Frankenmuth, MI is a Fantastic Family Destination
Looking for a town with great food, interesting history, and fun annual festivals?
Did you know our mitten state has a fun little town ready to greet your family with a friendly “Willkommen”?
Become one of the 3 million tourists a year that flock to Frankenmuth!
Home to Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, Zehnder’s Chicken and the Bavarian Inn Lodge, there is so much to discover.
Whether you want to spend a day or a weekend in Frankenmuth, you’ll find fun things to do in Frankenmuth with your family on this list.
Frankenmuth, known as “Michigan’s Little Bavaria,” was founded by German missionaries in the mid-1800s.
This historic town reminds me of scenic villages in Germany, Austria, and France.
What is Frankenmuth Known For?
In addition to the architectural details found in the design of the buildings, covered bridge and Glockenspiel Tower, the traditional German attire worn by the staff of the restaurants and the upbeat polka tunes played at the outdoor summer Bier Garten all contribute to the town’s festive, German atmosphere.
This feeling of a mini Bavarian vacation is what brings my family back to visit each year.
Frankenmuth is fondly known by some as “Christmas Town, USA.” For years, Frankenmuth Farmers Market has held the largest Christmas market in Saginaw County known as Frankenmuth ChristKindlMarkt.
This traditional Christmas market, modeled after those held in Frankenmuth’s sister region of Germany, brings a touch of magic to the city each year. It’s full of artisans selling handmade gifts and goods.
When is the Best Time to Visit Frankenmuth?
Frankenmuth is a must-see destination year-round. Many prefer to visit during Christmas time for the lights and extra decorations, but that also means longer wait times for restaurants and attractions. Truly, this town is a fun place to visit all twelve months of the year.
Is Frankenmuth Good for Kids?
Frankenmuth is absolutely a family-friendly location. Restaurants have children’s menus, hotels have waterparks, and the town is full of kid-friendly activities to enjoy.
Where is Frankenmuth Located?
Frankenmuth is located about 90 minutes north of Detroit in Michigan.
If visiting from the west side of the state, you can expect about a two-hour drive from either Grand Rapids or Kalamazoo.
Best Things to Do in Frankenmuth MI
Make a Beeline for Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland
25 Christmas Ln, Frankenmuth, MI 48734
Ask anyone what Frankenmuth is famous for and they’ll probably mention Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland.
This Christmas-themed retail store, open year-round, is a sensory delight.
It definitely lives up to its name “Christmas Wonderland.”
Inside Bronners, it’s what I imagine the North Pole to be like.
The majority of the store is ornaments.
The ornaments are categorized into different themes. There’s even a section for birds, and even within the bird section, there is a section for hummingbirds, cardinals, penguins, etc. And another dedicated section for s’mores! There was a section for Nativity scenes and also Christmas villages. Another section for Christmas trees.
Plus, there’s a popular section of the store where you can get ornaments and stockings personalized by hand.
Definitely use the store directory to help find your way around.
We went on a Saturday morning in October, around an hour after opening, and already the store was packed. I think going during the week is probably better for avoiding crowds.
Explore 40+ Stores at Frankenmuth River Place Shops
925 S Main St, Frankenmuth, MI 48734
Near the Bavarian Inn Lodge and Main Street, you will find the outdoor River Place Shops with over 40 stores. (Fun Fact: River Place Shops was the main set for “A Christmas Movie Christmas,” a made-for-TV holiday special released in 2019.)
With their cobblestone sidewalks, heated in the winter, and vibrant spring and summer flower displays, you’ll enjoy this shopping stop year-round.
In the center of the plaza, there is a small open area with kids can round around and play with a xylophone and drums.
– Sugarhigh Bakery: The owner won Cupcake Wars on the Food Network. They specialize in designer cakes, gourmet cupcakes,
homemade gelato, and more! Gluten-free, sugar-free, and vegan options are available.
– The Popcorn Wagon: Features over 40 flavors of popcorn.
– Hello Cats and Dogs: Featuring unique gifts for our furry friends.
– N’Orlins Beignets & Coffee: Get a taste of New Orleans with a hot, fresh, and sweet beignet covered with powdered sugar along with a cup of café au lait. Also serving authentic Cajun gumbo, made fresh every day.
And many more fun stops, including the Bavarian Belle Paddlewheel riverboat attraction and the Ultimate Mirror Maze.
The Bavarian Blacksmith Experience
925 S Main St Unit D6, Frankenmuth, MI 48734
The Bavarian Blacksmith Experience‘s unique shop invites visitors to hammer, twist and stamp steel into handcrafted pieces.
With different foraging options, you can create custom pieces including knives, ornaments and marshmallow sticks. Kids ages six and older can also hone their blacksmithing skills.
Walk-ins are welcome, but reservations are recommended.
Visitor Tip: Blacksmithing is hot and noisy. Come prepared with water and take breaks! The staff are very hands-on and will assist at every step.
Watch the Glockenspiel Tower at the Bavarian Inn
713 South Main St, Frankenmuth, MI 48734
The total “show” goes at this famous belltower runs for about 15 minutes, including five minutes of music and a ten-minute story of the Pied Piper of Hameln.
The best view if from the parking lot: if you have a good spot, you can sit in your car to watch the show. Although small from a distance, the figures are 4.5 feet tall and carved from trees in the Black Forest of Germany.
Visitor Tip: If you have children, we recommend reading the story of the Pied Piper of Hameln online before visiting since it’s not a typical, happy fairytale. You may opt to skip the story portion.
Zehnder’s Splash Village Waterpark & Hotel
1365 South Main St, Frankenmuth, MI 4873
Zehnder’s hotel is home to “Michigan’s largest indoor waterpark!” In addition to the waterpark, the hotel features 178 rooms, including 74 suites, many of which offer a view of the water play area. There are also two restaurants, an arcade, and shuttle service to other locations.
If you aren’t staying at the hotel, you can still grab a day pass.
The waterpark features a raft ride, water basketball, river, water geysers, and even private cabanas.
Stroll Down Main Street
Take a stroll down Main Street where you will find many interesting shops. In spring and summer the main street is lined with vibrant flower beds and window boxes full of beautiful blooms.
Shops to explore include Cheese Haus, Zak and Mac Candy Store, Frankenmuth Taffy Kitchen, Rau’s Country Store and Frankenmuth Fudge Kitchen, which even offers free samples.
Rau’s Country Store is where you’ll find barrels full of all different kinds of candy, including nostalgic favorites.
Big selection of toys, stuffed animals and board games
Frankenmuth Fudge Kitchen
Watch them make their famous fudge
Great stop for both cheese and local souveneirs
Zak & Mac’s Chocolate Haus
Take a Ride on the Bavarian Belle Riverboat
925 South Main St Suite D-3, Frankenmuth, MI 48734
Float down the Cass River aboard the Bavarian Belle Riverboat, docked near the covered bridge.
During the one-hour trip, you’ll learn about the city, history of the river and see lots of wildlife. It’s a very relaxing ride with snacks and beverages available for purchase.
Drive Down Christmas Lane and Visit the Silent Night Memorial Chapel
The Christmas Lane features 100,000 lights and goes around Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland. It starts at the front driveway area of Zehnder’s Splash Village and leads to the Silent Night Memorial Chapel.
The drive only lasts about five minutes; there are also sidewalks along portions of it, allowing visitors to walk through some of the lights.
Be sure to visit the Silent Night Memorial Chapel at Bronner’s. This chapel is a replica of the one where Silent Night was written. It features two nativity scenes outside and speakers playing Silent Night.
Inside, you will find the story of how the Bronner family built the chapel and information about the song writer. The song itself is translated into many languages on display for visitors. We found the chapel to be very peaceful and inviting.
Silent Night Translations
There’s a list of requested translations in the chapel to expand this display
Silent Night Nativity
The second nativity scene outside of the chapel
Visit the Frankenmuth Clock Company at the Top of the Hour
966 S Main St, Frankenmuth, MI 48734
In business since 1984, Frankenmuth Clock & German Gift Co. is the largest full-service clock store in the Midwest.
With hundreds of authentic, German clocks on display, these experts can likely fix anything that ticks and offer repairs on site.
The wall-to-wall clocks are set at different times, so you can see them chime at any time- but you’ll see quite a show at the top of the hour.
The shop also specializes in other German gifts including music boxes and German pyramids.
Visitor Tip: The clocks here are intricate and expensive; be extra careful with little, energetic hands while visiting.
Ask a staff member to see them work.
German Christmas Pyramids
These wooden treasures are also a shop specialty.
Grab some Sticky, Sweet Treats at Frankenmuth Taffy Kitchen
565 1/2, S Main St, Frankenmuth, MI 48734
Frankenmuth Taffy Kitchen proudly uses the same family-made “freshwater taffy” recipe since 1964 using filtered water from the Great Lakes.
They make six fresh batches of taffy each day; all of their candy is pulled and wrapped on site.
Samples are available to try flavors before you buy.
Navigate the Ultimate Mirror Maze
925 S Main St, Frankenmuth, MI 48734
Located in the River Place Shops, the Ultimate Mirror Maze offers thousands of mirrors in a maze, funny mirrors and a vault laser challenge.
Admission is charged as a day pass, so families can stay as long as they want. Children 3 and under are free.
Jump Into the Season with a Frankenmuth Festival or Feature
Looking for things to do in Frankenmuth? Don’t forget the year-round roster of festivals this spirited town puts on!
Tried-and-true favorites include:
The Christkindlmarkt: traditional Christmas market full of artisans selling handmade gifts and goods. The market opens Friday, November 26, 2021 and runs Friday, Saturday & Sundays through December 19, 2021.
Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland for ornaments, decorations and everything Christmas.
Zehnder’s Snowfest: larger than life snow and ice sculptures.
Bavarian Festival: Sing and dance downtown to Bavarian music played by colorful costumed German entertainers and polka bands. Enjoy the third annual Friday Night Street Party. Don’t miss the Children’s Parade on Saturday or the big Sunday Parade on Main Street.
Do the Gnome Hunt
Frankenmuth Visitor & Welcome Center
635 South Main St, Frankenmuth, MI 48734
Your hunt for gnomes begins at the Visitor Center, where you’ll receive your gnome hunt sheet and find your first gnome. You have to find at least 9 more gnomes in the shops; it’s a great way to get know the town on a fun adventure.
Each gnome has a name, and you have to record the names and their locations on the sheet.
Once you have found at least 10 gnomes, return your hunt sheet for prizes; even the adults receive prizes too!
Visitor Tip: The gnomes are not all wooden! Some are ceramic, some are plush (like stuffed animals). You can ask store associates for hints.
The staff members are super friendly here if you need help finding resources for your trip
Frankenmuth Coupon Book
Find some great coupons in the Visitor’s Guide
Eat World-Famous Chicken at Zehnder’s Restaurant
730 South Main St, Frankenmuth, MI 48734
If you plan to stop at Zehnder’s Restaurant, you better come hungry!
Zehnder’s is known for their all-you-can-eat “world famous family-style chicken dinners” which features breads, appetizers, entrees and dessert.
A full children’s menu is available, or you can add a child to your family-style meal for a reasonable price.
Visitor Tip: Despite the massive dining room, this place is BUSY. We recommend a weekday to reduce crowds. Expect a wait (potentially outside) during peak times.
Try Equally Famous Chicken at the Bavarian Inn Restaurant
713 South Main St, Frankenmuth, MI 48734
In addition to Zehnders, there’s another delicious chicken restaurant in town at the Bavarian Inn Restaurant. Depending upon who you ask, visitors will claim one is their favorite!
You’ll love the traditional feel of the Bavarian Inn with authentically dressed staff and European-themed dining rooms. They feature all-you-can-eat chicken dinners, homemade ice cream and traditional German fare such as wiener schnitzel and sauerbraten.
Also, the lower level of the Bavarian Restaurant includes a large variety of shops and a bakery full of delicious treats and jams…for later!
Dine at the Frankenmuth Brewery
425 South Main St, Frankenmuth, MI 48734
Frankenmuth Brewery was founded in 1862, making it Michigan’s “original craft brewery.” They make all of the beer that they serve, plus a few wines.
With 19 beers on tap, the restaurant also features a large outdoor space looking out over the Cass River. A full children’s menu is available.
We got a pizza and fish ‘n chips which were both excellent.
Visitor Tip: Parking is limited; come before the dinner rush to ensure you’ll find a spot nearby.
Stay and Swim at the Bavarian Inn Lodge
1 Covered Bridge Ln, Frankenmuth, MI 48734
Bavarian Inn Lodge sits on the beautiful Cass River and is right in the center of Downtown Frankenmuth. If you stay at the Bavarian Inn, you are steps away from the River Place shops, Main Street, restaurants and entertainment.
The hotel itself features mini golf, arcade center, four indoor pools, kiddie pool, two waterslides, three restaurants and a Sunday brunch.
We have found Michigan’s Little Bavaria to be a great place for families to visit for the day, to vacation for several days with other families, or to have a reunion or group celebration.
As they say in Frankenmuth, Auf Wiedersehen!