Prelude to Christmas

IMG_4358If there’s one thing that’s been on my “Things to Do in Iowa” list longer than any other, it’s the Amana Colonies’ Prelude to Christmas. Today I finally checked it off.

Held annually the first weekend in December, Prelude to Christmas features the Amana Colonies at their best: All decorated for the holidays, with yummy food, good smells, and twinkling lights.

The event was held this weekend, Friday through Sunday. Saturday would have been the best day to go in terms of activities, with both a cookie walk and a church bazaar — not to mention live accordion music at the Ox Yoke Inn. My husband, Dave, and I opted to go today, and there was still plenty to see and do.

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We started at the Amana General Store, a two-level store that includes the Amana Coffee & Tea Co. I don’t know what it looks like during the rest of the year, but right now it’s packed full of holiday goodies. There are gifts of food from Amana (think corn relish, sweet potato butter, salsa, jams, root beer, and much more), holiday tableware, Christmas ornaments, and seasonal decorations galore. It’s a very fun store if, like me, you can’t get enough of holiday decorations.

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Next we visited the Tannenbaum Forest, located in the century-old Festhalle barn, which opened the Friday after Thanksgiving and remains open through Dec. 16. The forest is a display of decorated trees and other holiday scenes; the $3 admission donations benefit a local child from the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Visits from Santa and a live reindeer are scheduled throughout the month.

IMG_4343Just outside the Festhalle barn, visitors could catch a horse and carriage ride that took them through the streets of Amana. Some proceeds from the $5-per-person charge also go to Make-A-Wish.

You can’t visit Amana without visiting the Amana Woolen Mill. The show room was filled with cozy blankets, scarves, hats, mittens, and clothing for adults and children. Across the street is Millstream Brewing Co. We stopped by there on the off chance that they’d still have some of their fantastic Oktoberfest left, but, alas, the young woman at the brewery informed me that they had actually run out of Oktoberfest during Oktoberfest weekend. (Note to all brewers in the state of Iowa: Please make more Oktoberfest next year. Thank you.) We bought bottles of Schild Brau Amber instead.

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I went into several more stores, some good (Yana’s Boutique,¬†Chocolate Haus, Kitchen Sink), some not so great. There is a lot more shopping in town, but I have a limited interest in shops, and I was getting hungry. So we went to the Ox Yoke Inn for the advertised brunch with Santa and Mrs. Claus. As luck would have it, Dave and I were seated right next to them. We could have shared the meal. The whole time we were eating (the brunch buffet included breakfast items, made-to-order omelets, salads, potatoes, several meats, breads, and desserts) a steady stream of adults and children came right beside our table to get their pictures taken with the Clauses and put in their wish lists. I heard the whole thing. One kid asked Santa, “You give a lump of coal to kids who have been bad, right? Well, what if they WANT coal?” That sort of stumped the jolly old elf who, as it turns out, lives in North Liberty, Iowa, not the North Pole. Don’t tell the kids.

If you missed Prelude to Christmas, there are still two more weekends to visit Amana before the holidays: Dec. 7-9 is Kids and Music Weekend; Dec. 14-16 is A Taste of Christmas Weekend.

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