Frankenmuth, Michigan is a little town that claims to be the “Little Bavaria” of Michigan. And when we stopped there for a few nights, we discovered that it is, sort of.
I was expecting some older, more original buildings from the 1800’s (kind of like Fredericksburg, TX which we just adore, or the Amana Colonies in Iowa) from when the early immigrants started settling in this area. You can read all about their history here.
What we believe we actually saw was more of a “model” of Bavaria to bring the tourists and their money in to this sleepy little town. Full of sausage, cheese and bread shops (all with some kind of Bavarian roots) with the traditional touristy t-shirt, popcorn and fudge shops mixed in. Now don’t get me wrong. I am glad that we stopped for a few nights. It was really cute, however, one day really would have been enough to see everything.
Our first stop was to Bronner’s Christmas Shop. If you enjoy Christmas and decorating for the holidays, then I am sure you have heard of Bronner’s in some fashion or perhaps you receive their yearly catalog.
They claim to be the largest Christmas store in the world. What we found and explored was giant. Actually, I don’t think “giant” really describes it well. Bronner’s actually sits on 27 acres with both indoor and outdoor decorations. Outside they have a 1/2 mile long Christmas Lane that is lit up with over 100,000 lights, every night. The store itself is 5.5 football fields and full from top to bottom with everything you could imagine. You know you’re in trouble when they have employees at the doors handing out maps of the store.
Maps? Yes, you can easily get lost in there. The Christmas shop has undergone several expansions and includes a customization area, snack bar, a Silent Night Memorial Chapel and a historical viewing gallery, just to name a few. They even give group tours! Their is plenty of parking with the over 1000 parking spaces and 50 spaces just for motor coaches. So if you find yourself passing through this area and you feel the hankering to go Christmas shopping in the middle of summer, or whenever, feel free to stop by with your motor home. Their is plenty of parking for you to come check it out and spend some money. Just don’t go on Christmas day as they are closed for the holiday. Am I the only one that finds this kind of funny?
And yes, I do believe them when they say they are the largest Christmas shop in the world. They have my vote.
Our next stop, just up the road, was the Riverplace Shops. It’s exactly how it sounds. Shops along the river. The buildings were cute. Made up like Bavarian shops, or what I would imagine Bavaria would look like, as I have never been there.
The shops were typical touristy shops. A cupcake shop (nothing wrong with that one) and t-shirts and Michigan logo wear stuff. Nothing really I feel the need to go back to. We did end up buying some artisan oils and vinegars from the Great Lakes Olive Oil Company. Those were great and we’ve been enjoying them ever since. They deliver too! So when we run out, we can just order more online. Yay!
It was lovely just walking around. This is also the place you would catch one of the tour boats to explore a little bit of the river. We did not do this, however there were quite a few people on the boat when we saw it.
Next up was the downtown area of Frankenmuth. It was a cute town with again lots of Bavarian styled shops and such.
The buildings were nicely done. Lots and lots of flowers everywhere. Ivy growing up the buildings. Very plush with plant-life. Very cute. I actually kept commenting on how many flowers and plants they have and how alive and well-taken care of they were. Then I saw that the light poles that the hanging flower baskets were on had automatic watering systems. Upon further inspection, all the ground plant-life and flowers also were watered automatically. Nice.
The shops themselves were ok. More sausage shops, cheese shops, wine shops, eateries, touristy t-shirt shops and such.
There was a small museum, which we did not go into but I’m sure was lovely. And there were some other historical buildings around.
One of which we were told we must go to, Zehnder’s, and eat their famous fried chicken dinner. Now, we enjoy a good fried chicken dinner as we have visited some other places in the past, the Amana Colonies in Iowa, Das Dutch Eissenhaus, in Middlebury, Indiana and our favorite Po Po’s in Boerne, Texas. So our expectations were high. After all, Zehnder’s has been serving their fried chicken dinners since they opened as a hotel and restaurant in 1856!
And yes, they are one of the few buildings in town that has some original rooms to it. Although it has been added onto several times, the original dining room is still used today. It has however been remodeled a few times, but that’s understandable.
So there chicken dinner? Well…it wasn’t terrible but it really wasn’t one of our favorites either. I would have to rank them at the bottom of our list. So we were disappointed with the hype that we had heard about this place. Oh well. We can’t win them all.
Now, Zehnder’s also has a bakery and gift shop attached to the restaurant. Let’s just say that we were glad we ate first. Everything looked really good and we wanted to take it all home with us. However with our bellies full, we weren’t temped as much. We walked out with only pictures.
Some of you may be wondering where we stayed when we were there. Well, there really are only a couple places to park your rig. One is a Jellystone campground right in town, which we prefer not to frequent as we do not have kids and they are generally more money. The other is just a couple miles outside of town called Pine Ridge RV Park in Birch Run, MI.
Their spaces were super long, which was nice, however they were not level by any means. There are lots of trees which, made navigation in and out of spaces interesting and sometimes difficult. Most were trimmed back and tall enough to fit under. However a few were not. Our spot, although it may look lovely, what you don’t see is the tree right next to the turn we must make to leave. Every site had one, so there was no option there to move sites. We actually ended up backing out of our spot and then hooking up.
So Frankenmuth, Michigan was a nice place to visit and I’m glad that we went and explored. However, I see no need to return.