A Festive Frankenmuth Family Getaway, And 10 More Ways To Go Great Lakes Bay This Holiday

Today, guest blogger Kirsetin Morello shares her tips for a Frankenmuth family getaway, plus ten more ways you can “Go Great Lakes Bay” this holiday season. 

Photo courtesy of Bronner's Christmas Wonderland

Photo by Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland

The first time we visited Frankenmuth during the holidays, we knew what we’d seen on the billboards: that Bronner’s was a wonderland.

So while we expected—and got—lots of Christmas ornaments, we ended up experiencing so much more. Our trip started with a stop at what’s not only the largest, but arguably the best, Christmas store in the world. Not only is Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland enormous (its square footage is bigger than 1 ½ football fields), it’s also gorgeously appointed.

All the advertising in Michigan couldn’t have prepared us for the wonderland that is Bronner’s. When we stepped into the first, exquisitely decorated room, our boys’ demeanor changed immediately. As you might imagine, at 10, 8, and 5 years of age starting the day by spending a couple of hours in the car wasn’t their idea of fun! But as soon as we walked through Bronner’s doors, their begrudging looks gave way to an excitement that was both electric and contagious.

Photo courtesy of Bronner's CHRISTmas Wonderland

Photo by Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland

We all laughed as we looked and touched and looked some more, trying our best to take it all in. The twinkling lights hung from the ceiling created a merry mood throughout the store. As we checked our map (be sure to get one at the door) and explored the rooms of elaborately decorated trees, we felt more like we’d found the North Pole than like a retail outlet.

As we walked through the ornately decorated rooms, each one different, each one dripping with color and festivity, my heart warmed as I watched my boys together. This is why we do these types of things as a family—not because we really need more ornaments for our tree, but because the memories they’ll have and the bonds they build on these trips are the really important stuff in life.

Photo courtesy of Bavarian Inn Lodge

Photo by Bavarian Inn Lodge

Bronner’s is a wonderful stop in Frankenmuth, but it’s not the only place that makes Frankenmuth special. Families love to eat, stay and play at the quaint Bavarian Inn Lodge and waterpark, where you’ll often find the owners on site mingling with guests, says Jim Engel, Chief Operating Officer of the Bavarian Inn Lodge.

At the waterpark, you’ll find yourself relaxing as your kids laugh and play in what Engel calls “America’s only living-room-style waterpark.” Water play, video games, a lounge, miniature golf, and a children’s village all share one space. They even offer weekend karaoke for kids!

When you’ve worked up an appetite after all that waterpark fun, the Bavarian Inn Restaurant serves up chicken dinners in the finest German tradition, so your crew can fill their bellies right there.

Photo courtesy of Bavarian Inn Lodge

Photo by Bavarian Inn Lodge

To add a little more magic to your family time in Frankenmuth, be sure to stop by the beautiful Bavarian Inn Glockenspiel, whose components include a 35-bell carillon, figurine movement, and an illuminated clock, all imported from Germany.

If you can be there at 3 p.m., 6 p.m., or 9 p.m., your entire family will delight in watching the moving figurines appear to depict the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin.

Photo courtesy of Bavarian Inn Lodge

Photo by Bavarian Inn Lodge

After you watch the Glockenspiel, head back inside to warm up inside the cozy Bavarian Inn Castle Shops, located in the lower level of the Bavarian Inn Restaurant.  My husband and I are always able to find something special to purchase and no visit is complete without a stop at the Castle Shop Bakery. Seriously! Go to the bakery. If you’re already feeling toasty and ready to walk off that chicken dinner, take a stroll through the Frankenmuth River Place Shops, where you’ll find over 40 unique shops and boutiques filled with specialty food and gift items.

If you or your kids are anything like our family, you’ll also want to head to the shops and bakery at Zehnder’s Marketplace, which are just across the street from the Bavarian Inn. Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth also offers world famous chicken dinners, so if you’re in Frankenmuth for more than a day or return more than once, it’s fun to try them both and experience the differences.

Photo courtesy of Zehnder's

Photo by Zehnder’s Splash Village

Zehnder’s also has a hotel and waterpark, Zehnder’s Splash Village, which is located just outside of downtown adjacent to Bronner’s. If you visit this winter, you’ll be among the first guests to take advantage of Splash Village’s recently completed expansion. The waterpark now includes over 50,000 square feet of aquatic fun and features a retractable roof! Zehnder’s also added onto the hotel and if you book in time you might score a room that overlooks the waterpark extravaganza.

Regardless of whether you go for a day or a week, a holiday visit to Frankenmuth is an experience you’ll savor. On our first trip, after we ate our fill of sugary goodness at the bakeries, we headed back outside to walk off some of it off. As our boys frolicked in the fresh snow, my husband and I window-shopped, smiling at the serene, simplicity of the day. Frankenmuth at the holidays is like that: a little snowy, a little magical, and filled with memories that last a lifetime.

Here are 10 other great ways to Go Great Lakes Bay this holiday season:

- Watch PRIDE’s Christmas Parade or the Midland Santa Parade (both Nov. 22)

- Shop the traditional Frankenmuth Christkindlmarkt (Nov. 28-30 and Dec. 5-7)

- Explore Downtown Bay City and catch a Christmas flick during Sundays in the City (Nov. 16 – Dec. 21)

- Celebrate Holidays in the Heart of the City in Saginaw (Nov. 21)

- Visit Santa at the Charles W. Howard Santa House in Midland

- Treat the kids to lunch with Santa at Bavarian Inn Restaurant (Dec. 14)

- Take part in the Zehnder’s Holiday Show (Dec. 1-3) or The Reflections Holiday Dinner Shows at Bavarian Inn Restaurant (Dec. 2 -3)

- Witness the magic of Cirque Dreams Holidaze at the Dow Event Center (Dec. 3)

- Shop Holly Jolly Days in Downtown Midland (Dec. 7-8, 14-15)

- Relax in a horse-drawn carriage ride through Frankenmuth.

How many of these Great Lakes Bay activities have you checked off your list? 

Kirsetin Morello - Guest BloggerKirsetin Morello is an author, freelance writer, and mother of 3 boys from Grand Rapids, MI whose family loves to travel and explore new places. In addition to writing about travel, she writes about parenting, business, and specializes in writing profiles of interesting people. Among other publications, you can find her work in Parents, West Michigan Woman, and Teach and Travel, as well as lots of places online, but you’ll most likely find her playing basketball, hiking in a park, or cheering her kids on at their sporting events.

Wash Away the Norm at Zehnder’s New and Improved Splash Village Waterpark

Today, Christie Bierlein from Frankenmuth Convention and Visitors Bureau tells us how to make a splash with a Frankenmuth family getaway designed for all ages.

Photo courtesy of Frankenmuth CVB

Photo courtesy of Frankenmuth CVB

Anyone who has had teenagers could likely agree that they can be difficult travelers to please.  What is “cool” to teenagers?  Everything is “boring”.  One would think that they themselves would have the perfect answer to a cool getaway since they often think they have all the answers…and in today’s world they just might since in their lifetime there’s never been a question they couldn’t just Google to find the answer.  So before you go through the exhausted list of “been there, done that” for your next family vacation, consider something that was built with them in mind!

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Photo courtesy of Frankenmuth CVB

Zehnder’s Splash Village Hotel & Waterpark just opened a new expanded atrium waterpark in Frankenmuth, which is the only waterpark in Michigan to offer two distinctly different family waterparks.  While Splash Village continues to be a destination for families of all ages, the new waterpark expansion offers two six-story rides for the more adventurous traveler; perfect for those teenagers.

In just 6.9 seconds, you will drop 40 feet and travel down the 273’ long Super Loop, complete with a 360 degree loop! Or gather your friends and family to take on the 4 person family raft ride called the Tantrum Twist! The expansion also features a 20 person hot tub, Action River and the best part, private Cabanas for up to 10 people; they all have mini refrigerators, safes, flat screen TV’s and personalized food and beverage service. Now we are talking vacation!

Photo courtesy of Zehnder's

Photo courtesy of Zehnder’s

Did we mention that the over 50,000 square feet of aquatic adventure is also highlighted by Michigan’s only waterpark with a retractable roof?  That’s right.  If it’s raining they close the roof. If it’s sunny and warm, the roof may be open.  The addition includes 32 new guest rooms, 22 of which offer panoramic views of the waterpark.

For those that have enjoyed the original waterpark that opened in 2005 and geared towards that younger age group still features a lazy river, whirlpool, hot tub, 400-gallon dumping bucket, water geysers and sprayers, a four-story tube slide and the Elf Hollow Café.  The expansion also doubled the number of locker rooms, expanded the arcade and concession options.  Waterpark-only day passes are available by making advanced reservations. Zehnder’s Chairman and CEO Al Zehnder says, “Our overall goal is to offer a four-season family vacation destination – from our waterparks to our 1,500-seat Zehnder’s Restaurant, Z-Bakery and Gift Shop and the 18-hole Fortress golf course.”

Photo courtesy of Zehnder's

Photo courtesy of Zehnder’s

So now that you have the kids hooked (or maybe it’s you that can’t wait to try the Super Loop), don’t forget about all the other great reasons to enjoy Frankenmuth with your family.  It’s the perfect time of year for a stop at Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland to get in the spirit of the season; and conveniently located right next to Splash Village.  And nothing brings a family together more than time around the table, so carve out some time to enjoy a meal together at one of the World Famous Chicken Dinner restaurants.

Remember, whatever it is you enjoy doing while you are in Frankenmuth, it is always better to do it while eating something sweet!  So, consider a visit to your old favorites or check out the Explore Frankenmuth App for new ideas.  Either way, get to Frankenmuth soon; it’s where memories are made and traditions begin!

So, which do you choose – Super Loop, Lazy River, World Famous Chicken Dinner? What’s your favorite part of a Frankenmuth getaway? 

Ten Ways to Take On the Outdoors in Frankenmuth

You may already know Frankenmuth for its Bavarian charm. However, you may not have known that Frankenmuth is also a prime destination for some outdoor summer activities. Today, guest blogger Christie Bierlein from Frankenmuth Convention and Visitors Buereau shares ten ways that you can take on the outdoors in Frankenmuth this season.

Photo courtesy of Thomas Warner at Bavarian Inn

Photo courtesy of Thomas Warner at Bavarian Inn

No doubt Frankenmuth is known for their beer, chicken and having the largest Christmas store in the world, but most visitors don’t know all of the scenic outdoor adventure it has to offer. Below are ten hidden gems off the beaten path from the regular bustle of Frankenmuth. Sure to provide days of fun and entertainment for the whole family. That is the magic of Frankenmuth.

Great Views

Fun Ships is a business that thrives on creating unique experiences along the beautiful Cass River for thousands of guests per year. They are a recipient of a “Keep Michigan Beautiful” award for their stunning patio views that are built right into the hill and wind all the way down to their docks along the shore. Fun Ships offers quaint, historical boat rides on an intimate 12 person electric Duffy boat; you can even experience a wine and chocolate pairing while you take in the scenery of the Frankenmuth countryside.

Paddleboard and Kayak

One thing you might notice as you cruise down the river is Frankenmuth Outfitters, a trendy new company to Frankenmuth offering kayak and paddleboard rentals. They also have bike trail maps available if staying on land is more your thing.

Cast a Line

Michigan is obviously a great place to fish with all of the Great Lakes but Frankenmuth is quickly becoming a popular place to drop a line. This fall, construction will begin on the fish passage project at the Cass River Dam in the heart of downtown. The fish passage project is a constructed rapids or rock ramp that will allow sport fish to pass over the dam, returning to spawning area further upstream. The project will benefit the Cass River through the increase in fish populations, with regional benefit to the award winning fishery in the Saginaw Bay.

Fly through the Trees

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Photo courtesy of Frankenmuth Convention and Visitors Bureau at Frankenmuth Adventure Park

If you’re looking for even more adventure, make sure to stop at the Adventure Park. This aerial forest adventure course is a fun family outing. They offer five different levels of climbing and zip lining so there’s no need for excuses to try it!

Hike through the Hills

Frankenmuth has many parks but their two most popular are Heritage and Memorial Parks. Memorial Park is surrounded by hills which make for great family fun. Look for toads in the creek or walk along one of the trails in the woods. Heritage Park is located on the Cass River and is home to the Frankenmuth Outfitters and the canoe launch. There is a one mile paved walking/running path around the park which makes is perfect for the active traveler.

Take a Riverboat Ride

The Bavarian Belle Riverboat is another great way to experience Frankenmuth by water. Feed the ducks and watch the Frankenmuth countryside float by as you get a historical narrated tour on how Frankenmuth came to be on this authentic Stern Driven Paddlewheel boat.

Get your Fitness on!

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Photo courtesy of Frankenmuth Convention and Visitors Bureau

Quickly becoming known as a “race town” Frankenmuth offers many different sporting activities throughout the year. Kicking off August is the Bavarian Inn Experience Triathlon continuing to the Bruckläufe (Bridge race) half marathon in October. Other races and events throughout the year include the 8K Winterläufe in February, the Zehnder’s Tour de Frankenmuth bike race in May, the Volkslaüfe 5K, 10K, 20K (on the fourth of July) and the newest event, the Frankenmüdder (an obstacle style 5K) which debuted July 19th 2014.

Have a Beverage… Outside!

Frankenmuth offers a variety of beautiful outdoor beer gardens. Try out the Fischer Platz under the “glockenspiel” at the Bavarian Inn Restaurant, offering German music and entertainment daily. The Frankenmuth Brewery is another do not miss in terms of outdoor dining and drinking, their patio overlooks the Cass and Heritage Park. Tiffany’s is a local favorite in Frankenmuth, especially known for their pizza and laid back style night life; their outdoor patio has a great view of the downtown area. Prost is the newest addition to Frankenmuth, opening in August they boast a rustic chic atmosphere both inside and their outdoor beer garden. What sets Prost’s patio apart is its gazebo (equipped with a chandelier), fire bar all the wine, craft beer and unique cocktails you want with charming downtown views.

Photo courtesy of Frankenmuth Convention and Visitors Bureau

Photo courtesy of Frankenmuth Convention and Visitors Bureau

Smell the Flowers

Boasting over 380 hanging flower baskets, 40 annuals and 50 perennials Frankenmuth is a plant lover’s dream. Along with the 90 plants and flowers planted each year they plant 15 varieties of tropical plants, one of which is a prized “Bird of Paradise.” July and August are great months for a walk downtown to enjoy the color, perhaps even while you enjoy a beer at one of our beer gardens.

Give Disc Golf a Whirl

Rounding out our top ten is another Frankenmuth local favorite; disc golf! Played in Memorial Park and rated as one of the top 20 disc golf courses in Michigan, the course offers 18 holes of hilly and wooded fun that will challenge beginners to the most advanced players.

Planning on visiting Frankenmuth this summer? Join the conversation and share your photos using #muthfun on Twitter and Instagram or share your photos on Facebook.