The community of Frankenmuth – located just minutes east off I-75 between Flint and Saginaw – is Michigan’s #1 visitor attraction, drawing over 3 million visitors annually. This quaint Bavarian Village offers over 100 different shops and attractions, over 25 different tours and things to do, and year-round activities that delight all ages.
Frankenmuth also provides visitors with a rich history and ethnic experience.
The history of Frankenmuth can be traced back to Pastor Johann Konrad Wilhelm Loehe from the village of Neuendettelsau in the Kingdom of Bavaria, Germany. In response to a plea for help from the missionary leader Lorenz Loesel, Pastor Loehe assembled in 1845 a little congregation of 15 settlers to come to Michigan and establish a mission.
Their goal was to teach Christianity to the Chippewa Indians. From these humble beginnings the community of Frankenmuth developed. More German settlers came and joined the original congregation, bringing with them their skills and trades of Bavaria.
Woodcarvers, sausage makers, wool processors, millers, brewers, and other trades were among those skills brought over with the immigrants and can still be found in Frankenmuth today. The rich ethnic foundation on which Frankenmuth was established is reflected throughout the entire community. Onion Towers, Bavarian flower boxes, the Glockenspiel Tower, and bellcots decorate the buildings to provide visitors with the feeling of being in Bavaria.
Frankenmuth is now a world famous destination for travelers. People come from every state and over 30 countries to enjoy the attractions and activities that Frankenmuth has to offer.
Warm hospitality and cleanliness are also trademarks of the charming Old World community. As you walk along Main Street you’ll imagine you’ve stepped into the Black Forest area of Europe. Freshly groomed flower beds and lush green trees line the streets of downtown, providing a European marketplace atmosphere.
During your visit you can enjoy the re-enactment of the “Pied Piper of Hamlen” (German: ‘Der Rattenfänger von Hameln’) story as depicted in the wooden figurines of the 50 foot Glockenspiel Tower, or take a stroll across the Holzbrücke (Frankenmuth’s wooden covered bridge; largest built in Michigan). You may also watch local candy makers, woodcarvers, sausage makers, leather toolers, and wool processors practicing their trades.
January 3, 1854: residents organized as a Township
January 14, 1904: foundation of the Village of Frankenmuth
October 1, 1959: Frankenmuth obtained city status
Franken depicts the province from which the settlers came and Muth means courage in German. The name Frankenmuth means “Courage of the Franconians.”
Frankenmuth Famous Places
The well-known “Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland” is located in Frankenmuth. Bronner’s features a 8,500 square meters (2.1 acre) showroom with over 50,000 trims and gifts for all seasons, reasons and budgets. This fascinating year-round attraction is for all ages to enjoy. Thousand of shimmering lights and sparkling ornaments, hundreds of animated figures and a world wide selection of trims and gifts are delightfully displayed.
The Bavarian Village of Frankenmuth is also home of the Bavarian Inn and Zehnder’s Restaurants. Zehnder’s is the older of the two restaurants and is easily recognizable by its Mt. Vernon style and expansive front porch. Inside, comfortable dining is set amid an Early American decor. Three generations of Zehnder’s work to retain the restaurant’s status among the eighth largest in the nation. It also houses Michigan’s number one retail bakery. At the Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn Restaurant across the street, the atmosphere is truly German. Costumed waiters and waitresses in lederhosen and dirndls serve chicken along with a selection of German entrees. Located in the lower level of the Bavarian Inn are the Castle Shops: The Royal Gift Shop, The Bear, Doll and Toy Shop, The Castle Bakery, The Chocolate Shop, Souvenirs & Cheers, The Wine & Beer Cellar, The Nutcracker Sweet Candy Corner, The King’s Snack Bar, and The Dragon’s Den & Game Room.
Zehnder’s features traditional American cuisine, including world famous chicken dinners. For lighter dining or just a coffee break, stop in at the lower level Z Chef’s Cafe. And no visit would be complete without surrendering to the goodies in Zehnder’s world class bakery. Take a tour and watch them baking. Also in the lower level, the Gift Shop offers unique imports, fine glassware, and other gift ideas.
Frankenmuth Annual Events
To show that “No Town Wears Winter Like Frankenmuth,” warm-hearted Frankenmuth residents and over 150,000 visitors enjoy Zehnder’s Snowfest. International snow sculptors and ice carving teams compete for cash prizes and the opportunity to advance in their areas of expertise. Visitors come for weeks after the event to enjoy the beauty of this fragile artwork.
In May, all eyes look skyward as the annual Skyfest takes flight. Hundreds of colorful kites in all sizes and shapes are flown during a day of fun and competition.
Also in May is Frankenmuth’s newest event, The World Expo of Beer (WEB). The WEB features more than 150 beers for sampling from breweries around the world as well as a variety of famous Frankenmuth food specialties. Over 2,000 beer lovers “tap” into the World Expo of Beer.
The annual Frankenmuth Bavarian Festival is held in June. This city-wide celebration of German heritage includes ethnic foods and entertainment, parades, arts and crafts, music, dancing, and traditional events. The Frankenmuth Bavarian Festival has been recognized as a “Top 100 events in North America” by the American Bus Association. Hundreds of local volunteers run the festival under the leadership of a Civic Events Council. Proceeds are invested in future festivals or to fund community service projects.
The bang in Frankenmuth’s annual Fourth of July celebration is more than a display of fireworks. It’s the sound of the starting gun for the Volksläufe or “People’s Race” which attracts more than 2,000 runners. The Volksläufe sponsored by the Frankenmuth Jaycees is ranked by runners as one of the most scenic in Michigan. All events including the fireworks, spaghetti feast, music and activities take place on July 4 each year.
The Summer Music Fest is held in August each year and features all styles of musical entertainment. Bands from throughout the United States will perform polkas, big band sounds, music from the 50’s, 60’s & 70’s, and country music. This festival also features a variety of ethnic food booths, free polka dance lessons, and two 60’ by 80’ wooden dance floors for visitors to enjoy.
September is the month for festivals in Frankenmuth, beginning with the Frankenmuth AutoFest. Over 1,800 cars are on display in Heritage Park. This tranquil setting allows for a classic and muscle car display against a scenic background. The Frankenmuth Oldies Festival, held in conjunction with the AutoFest, is an opportunity to hear music from the 50’s, 60’s, & 70’s.
And of course, what German town would be complete without an Oktoberfest! The Frankenmuth Oktoberfest is a four day traditional German festival in September featuring ethnic music, authentic beer imported from Munich, and famous Frankenmuth food. The Oktoberfest has been recognized as a “Top 100 Event in North America” by the American Bus Association and is located next to the Cass River in downtown Frankenmuth.
Christmas time in Frankenmuth is officially kicked off the day after Thanksgiving with the Holiday Celebration & Candlewalk organized by the Frankenmuth Chamber of Commerce and Convention & Visitors Bureau. This grand celebration takes place in the entire city and includes such activities as: the official lighting of the Zehnder Park, Christmas concerts by local choirs, a visit from Santa, free refreshments, a Christmas walk through Frankenmuth’s unique shopping area, and many other activities.