Frankenmuth

Overview

Introduction

If you spend any time at all on Michigan freeways, you're bound to see a billboard for one of the establishments in Frankenmuth. What the city offers (aside from a good PR campaign) is German food, Bavarian architecture and gift shops. And these attractions bring in visitors by the millions, especially in the summer.

The town's German heritage is traced to a group of Bavarian immigrants who came to Michigan's "thumb" during the 1800s as missionaries. Though farming remains an important part of the area economy, the German-style travel attractions have been the town's claim to fame since the 1950s.

One of Frankenmuth's landmarks is the 35-bell carillon on the Bavarian Inn Restaurant. It plays songs at set times, accompanied by moving wooden figures that depict the story of the "Pied Piper of Hamelin." The town is also home to Bronner's Christmas Wonderland, said to be the largest Christmas decoration store in the world (open 361 days a year), and School Haus Square, a circa-1928 school building that now houses shops. But most people go to Frankenmuth for the huge family-style chicken dinners at the restaurants. The proof of their quality are the long lines of people waiting to be seated (expect to spend at least an hour in line if you visit on the weekend). You may think that no dinner could be worth such trouble, but once you sit down to one of these delicious, gut-busting feasts—served by a waitstaff in jaunty German outfits—you'll be a believer.

While in town, take a ride down the Cass River (which flows through downtown) on a paddle-wheel riverboat operated by Frankenmuth Riverboat Tours, or visit the St. Julian Winery and taste some of its wares. Among the notable events on Frankenmuth's calendar are the Frankenmuth Bavarian Festival (German cultural celebration—June) and Oktoberfest (beer and polka bands—September). Frankenmuth is located 80 mi/130 km northwest of Detroit.

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