Frankenmuth, also known as “Michigan’s Little Bavaria” gives you the feeling of traveling somewhere European without having to break out your passport. The town was originally settled by Germans and when highway systems became popular, so did the town. Frankenmuth has grown to become a place where families and friends gather for delicious food, unique shopping, and activities galore. Frankenmuth is home to the World’s largest Christmas store and is always in the Christmas spirit, making it a great trip no matter what time of year! People of all ages can find something fun to do here. The top 10 things Frankenmuth has to offer can be found below.
Stay at The Bavarian Inn or Marv Herzog Hotel
The two best hotels in the Frankenmuth area are the Bavarian Inn and the Marv Herzog, but the best fit for you depends on your interests. The Bavarian Inn is family-friendly and located behind the hustle and bustle of the main strip. The exterior is in “fachwerhaus” style, which is the crisscross wooden design seen on traditional German buildings. The hotel includes four different indoor pools, two waterslides, three whirlpools, a redemption arcade, nightly entertainment, miniature golf, children’s play area, and multiple restaurants and gift shops. The hotel is very family friendly, but the pools do have adult-only hours.
The Bavarian Inn
The Marv Herzog, on the other hand, is also very attractive to visitors. The hotel is located on the river and offers rooms and a public outdoor patio with a view. The hotel offers a “happy hour” event in their lobby, where each guest receives two free drinks (they have a selection of beer, wine, and soda), plus a small selection of snacks, such as cheese and crackers. This is the perfect place to take a break from shopping before heading out for the night! It is located on the main strip, so you are never far from the Frankenmuth fun. Both hotels have very clean rooms and attentive staff.
The Marv Herzog
Attend a Festival
Frankenmuth hosts many fun festivals each year. Some of the best ones are described below.
- Zehnder’s Snowfest – This festival takes place in January and features snow carvers from across the globe competing to win the “best sculpture” award! A firework display happens every Friday night.
- Bavarian Easter Celebration – This festival takes place during the months of March and April. Following the German tradition, the town is decorated for Easter. This tradition started back in Pagan times, where Europeans celebrated spring by decorating their village wells and giving thanks for a safe winter and their water source.
- Bringin-Back-the-80s – This festival takes place in April and celebrates all things the 80s! Be ready to go back in time with the dress and music. Drink a little beer (this is a German town!) and dance the night away to the sounds of the 80s.
- World Expo of Beer – This event takes place in May and consists of over 40 Breweries coming together to compete for bragging rights over who has the best beer. This event features over 150 beers from across the nation. Any beer expo is not complete without sampling, and this is no exception.
- Great Lakes Region and & Michigan State Hot Air Balloon Championships – This event takes place in May and hosts over 40 hot air balloons competing for a spot in the Hot Air Balloon National Championship! Balloons are also set off at night and adorn the night sky with a spectacular show. This is a free event.
- Dog Bowl – This event also takes place in May and is a must-see for any dog lover! Dogs compete in over 40 competitions, such as the Weiner Dog Race, and are fun to watch. There is a pet parade open to all dogs, as well as many animal-based vendors.
- Bavarian Festival – This event takes place in June and fully encompasses the German spirit and tradition of Frankenmuth. German food, dance, and music are in abundance. Be sure to grab a Bratwurst from a street vendor and watch the parade, which is one of Michigan’s oldest and largest parades!
- Volkslaufe – Volkslaufe, a German word, translates to “People’s Race” in English. This event takes place is July and attracts over 4,000 runners each year. A 20k, 10k, 5k, and fun run take place on the morning of the 4th of July. The event is complete with fireworks and a spaghetti dinner, making it the perfect place to spend your holiday.
- Farm-Fest – This event takes place in August and celebrates the farming community of Frankenmuth. During this event, you can tour a real, working farm, a tractor show, and experience many hands-on experiences, such as bread baking and ice cream making!
- Summer Music Fest – This event takes place in August and celebrates German, Polish, Slovenian, and a little American music. This event features a huge wooden dance floor, so get ready to dance the weekend away!
- Frankenmuth Auto-Fest – This event usually takes place the weekend after Labor Day and displays over 4,000 cars! A one-mile street party is celebrated each year on Friday night, and cars are on exhibit all weekend long. There are food vendors, dancing, and fun for everyone!
- Oktoberfest –This event lines up with the dates of the real Oktoberfest in Germany and is an ongoing celebration of the marriage of King Ludwig of Bavaria. Many German traditions are celebrated here, so get ready to try something new and celebrate the German way.
- Wine and Stein – If you’re a total foodie, this October is the event for you! Experience 15 restaurants in one night (via shuttle), and get a taste of something from each!
- Crabby Clam and Lobster Fest – This fundraiser for the Johnny Burke Children’s foundation takes place in October and serves thousands of pounds of chicken and seafood. Enjoy great food and great entertainers.
- Holiday Celebration and Candle Walk – This event takes place the weekend after Thanksgiving each year and celebrates the official beginning of the holiday season. Watch as Frankenmuth turns on the city Christmas lights and get into the spirit with special treats from shops, Christmas carolers, and a visit from Santa!
Visit the Frankenmuth Museum
Get a feel for what Frankenmuth is all about and how it came to be at the Frankenmuth Museum.
Admission is free, and the information is interesting. You can learn about the Bavarian and German influences and how the culture is present in Frankenmuth today.
Shopping on the Strip
Frankenmuth has a main strip, where tons of shops line either side. Personal favorites include:
- Rau’s Country Store
- Calls itself “Michigan’s Most Unique Country Store,” and it is just that! Barrels of penny candy greet you at the door (think chocolate coins, taffy, and wrapped hard candy) and definitely bring out your inner, candy-crazy self. The store also sells many fun novelty items, such as vintage Coca Cola signs, vintage lunch boxes, puzzles, t-shirts, and more!
- The White House
- This is the best boutique on the strip. The store carries Pandora, Brighton, and Vera Bradley for the lowest prices you’ll find. The store also offers great discounts at the door, and it’s very hard to walk out empty-handed!
- The Toy Store in Frankenmuth
- Not your average toy store. It carries brands big and small and entertains guests young and old! The store has many displays, and customers are encouraged to play with them.
- The Cheese Haus
- Caters to all your cheese needs and offers many free samples to help you decide what to purchase. I am not joking when I say there are hundreds of different cheeses in different forms from which to choose. The best part of the Cheese Haus is the mouse and cheese sculpture outside. Make sure to take a picture with it!
Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland
If you just cannot get enough of Christmas, be one of Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland’s two million annual guests. Open 361 days a year, Bronner’s is always in the Christmas spirit. Bronner’s is the size of 5.5 football fields, which makes it the world’s largest Christmas store, and includes 350 decorated Christmas trees, decorations and gifts from over 70 nations, 150 different styles of nutcrackers, over 530 miles of Christmas lights, and about 50,000 ornaments! Goods, such as ornaments, stockings, outdoor décor, Christmas cards, and Christmas village pieces, can be purchased. The variety of ornaments is unbelievable—everything from footballs to cupcakes to cars and animals, from destinations around the world, has been commemorated into a hangable Christmas tree decoration. If you visit during the day, you will see many beautiful holiday displays on the store’s lawn, such as a nativity scene and Santa’s sleigh. If you come at night, the store’s driveway (a half-mile long and named “Christmas Lane”) is illuminated with over 100,000 Christmas lights. The inside of the store is also full of extravagant displays; be sure to look up at the ceiling while browsing! Even if you’re not looking to make any purchases, Bronner’s is still a must-see, due to its uniqueness.
If you come to Frankenmuth on a diet, be prepared to abandon it! Frankenmuth offers so many delicious sweet treats that it’s impossible to pick just one! Multiple fudge/taffy shops line the main strip, where you can watch fudge being made and learn about the process, as well as taffy being freshly stretched. The fudge and taffy come in a multitude of flavors, and you are able to sample them, so be sure to ask! Another place to find sweets is below the Bavarian Inn Restaurant (called the castle shops) or below the Zehender’s restaurant. Here, you will find bakery style goods, such as brownies, cookies, cakes, and pastries, as well as chocolate-covered items, such as Oreos, pretzels, and even bacon! River Place Shops is home to a bakery called “Sugar High,” which won the Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars.” Take one bite, and you’ll find out why. If you have more “mature” tastes, there are many options available for you, as well. St. Julian Winery on the main strip offers wine tasting, and Funships on the main strip does a wine and chocolate tasting paring. The chocolate, when paired with the wine, completely changes the taste of the wine and is a tasty experience! They offer just the chocolate tasting by itself if you have younger guests accompanying you, as well. The bar at the Bavarian Inn is also a fun experience; be sure to grab a gigantic German-style soft pretzel, if you go!
Bakery goods from The Castle Shops
Walk Across the Covered Bridge
The covered bridge is iconic when it comes to Frankenmuth, and you can’t say you’ve been until you’ve walked across it. The architecture of the bridge itself is quite spectacular as it takes you over the river. The view is really pretty and is a nice break from the hustle and bustle of the main strip.
Make a German Style Pretzel!
Go back into the kitchen of the Bavarian Inn and watch demonstrations led by staff on how to properly roll the pretzels. Then, try it out for yourself. You even get to eat your creation!
Family Style Chicken Dinner at the Bavarian Inn or Zehnders
Frankenmuth is famous for its family-style chicken dinners, which can be found at either the Bavarian Inn or Zehnder’s, conveniently located across the street from each other. Your server will be dressed in either traditional German Lederhosen or a Dirndl and will serve you a meal comparable to the likes of a holiday dinner. The meal includes platters of premium golden chicken, delicious specialty bread, knödel, coleslaw, fresh salad, dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, buttered noodles, hot vegetables, and ends with homemade ice cream! If you’re not in the mood for such a large meal, the menu also offers German dishes, such as Schnitzel and Sauerbraten, as well as burgers and chicken fingers. The meal is served during both lunch and dinner time and is all-you-can-eat. Sitting down to such a delicious meal is a treat after exploring Frankenmuth all day!
Horse and Carriage Ride
End your day with a magical horse and carriage ride through downtown Frankenmuth! Grab some hot chocolate and enjoy the Christmas lights.