This amazing Michigan town is deserving of so much more than just a quick visit! There are so many things to do in Frankenmuth beyond the typical tour bus.
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 are so many things to do in Frankenmuth that go beyond what you'd expect in a typical tour. There's more to this community 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. Popping in here is one of the essential things to do in Frankenmuth.
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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Really enjoyed reading this post and learning a bit about a town I had never even heard of before! Thanks for your honest account of the hotel accommodations. I can see some of what you mean just by your photo. The church looks absolutely gorgeous! What spectacular windows!
2/7/2015 02:15:13 pm
Isn't that stained glass just amazing - the churches are so beautiful.
4/7/2015 03:47:09 pm
This is what I love about the internet - reading about adorable towns that I would never have known about otherwise. Love love love the stain glass! beautiful.
6/7/2015 03:09:19 am
The glass really was stunning -as was all the interior of the church. And it was such a peaceful environment.
6/7/2015 03:11:22 am
I figure when you eat beer battered onion rings at one of the oldest breweries in the country, it counts as research, not food! Sorry I couldn't share tempting photos -it was too dark inside!
6/7/2015 03:12:50 am
It was a new destination for me too but it's quite famous and tons of tour buses go through each year.
6/7/2015 03:17:21 am
This looks like a fun little town to stop in on a road trip. Good to know about the Bavarian Inn Lodge. The church looks pretty. So many of the churches in the US lack the majesty of the European churches.
6/7/2015 09:29:52 am
For travelers who like the architecture of the European churches, Frankenmuth is sure to be a popular spot.
6/7/2015 07:52:56 am
I lived in Germany for 3 years, so I always look forward to finding places with German heritage. If you're ever in Texas, you should go to Fredericksburg.
6/7/2015 09:30:33 am
Thanks for the tip - I'll definitely check it out.
6/7/2015 04:25:37 pm
you had me with the oil and vinegar! (AND i just had a bite to eat!) I've never been but sounds like an experience not to miss!
7/7/2015 02:35:31 am
There's nothing like a sunny afternoon,a nice glass of wine, and some savory nibbles.
7/7/2015 02:37:17 am
Me too. I'm sure some people would call it a classic and say the style is 'traditional' but at a certain price point I think it's fair to expect something less dour.
7/7/2015 10:40:02 am
I'm not familiar with this town so it was really interesting to read about. German food and drink is always a good idea!
8/7/2015 02:11:12 am
Absolutely! And how cool is it that their Oktoberfest is the only other 'official' one in the world?
8/7/2015 04:57:25 am
OMG you don't know about The Old Christmas Station Cafe? It is further North on Main Street than most people walk and as a result, most people don't know about it. It is like a cafe you would see in Vienna - quiche, crepes, tortes, Italian coffee. Wonderful salads like you get in Europe. It's no wonder - one of the owners is from Switzerland. People expecting American pub fare and sandwiches will be disappointed, but those with a more international palate will be exceedingly pleased.
8/7/2015 05:12:20 am
You have me drooling! That cafe sounds absolutely fantastic and definitely like something special that not every tour group would get to experience.
9/7/2015 11:33:58 pm
Such an interesting place! Carolann went to school on the Michigan/Canada border and was completely unaware of what charm lay on the other side! We'll definitely make a point of trying to visit when we're next in North America! We would never have guessed such a German-rooted town existed in Michigan! Or about Oktoberfest either - having lived so close to one of the biggest Oktoberfest celebrations in Canada in Kitchener/Waterloo this came as a huge surprise!
15/7/2015 06:22:49 am
I too was much more familiar with Kitchener/Waterloo's festival and I was so surprised that they weren't on the list along with Frankenmuth for being an 'official' Oktoberfest.
Prost is amazing! I really enjoyed dining there. As to lodging, I love unique places to stay, but didn't really find that in Frankenmuth. I also stayed at the Bavarian Inn Lodge and while I thought it was okay, my 5-year old nephew loved the experience, though not necessarily because of the rooms, but due to the activities on site. Zehnders Splash Village offers comfortable, updated large rooms and I found that property to be a better fit for me (even though I skipped the waterpark feature). Personally, I'd really love to see a boutique property in Frankenmuth.
18/11/2016 11:26:17 am
There IS a boutique hotel, and it is called the Marv Herzog Hotel. The location is fantastic - on the river AND downtown, near The Brewery Restaurant. And they have free beer, wine, and appetizers during happy hour. But no pool. http://www.marvherzoghotel.com/
19/11/2016 09:22:33 am
Brenda -Thank you so much for this information! Very helpful.
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