Recreation in Amish life often focuses on local activities involving nature. Without cars and with many chores, Amish families are more tied to the local community. Sledding, skating, ice hockey, swimming, camping, fishing, and hunting provide breaks from the routines of work. Informal games of softball, corner ball, and volleyball have long been favorites in many Amish communities. Camping in local meadows and wooded areas is also popular in some communities.

Families involved in businesses or factory work are finding more time for recreation. “We are more of a leisure people now,” said one businessman. Another shop owner said, “We’re business people now, not just backwoods farmers, and sometimes we just need to get away.” Several couples may travel together in a hired van to visit friends and relatives in out-of-state communities. Along the way, they may visit historic sites or a state or national park. Increasingly, groups of Amish charter a bus to a historic village, a zoo, or a natural site as well. Family reunions and picnics are also popular leisure-time activities.

Men sometimes rent a hunting cabin for several days or charter a boat to go fishing in eastern waterways or on one of the Great Lakes, depending on where they live. Archery is popular in some areas. Adults who enjoy birding sometimes travel across the country to popular migration sites. Some young men go big game hunting in the Rocky Mountains for a week, equipped with guides and state-of-the-art guns and supplies. Snow and water skiing are popular among some youth.

Group singings, barn raisings, “sisters days,” “work bees” (sometimes called frolics), and similar activities are important social events that blend together work and leisure or, in the case of singings, leisure and worship, in most Amish communities. Such activities within church districts and sometimes across districts weave leisure into the larger social and spiritual framework.

Recreation and travel is on the rise among more progressive families. Nevertheless, Amish leisure, for the most part, is not commercialized and remains connected to nature. It is almost always community oriented, revolving around family and friends.

Additional information

  • See pp. 109-13 in chapter 6, “The Amish Way,” and pp. 237-43 in chapter 13, “Social Ties and Community Rhythms,” in The Amish by Donald B. Kraybill, Karen M. Johnson-Weiner, and Steven M. Nolt (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013).

About the site

Amish Studies is an academic website developed by the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College to provide reliable information on Amish life and culture.

Designed to assist scholars, students and the general public, the site was developed with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities as part of a collaborative research grant on Amish diversity and identity in the 20th century. The research team included principal investigator Donald B. Kraybill of Elizabethtown College (Pa.) and two co-investigators, Steven M. Nolt of Goshen College (Ind.) and Karen M. Johnson-Weiner of SUNY Potsdam (New York).

The Amish population statistics are updated annually in the summer. Other information will be revised and added on a periodic basis.

Recent books

The Amish book cover Authors: Donald Kraybill, Karen Johnson-Weiner, and Steven Nolt (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013; paperback available in January 2018)

The Amish: A Concise Introduction book cover

Author: Steven Nolt (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016)