The small City of Frankenmuth in Mid-Michigan is synonymous with the holidays. Thousands of people gather in this Little Bavaria to enjoy holiday shopping, food, events, and more. And, Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland is one of the most popular places to explore.
Touted as the biggest Christmas store in the world, the magic of the holidays comes to life with decorations, gifts, sweet treats, Santa, and the list goes on. Visiting is the perfect way to get into the Christmas spirit.
We’ve put together a guide with everything that you need to know to plan a day trip to Bronner’s. From breakfast, lunch, and dinner to shopping and other holiday activities, it’s easy to create an itinerary for a Frankenmuth holiday getaway.
About Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland
With a showroom as big as 1.7 football fields, Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland has everything imaginable for a jolly holiday season across more than 5 acres of store space. It’s a literal dream for Christmas fanatics with more than 50,000 collectibles, gifts, lights, ornaments, stockings, trees, trims, wreaths, and more.
The store has been a staple in Frankenmuth Michigan for more than 70 years and welcomes more than 2 million annual visitors. However, it isn’t only open at Christmastime. Bronner’s is open 361 days of the year, allowing you to enjoy holiday cheer all year around.
History of Bronner’s
With humble beginnings in 1945, Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland grew quickly to be the “World’s Largest Christmas Store.”
Founder Wally Bronner built his skills in customer service while working as a grocery store clerk from age 12. At 16 years old, he started a sign-painting business from home and worked after school. Then, he marked his graduation year with the start of his business career.
Getting Into the Christmas Market
In 1951, Wally married Irene Ruth Pretzer, his sweetheart and soulmate. Then, he got started in the Christmas decoration business after meeting merchants from Clare Michigan who were searching for city lamp post decor. At the time, he was designing window displays at a nearby hardware store and created custom panels for the merchants.
Expanding, Consolidating, & Expanding Again
Together, Wally and Irene built their first permanent building in Frankenmuth in 1954, much of which was completed by Herman Bronner, his father and a skilled contractor. Through most of the 1960s, the business expanded with an add-on to the original building and the purchase of other shop buildings.
In 1977, all three stores were moved into one building just south of town. That building was nearly doubled in size during a 1991 addition. Then, a Shipping Department was added to the building in 2000, making the building equivalent to 5.5 football fields in size.
One project close to Wally’s heart, though, was the construction of the Silent Night Chapel in 1992. The idea for the chapel was born when he visited Austria in 1976, and he got permission to build the replica on the store property.
Passing the Torch & Continuing the Legacy
In 1998, Wally and Irene passed the leadership roles at Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland to the second generation. However, they continued to be permanent fixtures at the store and served on the board.
Then in 2008, Wally passed away after a brief illness. He brought joy to everyone with colorful jokes and a warm smile for decades. Irene passed away in 2022. Their family proudly continues the legacy of sharing CHRISTmas with visitors every day.
Now that you know more about Bronner’s history, here are some day trip itinerary ideas for your visit…
Restaurants in Frankenmuth for Breakfast
You’re going to need fuel for a day of browsing the displays of ornaments, Christmas trees, and all of the trimmings at Bronner’s. Here are a few of our favorite Frankenmuth breakfast stops…
Honey B’s Eatery
With a diverse menu, Honey B’s Eatery is passionate about food and makes everything from scratch. You can get egg plates and Benedicts, pancakes and French toast, biscuits and gravy, and more depending on the season. Creative gluten, vegetarian, and vegan dishes are available as well.
La Crepe du Jour
Whether you’re in the mood for savory or sweet crepes in the morning, you’ll love La Crepe du Jour. From Bavarian and Mediterranean to Nutella and brown sugar and cinnamon, there’s something for everyone on the menu.
Plus, you can order creative crepes, such as cheesecake or peanut butter and jelly. There are even gluten-free and vegan options.
La Crepe du Jour serves lunch and dinner too!
Frankenmuth Kaffee Haus
In a modern atmosphere, the Kaffee Haus is a social gathering place where you can get a range of coffee, espresso drinks, and iced drinks. You’ll see the menu on a one-of-a-kind chalkboard when you enter. The shop also makes hot and cold sandwiches, roll-ups, and salads.
Tonys I-75 Restaurant
Located in Birch Run Michigan — only about a 10-minute drive from Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland — Tonys I-75 Restaurant has an excellent breakfast menu. You can order traditional plates of eggs, meat, toast, and more, as well as omelets, pancakes, and French toast. And, don’t forget a cinnamon roll!
Lunch and dinner are served at Tonys I-75 Restaurant as well.
Shopping & More at Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland
After you’ve fueled up, it’s time to shop! So head to 25 Christmas Lane and get ready for an adventure…
The Christmas Shop Experience
You won’t fully understand how big the shopping area is at Bronner’s until you visit. The first time you visit 25 Christmas Lane could even be overwhelming. And, like going to an amusement park, you’ll need a decent amount of stamina and about five hours to walk the whole store.
“The first time I visited, I got separated from the large party I came with and had to count my way back through each section until I found them in lighting. Over the years, I’ve become much better at navigating the store thanks to the handy maps they give out at every entrance, which neatly categorizes each section to ensure you get to see your favorite gifts.” — Jennifer Polasek
The first thing you’ll notice is that everything is decorated in some capacity with unique figures and lighting that you won’t find anywhere else. There are more than 300 decorated Christmas trees and more than 700 animated figures. At night, the outdoor displays illuminate with more than 100,000 lights!
The more than 50,000 gifts and trims that you’ll find inside Bronner’s come from more than 50 countries around the world. It’s easy to fill up your cart, too, because about half of the gifts are $10 or less and two-thirds of everything else is $20 or less.
On top of that, Bronner’s carries more than 6,000 styles of ornaments. Half of the glass ornaments are exclusive designs for the store. Also, you can get free penned ornament personalizations while you shop.
During the Christmas season, Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland holds holiday-themed events. After Thanksgiving, Santa Claus is regularly available for children to meet in person before Christmas.
All year, kids can mail their Christmas wish lists and talk to him on an exclusive phone too.
The main event, though, is St. Nicholas to Santa Claus, a half-hour performance that tells the story of how St. Nicholas became Santa Claus. This Bronner’s tradition occurs the weekend after Thanksgiving, and the audience gets to participate.
Bronner’s has ornament signing events as well.
If you want a snack while you’re shopping at Bronner’s, you can stop by the Season’s Eatings refreshment area. You can get pizza, bratwurst, sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, and many other items, including baked goods and desserts. There’s hot chocolate, coffee, and pop too.
Various seasonal items are available during Christmastime.
Silent Night Chapel
Open daily during store hours, the Silent Night Chapel welcomes you from the south entrance to Frankenmuth Michigan. It’s a replica of the Stille Nacht Kapelle in Oberndorf Austria, which Wally Bronner stumbled upon during a European trip. The original chapel stands where “Silent Night” was sung for the first time in 1818 on Christmas Eve.
Wally was inspired to build the 56-foot-tall replica in thanks to God for all the blessings He had bestowed upon him over the years. Wally even got permission to build it from Oberndorf city officials, and Austrian friends and dignitaries participated in its dedication on Nov. 20, 1992.
Frankenmuth Eateries for Lunch
Even if you stop by the Season’s Eatings for a snack, you’ll likely be ready to sit and rest over a delicious meal by early to mid-afternoon. Here are a few of our favorite lunchtime eateries in Frankenmuth…
Cass River Bar & Grill
After an exciting morning filled with Christmas cheer and shopping, grab some lunch at the Cass River Bar & Grill. The restaurant is located within Frankenmuth River Place Shops, so you can easily do more shopping afterward — if you’re up to it.
The Cass River menu features chicken tenders, burgers, pizza, bratwursts, street tacos, and more. Plus, you can enjoy German beers and entertainment on big-screen TVs.
Poblano’s Mexican Grill & Cantina
For the best Mexican food in the area, head to Poblano’s Mexican Grill & Cantina. This eatery serves authentic cuisine in a festive, warm environment.
Some menu favorites include spicy shrimp tacos, sombrero nachos, fajita quesadillas, and fried ice cream for dessert. Additionally, there’s a good selection of margaritas, tequilas, and American and Mexican beers to drink from the bar.
For some true Upper Peninsula flavor, get a pasty at Pasty Haus, which is owned by the same family who owns SugarHigh Bakery, a season seven “Cupcake Wars” winner on The Food Network Channel.
As for the pasties, though, you can expect traditional beef and chicken baked goodness, as well as creative twists on pasty flavors. In addition, the restaurant serves bubble tea and snow ice.
Other Holiday Things to Do & See in Frankenmuth
If your visit to Bronner’s is complete, don’t feel the need to leave town yet! There are lots of other great things to do in Frankenmuth, especially if you visit during the holiday season.
Explore the Riverwalk & Heritage Park
The most well-known park in Frankenmuth Michigan, Heritage Park is a great place to visit if you’ve been shopping with kids. They can go wild on the playgrounds, and you can all walk the Riverwalk together. The pathway encircles the park, and much of it runs alongside the Cass River.
Skate the Frankenmuth Ice Rink
New to the Frankenmuth Christmas Experience, there’s an ice rink in Zehnder Park. It has its own chiller, so you can ice skate all season no matter what the weather does.
Grandpa Tiny’s Farm
A very short drive from Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland, Grandpa Tiny’s Farm offers even more holiday magic. This historical working farm is home to two reindeer — Blue and Sivia. You can visit with the reindeer and tour the historical buildings and structures.
Grandpa Tiny’s Farm is open throughout the year with seasonal farm fun days.
Frankenmuth Farmers Market
During Christmastime, the Frankenmuth Farmers Market turns into a traditional German ChristKindlMarkt. On select weekends between Thanksgiving and the end of December, you can find the best locally crafted gifts and knickknacks, baked goods, and more.
Walk Downtown Frankenmuth at Christmastime
Frankenmuth is the ultimate holiday destination, and walking along Main Street after dusk is a truly magical experience. The architecture alone is stunning, and all of the shops are decorated with holiday displays.
Also, more than 150 trees are wrapped in Christmas lights, and there are numerous character displays. On top of that, you don’t want to miss the spectacular 40-foot tree at the center of town. It glows with 23,000 lights that are synchronized to a seven-minute music show.
You can get a light tour map and guide at the Visitor Center to get the most out of your downtown walk.
Dinner Restaurants in Frankenmuth
Bavarian Inn Restaurant
One of the most popular places in Frankenmuth to get a home-cooked meal, the Bavarian Inn Restaurant has been serving guests since 1888. Its all-you-can-eat, family-style chicken dinners are famous around the world.
The menu also features authentic German dishes, such as sauerbraten and schnitzel. And, you can order plate dinners, German beers, bourbon, wine, and specialty drinks.
Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth
Another popular dinner restaurant, Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth has been serving traditional recipes for more than 160 years. Along with all-you-can-eat, family-style chicken dinners, you can order steaks, schnitzels, sausages, seafood, and vegetarian dishes. The restaurant has German beers, wine, and cocktails too.
Michigan on Main
Using Michigan-grown and made ingredients, Michigan on Main is a celebration of the state’s agricultural diversity. All of the entrees, sandwiches, and other dishes are made to order. And, the restaurant has the most extensive selection of German and Michigan beers in the state.
The historical Frankenmuth Brewery was founded in 1862 and is the oldest microbrewery in Michigan. There are always at least 15 beers on tap — six core brews and nine beers on rotation. All of its 36 beer styles are brewed on site.
The beers pair well with the brewery’s food menu — burgers, sandwiches, bratwurst, pizza, chicken, fish and chips, beef tips, salmon, and more. The restaurant has a kid’s menu as well.
Frankenmuth Hotels & B&Bs
While you can definitely make Frankenmuth and Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland a day trip destination any time of the year, you don’t have to leave when it gets dark. There are several great places to stay in town to extend your visit to this Michigan Christmas town!
Bavarian Inn Lodge
In downtown Frankenmuth, the Bavarian Inn Lodge offers exceptional, European-themed accommodations. Some of the guest rooms and suites feature whirlpool tubs, and the hotel has a gourmet coffee bar. One of the biggest attractions here, though, is the indoor water park.
Zehnder’s Splash Village
With a name like Zehnder’s Splash Village, it’s no surprise that it has an indoor water park. There’s also a 2,000-square-foot arcade with more than 40 games for more entertainment. A very short drive from Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland, you can expect rooms with luxurious bedding for a good night of sleep.
Marv Herzog Hotel
Located on Main Street next to the Cass River, the Marv Herzog Hotel is the ideal home away from home. The rooms feature European decor and designs that remind you of an alpine lodge.
You’ll find framed albums, pictures, and memorabilia of Marv Herzog throughout this boutique hotel. He was a Frankenmuth Michigan native and a great ambassador of the town.
Frankenmuth Country Bed & Breakfast
For an even more homey sleeping environment, the Frankenmuth Country Bed & Breakfast is located about a 5-minute drive north of downtown. Each of the three guest rooms in the farmhouse has a pastoral view, and the inn serves a farm-fresh breakfast daily.
Start Planning Your Day Trip to Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland
With so much Christmas cheer in Frankenmuth Michigan, it’s easy to see why millions of people visit every year. Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland — although massive in size — is only one small part of the holiday experience here. We recommend that you start planning your Christmas getaway now!
Are you looking for more places to get holiday decor and gifts? Check out some of the best holiday shopping in the Great Lakes Bay region. There are plenty of Christmas attractions and events in the region too.