Frankenmuth is a Fantastic Year Round Michigan Getaway
Frankenmuth is a delightful place to spend a day or two as part of a Michigan road trip or a quick getaway. Only a short drive from Metro Detroit, it’s perfect for a day trip or the weekend. The town is heavily influenced by the German immigrants that came as part of the logging industry in the 1800s and retains much of that charm today in it’s buildings and festivals. Here are some of the major attractions that draw visitors from across the region.
Family Style Chicken Dinners
The main draw to Frankenmuth, whether spending the weekend or just passing through, is the huge family style chicken dinners at Zehnder’s and Bavarian Inn; which are positioned right across from each other downtown. Both begin with an appetizer course filled with homemade and farm fresh items, such as cottage cheese, cole slaw, fresh baked stollen bread and jam, and pate. Then comes the feast! Delicious breaded chicken with all the trimmings; stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, buttered noodles, and veggies. Make sure to bring a hearty appetite and a cooler for leftovers. We usually plan to eat around lunch time so we can walk off the meal, otherwise a nap would be in order.
Zehnder’s began as a roadside hotel back in 1856 and came under ownership of the Zehnder family in 1927 and developed into a restaurant. In 1955 the Zehnder family purchased the hotel across the street and it became the Bavarian Inn restaurant. Today Zehnder’s has capacity to seat 1500 guests and serves around 1 million per year, making it one of the largest restaurants in the US. The Bavarian Inn, also draws a huge number of guests. Both eateries also feature a variety of shops located in the basements. Be sure to visit the glockenspiel (think giant cuckoo clock) attached to the Bavarian Inn, featuring a fully animated Piped Piper story.
Not in the mood for chicken? Check out the Frankenmuth Brewery restaurant on the north side of town. An excellent selection of local craft beer and delicious food. There’s a patio overlooking the river in warmer weather.
Get Lost in Rau’s Country Store
When you wander through the front door of Rau’s Country Store it appears to be a single room packed with baskets of nostalgic candy, but then you notice a room on the side, then one on the back, then realize it’s a two story maze stocked with everything from knitted doilies to toy cars and all sorts of nostalgic memorabilia. One can easily spend an hour or two perusing the wares and finding trinkets than need to go home with you.
Nibble Your Way Through Frankenmuth Cheese Haus
As you wander north up the road, burning off that chicken dinner, you’ll find a giant wedge of cheese with a mouse popping his head out in front of the Cheese Haus. Inside you’ll find a well over 100 varieties of cheese, including in-house made spreads and delicious chocolate cheese. There is a large selection of Michigan made items and souvenirs and they can help you design custom gifts baskets. Plenty of cheese samples to keep the kids busy too!
Peruse the River Place Shops
The River Place outdoor shopping area was built a few years ago on the site of the former Frankenmuth Brewery and has added even more reason to stroll around. Around 40 craft and souvenir shops sell everything from medieval pewter figures to flavored popcorn to woodsy northern Michigan accessories. Check their website for a list of stores and also a calendar of events they host throughout the year. The Bavarian Belle also departs from here for relaxing 1 hour cruises on the Cass river. When finished here, there are also many other small other local stores worth visiting downtown.
Walk Across the Covered Bridge
Take a walk, or drive, across the famous Zehnder Holz Brucke (wooden bridge). It spans 239 feet long over the Cass River and weights in at 230 tons.
Spend the Night in Little Bavaria
On the other side of the covered bridge you’ll see the sprawling Bavarian Inn Lodge. This large hotel will keep you in the spirit of Old World German décor and within easy walking distance to the shopping center and main street. The 360 room Lodge features four pools, water slides, 18 hole mini golf, a huge family fun center, plus it’s own lounges and restaurants.
Zehnder’s Splash Village indoor waterpark and hotel, located right next to Bronner’s, is another favorite spot to bring the family. There are also some nice chain hotel and suites locations downtown within walking distance to everything.
Celebrate the Season at Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland
The largest Christmas store in the world, a very believable claim, boasts 1 1/2 football fields filled with every Christmas ornament and decoration imaginable. With 50,000 different items you’re sure to find something for your tree every time you walk through the door! Founded in 1945 by Wally Bronner, his CHRISTmas Wonderland has become a favorite roadtrip destination in Michigan. Sadly, Wally passed away in 2008, but make sure to pay attention to the little nooks and crannies around the store plastered with photographs of celebrities great and small posing with him. Take a virtual tour on their website and see just how amazing and unique this wonderland is!
Tour The World Expo of Beer
One of the most popular festivals held in Frankenmuth each year is the World Expo of Beers tasting event. Held in late May, nearly 300 beers from around the world, and quite a few from Michigan, are available for sampling. Tickets are sold for samples and some food is also available. The 2016 Expo will be May 20-22 at the Heritage Park, conveniently located across the street from Bavarian Inn Lodge. Shuttle service is available to other area hotels so guests can enjoy their sampling responsibly.
Visit the Animals
Somewhat of a roadside curiosity, the Wilderness Zoo has over 200 animals representing 50 species of native and exotic animals. Visitors can wander the trails to see animals in their enclosures, get up close and personal at the petting area, and also feed some of the residents, such as deer and river otters. The 56 acre zoo is open daily May through October. A great stop into or on your way out of downtown Frankenmuth.
Get Stuffed at Tony’s
Tony’s Restaurant is the go to place for giant portions! Everything they serve at Tony’s should have XXL stamped on it. A side of bacon is enough for a family to share around! It’s not just a gimmick though, the food is delicious. I highly recommend their omelets and the french bread style toast with homemade strawberry jam is perfect with any breakfast. If you spent the night in Frankenmuth, stop by Tony’s for breakfast then walk it off while shopping across the street.
Shop ’til You Drop at Birch Run Prime Outlets
Birch Run at the I-75 exit 136 interchange is a great place to get some shopping done and save money in the process. It has been around for many years and is well kept up and has a good mix of stores; over 140 in fact. Just a few of the highlights include Pottery Barn Outlet, Lennox, Yankee Candle, Fossil, Coleman, and Williams-Sonoma. If you’re looking for clothing there are too many to name including Osh Kosh and Carter’s for kids clothing, and Eddie Bauer, Ralph Lauren, Ann Taylor, and Nautica for adults. Visit PremiumOutlets for listings at Birch Run and several other associated outlet malls across the country.
Fill Up Before Hitting the Road at Sonic Drive-In
A relative rarity in the North, Sonic Drive-In is a great place to pull up for a burger and an amazing variety of shakes and slushes before you leave town. A hot summer day isn’t complete without a Sonic limeade slush in my hand!
These are just a few of the reasons to visit Frankenmuth! There are also many smaller shops and festivals throughout the year to keep visitors coming back for more. For more information on local Frankenmuth attractions and hotels visit Frankenmuth.org or call 1-800-FUN-TOWN