The Biggest Little Town in Southern Minnesota!
It’s easy to let the Twin Cities envelope you wholly in their hustle and bustle. I would say we’re right on par with great cities like London, Paris, and Trenton, NJ in terms of just how much culture we’ve got to offer here. Still, once and a while it’s good to get away from this vast web of asphalt and mortar to go somewhere a little more down to earth, where you can enjoy the kind of small Minnesota town charm that Garrison Keillor used to remind us existed weekly. For that you’d best drive southeast to Harmony.
“I love the sense of community here,” said Becky Hoff, director of the Harmony Area Chamber of Commerce. “It’s a place where people look out for each other, and much more intimate than a metropolis could be. I think even if I didn’t live here I’d visit pretty often.
“Our downtown has a lot of great restaurants — Estelle’s Eatery, which is owned by the Brown family, is a very popular farm to table restaurant with unique specials and desserts, and On The Crunchy Side makes their bread and pizza dough from scratch. After lunch you can visit our shops, stroll through our town green, and check out our visitor’s center. From downtown you can also go on a tour of our Amish community, which is one of Harmony’s biggest attractions.
“Harmony is home to about 1,000 members of the Old Order Amish community. They started to move here in the mid 70s because we had plenty of inexpensive land, the streams needed for old-fashioned farming, and hardwood forests for heating homes. Our neighbors are the strictest kind of Amish, so they don’t use electricity or engines. Horse and buggies are a common sight in Harmony — Highway 52 has a lane devoted to them, and several of the businesses around town have hitching posts in their parking lots.
“I personally think taking a guided tour is the best way to learn about our Amish friends’ history and customs. Many of our guides are retired farmers who know the families personally, and can answer any questions you might have about the community. You can go it on your own if you prefer, but whatever you do don’t miss their shops. They make the most beautiful heirloom quality furniture and baskets, and Harmony is the only place in the world I know of where you can buy FROG jam. It’s a strange name, but it stands for fig, raspberries, orange, and ginger, and it’s delicious!
“Harmony isn’t the kind of town you would think of as having an underground, but we do — literally. Our whole corner of Minnesota is what’s known as Karst landscape, and it was never scraped away by glacial activity. Because of that we have a lot of caves, and Niagara Cave is our biggest. Its tour crosses an entire mile over the course of an hour, and you’re never outside once during it. There’s a beautiful underground waterfall, which can be just deafening depending on the amount of rain we’ve had recently. You can see many kinds of fossils in the same place they’ve been for millions of years there as well. It’s like going back in time!
“Before you go home you have to visit Harmony Spirits just behind downtown, which has a tasting room where you can try our locally distilled liquors. New Generations of Harmony Antique Mall is a wonderful place, too, with anywhere between 75 and 85 local vendors selling antiques and locally made crafts. You can lose an entire afternoon there if you’re not careful. We’re also surrounded by over 60 miles of paved bike trails, so bring your bicycle too!”
Even the hoitiest toitiest Minneapolitan has got to admit that our Twin Cities are sorely bereft of the Amish preserves and sprawling caves that are needed to make a summer complete. If you’d like to visit The Biggest Little Town in Southern Minnesota, then you can plan your trip online at exploreharmony.com.
By David Scheller