Michigan: Frankenmuth

When I planned our trip by car to Chicago, I decided that we would make two stops on the way from Montreal: one in the Toronto area and another in Michigan. I must admit that I had never heard of the small Michigan town of Frankenmuth ( www.frankenmuth.org ) before my brother-in-law flagged it for me.

Frankenmuth is considered “Michigan’s Little Bavaria,” and it delights over three million visitors annually with loads of unique attractions, shopping, restaurants, hotels and camping, festivals, and family fun! Regardless of the time of year, the festivities are always in full bloom. Whether you come for a chicken dinner, to buy a special ornament, attend one of Frankenmuth’s many festivals or to simply see what’s new, Frankenmuth welcomes you with its flower-lined streets and Bavarian hospitality. The community of Frankenmuth is conveniently located just minutes east off I-75 between Flint and Saginaw, Michigan.

The draw in Frankenmuth turned out to be Zehnder’s Splash Village Hotel and Waterpark ( www.zehnders.com ), which offers 152 deluxe accommodations including 63 new suites and over 30,000 square feet of aquatic fun with their Splash landing play area, Dumping Bucket, Giggling Gorge and Perilous Plunge four storey tube slides. Here you can also relax in a whimsical whirl hot tub and float along a Crooked Brook Creek lazy river. A towering 26-foot tree is a prominent feature in the new hotel lobby with a large gas fireplace built into the trunk. Zehnder’s Splash Village includes elves and fairies as part of the waterpark and hotel’s overall theme. There is also an 18-hole championship golf course. The waterpark is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Thursday and 9 a.m. to 10 p.m Friday through Sunday and in the summer months.The waterpark is fully staffed with certified lifeguards. Water toys and non-approved flotation devices are prohibited. Towels, inner tubes and life jackets are provided at no additional charge. Standard rooms and family suites come with four passes, and family loft suites come with six passes. Additional passes can be purchased at $15 per person per day. The purchase is limited to the maximum occupancy of your room. I strongly recommend a stay of a few nights here. You can call toll free at 1-800-863-7999.

Rooms range in price from $129 – $374, depending on the dates of stay and type of room you would like. Standard rooms sleep four guests and include two double beds. Family suites sleep four to six guests and include two queen beds, two televisions, microwave, fridge, and fireplace. Loft suites sleep four to eight guests and include the same layout as a family suite, plus : a loft with an additional queen bed, and television upstair. Parlor suites sleep up to four guests and include a king bed, double sized pull-out soft, wet bar, microwave, mini-fridge, two flat screen televisions and a jacuzzi tub.

DINING: Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth is the heart of Midwestern hospitality. In its ten dining rooms, which can seat more than 1,500 guests, Zehnder’s offers a full-service menu that features all-you-can-eat family-style chicken dinners, seafood, steaks, fresh baked goods and European desserts. Each year, Zehnder’s serves nearly a million guests with the superb hospitality that has made it a world-wide attraction. Dinners range from $15.25 to $21.50, with children’s portions and special event menus available. Our luncheon menu is available Monday through Saturday from 11 am to 2 pm. Zehnder’s is open seven days a week. (For full hours of operation, see left). We are only closed on Christmas Eve, and for our annual employee Christmas party in early January.

A tradition of good taste began 150 years ago when The Exchange Hotel opened its doors in 1856. The Zehnder family purchased the hotel in 1927 and the tradition of good food and hospitality continues today at Zehnder’s of Frankemut Hospitality abounds with traditional family style chicken dinners and tantalizing breads and pastries in the world-famous Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth restaurant.

GOLF: The power of nature shaped into one of Michigan’s most beautiful golf courses, The Fortress defends itself with its terrain, challenging bunkers and signature island hole. Situated just 435 yards from the front porch of Zehnder’s in downtown Frankenmuth, The Fortress encompasses 6,813 yards of formidible play on an 18-hole, par 72 course. About 25,000 rounds of golf are played on the course every season.

WHAT TO DO: Frankenmuth’s two world-famous landmark restaurants, along with Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland, anchor the city’s picturesque Bavarian village area. Take a promenade along the main street, just a short drive or walk from the hotel and there are a variety of shops to explore not to mention a few yummy fudge stores. Choose your favorites at wine and beer sampling. Frankenmuth River Place also has 36 unique shops and attractions that include a paddlewheel riverboat and a free nightly laser show.

Frankenmuth is a family affair. Bring them all: kids, Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt Suzy, Uncle Ned and anybody else who wishes to tag along. The reason is entertainment, shopping,and dining enough to build memories for the whole family, wrapped in the beat of oom-pah-pah music and the traditions of its Bavarian heritage.Kids will head for River Place for AMaze- N Mirrors, losing themselves in the maze of glass and mirrors. Still more fun can be had at the haunted Midnight Manor while the teen’s head for their games and arcades. Mom, Grandma and Sister Sue head for the gifts and jewelry, boutiques, and antique shops, with a side trip to Prime Outlets of Birch Run with over 150 stores. The men in the family may prefer golf, the leather shop, and Michigan’s Own Military & Space Museum. It’s a family gathering again at the weaving shop, the 18th century flour mill, and the covered bridge over the Cass River. Kids lead the way to the glockenspiel to watch the marking of time in the tower.

As evening shadows drape the town in twilight, gatherin the Festivalà Platz of FrankenmuthRiver Place to watch the free Lights Fantastic laser show. For more activities, schedule your visit during one of Frankenmuth’s numerous festivals. With the family along, you may want to consider lodging with a pool. Riverboat tours are fun for the whole family. Proud of their Bavarian Heritage, but remembering they are Americans first, Frankenmuth citizens refer to the present in the upper part of their shield and to the past in the lower part. The American eagle stands proudly with its wings outspread over the vertical stripes denoting the 13 original states.The word “Franken” represents the Province of Franken in the Kingdom of Bavaria from where the original Frankenmuth settlers came. “Muth” means “courage” in German, thus FRANKENMUTH means “courage of the Franks.”

Frankenmuth plays host to the annual Zehnder’s Snowfest in January, the World Expo of Beer in May, the Bavarian Festival in June, the Volksläufe (People’s Race) in July, the Summer Music Fest in August, the Autofest, Oldies Fest and Oktoberfest all in September, and the Holiday Celebration & Candlewalk in November.

For more information on Frankenmuth   go to ( http://www.frankenmuth.org )