Get a taste of Germany in America’s Midwest. Located in the heart of the Wolverine State, Frankenmuth celebrates its ties to the old country in a big way; in fact, the town’s nickname is Michigan’s Little Bavaria. Looking for great Oktoberfest celebrations? You’ve come to the right place, but don’t limit yourself to the fall Teutonic celebration. Every season gives you a reason to visit Frankenmuth.
In the Palm of the Mitt
Frankenmuth is located a few miles east of Interstate 75, the north-south travel artery that connects Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in the north and Ann Arbor in the south. Frankenmuth is just 22 minutes south of Saginaw on State Route 83.
Rolling on the Cass
If you’re an outdoors type, you’ll want to bring your kayak (or rent one) and take a trip down the tranquil Cass River. You might even be able to paddle under the Holz Brucke (German for “wooden bridge”) Covered Bridge, the longest covered bridge in Michigan and a prime example of Bavarian craftsmanship and design. For a mellower ride, step aboard the Bavarian Belle Riverboat. The authentic stern-driven paddle wheel operates one-hour historical tours.
Nature on Tap
Feeling wild? Head south to the town of Davison and book a tour with Johnny Panther Quests Adventure Trips. Exciting boat tours take riders through Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge and State Game Area, considered the Everglades of Michigan and the state’s largest wildlife and bald eagle habitat. For dryland adventures, you can always play a round of golf at the Fortress Golf Course or ride through town in a horse-drawn carriage. If you prefer adventures off the ground, you can soar through the trees on a zip line at the Frankenmuth Aerial Park.
Those German roots are apparent just about everywhere you look in Frankenmuth. Shop for European goods in the Bavarian Inn Castle, learn how to roll an authentic Bavarian pretzel at a local bakery and sample hops from the many breweries in town. The Frankenmuth Brewery is a great place to start; it opened in 1862, making it the oldest brewery in Michigan, and it continues serving tall steins of golden goodness. You can view the town from a pedal-powered trolley or take a walking tour to see the sights.
Gnome Hunting and Glockenspiels
Looking for mythical creatures? You can hunt for gnomes and their huts all over town. Start at the Frankenmuth Visitors Center to find the locations of statues of these impish creatures. If you prefer music, simply keep your ears open. At noon, 3 p.m., 6 p.m. and 9 p.m., make your way over to the Bavarian Inn Castle and watch the glockenspiel play several selections on the 35-bell carillon, and then see the figurines dance as the clock chimes the hour.
Discover year-round fun in Frankenmuth. The good times begin around Easter with the Bavarian Easter Celebration. The town comes alive as just about everything is decorated with bright pinks, purples and yellows, along with unique colorful egg displays. May brings the annual World Expo of Beer, and later in the month, the skies light up with color as the Balloons over Bavarian Inn festival takes place. The Frankenmuth Bavarian Festival is always the second week of June, and the town’s Fourth of July celebration includes a parade with floats, marching bands and parade participants dressed in historical costumes. Fans of classic emergency vehicles should attend the Antique Fire Muster at the end of July. This family-friendly event brings out some of the best and oldest vintage fire engines in Michigan.
Beer and Beautiful Decorations
When Frankenmuth puts on its annual Oktoberfest, the city isn’t playing around. This is the only Oktoberfest outside of Germany to be sanctioned by the Bavarian Parliament and City of Munich. Grab a stein, lock arms with fellow revelers and enjoy the festive mood. Christmas is equally dazzling, as shoppers from around the globe go to one place: Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, the world’s largest Christmas store. What began as a mission by beloved founder Wally Bronner to “decorate hearts with peace and love” has expanded to become a Christmas emporium the size of six football fields, illuminated by 100,000 lights.
Rolling on the Cass
Do you like wine and boat rides? How about chocolate? If you said yes to all three, then you’re going to love the Frankenmuth FunShips Tasting and Tours. Cruise down the beautiful Cass River and sample five Michigan wines paired with five handmade chocolates. Back on shore, the tour provider has its own tasting room for more flavors.
For More Information
Michigan Economic Development Corporation