This Small Town Is Called 'Michigan's Little Bavaria' for Its German-inspired Hotels, Food, and Culture

Group Team

 Straight out of a fairy tale, the Michigan village of Frankenmuth offers a dose of Bavarian culture in the heart of America. Founded by Germans in the 1800s, the town features a famous Christmas market and the world’s largest Christmas store. Beyond its holiday spirit, this destination is also teeming with incredible historical and culinary attractions, plus cozy accommodations set among picture-perfect architecture with exposed wood beams.

Here's how to plan the perfect trip to Michigan’s Little Bavaria, as it's called — an ideal place to scratch that Euro itch any time of year. 

Best Things to Do in Frankenmuth

Two well-known festivals draw visitors to this German-inspired village. The Frankenmuth Oktoberfest is the first to be sanctioned by the city of Munich (other than the original iteration, of course). It also boasts Hofbrauhaus beer from Munich (another first), along with German food and dancing. The World Expo of Beer — Michigan’s largest beer-sampling event, with more than 350 beers — is another Frankenmuth perk.

For those visiting around the holidays, it’s no surprise the annual Christmas market (ChristKindlMarkt) is a key occasion in this Michigan municipality. A massive open-air shopping extravaganza, the market is modeled after those in Germany and includes more than 80 vendors plus gl├╝hwein (warm German spiced wine). Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland — known as the largest Christmas store in the world — is a can’t-miss Frankenmuth stop, too.

Beyond annual events, there’s plenty to experience in Michigan’s Little Bavaria. Dig into the roots of this unique town at the Frankenmuth Historical Association, or hop onto the Bavarian Belle Riverboat for a more interactive history lesson; this experience includes an hour-long narrated boat ride detailing Frankenmuth’s beginnings. Visitors can also take advantage of the Cass River with a kayak tour under the picture-perfect covered bridge, Michigan’s largest. Another cool watery activity: a tasting tour with Frankenmuth FunShips. Their wine and chocolate option includes five vinos paired with five handmade chocolate samples.

If you'd rather stretch your legs, walk around town and take in the striking Bavarian-style buildings and colorful murals, or enjoy the Riverwalk trail at Heritage Park. 

This destination offers a mix of versatile shops, too. Lean into the German vibe at the Frankenmuth Cheese Haus, which stocks more than 120 types of cheese, and the Frankenmuth Clock Company, with its 150-plus cuckoo clocks. Michigan’s German town is also super family-friendly, boasting two indoor water parks, an aerial park, and tons of free activities, including an outdoor summer concert series and a gnome hunt starting at the visitor center. 

Best Places to Stay in Frankenmuth

While a wide variety of bed-and-breakfasts and vacation rentals are available in Frankenmuth, to fully embrace this quirky destination and its European kitsch, look no further than the Bavarian Inn Restaurant & Lodge. It checks all the boxes, with German-themed rooms, warm hospitality, and a convenient downtown location. Meanwhile, the Marv Herzog Hotel is a boutique lodging option with the same Bavarian-inspired decor; some may recognize this spot, as it was was named for the famous polka musician.

Best Places to Eat and Drink in Frankenmuth

No visit to Frankenmuth would be complete without immersing oneself in the area’s German food scene. The best hands-on option is the hour-long pretzel-rolling class at the Bavarian Inn. (Note this is only available for large groups of 20 or more.) The property also offers German wine and beer samplings, as well as multiple on-site restaurants that serve classic Bavarian cuisine. Then, earn your meat sweats with a visit to Kern’s Sausages and their 32 homemade styles of Bavarian bratwursts and sausages. 

Frankenmuth is well-known for its fried chicken dinners as well. Zehnder’s is the best place for this and has been open since 1856. On the beverage side, say cheers with a craft beer from the Frankenmuth Brewery, the oldest microbrewery in Michigan. This spot offers 36 types of craft beers, including thematic seasonal offerings. For oenophiles, stop into Prost Wine Bar & Charcuterie or visit Michigan’s oldest wine company, St. Julian Winery. And for those with a sweet tooth, consider a trip to downtown’s SugarHigh Bakery, celebrated for its gourmet cupcakes. 

All in all, it’s clear that Michigan’s Little Bavaria offers a slice of German paradise stateside. With tons to do, on-theme accommodations, and a rich culinary scene, Frankenmuth, Michigan, deserves a spot on your travel list.

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