Fifteen Lutheran missionaries from Franken, Germany, settled Frankenmuth in 1845. Today the town has 4,900 residents and over three million tourists who experience Frankenmuth’s German heritage annually. Located about 95 miles north of Detroit in the lower peninsula’s thumb region, Frankenmuth still reflects its original German heritage with a modern Michigan twist. The town’s German theme extends to typically American institutions like McDonald’s and the post office. Their exteriors have half-timbered architecture, and McDonald’s includes a clock tower.
Things To Do In Frankenmuth
If you want to delve deep into Frankenmuth’s German heritage, you can experience an authentic German meal or try your hand at rolling Bavarian pretzels. The grandkids will have a great time at one of the area’s indoor water parks. History buffs can learn more about Frankenmuth’s German history and discover the role Michiganders have played in the United States military history. If Christmas is your favorite holiday, you’ll enjoy exploring Bronner’s, the world’s largest Christmas store.
Here are 13 fantastic things to experience in adorable Frankenmuth.
1. Visit The Museums
Frankenmuth’s two museums reflect its roots in German heritage and the critical roles Michigan’s modern men and women have played during wartime.
Located in downtown Frankenmuth, the Frankenmuth Historical Museum has seven exhibit galleries telling the story of Frankenmuth’s German heritage. Permanent displays include an authentic log house, a historic performance hall, and a 19th-century mill reproduction. The interactive activities are fun to try. You can blend an old-fashioned butter churn, evaluate the weight of a water yoke, or draw a house with Alpine architecture. Most spend about an hour at the museum.
Michigan Heroes Museum, the only museum devoted to men and women’s wartime experiences from Michigan, has a mission to honor, respect, and remember Michigan citizens’ contributions to the U.S. military and space program. The focus at this museum is on the individuals rather than an event, and since they frequently rotate exhibits, you’ll always find something new to see.
2. Try Your Hand At Rolling Pretzels
You can become a German baker and roll your own German-style pretzel at the Bavarian Inn Restaurant. Make reservations with 2-hour advance notice and pre-payment. After the 30-minute class, explore some more of the town for 45 minutes and return to pick up and enjoy your freshly baked pretzel as an afternoon snack.
3. Tour St. Lorenz Church
St. Lorenz Church’s brightly colored, stained-glass windows tell Frankenmuth’s story. As we entered the church lobby for our self-guided tour, we found brochures to direct our visit. Call ahead to arrange a guided tour. Monthly German worship services still occur on the second Sunday of the month.
4. Sample Some German Beer
Since its 1845 beginnings, brewing beer has been a Frankenmuth tradition. Today it continues with Michigan ranked fourth in the U.S. for its number of microbreweries. Frankenmuth’s Oktoberfest is the only one sanctioned by the German government outside of Germany.
The 150-year-old Frankenmuth Brewery is the oldest in Michigan. Start with a 15-minute tour of the brewery offered hourly, beginning at noon. In addition to drinking a craft beer, you can sample beer through the French onion soup and beer-battered onion rings that taste great with their burgers and craft beer. If you’d like to add some Michigan flavors to your meal, pair a Michigan cherry salad with Hefeweizen Ale.
5. Explore The Woolen Companies
History buffs will enjoy exploring Frankenmuth’s woolen companies. The Frankenmuth Woolen Mill, in its original location since 1894, uses the same machines it operated for over 100 years. It’s one of the largest wool bedding manufacturers in the U.S. You can learn about their history through a video and see the original carding room floor. If you have your own fiber, they’ll process the wool for batting and roving. Call ahead for a tour.
Zeilinger Wool Company not only sells wool, but they can process your fiber into yarn and other products. To buy some yarn reminiscent of brightly colored ice cream, check out their Foodie Yarn, Ice Cream Shoppe.
6. Wander Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland
The world’s largest Christmas store, Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland, observes the Christmas spirit year-round. Wally Bronner’s store started in 1945 as a sign company. The store’s interior vaulted ceiling has planked wood that shows off large holiday displays. To remember your Bavarian fun at Christmas, buy an ornament to add to your tree. You’ll find decorations with Merry Christmas written in German, ornaments shaped like German hats, and beer steins, which will all give your Christmas tree some German flair. Want to add a bit of Michigan? One of Michigan’s university ornaments fits the bill.
7. Visit The Silent Night Chapel
“Silent Night” was first sung on Christmas Eve in 1818 in a chapel in Oberndorf bei Salzburg, Austria. Located on the southern point of Bronner’s 27-acre grounds, Bronner’s Silent Night Memorial Chapel is a 56-foot-tall replica of the original chapel. The Silent Night Chapel is open during store hours for visitation and meditation but isn’t available for ceremonies. Admission is free.
8. Shop Frankenmuth’s Other Unique Stores
With over 150 cuckoo clocks, Frankenmuth Clock Company has the largest selection of Black Forest German Cuckoo Clocks east of the Mississippi. The Bavarian Inn Castle Shops offer more German-inspired shopping, including authentic Bavarian clothes, such as lederhosen and dirndl. Also available are other German specialties like Lebkuchenherzen and Schmidt Christmas Lebkuchen.
Frankenmuth offers a combination of authentic German food experiences along with some Michigan favorites. You’ll find plenty of schnitzels, sausage, and pretzels, German wine, and craft beer. In addition to these German selections, chefs offer dishes featuring Michigan ingredients like dried cherries and apples.
9. Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn Restaurant
The Glockenspiel clock tower rings four times a day outside the Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn Restaurant. Though Frankenmuth is famous for fried chicken, I wanted to continue my German experience. I selected traditional German Jager Schnitzel, pork loin breaded with Parmesan cheese and seasoned breadcrumbs, topped with a creamy mushroom sauce, accompanied by potato cheese puffs called Kartoffelkaseknodel.
The Bavarian Inn serves dinner family-style. An abundance of side dishes come with each meal, including noodle soup, salads, a traditional dressing, buttered noodles, sauerkraut, cranberry relish, mashed potatoes with gravy, and green beans. The salads consist of a vinegar-based coleslaw, pasta salad with bits of chicken, and sweet and sour white bean salad. Baskets of white bread and Stollen accompany the meal. We devoured the bread covered with strawberry rhubarb jam made from Michigan fruit.
After dinner, we discovered Frankenmuth’s answer to a Biergartenoutside the Bavarian Inn, on the Fischer Platz. Musicians in lederhosen and suspenders played “Edelweiss” on their accordions while everyone danced.
10. Zehnder’s Of Frankenmuth
Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth offers the American version of Frankenmuth’s chicken dinner. Many of the sides are the same; however, the flavors have more of an American flair.
11. Picnic Supplies
Gather an alfresco lunch from Kern’s Sausage and some cheese at the Frankenmuth Cheese Haus to picnic in Heritage Park. Kern’s Sausages makes 32 varieties of house-made Bavarian-style sausages. Another sausage option is Willi’s Sausage, known for their German meats.
Sugar High Bakery was the Season 7 Winner of Cupcake Wars “Ninja Turtle Episode.” You’ll find German chocolate cupcakes, German in name only, and the Black Forest, a German original featuring a filling of Michigan cherries. And, of course, we loved the Bavarian Cream cupcake.
Best Hotels In Frankenmuth
Two of my favorite hotels feature indoor water parks, a perfect way to get some summer fun, even during a cold Michigan winter. If you prefer to stay with your favored hotel’s loyalty program, Frankenmuth has many national brands represented.
12. Bavarian Inn Lodge
Situated on the Cass River banks, with 360 old-world themed guest rooms, the Bavarian Inn Lodge continues our trip’s German theme. The 35,000-square-foot Family Fun Center offers three pools, two hot tubs, two water slides, and 160 video games. We stopped by to try out the only known Bavarian-themed indoor 18-hole mini-golf course outside Bavaria. It’s an ideal activity for a rainy day or a frosty Michigan winter day.
Pro Tip: While the Bavarian Inn Lodge offers on-site dining options, the Bavarian Inn Restaurant is in a separate building on Main Street, while the Lodge is on Covered Bridge Lane.
13. Zehnder’s Splash Village Hotel And Waterpark
Zehnder’s Splash Village Hotel and Waterpark offers 50,000-square-feet indoor aquatic areas that include two distinct water parks, the Atrium and Splash, each with a retractable roof. For more summer fun, they also have an outdoor pool. Float along Crooked Brook Crazy Creek in rafts. If you prefer a calmer pool atmosphere, find the traditional indoor pool.
Pro Tip: If you aren’t staying at Splash Village, they offer day passes to the water parks. While check-in time is 4:00 p.m., you can start enjoying the water park as early as noon. On departure day, you must check-out by 11:00 a.m., but you can continue having fun in the water park until 4:00 p.m.
Pro Tip: Frankenmuth doesn’t have parking meters, so you’ll find plenty of free parking.
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