Frankenmuth Michigan: Michigan’s Little Bavaria
Some say that a visit to Frankenmuth MI is like stepping right into a your very own Bavarian fariy-tail.
Other’s say it’s like steeping into your very own Christmas snow globe?
Head to Frankenmuth, a mid-Michigan town that’s long on lederhosen, German heritage, chicken dinner and Santa Claus.
That’s right: just a quick trip to the city of Frankenmuth will immediately transport you into your very own Hallmark Christmas movie. That’s no exaggeration: in 2019, the popular Hallmark holiday movie, “A Christmas Movie Christmas” was actually filmed here.
Visit Charming Frankenmuth: Michigan’s Own Little Bavaria
While a visit to Frankenmuth MI is a perfect getaway during the holidays, it’s a fun travel destination any time of the year. Families, couples, and others flock to the town for vacations, day trips, romantic getaways, and more.
Where else can you find the world’s largest year-round Christmas store, world-famous chicken dinners served family-style, and take a horse-drawn carriage ride around enchanting Bavarian-style architecture featuring castles and fortresses?
Throw in the indoor waterparks, craft breweries, and the oldest winery in Michigan and you’ve got everything you need for fun.
Read on to discover more delightful Frankenmuth, Michigan’s own little Bavarian Christmas town.
About Frankenmuth MI: Rich German Heritage and Christmas Wonderland
It’s Frankenmuth’s rich German heritage that sets the tone for the warm and hospitable feel of this town. Set in the verdant farmland of Saginaw County in Michigan’s Thumb region, Frankenmuth has been a popular tourist destination since 1928, when local pioneer William Zehnder opened a hotel and soon after, a restaurant.
The town’s growth continued in 1945 when Christmas came to Frankenmuth, Michigan in a big way. Local resident Wally Bronner opened a Christmas store to sell Christmas ornaments and another twinkly decor, and his shop quickly grew into “Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland.”
It’s now the biggest Christmas store in the world, serving more than two million visitors annually (we’ll share more about this in a bit).
Frankenmuth is Michigan’s Christmas Wonderland
Wander downtown Frankenmuth and you’ll start to feel that at any moment Santa Claus himself will emerge from around a corner. It’s so much fun to visit at any age and a must-see destination for the holidays.
From the warm glow of the holiday lights reflecting off of snowy rooftops, to the fabulous Christmas shopping available year-round, there is perhaps nowhere on Earth with more Christmas cheer than the tiny town of Frankenmuth – a town whose festive nature is only amplified as winter inches closer.
Here, you can find anything you could ever need to make your Christmas more festive, whether it’s custom ornaments, massive lawn decorations, or a miniature house for your village beneath the tree.
What is There to Do in Frankenmuth, Michigan?
There is so much to do in the city of Frankenmuth, both during the holiday season and beyond, that you’ll find yourself planning a return trip.
We make it a point to visit Frankenmuth a few times each year (at least once during the Christmas season) to soak up the friendly hospitality and year-round holiday cheer.
Here, in no particular order, is our list of 18 Top Things to Do in Frankenmuth, MI.
Do Some Christmas Shopping at Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland
It’s over seven acres of Christmas ornaments, decor, and twinkling fun: a giant Christmas store in an Alpine-themed building, filled with animated figurines, Santa, and snowmen.
Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, really IS the world’s largest Christmas store and Christmas ornament headquarters. If you go, allow yourself some extra time: it’s easy to spend hours wandering the place and looking at the rows and rows of Christmas décor. The massive shop is open 361 days of the year and never loses holiday cheer, even in the middle of summer.
Try a World Famous Chicken Dinner
Whether you choose Zehnder’s or The Bavarian Inn for your chicken dinner, you can’t go wrong. Both establishments serve generous portions of fresh chicken (fried or roasted), creamy whipped potatoes and gravy, and an assortment of mouth-watering sides.
After you’ve finished your chicken dinner, you’ll join the legions of celebrities and famous political figures who make it a point to stop in for some home-cooked food on their tours and campaigns. A stop at one of these spots really is a Michigan must.
You’ll find more on these mouth-watering restaurants near the bottom of this post.
Take a Selfie Under the Glockenspiel Tower in Frankenmuth MI
Located outside The Bavarian Inn, this 50-foot-tall bell tower is more than 50 years old and features 35 bells. In addition to the bells, you’ll also find an illuminated clock and see a beautiful figurine movement that tells the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin.
Imported from Germany, the bells can be heard for miles around when their chimes ring out. It’s quite pretty, so be sure to bring your camera for this.
Walk Through a Real-Live Hallmark Movie Set
It’s true: there really IS a Christmas town in Michigan, and it’s a truly magical place with a jolly spirit evident year-long.
In fact, Frankenmuth’s reputation as a North Pole outpost is so well-known that the Hallmark movie, “A Christmas Movie Christmas,” was filmed at the River Place Shops in Frankenmuth, as well as the Bavarian Inn and the Rupprecht Vacation Haus.
Viewers will be able to spot the covered bridge, the Cheese Haus, the Cass River, and other popular spots in and around Frankenmuth and neighboring Buena Vista Township.
Visit the River Place Shops
Don’t let this cute, German-themed shopping village fool you: there are 40 (!) unique shops and attractions at the River Place Shops in downtown Frankenmuth.
It’s not just cookie-cutter kitsch: you’ll find some really special gifts and cafes here: some top Michigan wineries have tasting rooms here, and there’s even a Cherry Republic.
Plan accordingly; in addition to shopping and eating, you might find a fair or festival going on here. It’s also the boarding port for the Bavarian Belle Riverboat…
Take a Ride on a Riverboat
Need to relax after all of the excitement? Take a narrated tour of the Frankenmuth area as the riverboat cruises the beautiful Cass River. It’s a comfortable, one-hour ride on an authentic, 70-ton sternwheel paddleboat with a snack bar, soft drinks, and a restroom.
Tickets are $15; children 12 and under are $5; children ages 4 and under are free. You’ll find the ticket kiosk in the River Places Shops, near the Waterfall.
Drive (or Walk) Michigan’s Largest Covered Wooden Bridge
The Holz-Brucke bridge is a two-lane, two-sided covered bridge completely made of wood and it spans the Cass River. Whether you cross it in the day or at night, when it is lit up by twinkling lights, this pretty bridge is a Frankenmuth landmark.
If you’re really interested in unique bridges, hop on over to Midland (about 40 minutes away) to check out the Tridge, a cool three-legged bridge.
Celebrate Winter at the Zehnder’s Snow Fest
This 30-year tradition in Frankenmuth MI features spectacular ice sculptures, a warming tent, a fireworks display, petting zoo and children’s activities.
See Grandpa Tiny’s Farm
Also known as the Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn Heritage Farm, this working, historical petting farm offers a great chance to see farm animals up close. You can feed and pet bunnies, goats, lambs, and more, and even take a horse-drawn wagon ride around the farm.
Try Chocolate Cheese at the Frankenmuth Cheese Haus
Did you say Chocolate Cheese? Yep, it’s true: in addition to a wide variety of domestic and imported cheeses, you’ll also find homemade chocolate cheese. We tried it, and guess what? It’s quite tasty. It also comes in chocolate-mint and peanut-butter chocolate if you want to take it to the next level.
See the City of Frankenmuth From a Horse-Drawn Carriage
Here’s one way to explore the city: Take a ride around the streets of Frankenmuth and get the lay of the land before you decide which spots to hit first. you can also enjoy the ride in the evening under the light of the moon and lamp-it streets.
Splash Around at an Indoor Water Park
You’ve got two to choose from here and they’re equally wonderful, in our opinion. Both Zehnder’s Splash Village and The Bavarian Inn and Waterpark offer enough waterslides, lazy rivers, and splash pads to keep kids of all ages entertained for days!
You can find more Indoor Water parks in Michigan here.
Frankenmuth Historical Museum
Located in a 1900’s-era hotel in downtown Frankenmuth, this unique spot highlights the area’s history and culture, providing details about the German farmers who migrated here.
Ultimate Mirror Maze
It’s a 10-15 minute walk through a maze of thousands of mirrors; have fun getting lost and then making your way back out again.
Zak and Mac’s Chocolate House
If you’re like us, you can spend hours watching the fudge makers as they smooth out the rich, creamy chocolate into a mouth-watering confection of delicious fudge. This is a great place to watch the candy makers in action and try some tasty hand-crafted chocolates as well.
You haven’t lived until you’ve tried the Buffalo Chicken Rolls at this 150-year-old brewery on the Cass River. It’s not only America’s oldest microbrewery, but it also offers great food and some stunning waterfront views of the Cass River.
The brewery has been perfecting the craft of great beer since 1862 and offers at least 15 options on tap to try year-round.
Want more Michigan craft beer? Use our guide to the best craft breweries in Michigan.
Hit the Links at the Fortress Championship Golf Course
This beautiful 18-hole, 72-par golf course is within walking distance of downtown Frankenmuth and offers 6,800 yards of play for golfers.
Birch Run Outlets
If you can’t find what you’re looking for at the River Place Shops, don’t worry, there are Premium Outlets located in nearby Birch Run. Just a short 15-minute drive away is an even larger selection of distinguished stores and brands – here there is something for everyone on your list.
Visit Frankenmuth MI at Christmas
Aside from the boundless holiday shopping options, slowing down, and just exploring the town is a fun and fulfilling way to spend time.
In the wintertime, the lights make downtown look magical. If the snow has piled up enough, it reflects the lights and casts a warm glow all around, brightening any night. The Christmas spirit in Frankenmuth is not limited to its holiday shopping but is intrinsic to the town, especially during the holiday season.
Where to Eat in Frankenmuth MI
Bavarian Inn Restaurant
Michigan’s “Little Bavaria” is famous for its variety of authentic German cuisine options. There is no better start to a day in Frankenmuth than breakfast at Oma’s Restaurant at the Bavarian Inn Lodge. From the Sunday buffets to individual plates of potato pancakes or Belgian waffles, Oma’s Restaurant makes you feel like you’re at Oma’s (Grandma’s) house enjoying a meal from scratch.
At dinnertime, experiencing the famous family-style chicken dinners at Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth is a must. Here you can feast in the elegant dining room while the waitresses in their checkered frocks and white aprons provide exceptional service. When you’re done, be sure to visit the market downstairs and take home something scrumptious. The Station 100 is another great option for those seeking gourmet foods and perfect wine pairings – a sophistication that simply can’t be beaten.
Where to Stay in Frankenmuth MI
There are a handful of options when considering where to stay when in Frankenmuth, each with their charms. Some hotels offer suites able to accommodate large groups; something worth considering when planning trip to Michigan’s largest indoor waterpark and other attractions in the area.
The Bavarian Inn Lodge
It’s a magnificent place resting right on the edge of the picturesque Cass River. With 7 acres of family fun, including indoor pools and water slides, mini-golf, restaurants, and more, there is something for everyone at the Bavarian Inn Lodge.
Zehnder’s Splash Village Hotel
It’s one of Michigan’s top family destinations, with more than 50,000 square feet of aquatic fun featuring both a family pool and action-packed waterpark with a water slide, raft ride and more.
The Drury Inn
This charming hotel has a Tudor-like design located on Main Street, placing you right in the middle of all the holiday celebrations.
Marv Herzog Hotel
A smaller accommodation with only 38 rooms, its home-away-from-home atmosphere and gorgeous location on the riverfront are undeniably enchanting.
The Frankenmuth Motel
This comfortable spot boasts the best value in “Little Bavaria” and is within walking distance from several of Frankenmuth’s gems.
About the Author
Bella DiMascio is a Content Editor for mymichiganbeach.com. She grew up in the Detroit suburb of Westland and later attended Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo where she majored in Communication Studies and minored in English: Writing. Creative writing has been a hobby and interest of Bella’s since she was in elementary school and she is thrilled to be using her talents to highlight the Great Lakes State. Outside of writing, Bella enjoys getting outside with her two Australian Shepherds, playing video games, and binging shows on Netflix.