It’s hard to narrow down the 5 best spots in Frankenmuth, Michigan because the town is just so fun! Frankenmuth is called Michigan’s Little Bavaria and it definitely lives up to its name! Here’s what their Visitor’s Guide says about the town…I like it so much I’ll just type it out for you…
Willkommen. In German, it means welcome, an offer to come and join in. It’s something we don’t hear enough of these days. Well, there’s a place that’s all about being welcome. Welcome to family time. Welcome to playtime. And welcome to Christmas time. All year long…2021 Visitor’s Guide
That’s a cool sentiment to me. It’s how we want our home to feel, now when home is a tiny truck camper or before when we lived in a larger family home or even when we downsized to a small apartment in the city. We always strive to extend a warm Willkommen to friends and family. Even now with this website, it’s an extension of home that we’re welcoming you into. This could turn into it’s own post, so I’ll hush about it for now and tell you about this really cool city of Frankenmuth! (but look for some future ramblings about home, because now I want to explore that a little more…)
About the Town
Frankenmuth itself is only 2 square miles in size but it’s not lacking in things to do! All the basics are also here like groceries, hardware, gas/diesel so don’t worry about anything you may have forgotten at home…it’s here. Plus there are some outlet stores in Birch Run, just a little to the South, so honestly, this town has it going on!
It’s located where the thumb meets the hand in the mitten-shaped state of Michigan, about an hour and a half north of Detroit and an hour and a half west of Port Huron. Perfectly situated for exploring!
There is tons of city parking, I’m talking huge open lots that fit cars, trucks, RVs and Cupcake, herself! Parking is usually a bit of a concern for us, although Steve did recently parallel park our truck camper on a busy street outside Chicago. It was impressive, let me tell you! Anyway, lots of parking and also there’s a Cracker Barrel about eight miles away, so we “dry camped” there. Being self-sufficient is the way to go, we can boondock or citydock anywhere!
Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland
No top 5 of Frankenmuth list would be complete without Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland. This ginormous Christmas shop began with a more modest sized store and grew over the years. It currently covers 2.2 acres of store space, yep, acres! The whole complex sits on 27 acres, so again, there’ s plenty of parking.
A fun fact is that Bronner’s electric bill averages $1250 per day. That’s a lot of Christmas lights. Honestly, I’ve never seen anything like it. We both felt a little (or a lot) overwhelmed. Literally if you can think of an object, it’s likely here as an ornament. There are more than 250 styles of Nativity scenes. That’s insane to me! How many versions of a baby, parents, animals and wise men do we really need?
Each year Bronner’s sells more than 2 million ornaments and 125,000 light sets. It’s one of the state’s most visited tourist attractions, making it top my 5 best spots in Frankenmuth, Michigan list! We visited mid-week and the store was jam packed. So many shoppers! It was fun to be there just at the start of the Christmas season but before the huge after-Thanksgiving crowds. I can’t even describe how huge this store is. It’s a Christmas extravaganza!
Bronner’s from the outside
Each night there’s a half mile drive through Christmas light show. Every night of the year. We didn’t drive through, because have you seen how tall Cupcake is? But it looked spectacular. We did, however, visit the Silent Night Memorial Chapel. It’s a replica of the original chapel from Oberndorf/Salzburg, Austria. The chapel provides a quiet space to enjoy the beloved Christmas song Silent Night. Steve and I enjoyed the solitude it offered after the sensory overload in the store.
Chicken! #2 in the 5 best spots in Frankenmuth, Michigan
Chicken, yep, chicken. There are two main places to eat the town’s specialty. The Bavarian Inn and Zehnders both offer this plate full of deliciousness. Or make that plates full, because both locations offer an all you can eat family style dinner.
We chose to eat at Zehnders for no reason other than the huge parking lot lies behind it. The Bavarian Inn is literally across the street and offers pretty much the same meal. So you can’t go wrong with either choice of restaurants. We opted for the lunch choice of a single serving, but lunch and dinner are offered all day, it just depends how hungry you are.
The chicken is dipped in flour/spices and fried, but it’s not crispy like KFC. It’s more like pan fried rather than deep fried. Along with chicken comes fresh baked bread, coleslaw, mashed potatoes and dressing. Deliciousness! The staff wears period clothing from the turn of the century maybe. And the setting itself is rather opulent. It’s a fun outing for sure. We waited about a half hour for seating, which gave us plenty of time to chat with people around us. Seems like they come from all over to visit this little town and to eat a chicken dinner.
Come to town with an empty stomach and you won’t be disappointed!
Beyond the chicken dinner, Zehnders of Frankenmuth is a great place to visit on its own. However, it’s actually spread out a little, with part being where the restaurant and shopping is in the center of town. The other part is down the street with the Splash Village Hotel and Waterpark. To call Zehnders only a restaurant or only a gift shop does it a disservice. The main floor serves as the restaurant with several rooms of tables spread throughout. The marketplace and bakery are primarily downstairs, alongside a smaller café. Thankfully we visited the bakery after we ate lunch or I’d have stocked up on way too many sweets! There’s even a Pandora jewelry shop and a Polish Pottery shop downstairs. It’s kind of fantastic!
Down the street and across the town’s covered bridge, Zehnders features The Fortress, an 18-hole championship golf course. Open from mid-April to October, it’s a great way to get outdoors after a day of eating and shopping.
The Splash Village stays fun-filled all year round with its retractable roof over the waterpark. This hotel is fun for the entire family and even offers waterpark day passes for those not staying in the hotel. I’d actually love to return here in January for the Snowfest, with larger-than-life snow sculptures and ice carvings. Zehnders has something for everyone, which makes it #3 on my top 5 spots in Frankenmuth, Michigan.
Bavarian Inn and River Place Shops
We enjoyed wandering through the 40+ shops in River Place and all its fun shopping. During the summer, catch a riverboat cruise from here or even a horse-drawn carriage ride. The Bavarian Inn offers Frankenmuth’s famous chicken dinner and it also has a German-themed resort. There is no shortage of fun with the Inn’s 4 indoor pools, indoor mini-golf and video arcade. Have you caught on yet that Frankenmuth is a seriously fun place?!
The Bead shop called to us and is where we spent most of our time. Steve got an amethyst bead bracelet, because amethyst is his birthstone and Michigan is his birth state. So that’s kind of neat. We also loved the book store and, of course, the popcorn store!
In addition to shopping, River Place has a spa, a wine tasting spot, a Mirror Maze and game room, so there’s really something for everyone. For such a small town, it packs a punch! Steve and I enjoyed visiting Sugarhigh Bakery. The owners are the Season 7 winners of Cupcake Wars on Food Network, so you know there’s nothing but sugary goodness here.
#5 in 5 best spots in Frankenmuth, Michigan
The fifth spot in my top 5 list goes to Raus Country Store. From the creaky wooden floors, to the barrels of sweets and the rows of puzzles, we loved this quirky shop. Focused on nostalgia, the shop offers lace doilies and reproduction metal signs. It also has t-shirts and souvenirs, but I mostly liked seeing the barrels full of hard candy and taffy. It reminded me of going to Sears when I was a kid. My sisters and I each got a quarter to spend in the candy counter. I always chose chocolate stars and I loved those things. I got quite a few for my 25 cents too!
Anyway, Raus brings up those old feelings of nostalgia and it’s just a fun place to stop in. We picked up a puzzle for our puzzle-loving friend, Carol. It’s a fun store, so check it out.
Frankenmuth, the tourist town
I really enjoyed our stop in Frankenmuth. We came here for the chicken, but then were pleasantly surprised to see how much we liked the town too. Yes, it’s touristy. It’s a bit like Leavenworth in Washington State…another little Bavarian town in the middle of America. Clicking that link will take you to Steve’s Pacific Crest Trail hike coming into Leavenworth. What a great adventure that was!
Frankenmuth is kind of cheesy, it’s lovely and it’s super fun. I liked the Christmas decorations around town, so I’m glad we came when we did, a week or so before Thanksgiving.
We also got our Covid booster shots here, so that makes it easy to remember! We went into CVS to see about a Covid test for crossing into Canada. Turns out that getting the results takes longer than we cared to wait, so we chose to go South around Lake Erie to get to our next stop of Niagara Falls instead of cutting through Canada. But we asked about the booster and got it on the spot, so that was an unplanned bonus!
Frankenmuth also has a cheese shop and a clock shop and really so much to offer. And chicken. You gotta try the chicken. It’s a great town and probably my favorite spot in Michigan.