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.