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Frankenmuth is One of Michigan's Most Popular Destinations
By Tom and Joanne O'Toole
It is a friendly atmosphere everywhere in town - whether you're along the main drag with loads of shopping, delightful dining, and a whole list of activities – or finding new experiences just out of downtown.
The first of the 2,000 annual bus tours start rolling into town in early April. Things keep hopping right through spring and summer, with the busiest time of the year being between Labor Day and the end of October.
However, we wouldn't necessarily recommend scheduling vacation time here during some of the major festivals. That's when the place is on overload with tourists, rooms are scarce, reservations at restaurants are a long wait, and elbow–to–elbow crowds along the streets can put a damper on enjoying this community. There can be thousands who gather for some of these annual events.
There are endless shops in the downtown, and at River Place (across the pedestrian bridge toward the riverboat dock) there are about 36 stores offering Bavarian–type merchandise.
There are so many attractions; visitors have to pick and choose if their time is limited. The Bavarian Belle riverboat cruise on the Cass River that winds its way around the town offers narrated tours; horse–drawn carriages provide a different view of the sights; visitors can also enjoy Heritage Park; amble across the Holzbrucke (a large wooden covered bridge that spans the river); see the historical museum; art galleries; or take in a free Sunday evening concert in Memorial Park.
The Bavarian Inn Glockenspiel Tower houses a 35–bell carillon. At selected hours (beginning at 11 a.m.) several musical selections are played from this 50–foot bell tower, followed by carved wooden figures moving on a stage beneath the bells depicting the legend of the Pied Piper of Hameln.
At a variety of specialty shops visitors can also see woolen material being worked, cigars rolled, sausage stuffed, or at the Bavarian Inn Restaurant roll–your–own pretzel. There are also cheese and candy stores (where you'll find tasty fudge).
It all blends to create the tasteful flavor of Frankenmuth.
The two major restaurants across from each other along Main Street are Zehnder's and the Bavarian Inn. Between them they can seat upwards of 2,500 hungry guests in multiple dining rooms, offering up a variety of lunches and dinners, and served by jovial costumed waiters and waitresses in traditional dress.
The two restaurants continue to serve some two million family–style meals each year, with a good percentage of them being those popular "all you can eat chicken dinners," as well as schnitzel, bratwurst, sauerbraten, and other German entrees. Steaks and seafood complete the menus, topped off with apple strudel, or some other tasty dessert.
Accommodations in Frankenmuth range from motels, hotels, a lodge, and B&Bs to an RV park. In the heart of town along Main Street are the conveniently located Fairfield Inn, Drury Inn, and Springhill Suites. There are also Bavarian inns of varying sizes and levels offering guest hospitality, and a new hotel in the downtown.
Exploring Bronner's Christmas Wonderland is a cheerful experience. Visitors are surrounded by shimmering lights and sparkling ornaments, along with the sounds (and spirit too) of the annual December holiday.
The complex is on 27 acres, incorporating what the literature says is five and a half football fields of buildings, and the family still runs the operation which is open 361 days a year. Car, motor home, and tour bus parking is spacious; Christmas cookies are served year–round; and the display of holiday merchandise is staggering.
The Silent Night Memorial Chapel on the grounds is a replica of the original in Oberndorf, Austria (near Salzburg).
When we went back to Bronner's to see what we didn't have time for the previous day, we saw a familiar face in the form of a senior lady pushing a loaded shopping cart. "Excuse us, but didn't we see you here yesterday?" we asked. With a giggle she replied, "Yah, an' I was seeing you here too the day before today."
"Franken" refers to the province from where the settlers came, and "muth" means courage in German. Put them together, and the name Frankenmuth means "Courage of the Franconians."
St. Lorenz Lutheran Church just outside of downtown is the site of the original Chippewa Mission. There are guided tours of the church during the summer and early fall, and self–guided throughout the year.
Today there are about 5,000 permanent residents in the town, with another 3,000 in the surrounding townships. By and large, they all seem to enjoy preserving the German heritage of this picturesque Bavarian village.
More than 3 million visitors a year make their way to this year–round destination, where the Willkommen mat is always out.
BEFORE HEADING TO THIS TOWN...
You find Frankenmuth off Interstate 75, about 90 miles northwest of Detroit.
For a wealth of information, details on your specific needs, directions, and answers to most of your questions, contact:
Frankenmuth Visitors Bureau
635 South Main Street
Frankenmuth MI 48734–1619]
(989) 652–6106 or (800) 386–8696
Making dinner reservations ahead is sometimes a good idea. If you plan on enjoying either or both of the two big restaurants:
Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn Restaurant
713 South Main Street
Frankenmuth, MI 48734
(989) 652–9941 or (800) 228–2742
Zehnders of Frankenmuth
730 South Main Street
Frankenmuth, Michigan 48734
(989) 652–0450 or (800) 863–7999
Bronner's has wide–ranging hours, and is closed on some major holidays, and with shortened hours on others. They are located at the south edge of town.
25 Christmas Lane
Frankenmuth, MI 48734
(989) 652–9931 or (800) 361–6736
(Tom and Joanne O'Toole are fulltime freelance travel journalists and photographers. The husband/wife writing team is published in newspapers and magazines across the country, and throughout Canada. They make their home in a little community in northeast Ohio when they are not off in search of new travel adventures... and dressing up in their lederhosen and dirndls to fit in with the surroundings of this German community.)