A Visitor’s Guide to Exploring Frankenmuth – Michigan’s Little Bavaria

To celebrate the kick off of Zehnder’s Snowfest in Frankenmuth next week, guest blogger Craig Sterken takes us on a tour of some charming attractions in Michigan’s Little Bavaria.

If you’ve ever dreamed of spending a winter’s day in a charming alpine village, but don’t have the funds to fly to the Bavarian Alps, a weekend visit to Frankenmuth, Michigan might be the thing for you. Nicknamed “Little Bavaria”, this small city in the heart of mid-Michigan will have you believing you’ve been transported to your dream village within minutes.

Photo by Craig Sterken Photography

Teeming with charm, Main Street offers shops, boutiques, restaurants, a brewery, and a step back in time with horse and carriage rides.  A carriage ride will take you through a picturesque neighborhood and through the downtown area. Afterwards, you have your choice of two well known restaurants. On opposite sides of the street you’ll find Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth, famously known for their chicken dinners and the Bavarian Inn, widely known for its home-cooked German fare. Both establishments also host gift shops and fine wines.

The Cass River wends its way through town and is flanked on one side of the river by the Bavarian Inn and the Bavarian Inn Lodge. An appealing covered bridge, known as “The Zehnder’s Holz Brucke” spans the river connecting the two properties. Available to both cars and foot traffic it adds to the delightful scenic views of Frankenmuth.

Photo by Craig Sterken Photography

For shoppers who want more than the boutiques in town offer, there is River Place. Over 40 shops offer goods for the discriminate shopper. River Place has pleasant walkways, benches, and paths to stroll, linger, and enjoy, even in winter. For entertainment beyond shopping you can also visit Zehnder’s Splash Village Hotel and Indoor Waterpark. Providing wet and wild family fun and relaxation it can be a wonderful respite from the winter weather. They even provide complementary shuttle service to Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth restaurant.

Photo by Craig Sterken Photography

Though Frankenmuth is widely known for their many festivals throughout the year winter brings Zehnder’s Snowfest. One of the most well known snow-sculpting competitions in North America, it is also host to the National Collegiate Ice Carving Championship and the High School Snow Sculpting Competition. You’ll be able to watch the snow sculptors at work and ice carvers employing their skills with chainsaws, picks, and even handmade tools created for the job. This year will be the 23rd annual completion and will be held January 22-27.

Photo by Craig Sterken Photography

Don’t forget to visit the southern outskirts of town and visit Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland. Bronner’s is the World’s Largest Christmas Store. Founded in 1945 by Wally Bronner, it is open year round and bustles with activity as shoppers, tour busses, and cars come and go. Over 100,000 lights are lit throughout the season and it provides the perfect atmosphere for getting yourself in the Christmas mood. It’s easy to spend an entire afternoon shopping for ornaments, artificial trees, Santa suits, or for resting your heels in their cafeteria.

Frankenmuth just has so much to offer. On a recent visit my wife and I stopped for wine tasting at St. Julian Winery, shopped for a comforter at Frankenmuth Woolen Mills, ate lunch at Tiffany’s, and bought freshly roasted chestnuts from a vendor on Main Street.  So, if you’re looking for a weekend full of family fun, a good meal, or a romantic getaway with that alpine village feel, Frankenmuth delivers. Visit one of the bustling shops or just quietly sit on a bench sipping hot chocolate and watch the fun unfold around you.

Craig Sterken is a freelance photographer and lifelong resident of Michigan. His photos have been published in travel publications, magazines, brochures, and websites throughout the state.  His prints adorn the walls of homes, offices, hospitals, and businesses and can be purchased online or in various galleries and shops in Michigan. Visit his website CraigSterken.com or on Facebook  for more information. 

Make the Most of ArtPrize 2013 with a Walking Tour of Grand Rapids

ArtPrize 2013 kicks off in just a couple of weeks! From September 18 – October 6, artists and visitors from around the world will flock to Downtown Grand Rapids to display and see artwork.

If you’re heading to the event for the first time or just want to see more of what the area has to offer, a walking tour is a great way to do so! Kristin Coppens of Blue Cross Blue Shield fills us in on an Art Walk that’s being offered on Saturday, September 21st during the first weekend of ArtPrize.

ArtPrize is about to kick off the fifth year of being a world-renowned art phenomenon. The competition is the world’s largest art prize decided upon by public vote and has transformed the Grand Rapids community with a vision of integration and creativity.

The 19-day competition offers plenty to see throughout the Grand Rapids city limits, along with a calendar chock full of events that supplement the art. Wondering the best way to see the over 1,500 entries this year? Make your way through the ArtPrize locales by way of Art Walk.

Walking is a great way to boost physical activity and exercise. In addition to weight loss, walking strengthens cardiovascular abilities, lowers disease and cancer risk, and helps keep bones and joints strong in situations like arthritis. 30 minutes of physical activity is recommended five days a week; however, you can accomplish those goals in shorter 10-minute increments throughout the day.

Sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Wolverine Worldwide, both ArtPrize sponsors, Art Walk incorporates the ArtPrize entries with a health component. Taking place on Saturday, September 21st this year, Art Walk is comprised of both guided (by ArtPrize volunteers) and self-guided options.

Art Walk will kick things off at 8:30AM with opening comments from Jeff Connolly of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blake Krueger of Wolverine Worldwide. There will then be a guided warm-up exercise with a provided fitness professional before the 9:00AM start of the walk. The guided portion is expected to complete by approximately 11:00AM. Additionally, Wolverine Worldwide and Blue Care Network of Michigan will both have various tents set up at Rosa Parks Circle with health information, footwear, fitness information, goodies, and more.

With two different routes, ArtWalk will take participants through two of the five total neighborhoods hosting art. The first route will be through the Center City neighborhood, a total of one mile. The second route will take participants through the Westside neighborhood for a total of 2.2 miles. Each route will begin and end at Rosa Parks Circle downtown; there will be snacks and water provided between routes.

Art Walk is a great way to kick off the first weekend of ArtPrize and see a great deal of this year’s entries during the first round of voting. Walkers are encouraged to wear comfortable walking shoes and bring water bottles with them. No registration required; we look forward to seeing you!

Kristin Coppens is responsible for blogging and social media at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan throughout the West Michigan region. Kristin is a writer, social media enthusiast, and information junkie. A self-proclaimed foodie, techie, and political nerd, she is a dedicated promoter of Grand Rapids community development, urban engagement, arts, healthcare, wellness, supporting and buying local, entrepreneurism, and the city as a whole.

Photos included are by Ian Anderson of StellaFly, Courtesy of ArtPrize.

Will you be checking out Art Walk during ArtPrize? Let us know in the comments section below!

Experience the Magic of Classical Music with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra

Have you ever experienced the world of classical music? The Detroit Symphony Orchestra is something Michiganders and visitors alike don’t want to miss. Today, Leonard Slatkin, Music Director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, fills us in on the history behind the DSO and what’s new for concert goers this year.

Join Leonard for a live webcast this Sunday, November 11th at www.dso.org/live and follow #DSOLive on Twitter. Let us know if you tune in, or if you’re planning to check out an event in person this season!

Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself. What’s your background like and what led to you becoming Music Director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra?

A: I come from a musical family and my previous music directorships were with the St. Louis Symphony and the National Symphony in Washington, D.C.  In addition to my role in Detroit, I am also currently the music director of France’s Orchestre National de Lyon and principal guest conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony.

Q: What do concert goers seem most excited about when attending a DSO performance?

A: The live experience. There can be almost 2,000 people in the hall but there are also 2,000 opinions as to how they enjoyed, or did not enjoy, the concert.

Q: What makes the DSO, Orchestra Hall and the Max M. Fisher Music Center unique?

A: As one of the great halls of the world it is inviting both visually and acoustically.  Musicians love playing here and the intimacy and warmth of our beautiful home make the audience feel very much a part of the DSO family.  We’re also excited to be situated in the heart of midtown, near our friends at the DIA, Wayne State, and the Detroit Medical Center, and playing our role in the revitalization of our city.

Q: What do you like most about working in Detroit?

A: The spirit of optimism that prevails throughout the city. We never give up because it just simply is not the Detroit way.  And as many people know, I’m a diehard baseball fan who tries to never miss a Tigers game when I’m in Detroit.

Q: What’s new for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra this year?

A: We’ve hired several key new musicians, all immensely talented and many of them settling in Detroit, including concertmaster (Yoonshin Song), principal flute (David Buck), English horn (Monica Fosnaugh), French horn (Johanna Yarbrough), principal percussion (Joe Becker) and strings (Sheryl Hwangbo, Rachel Harding Klaus, Peter McCaffrey and David LeDoux).  Turning to our programs this season, we perform all nine Beethoven symphonies this February, all of which you can experience at Orchestra Hall or online at www.dso.org/live, and all four Ives symphonies, which we’re taking to New York City as part of two back-to-back performances at Carnegie Hall, the orchestra’s first visit to that legendary stage in 17 years.

Q: What concert would you recommend to someone who has never experienced a live classical concert?

A: At the DSO we have programs to fit a variety of tastes.  For some it might be a Pops concert, like Home for the Holidays or the Music of Lennon & McCartney; for others it’s an educational event featuring the talented students of our Civic Youth Ensembles.  A good place to first experience our classical offerings would be the December performances of excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker.

Q: How are the Live from Orchestra Hall webcasts and other digital initiatives expanding the DSO’s impact?

A: It is still too early to know but with over twenty five webcasts so far, it is clear that we have expanded our audience base to a global perspective – we’ve had viewers tune in from over 75 countries.  There is no question in my mind that this is the path to the future and we are proud to be the first orchestra to make ourselves available to music lovers for free on the web and through mobile devices.  Our Community Concerts and Neighborhood Series, both of which take us into venues throughout southeast Michigan, have also contributed to remarkable audience growth this past year.

View a Live from Orchestra Hall encore clip below:

Leonard Slatkin, called “America’s Music Director” by the Los Angeles Times, became Music Director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in 2008, having previously held that position with the St. Louis and National symphony orchestras.  Leonard also currently serves as Music Director of the Orchestre National de Lyon and Principal Guest Conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony and appears regularly with the world’s leading orchestras.  An avid fan of the Tigers since joining the DSO, Leonard and his wife, composer Cindy McTee, live in Bloomfield Hills.