Did you know there are numerous German themed towns in the USA and that Frankenmuth Michigan is an incredible one known as Little Bavaria? We’ve been to Germany and even have family there and we’re here to tell you that Frankenmuth is doing it right! We highly recommend a visit here.
Watch the video of our visit to Frankenmuth and all the things to do here. Then keep reading to learn more about how you can plan to visit, things to do, where to stay, and where to eat!
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In this guide we share all the things you need to know to plan your own trip to Frankenmuth Michigan and experience Germany right here in the United States!
About Frankenmuth Michigan
Frankenmuth is known for its Bavarian theme which is the southernmost state in Germany. Here you’ll experience all that Bavarian hospitality, family friendly festive fun all year long. All over town there are German themed buildings. The architecture is very quaint. There are activities, restaurants, shops, attractions.
The name Frankenmuth means “courage of the Franconians” as “Franken” is the Franconian province in the northern region of Bavaria where the town’s original settlers came from and “mut” means “courage.”
When To Visit Frankenmuth Michigan
Frankenmuth Michigan is a place you can visit year-round. You’ll just have to pack and dress accordingly, but there is something wonderful about each time of year. In winter you’ll really feel the Christmasy vibe. And in warmer seasons you can really enjoy the outdoor activities.
Here you can check out the average highs and lows and upcoming weather forecast.
How To Get To Frankenmuth Michigan
Frankenmuth Michigan is located in eastern Michigan, about an hour and a half north of Detroit, just off interstate I-75. You could fly into Detroit airports and rent a car, or roadtrip with your own vehicle from wherever you are coming from!
Thoughts From A German-American
From the perspective of a couple of people that had never been here before, we thought Frankenmuth is really neat and well done. It’s actually a bit more and even better than I, Christine, expected.
There are more buildings, more shops, more interesting architecture, and it’s very walkable too. Everything is much closer together than I expected so that’s nice. It’s not Germany, or Europe, but it’s a fun approximation of it, and they’ve put a lot of those nice little touches that you would expect to find there.
Definitely also go to Germany if you can, but this is a really fun place to come and experience a bit of what it is like. There are a number of other cities across the U.S. that model themselves after European themes and of the ones that we have seen, which is not that many (Leavenworth, WA; New Glarus, WI; Holland, MI; Vail, CO), this is one of the better ones.
Things To Do In Frankenmuth
Frankenmuth Michigan is full of many varied things to see and do. Make sure you give yourself enough time to get the full experience!
Stop by the Frankenmuth Visitor & Welcome Center on Main Street to get all the information you need for your visit including brochures, maps, and the town’s visitors guide. Also grab the coupon book so you can potentially save while visiting. Here you can also see the German-inspired water fountain out front.
While we visited they also had a gnome scavenger hunt kids could participate in after getting the paper from the visitor center, but it was very difficult in our opinion and we found hardly any, so be aware of that if this is something your kids want to do. Maybe others have better luck though!
Historic Holz Brücke Covered Bridge
Frankenmuth has a historic covered bridge, known in German as a Holz Brücke that crosses the Cass River in town. It is 239 feet long and weighs 230 tons. It’s made almost entirely out of wood and is also just really pretty. We recommend you see it both during the day and all lit up at night. We also noted it is 13 feet 8 inches high which means we could technically drive our RV through it!
Take a River Cruise
The Cass River flows through town on which you can actually take boat tours. This looked like a very fun way to see the city from the water.
Bavarian Belle Riverboat
One option is to take a ride on the Bavarian Belle Riverboat. This boat is an authentic paddlewheel riverboat and takes you on a one hour historical narrated tour. You can also watch it come and go under the historic covered bridge with its paddles spinning and sounding its horn.
An alternative to the riverboat is to cruise on smaller FunShips. They’re electric powered and hold less people. They have tours in a couple different lengths and do things like wine and chocolate tasting boat tours. I think this is the tour we’d do if we go back and I’m not pregnant like I was at the time!
Canoe or Kayak
Or you can bring your own kayak or rent one locally and see the city on the river that way and at your own pace.
Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland
Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland calls itself the world’s largest Christmas store and is open 361 days a year. It was started in 1945 and now sits on the 27 acre grounds that include several attractions.
The store is the size of one and a half football fields. The building just sprawls. It is huge, and they have all sorts of decorations and sell all sorts of Christmas related things. It is just a fun place to check out any time of year or if you’re enterprising and planning ahead for Christmas.
Silent Night Chapel
Also on-site is Bronner’s Silent Night Memorial Chapel. It’s a 56 foot tall landmark, and it is a replica of the original chapel in Oberndorf / Salzburg, Austria which is the site where Silent Night was first sung on Christmas Eve in 1818.
Christmas Lights Drive
The entire parking lot is full of decorations, and most notably is Christmas Lane which has Christmas lights up year round which you can drive through. It has 100,000 lights so to get the full effect you really need to come back and see that at night and have a free Christmas light drive any night of the year!
Watch a Glockenspiel
A glockenspiel is a set of figurines typically in a clock tower that move and play music at certain times of day. In town there are two options to view a glockenspiel.
Bavarian Inn Glockenspiel
This is a more traditional glockenspiel. It is in the clock tower of the Bavarian Inn and includes 35 bells. In this glockenspiel, the figurines reinact the legend of the Pied Piper of Hameln.
Unfortunately the glockenspiel stopped running on the day we hoped to watch it, but we were remined by a nice lady that everything is on YouTube these days, so we watched it there with the kids!
Cheese Haus Glockenspiel
The Frankenmuth Cheese Haus glockenspiel is non-traditional but is also interesting since it tells, from a kid’s perspective, of the different kinds of cheeses that are made in different countries. And all those cheeses are available in the Cheese Haus.
There are lots of shopping options around town whether you’re looking for something in particular or just want to browse.
River Place Shops
Even though there are lots of shopping and restaurant options all over the city, one of the places to come is River Place Shops. This is an outdoor shopping area with lots of restaurants, wineries, and varied stores. It is fun to to walk around here, browse, and see what they have. Another fun thing that we read is that they have heated sidewalks here so you can come year round.
Other Stores Around Town
Other stores around town you might want to check out include:
- Bavarian Inn Castle Shops – comprised of several shops and located in the lower level of the Bavarian Inn Restaurant.
- Frankenmuth Clock & German Gift Co. – with authentic German items including various types of clocks.
- Frankenmuth Farmers Market – open air market pavilion, and even a Christkindlmarkt in the winter!
- Kern’s Sausages – buy family recipe sausages made and smoked on site and other German food items.
There is more to do than we could possibly describe in detail so here are several more rapid fire ideas:
- Grandpa’s Tiny Farm – visit a working historical and petting farm!
- Frankenmuth Historical Museum – includes an 11 gallery museum, Wolkensdörfer Log House, and Fischer Hall.
- Michigan Heroes Museum – Military and Space museum focused on the men and women from the state of Michigan.
- Enjoy the food, or do a food tour – this you cannot miss doing. We have more on this and the places you should check out and what you should eat in the “Where To Eat & Drink” section below!
- Events throughout the year, including the Bavarian Festival and Oktoberfest of course and also a Hot Air Balloon Festival, Zehnder’s Snowfest, and a Dog Bowl. Search all events here.
- Peacocks – see the peacocks in the outdoor enclosure on the grounds to the left of the Bavarian Inn Lodge.
- Take a picture with the Cheese Haus Mouse – in front of the Cheese Haus is the Cheese Haus mouse which apparently is one of the most photographed things in the entire city and our kids thought was pretty fun.
- Play at a waterpark – if you’re not staying at Zehnder’s Splash Village, you could still buy a day pass to the waterpark!
Where To Stay in Frankenmuth Michigan
There are various options for where you can stay in the area.
RV and Camping
Covenant Hills Camp & Retreat
Covenant Hills is located further away but we found it to be a much better value than other camping options near town so we would just drive in. They are also a Passport America park which provides some savings. You can grab your membership here through our link and get several months free while the promotion lasts!
There are tons of fun things to do here including a swim beach, boating, zipline, climbing tower, archery range, and bounce houses.
Frankenmuth’s Jellystone is a family friendly fun place to stay right in town with a lot of amenities, including mini golf, pool and hot tub, and playground. It was conveniently located but seemed more expensive.
There are great options for finding a hotel, Airbnb, or other campgrounds in which to stay around town:
- Bavarian Inn Lodge – German themed hotel with a couple water slides, several indoor pools and whirlpools, mini-golf and video games, dining and entertainment.
- Zehnder’s Splash Village – this hotel also has a waterpark, dining, activities, and an arcade!
- Downtown Chocolate House Apartment – this one sounded really fun and in a prime location. The hosts even include some chocolate!
- Search other places to stay
Where To Eat & Drink
There are a multitude of options in town to ensure you won’t go hungry including:
Bavarian Inn Restaurant
The Bavarian Inn Restaurant is one of two places in town that you will likely be choosing between for a main meal at some point. The Bavarian Inn and Zehnder’s Restaurant are both really popular and both offer the town’s famous fried chicken dinners.
We personally chose the Bavarian Inn because it has more of a German theme and we wanted to check out some German themed food. We ate outside on the patio by the Bavarian Inn and officially it’s called Michigan on Main, but it’s essentially the bar and grill menu for the Bavarian Inn. You can also eat inside where you’ll have even more German ambiance. We tried their famous chicken and something that was a little bit more German themed, their bratwurst. The flavors in the bratwurst platter with sauerkraut and cheese puffs were delicious.
Zehnder’s Restaurant is also a very popular option and also serves the famous fried chicken, though they say the two recipes and the taste slightly differ between the two restaurants. So you’ll have to come here yourself, take your pick, maybe eat at both places and compare.
We did think the fried chicken was good, but personally preferred being able to eat German food due to the theme of the town. If you want the fried chicken, we recommend you do the family style all you can eat sit down meal and make it more of an experience as well.
The Pasty Haus
The Pasty Haus won’t provide you a Bavarian themed meal, but rather Michigan themed. When we were there they didn’t have any pasties pre-cooked so the option was to either take them home and cook them ourselves, or wait an hour, so that’s what we did. You find pasties more frequently in the UP of Michigan, but we were excited to start trying them and compare to other places in our travels.
A pasty is a traditional baked pastry, kind of like a handheld chicken pot pie. And traditionally we read they’re filled with certain things like beef, though there is some controversy apparently from what we read if the beef should be cubed, if it should be shredded, how it should be presented, and then whether it is served with gravy or ketchup.
They originated in Cornwall in the UK, and they were brought over to Michigan. They were really popular with copper miners because it was a handheld hearty meal that they could actually reheat in a shovel over a flame.
They’re very good. We think you could put just about anything inside the delicious flaky crust and it would be good. The kinds we tried were: reuben, ham and cheese, meat lovers pizza, and cheeseburger.
Zak & Mac’s
Zak & Mac’s is where you should go for delicious fudge. We got peanut butter cup, cookies and cream, and regular chocolate fudge. We liked the original regular fudge the best, but the Oreo was a close second. Although you probably can’t go wrong because the peanut butter was good too.
The Cheese Haus has all sorts of varieties of cheese, spreads, snacks, meats and other specialty food products. We’d have loved to have bought and eaten much more, but we were there for something in particular we had read about: Chocolate Cheese. Originally we thought maybe it would be some kind of cheese covered in a chocolate layer, but Kevin was advised that it tastes more like cheesecake and that’s exactly what it was like. It looked and tasted like a slice of chocolate cheesecake!
Or search other dining options around town.
We think they did a great job for an American German city in the U.S. and we hope that you make it here someday too.
We hope this gives you several ideas to add to your list of amazing things to do in Frankenmuth Michigan. Check out some of them and you’re sure to have a great time!
Ready To Plan Your Trip To Frankenmuth Michigan?
If you’re ready to plan your own trip, download the free Frankenmuth Michigan Trip Planner, with all the things to do, places to stay, and where to eat on a couple of easy to reference pages. You can print it out, or save it to your phone for when you’re out and about! It even has a link to this blog post and each item mentioned so you can get all the details on the go!
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