16 Things to See and Do in Frankenmuth, Michigan
Frankenmuth is known as Michigan’s “Little Bavaria” thanks to a rich German heritage and a downtown full of restaurants and shops that seem to transport visitors to the region of Germany where those who originally settled here hailed from. Each year thousands of visitors head to Frankenmuth to take part in festivals, shop in town or at the nearby Birch Run Premium Outlets, visit the historic sites, enjoy a beer from Frankenmuth Brewery, or enjoy a chicken dinner from Zehnder’s or the Bavarian Inn. This welcoming small town is a great spot for a day trip or a weekend escape, and it isn’t too far from most of our major cities (Grand Rapids – 2 hours, Detroit – 1.5 hours, Kalamazoo – 2 hours 20 min., Lansing – 1 hour 15 min.). We’ve put together a list of some of our favorite, “can’t-miss” attractions in Frankenmuth and the surrounding area, check it out below and let us know if there’s anything else we need to check out on our next visit!
Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland – Frankenmuth is home to the World’s Largest CHRISTmas store, a building that features more than seven acres of Christmas items for sale. If there’s a Christmas decoration or accessory you can’t find here, it might not exist. https://www.bronners.com/ (25 Christmas Lane, just off M-83)
Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn – Some fun facts from the Michigan historical marker located next to the Bavarian Inn: “Theodore Fischer, a former bartender at the Exchange Hotel (now Zehnders’s Restaurant), established the Union House Hotel in 1888. His son, Herman and daughter-in-law, Lydia are said to have begun the tradition of the “All You Can Eat” family-style chicken dinners served here. The William Zehnder, Sr., family, distant relatives of Fischer, purchased the restaurant in 1950 and continued the chicken dinner tradition. A family trip back to Bavaria in the 1950s inspired them to redecorate their restaurant in the Bavarian theme. The Bavarian Inn’s motif, accented by a fifty-foot-high Glockenspiel, echoes Frankenmuth’s German heritage. Over 20 million meals were served at the inn between 1888 and 1988. A record 5,470 meals were served on October 9, 1982. By the 1980s the Bavarian Inn was recognized as one of the ten largest restaurants in the United States.”
You can learn more about the food at this legendary Michigan dining spot at https://bavarianinn.com/dine/. The Bavarian Inn Lodge and waterpark are located across the river from the restaurant. Be sure to check out the Bavarian Inn’s glockenspiel, which features 35 bells and figures that act out the story of the Pied Piper of Hamlin at noon, 3 p.m., 6 p.m., and 9 p.m. each day. (713 S. Main St.)
Holz Brucke (Wooden Bridge) – The bridge that connects the Bavarian Inn Lodge with downtown was built in the late 1970s and dedicated in September of 1980. The bridge stretches 239 feet across the Cass River, and weighs 230 tons. This is both the youngest two-lane, two-sidewalk covered wooden bridge in the world and Michigan’s largest covered wooden bridge. It is open to both vehicle and pedestrian traffic, and you can learn more about its construction inside the Covered Bridge and Leather Gift Shop at 775 S. Main St. (bridge located on Covered Bridge Ln., east of M-83/Main St.)
River Place Shops – this German-themed outdoor shopping mall on the south end of downtown features more than 40 shops including Cherry Republic, The Michigan Shoppe, Funky Skunk, Enchanted Forest, Grand Traverse Distillery, Jerky Joint, Hello Cats and Dogs, and more. Find out more about the shops and special events at http://frankenmuthriverplace.com/. (925 S. Main St.)
Lager Mill – this beer store features plenty of Michigan craft brews as well as a sizable selection of German beers. The Lager Mill building also houses a museum that explores Frankenmuth’s brewing history, which dates back to 1845. (701 Mill St.)
Frankenmuth Historial Museum – This “seven-gallery museum detailing the history
and evolution of the community” currently has a special exhibit on “Frankenmuth Insurance: Celebrating 150 Years of Neighbor Helping Neighbor.” Learn more about this museum and the other properties managed by the Frankenmuth Historical Association at https://www.frankenmuthmuseum.org/. (613 S. Main St.)
Carriage Rides – Travel the streets of Frankenmuth at a leisurely pace by taking a ride in a horse-drawn carriage. Frankenmuth Carriage Company operates out of the Bavarian Inn restaurant parking lot, and offers 20 minute and 40 minute rides. Fantasy Carriage Company operates from just south of Zehnder’s parking lot (on Mill St.), and offers 15 minute and 30 minute rides.
Grandpa Tiny’s Farm – Started by William “Tiny” Zehnder, this farm now offers a petting zoo, farm store, and seasonal options (u-pick pumpkins, corn maze) for visitors. More information available at http://www.grandpatinysfarm.com/ (7775 Weiss St.)
Wilderness Trails Zoo – Located south of town where Gera Rd./M-83 intersects with Birch Run Rd./M-83, this small zoo offers “56 acres of natural surroundings to see exotic animals such as primates, zebras, lions, reptiles, and parrots. There is a petting area and parakeet encounter for an up close and personal adventure.” Open May-October, more information at http://www.wildernesstrailszoo.org/. (11721 Gera Rd.)
Michigan’s Own Military and Space Heroes Museum – Anyone with even slight interest in history, the military, or space travel will enjoy this museum. Paying tribute to Michigan men and women who served in World War I, World War II, the Vietnam War, the Korean War, and other overseas conflicts, Michigan’s Own Military and Space Heroes Museum has more than 140 displays. Learn about 15 Michigan astronauts, 31 Medal of Honor recipients, former governor William G. Milliken, the Polar Bears (North Russia Expeditionary Forces), and more. Find out more at http://www.michigansmilitarymuseum.com/. (1250 Weiss St.)
Frankenmuth Brewery – “Michigan’s Original Craft Brewery” has been operating here since the 1860s, and operating as Frankenmuth Brewery since the 1980s. Offering at least 20 beers in different styles and a full food menu, the family-friendly taproom and restaurant mixes the building’s history with modern convenience. Find out more at http://frankenmuthbrewery.com/. (425 S. Main St.)
Bavarian Belle Riverboat – take a one hour tour in a 150 passenger, stern-driven paddlewheel riverboat with the Bavarian Belle! Tours depart a few times each day from the River Place Shops dock, and the tour is narrated as you pass the historic sites of Frankenmuth. Find out more at http://www.bavarianbelle.com/. (925 S. Main St.)
Frankenmuth FunShips – Check out the selection of wine and chocolate and do an in-store tasting, take in the sights along the Cass River on an electric boat tour, or combine both for a wine and chocolate tasting river tour! Find out more at https://www.frankenmuthfunships.com/river-tours. (445 S. Main St.)
Birch Run Premium Outlets – It’s a drive of roughly 15 minutes from Frankenmuth to the Birch Run Premium Outlets, home to one of the Midwest’s largest outlet malls. Here you can find discounts and deal galore at stores like Nike, adidas, Under Armour, Old Navy, GAP, Carter’s, J. Crew, Jockey, Yankee Candle, Tommy Hilfiger, and more. Find a full store directory at http://www.premiumoutlets.com/outlet/birch-run/stores. (12240 S Beyer Rd, Birch Run)
Local Cheese, Sausage, Chocolate and more – Frankenmuth’s downtown is full of fun and unique shops that offer locally made goods. Be sure to check out the Frankenmuth Cheese Haus (561 S. Main), Kern’s Sausages (115 W. Jefferson St.), Amazin’ Mitten (646 S. Main), SugarRush Sweets (RiverPlace Shops), Murdick’s Fudge (976 S. Main), Those Nature People Herb Haus (455 S. Main), Willi’s Sausage Company Inc. (316 S. Main), and more.
Zehnder’s – Like its neighbor the Bavarian Inn (across the street), Zehnder’s has long been famous for its fried chicken dinners. In addition to the restaurant location (730 S. Main St.), you’ll also find Zehnder’s Splash Village Waterpark and Hotel at 1365 S. Main St.