the homemade pies and cakes.

cafe

From southern Missouri or Illinois, Marion is a good choice for a day trip. Begin the day with a free ferry ride from the riverfront at Cave-In-Rock, Ill. Cross the Ohio River into Kentucky. The ferry runs continuously from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. When you get off the ferry, Amish country will be directly ahead on Kentucky Highway 91.

Michele Edwards, tourism director for the Marion Tourism Commission, estimates that 75 percent of tourism is driven by visitors’ interest in the Amish community.

The Amish established a settlement in Marion in 1977 and built livelihoods around plant nurseries and greenhouses. In spring, locals and tourists come for the Amish organic heirloom tomato plants and big red tomatoes that are available in summer.

Plan to visit during daylight hours any day except Sunday; businesses will be closed. Get a map of local Amish businesses at the bureau. Follow the signs for a self-guided tour to Amish shops. Remember to bring cash because most of the local merchants do not take credit cards or checks.

A day in Marion

After picking up tourist information, start with breakfast at the Marion Café on South Main Street, which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s also a great place for an afternoon iced tea or coffee break. Homemade pies, such as lemon meringue, and cakes, including Hummingbird and carrot, tempt diners.

Visit the old-fashioned drug store and soda fountain next door. It has been “Marion's meeting place since 1868.”

Fortified for exploration, it’s time to check out Amish shops that offer outdoor furniture, baked goods and bulk foods for sale. Seasonal items include organically grown vegetables, flowers and birdhouses. Most Amish shops are based in their homes. Marion also offers a handful of antique shops.

The Backroads Tour and Festival, April 29 and 30, is held in conjunction with the American Quilters Society National Quilt Show in Paducah, which is about an hour’s drive from Marion on state Highway 60. Local crafts and quilt displays will be at the Marion Welcome Center.

Long before the Amish settled here, this region of Kentucky was known for mining the mineral fluorspar. Visitors interested to learn more can tour the Ben E. Clement Mineral Museum that has one of the finest collections of minerals and gemstones anywhere. Mining in this region began well before the Civil War and continued until the 1950s. The museum is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The Fifth Annual Ben E. Clement Gem and Mineral Show will be June 4 and 5. The museum draws enthusiasts from across the country to view specimens and participate in digs. A dig is planned each month from April through October.

Enjoy spring weather with a picnic at Crittenden County Park, which is located at the center of town. There are two picnic pavilions; a 1 1/4-mile paved walking trail and a playground here. Purchase fresh Amish-made bread, dried fruit and cookies for picnic in the park. Five Star Deli located at the corner of Main and Bellville streets also sells picnic fare.

More dining and lodging options

Main Street Italian Grill has been open less than a year, but it is quickly becoming popular for lunch or dinner. Meals are beautifully prepared, and feature generous portions made from the freshest ingredients.

We also stopped at Justa Burg'r on North Main Street, a good local choice for made-to-order burgers.

Flower and garden lovers must reserve the Honeysuckle Cottage at Mystic Waters Garden well in advance. Breakfast is not provided, but there is a full kitchen in the three-bedroom cottage that sleeps up to six guests. The cottage is a focal point surrounded by gardens, songbirds and butterflies.

There are a few B&B choices in Marion and a wide selection of hotels in Paducah. A good selection of chain motels can be found off U.S. Highway 60 at Exit 4. Pamper yourself in historical downtown Paducah and reserve a suite at Fox Briar Inn at RiverPlace. Fox Briar is a historical business building turned urban dwelling, well appointed with full kitchen, bath and laundry. Stop downstairs at the ice cream factory and head out for a stroll along the river. There are plenty of places to eat downtown and you can walk to the National Quilt Museum from here.

Marion is a charming town that will win your heart.

Patsy Bell Hobson is a contributor from Cape Girardeau, Mo.

Mar/Apr 2011 Issue

BEFORE YOU GO

For more information, contact the Marion Visitors Center on South Main Street, www.marionkentucky.org, (270) 965-5015; Paducah Convention & Visitors Bureau, www.paducah.travel, (270) 443-8783.

To visit Marion, Ky., first stop by your nearest AAA service office for maps, reservations, TripTiks® and TourBook® guides. View a list of offices to serve you .


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