12 Reasons to Visit Frankenmuth, Michigan
Frankenmuth River Place
Bavarian-style food and architecture are ubiquitous in Frankenmuth, especially at the Frankenmuth River Place, where 40 specialty shops include The Michigan Shoppe, Let's Talk Girl Talk, Hello Cats and Dogs, and For Bare Feet. Parking is plentiful, too, which is handy for exploring nearby Main Street (800/600-0105; frankenmuthriverplace.com).
Frankenmuth Brewing Company
A new building overlooking the Cass River gives Frankenmuth Brewing Company a fresh feel. Around since 1862, the brewery sells seasonal beers and a robust Red Sky malty ale (989/262-8300; frankenmuthbrewery.com).
Bronner's Christmas Wonderland
It's actually more fun than frenetic: 50,000 ornaments, 500 Nativity scenes, a Christmas-cookie cafe -- and a replica of Austria's "Silent Night" chapel. It's all at Bronner's Christmas Wonderland, a 2.2-acre superstore (989/652-9931; bronners.com).
Lorenz Lutheran Church
German settlers splurged to build the postcard-pretty 1880 Gothic St. Lorenz Lutheran Church. Whether you take a self-guided tour, sit quietly in a pew or take in the annual Christmas concert (December 10-11, 2011), you'll find a welcome respite. Across the street, visitors can see a replica of the original log cabin church and two German-cast bells brought to Frankenmuth in 1845 (989/652-6141; stlorenz.org).
Zak's Bavarian Kandy Haus
At Zak's Bavarian Kandy Haus, you'll find giant peanut butter cups, raspberry truffles and fudge tucked inside a historic home known for its creaky wood floors. And shopkeepers wear dirndls and flower rings in their hair (989/652-9331).
Rau's Country Store
An old-fashioned pickle barrel, penny candy, vintage metal advertising signs, linens and lace, and nostalgia-theme lunch boxes are just some of the things you'll find inside Rau's Country Store. The Frankenmuth shop, located inside a 106-year-old former hotel, stuffs its finds in what feels like a quirky maze (989/652-8388; rauscountrystore.com).
Castle Museum of Saginaw County
Cleverly crafted exhibits at the Castle Museum of Saginaw County History show how an 1898 French-style castle that once housed a post office can become an amazing place to learn area history. The $1 adult admission is the best deal around (989/752-2861; castlemuseum.org).
Marv Herzog Hotel
Polka music fans-or just people who appreciate its fun-stay at the Marv Herzog Hotel, named for the late bandleader who hailed from Frankenmuth. A cozy lobby holds his memorabilia. The $149 weekend rate includes below-ground parking, happy hour and a hot breakfast (989/652-4700; marvherzoghotel.com).
One million customers a year feast on Zehnder's all-you-can-eat family-style chicken dinners. The spread -- chicken soup, cabbage salad, cranberry relish, cottage cheese and apple butter -- is right out of a grandma's cookbook (800/863-7999; zehnders.com).
Classic movies at premultiplex prices ($5 tickets!) draw film lovers to the beautifully restored State Theatre in Bay City for special showings of The Polar Express and A Christmas Story (989/892-2660; statetheatrebaycity.com).
Bay City downtown scene
The downtown waterfront in nearby Bay City has evolved from a gritty lumberjack hangout in the 1800s to a hotbed for great antiquing and shopping. Bars, restaurants, clothing shops and galleries round out the mix, which appeals to nearby condo dwellers and tourists (989/893-3573; downtownbaycity.com).
Jake's Old City Grill
For the best option in fine dining in the region, try the pan-seared walleye, a succulent steak and a standout martini at Jake's Old City Grill in Saginaw. You'll also find a generous wine list and locally crafted microbrews in this old cornerstone building that sports hardwood floors, brick walls and large windows overlooking the street (989/797-8325; jakesforsteaks.com).