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.
The area’s 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.
Cruising the Cass
Launch a kayak or canoe for a trip down the Cass River, close to town. 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 an old-timey sample of Bavarian charms from the water, step aboard the Bavarian Belle Riverboat. The authentic stern-driven paddlewheeler operates one-hour historical tours on the bucolic waterway.
Paddle sports are big along the Cass River. A universally accessible floating canoe/kayak launch is provided in Heritage Park, giving paddlers of all abilities easy access to enjoy the river upstream of the dam in Frankenmuth. Canoes & kayaks can also be launched at the Memorial Park Boat Launch on Tuscola Street.
For families with young children, Grandpa Tiny’s Farm offers a wholesome array of interactive, hands-on farm activities and experiences. Guided tours relate the century-old farm’s traditional heritage and overtures to modernity. Visit a one-room schoolhouse and the farm’s petting zoo, where children coo over chicks, pet fluffy bunnies and lambs, and feed goats. Visitors can take a narrated wagon ride around the farm, get lost in the maze, pick lavender (in season) and watch a demonstration of a draft horse plowing a field.
Nature on Tap
Feeling wild? Head south to the town of Davison and book a tour with Johnny Panther Quests Ecotours. 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 adventures on dry land, 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.
Frankenmuth’s Festive Side
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. When the town puts on its annual Frankenmuth 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.
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