I wrote about Frankenmuth eight years ago as a sort of “Christmas Present” event, where Alan and I enjoyed the Christmasy ambience of this historic German community, complete with an afternoon of shopping at Bronner’s, the world’s largest Christmas store, which houses over 50,000 gifts in an area nearly the size of two football field.
I’m sure I’ll write about Frankenmuth again as a “Christmas Future” event, because Frankenmuth now sports two waterpark hotels where several of my children and their children love splashing around for a weekend on adrenaline-pumping rides like the Super Loop Speed Slide or the Tantrum Twist Raft Ride (or . . . the warm kiddy pools). 🙂
Today, however, I want to write about my “Christmas Past,” outing last week with the Birthday Club, where we concentrated more on the historical aspects of this charming village, which has even more to offer than great food, shops, and joy rides.
Just a few historical “fun facts” for would-be tourists! There are absolutely NO parking meters anywhere in town, so parking (where available) is totally free! How’s that for German hospitality? Also, the oldest neon sign in Michigan stands in front of Zehnders (which is also probably the oldest, most famous restaurant in Michigan).
Frankenmuth is also home to Michigan’s oldest continuously operating woolen mill.
This was the first stop on our list of tours, although faaaaar from the last!
The Frankenmuth Woolen Mill has been in operation for 125 years.
Anyone can still have their own sheep’s wool cleaned, carded, and batted!
Even though it’s a working mill, they have windows where you can observe some of the processes when they work.
Also, if you call ahead, they will arrange personal tours for groups of ten or more.
However, if you don’t have ten in your party or don’t come at the right time, there is a constantly running, short but very informative video that explains the process, and the clerks are hospitable and willing to answer questions.
As you might imagine, the store is full of wonderfully pleasant woolen products . . .
and other fun stuff, sure to make you smile! (Susan made us pose for this one! 🙂 )
There is also a historical museum, although it was closed the day we were there.
All the shops were open, though, including this fabulous old fashioned market that seemed straight out of my childhood, complete with a big pickle barrel. Huge dill pickles are sold for $.49 or a whole gallon for only $7.00!
For those of you who long for a day to experience the past in all it’s present glory, Frankenmuth is hard to beat!
Another fantastic shop is the Cheese Haus, which brought back memories of Alan and my visit to Edam in the Netherlands a couple of years ago . . . a wonderful store full of amazing cheeses, many of which can be sampled on the spot! (Tourist alert: Come hungry to Frankenmuth and pace yourself!!)
Of course, the culinary highlight of the day was experiencing one of the city’s historically tastabulous chicken dinners. Frankenmuth has two restaurants that were begun over 160 years ago by two German brothers. They have identical menus.
The first and most famous is Zehnders, which was just announced as one of 6 recipients of 2020 James Beard Foundation America’s Classics Award. Zehnders seats 1,500 in their ten dining rooms. It was one of 10 largest restaurants in America in the 1980’s, and I believe it still has the largest seating capacity of any restaurant in Michigan, serving about a million chicken dinners annually.
However, in honor of Susan (who has German roots) and me (who has a German daughter-in-law), Cindi opted to eat at the brother restaurant right across the street, where everything is just as wonderful, albeit with Bavarian ambience rather than Zehnder’s colonial American decor.
Needless to say, we were totally charmed and completely pleased by our dining experience at the Bavarian Inn!
If you go to Frankenmuth, be sure to walk around to the side of the Bavarian Inn in time to see the wonderful glockenspiel and hear the 10-minute performance about the Pied Piper.
Although it’s done in a rather cheerful manner, the moral of the story is somber and clear:
Pay those to whom payment is due, be fair, and don’t lie, or you will be very sorry in the end!
Well, like so many travel posts, this one is way too long already, but I want to encourage you to save time for one more historical site if you visit Frankenmuth.
This utterly charming community was begun by fifteen German Lutherans who had a heart to share the gospel with the Chippewa Indians in this area (back in 1845).
Across the street from the present day church, there is a replica of the original church.
Except during services, visitors are welcome to ring two ancient “church bells in the forest!”
There is also a fascinating cemetery filled with gravestones and expressions of faith.
This historic church is alive and well today, open to the public and sharing the Gospel!
To Susan, Cindi, and me, it was the crowning touch to a completely warm and wonderful day!