Frankenmuth, Michigan: Family Fun in Michigan’s Little Bavaria
Willkommen to Frankenmuth, Michigan’s Little Bavaria. Settled in 1845 by a small group of German Lutheran immigrants, this city celebrates everything German: culture, heritage and even architecture. I was here to get to know this small German community and experience its restaurants, shops and charm.
Start the Day off Right
I began my tour of Frankenmuth at the Bavarian Inn Restaurant’s bakery, where the pastry counter was filled to bursting with freshly baked croissants, turnovers and muffins. Then I took a stroll along Main Street and enjoyed the picturesque downtown area. A delightful pedestrian walkway made it easy to explore the vast array of quaint independent shops and restaurants.
Downtown, I found the Frankenmuth Holz Brucke (“wooden bridge”), an authentic covered bridge over the Cass River that could have been lifted straight from Germany’s Black Forest. The strong influence of Franconian architecture can be found in most areas of the city.
It’s Always Christmas in Frankenmuth
Those who love Christmas should pay a visit to Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland, which opened in 1945. I was a little skeptical when I heard it was the “world’s largest” Christmas store, but as I walked through the door, but I soon realized the shop floor was bigger than a football field. From trees and skirts, to baubles, tinsel and ornaments of every design imaginable, I was spoilt for choice. They even sell a variety of Santa suits and beards. The store is open 361 days a year.
Festivals for All Interests
Millions of visitors are drawn to Frankenmuth each year to experience the city’s many festivals and celebrations. From German events like Oktoberfest and the Frankenmuth Bavarian Festival, to Bringin’ Back the ’80s Festival and the World Expo of Beer, Frankenmuth has something for everyone, including man’s best friend. Dog Bowl is the nation’s largest Olympic-style event for dogs.
Famous Food in Frankenmuth
Frankenmuth is also known for their world-famous family-style chicken dinners that are served at two family-owned signature restaurants located across South Main Street from each other. For lunch, I was torn between the Bavarian Inn Restaurant and Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth. With a flip of a coin, I opted for the latter: fried chicken with green beans, mashed potatoes and gravy. Delicious!
River Place, a Riverboat and the Oldest Brewery
After lunch, I couldn’t resist taking a short walk (I probably needed the exercise!) to River Place, the German-themed outdoor shopping mall. With more than 40 boutique shops and attractions, River Place is the ideal spot to pick up gifts and souvenirs for everyone back home. It’s also the home of the Bavarian Belle Riverboat, which offers one-hour narrated tours of the Frankenmuth area on an authentic paddlewheel riverboat.
I rounded off my day with a visit to one of the oldest breweries in the country, the Frankenmuth Brewery, which opened in 1862. I sat on their outdoor patio overlooking the Cass River and sampled a flight of 10 beers, from the American Blonde and Red Sky ales to the Munich Dunkel Lager. What a perfect way to end my visit.