Frankenmuth, a small village in the middle of “The Mitten,” and the holiday season go hand-in-hand. Many people take in the Christmas-themed town during the colder months and holiday season by hunkering down in its various shops, eating establishments, and at the infamous Bronner’s. Predominantly, these are indoor activities. I wanted to do the opposite, though, on a recent visit and experience Frankenmuth outdoors.
I made it a point to take in Michigan’s Little Bavaria outside both during the day as well as at night, and I found the town to give off a completely different, yet similar, festive vibe no matter the color of the sky.
Walking in the Heart of Downtown
Walking along Main Street in the heart of town between the Frankenmuth Brewery and River Place Shops, I experienced the holiday displays in and around each storefront. The colors and architecture of each building also brought feelings of joy. Zak & Mac’s Chocolate House was my personal favorite. Note: Being a Bavarian (German-styled) Village, you’ll notice every other store seems to end with the word Haus.
The facades of the two popular, all-you-can-eat chicken restaurants in town were a special focus. I hung around the outside of The Bavarian Inn Restaurant and Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth to capture the decorative buildings and masses of people.
It was magical to see the holiday tree lit up at night at the Visitor Center, as well as to experience the Peace on Earth display while headed down to the Cass River behind the Lager Mill Beer Store. In front of the beer store, are romantic holiday carriage ride opportunities. I took one a few years back and would recommend it.
Tip: To warm up take the kids on an inside Gnome Hunt and/or secure some delicious specialty coffee drinks at The Harvest Coffeehouse.
Shopping in the Frankenmuth Outdoors
I made my way to Christkindlmarkt and some Frankenmuth outdoors shopping while on Main Street. I soaked in the smell of fresh evergreens, garland, and wreathes as I walked into the tents of a shopping experience truly representing a traditional outdoor European Christmas Market. Baked goods, Christmas gifts and decorations, live entertainment, free samples and more can be found within. The market runs on the weekends at the beginning of the holiday season. I purchased some locally roasted coffee beans. Each day brings different selections, so visit more than once!
A more traditional outdoor shopping (mall) experience exists at the River Place Shops. As I crossed into the mall at night on the holiday light bridge over the Cass River, I was surprised that I immediately felt like I was roaming a small German village. I encourage you to walk along the heated sidewalks into 40 specialty shops and attractions. The mall has its very own holiday tree and light displays.
The Covered Wooden Bridge
Outside of shopping, many people head to Frankenmuth just to experience driving on the Zehnder’s Holz Brücke Wooden Bridge. The one-way, 239-foot, covered wooden bridge spans the Cass River separating the Bavarian Inn Lodge from the heart of downtown.
I checked out the 19th century themed all-wood bridge on sunny and cloudy days but found the best time to experience it was definitely at night. Being an attraction, I had to wait a while at times for traffic to clear on both sides. It was well worth it to see the wood and craftsmanship up close. Each side contains a covered pedestrian walkway where you can look down at the river as you walk.
Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland
The beauty of Frankenmuth outdoors isn’t limited to downtown. Down the street sits the world’s largest Christmas store, Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland. It has 27 acres of holiday cheer, the majority of which is outside. During the day, I walked outside the shop between the west and south entrances. I visited larger than life Santas and snowmen along with expansive nativity scenes. My personal favorite was the gingerbread men float called “Sweet Memories of Childhood.”
The night sky took me to Christmas Lane, the half-mile road that runs along the perimeter of the grounds. 100,000 lights with more nativity scenes and holiday displays dotted the road as I drove and walked. Tucked away on the south end sits the 56-foot tall Silent Night Memorial Chapel. Silent Night was constantly playing in the background as I read some of the 300+ different translations of the song, each lit up on the lawn alongside the lamppost-lit walkway. I didn’t head inside, but you can for no admission.
Tip: Due to an unusually warm holiday season, there was no snow on the ground during my visit. Visit with snow for an even more magical holiday experience.
View more of the holiday decorations, lights, and Christmas scenes that you can expect to see when walking around the Frankenmuth outdoors: