This amazing Michigan town is deserving of so much more than just a quick visit!
Thousands of tour buses roll into Frankenmuth, Michigan every year - and for good reason. This charming town is packed with history and community spirit. Frankenmuth's German heritage is soaked into every business in town and their Oktoberfest has the distinction of being the only one in the world to operate with an official blessing from the original Oktoberfest in Munich.
But with so many visitors and so many tour buses in a town that thrives on a single theme, well, sometimes the suggested itineraries can be a bit repetitive. There is SO much more to Frankenmuth than meets the eye and I hope you'll take the opportunity to visit some of my favourite spots.
Prost Wine Bar
Prost is the kind of place that Frankenmuth has been dying for, even if they didn't know it. It's the embodiment of quality over quantity and everything, from the passionate owners, to the kind staff, to the great wine list, to the fantastic charcuterie plates, is top notch. If your tour bus sets you loose for a few hours of free time, skip the gift shops and head directly here instead. (PS It's not on the menu but if you ask nicely the staff might just put together a platter of baguette, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar for you).
Prost is my number one, go-to place in town, but its small space doesn't easily lend itself to the visiting tour buses. Instead, most tours tuck into one of Frankenmuth's famous, family style, German chicken dinners. It's passable food with passable entertainment and it's the kind of stop that you'd call a road trip classic, if not necessarily a life changing meal. (Case in point: I really doubt if the orange creamsicle sorbet they serve for dessert should really be included in an authentic German meal, but I digress.) Fortunately, chicken dinners aren't the only option in town. In addition to Prost, there's also the Frankenmuth Brewery.
The food here is solid. I can heartily recommend the beer battered onion rings as absolutely fantastic and the pizza more than makes the grade. And if you're not a beer lover, take heart. There's great homemade root beer to enjoy!
Frankenmuth Brewery is the oldest brewery in Michigan and the second oldest microbrewery in the United States, but feel free to skip the complimentary 20 minute tour - if you've done a brewery tour before, this will be just more of the same. There's a better way to get a dose of local history!
Frankenmuth Historical Association's Museum
While the tour experience pales compared to the food at Frankenmuth Brewery, you can get your dose of real history here at the Frankenmuth Museum. Everywhere you go in Frankenmuth, you feel the influence of the community's German heritage, yet no place really puts that heritage in context quite like the museum run by Frankenmuth Historical Association.
This is a FANTASTIC museum, beautifully curated and impeccably put together. It does an excellent job of telling Frankenmuth's history. And the museum's gift shop is equally great. It features tons of local products and has a great selection of books. It's easily the best shopping stop in town.
The Churches of Frankenmuth
Faith, religion, and heritage are important pillars of Frankenmuth's community and one of the best ways to appreciate this is to visit one or several of their beautiful churches. Like so many houses of worship, the churches of Frankenmuth are much more than religious institutions. They have been gathering places for the community, a support system for new immigrants, and acted as unofficial chroniclers of the community, recording marriages, births, and deaths. Don't miss out on the opportunity to take in a service or a music presentation.
A Dilemma On Where To Stay.
Long time readers will know that I love hotels with character and individuality - just as much as I love independent, family run businesses. But not at any price. The accommodation scene in Frankenmuth is dominated by the Bavarian Inn Lodge but I was less than impressed. I found the decor dark and dated and the room decorations, heavy on the poorly framed family photos, were frankly a bit creepy.
At a price point that starts over $100 and climbs all the way up to $300 (or more) I found the value to be lacking. I wish I could offer a personal recommendation for an alternative property but the best I can suggest is to shop around, both in Frankenmuth and nearby communities, and not to be swayed to stay at the Bavarian Inn Lodge simply because it's so well known.
If you have a favourite hotel, restaurant, or attraction in Frankenmuth that's just a little bit off the beaten tour path, please let us know. I want as many people as possible to discover this different side to Frankenmuth!
How do you find unique travel experiences while participating in a guided tour?
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My visit to Frankenmuth was facilitated in part by the Great Lakes Bay Tourism Board and I thank them for their support.