My late grandmother was an avid fan of road trips and a lover of Michigan’s many towns worth visiting, but she had a special fondness for Frankenmuth.
Frankenmuth’s quaint charm has a pull on the senior crowd, but it’s just as special for families with young kids, especially around the holiday season.
The small town’s iconic Bavarian architecture lends itself impressively well to the Christmas decor treatment — the fact that the “world’s largest Christmas store” Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland is down the street doesn’t hurt.
Load the kids up this winter and take a day trip or quick overnight getaway to a unique town in Michigan that looks as if it was lifted up from the hills of Bavaria and dropped straight down in the mitten.
Getting to Frankenmuth, Michigan
From Detroit, Frankenmuth, in Saginaw County, is roughly 90 miles away and easily accessed via I-75 North. While it’s a fairly straightforward route, Ford’s SYNC 4 Technology can help in a pinch if you get turned around.
What families love about Frankenmuth, Michigan
My grandmother’s milestone birthdays were spent in Frankenmuth (it’s easy to rent out a space for a private party) but a visit to “Little Bavaria” offers families, especially those with little children, more than roast chicken and a classic German covered bridge.
Frankenmuth is known for its full-blown Christmas splendor. In fact, there’s so many Christmas activities and celebrations, the town offers visitors a map and a schedule dedicated to it. All through December, the city has planned Santa sightings, hot cocoa tastings and much, much more.
If the little ones are desperate to meet Santa and a long line at the mall leaves you feeling less than festive, Frankenmuth has you covered. Take the kids to Grandpa Tiny’s Reindeer Farm for a meet and greet with Santa and his trusted transportation, or let kids meet Mr. and Mrs. Claus with a backdrop of arcade games and indoor mini golf at the Bavarian Inn Lodge Family Fun Center.
Frankenmuth even has a winterized spa. Groups of two can get a pedicure inside an igloo at the Serendipity Wellness Spa (snacks and hot cocoa available, of course). And for those kids who want something a bit more interactive, the Bavarian Blacksmith Experience is a must try. The forge is transformed during the holidays into the Elves Tinker Workshop with snowflake ornaments ready to be fired. Participants can try their hand at forging metal in a safe environment and leave with their creation.
Take your painted toes and forged ornaments over to Zehnder Park for $10 ice skating, then take the 15-minute walk over to the visitor center to catch the singing light show at the 44-foot-tall tree. Showtimes for the “Spectacular Musical Tree Show” run every few hours all day long.
Families who want to take the scheduling headache out of their visit can also leave it up to the Christmas enthusiasts in charge of the town’s festivities. Jump on the shuttle service with planned stops at the ChristKindlMarkt at the Frankenmuth Farmers Market and the German Pyramid.
And for those who want to stay in the comfort of their own vehicle — especially if it is a roomy Ford — there’s a map made just for you: the “‘Little’ Driving Light Tour.”
Where to stay in Frankenmuth, Michigan
Less than a 10-minute drive north will take the family to the Frankenmuth Country Bed & Breakfast. This quaint farmhouse is ideal for a smaller family or a couple celebrating — you can add on a “babymoon” package or a picnic basket.
For families of six, the Historic Downtown Chocolate Haus Apartment is the perfect spot. Wake up in the morning and pop next door to the Harvest Coffeehouse for breakfast, and at night, the balcony overlooks the Frankenmuth Christmas tree. The family chocolate lover is in for a treat, too. Zak & Mac’s Chocolate Haus is located directly beneath the apartment and is a great spot for fudge.
The most iconic place to stay, of course, is at the Bavarian Inn Restaurant and Lodge located in downtown Frankenmuth. Families have access to mini golf, arcade games and more when staying at the lodge. Plus, there’s an option to add on family fun packages, like a nightly delivery of milk and cookies by Willy the Dragon.
Where to eat in Frankenmuth, Michigan
A trip to Frankenmuth isn’t complete without a world famous chicken dinner, either from Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth or the Bavarian Inn Restaurant, but there are many dining options for those looking for something new.
Visit Honey B’s Eatery for a farm-to-table experience with vegetarian and vegan options available. It’s a standout spot for breakfast and locals love it.
Consider La Crepe du Jour for German and French cuisine combined, with bratwurst crepes and classic favorites like nutella and banana. If a member of the family isn’t interested in French confections, the restaurant is conveniently located in the Frankenmuth River Place Shops. The outdoor mall has tons of food and shopping available, so it’s a great choice if the family is made up of picky eaters.
On the ride back to southeast Michigan, once the family has had its fill of chicken dinners and hot chocolate, stop by the Legoland Discovery Center. For the holidays, MINILAND Detroit has been transformed into a Christmas wonderland, with Lego Santa and a sleigh, too. It’s the perfect ending to a holiday road trip.
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