After attending the LPGA Tournament in Michigan, Ella and I took the opportunity to have a mini-vacation in Frankenmuth, Michigan. Today, I’m sharing everything you need to know about the cutest little town in Michigan!
Things to do in Frankenmuth with Kids
Frankenmuth, Michigan is known for it’s obsession with Christmas, multi-course chicken dinners, and family-friendly accommodations.
Most of the downtown core has Bavarian-inspired architecture, lending the city a fairytale charm that complements the city’s warm hospitality.
Located about an hour and a half’s drive from Detroit (or 4 hours from Toronto), it’s a great spot for a quick family get-away – you only need a weekend to explore the best of what the town has to offer.
For us, the highlights were the waterpark at our hotel, that famous chicken dinner, exploring the charming downtown area’s stores and pop-up events, and Christmas shopping at Bronner’s.
Where to Stay: Bavarian Inn Frankenmuth or Zehnder’s Splash Village
The most popular family hotels in Frankenmuth are the Bavarian Inn Lodge and Zehnder’s Splash Village. Both hotels have waterparks, arcades, and other activities to keep the kids happy on property.
We stayed at the Bavarian Inn Lodge, which had super cute theming, indoor mini golf, a 7-acre waterpark, an indoor play space for younger kids, and fun activities like pretzel-making on site. As a parent, I really appreciated the mini fridge that came standard in each room and I loved having my morning coffee on the balcony overlooking the serene view.
You can walk from the Lodge to the town’s downtown core in about 5 minutes and the grounds were gorgeous and featured many walking trails.
There were several shops on sight – including a doll store, chocolate store and wine and beer shop – as well as four restaurants, including a cafeteria-style option that was great for grabbing a couple breakfast essentials.
My one concern about this hotel was the amount of chlorine used in the pool area. This could have been an overzealous lifeguard but even sitting outside of the pool to watch the kids, my eyes were stinging from the amount of chlorine. Using the hot tub was also unpleasant with the strong fumes, and since the waterpark was the main reason for staying at the hotel, it’s worth mentioning.
If camping or cottages are more your vacation style, Frankenmuth is home to a Jellystone Park featuring campsites, RV hook-ups, and full-service cottages.
Jellystone Park is part of a larger franchise with 79 locations in North America that prides itself on it’s family-friendly atmosphere. The park has daily activities, an indoor pool and hot tub, outdoor pool, mini-golf, basketball court, gameroom, and wagon rides.
The park is close to Bronner’s Christmas village and the downtown core, so you can quickly and easily pop out to experience the other highlights of the town.
Arguably the most famous store in town, Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland is a must for any crazy Christmas fans like myself!
The store is open 361 days a year and features showroom upon showroom of every Christmas goodie you could hope to find, from customized ornaments and stockings, unique Christmas gifts, and just about any theme you could imagine made into a Christmas decorations. (Plus decorations for other holidays.) My favorite sections were the foodie-inspired Christmas ornaments and the travel-inspired ornaments, while Ella went crazy for all of the nutcrackers!
Plan to spend a decent amount of time exploring the store – you definitely need a couple hours if you want to try to see it all. While there are options for every budget, if you want to get more than a couple special ornaments, things get pricey quick.
Frankenmuth Chicken Dinner
When I let people know I was planning a weekend trip to Frankenmuth, the two recommendations I kept getting were: check out the Christmas store, and have that famous chicken dinner.
You can get it at Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth and the Bavarian Inn Restaurant. We chose to dine at Zehnder’s and then stroll around the downtown core afterward. At the time of this writing, the meal costs $25 for adults and $12 for kids. (There were coupons available when we visited for one free children’s meal per each adult, but those don’t appear to be available anymore.)
It’s so much more than a chicken dinner: it’s an absolute feast! Featuring fried chicken, smoked meats, buttered noodles, chicken soup, gravy, several salads, veggies, mashed potatoes, homemade bread, stuffing, sausages, fried potato pancakes, and ice cream for dessert. The meal is served family-style, with large platters brought out to your table for everyone to serve themselves from. PLUS, it’s all you can eat, so you can request seconds of any of the dishes.
The restaurant was very charming with the Bavarian theming throughout, and there was an accordion player entertaining guests (even at lunch time).
I’m an absolute foodie and while I didn’t love everything on the menu, the chicken and several of the side dishes were delicious and I felt the cost of the meal was more than worth it. The German wine tasting that we added to our meal was delicious and fun. We dined with two picky eaters and even they found several things they liked in the spread.
Frankenmuth Cheese Haus
There are so many cute shops in the downtown core, but it’s hard not to be drawn to the giant cheese statue in front of the Frankenmuth Cheese Haus!
My daughter loooooves cheese and there were so many delicious options available for tasting and purchasing, including cheese spreads, chocolate cheese, housemade cheese strings, etc. There was also a lot of unique specialty food perfect for foodie families or a unique gift.
We had a long drive home, so we purchased snacks for the ride from here, but it would also be great to pick up picnic essentials and enjoy your spread surrounded by the charm of the city.
Frankenmuth River Place Shops
This cute shopping area has plenty of options for kids and also hosts many festivals and events and offers river boat rides. There is also a day spa, Sugarhigh Bakery (winner of Cupcake Wars), and lots of food.
Frankenmuth is home to several festivals and events throughout the year, including the Frankenmuth Dog Bowl and Frankenmuth SnowFest.
With the downtown core being so close to the Bavarian Inn Lodge (and being pretty small compared to big cities), I loved not having to deal with finding a parking spot or drag the kids for a long walk to get to the fun. We were there on a non-festival weekend and there was still an open concert and a big artisan fair happening.