Introduction to the Episode
Welcome to the tenth episode of Locals Know Best! I’m your host, Cindy. I’m a full-time RVer and lover of all things travel-related. Years of adventuring on the road have taught me one fundamental lesson; locals ALWAYS know best! Every episode of this podcast will dive into one local’s perfect day of outdoor adventure in their town!
In this episode, I’ll be speaking with Jamie Furbush, President & CEO of the Frankenmuth Chamber of Commerce & Convention and Visitors Bureau. Jamie has been in that role for over 12 years and has worked for the organization for 19 years.
In the spirit of this episode premiering during the holidays, I thought it would be fun to embrace the winter holiday season and highlight one of the United States’ most magical Christmas towns – Frankenmuth, Michigan!
This, in turn, will make the episode a bit more festive than outdoorsy, but don’t worry! I still wanted to keep outdoorsy elements in it for everyone, so at the end of the episode, we will switch over and spend a summer day at Michigan’s most popular German town, Frankenmuth.
Join Jamie and me on a tour of Frankenmuth, Michigan. We start our day out at one of Frankenmuth’s amazing waterparks, make sure all of our holiday shopping is finished around town, and enjoy a world-famous chicken dinner, all while also taking in all of the town’s holiday feels!
Then, in the end, we also cover a few warm-weather outdoorsy adventures that can be enjoyed in Michigan’s Little Bavaria as well!
What is Frankenmuth Known for?
Jamie: Frankenmuth’s really best known for Chicken and Christmas!
We’re also known as Michigan’s Little Bavaria … our roots of the community are German. We were settled by 15 German Lutheran missionaries.
And so the roots and the heritage of the community have always been very, very important. And you can see that and feel that as you’re walking the streets.
What to Do in Frankenmuth, Michigan
Jamie: Frankenmuth’s always evolving. So, the businesses that exist are constantly reinventing themselves and adding things to their own businesses.
Hospitality is a really important piece, I think, of what people love about Frankenmuth and why people continue to come back generation after generation. But that’s really a thing that’s rooted in the people that live in and run their businesses here.
Most of our businesses are family owned and operated. And so, it’s a community of entrepreneurs.
And you know, when we look at the year that we’re dealing with here, I’m just inspired all the time by how our businesses continue to reinvent themselves and support community causes. And continue to make it not only great but better. It’s just really a great place to be surrounded by people who care about each other.
Coming to Frankenmuth is an experience that people remember. It’s creating memories with your loved ones, whether it’s your family or friends. That’s really what it’s all about. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing when you’re here.
I think it’ll be a memorable experience and one that you’ll all remember together and you know, that time together is what’s most precious. And so, I love looking out my window and seeing families connecting.
Sometimes we’ll see fathers sort of skipping along with their kids, and, you know, it’s that time to let your guard down and just enjoy each other’s presence.
And that’s, to me, what’s really special about our streets. It sort of brings out that magic. And it’s part of the charm I think of our community.
About Jamie Furbush
Jamie is a born and raised Michigander who loves living in Pure Michigan and representing the Michigan travel industry.
What We Cover in This Episode
- The two best times to visit Michigan’s Little Bavaria.
- How Frankenmuth’s entrepreneurial roots make it a special place not only to visit but also to live.
- Why Frankenmuth has such a festive history.
- What time of year Frankenmuth switches over to Christmas decor.
- The two most adventurous places to stay in town.
- The best spots for breakfast in Frankenmuth.
- Learn about the largest Christmas store in the world and why it’s worth a visit!
- Where to get a world-famous fried chicken dinner.
- Why the world-famous chicken dinner is so special.
- The best spots to get lunch or dinner after you’ve already had the world-famous chicken dinner.
- The best ways to take in all of the holiday feels while in town.
- A local snow festival that takes place every year post-Christmas.
- A tip on the best time of the week to visit Frankenmuth.
- The best Instagram spots in Frankenmuth.
- Two fan favorites that may or may not be worth your time in Frankenmuth.
- Four outdoor adventures that are not to be missed during a summer trip to Frankenmuth.
- Why Frankenmuth is worth a holiday visit.
Jamie’s Frankenmuth, MI Travel Itinerary Map
Links to Places Mentioned in this Episode
Where to Stay in Frankenmuth, Michigan:
Winter Things to do in Frankenmuth Mentioned in this Episode:
- Frankenmuth Fudge Kitchen
- Amazin’ Mitten
- Kernel Benny’s Popcorn
- Frankenmuth House of Cigar
- Frankenmuth Brewery
- Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland (Frankenmuth Christmas Store)
- Silent Night Chapel at Bronner’s
- Frankenmuth Cheese Haus
- Frankenmuth Carriage Ride
- Zehnder’s Snowfest
Frankenmuth, Michigan Instagram Picture Spots Mentioned in this Episode:
- Christmas Guide Mentioned in the Episode
- Holz-Brücke Wooden Bridge
- Frankenmuth Cheese Haus mouse, Klaus
Outdoor & Summery Things to do in Frankenmuth Mentioned in this Episode:
- Kayaking the Cass River
- Bavarian Belle Riverboat (Paddlewheel Boat Mentioned)
- Frankenmuth FunShips
- The Adventure Park at Frankenmuth (Frankenmuth Aerial Park)
- PedAle Trolley
Restaurants in Frankenmuth, MI Mentioned in this Episode:
- The Harvest Coffeehouse
- Honey B’s Eatery
- Bavarian Inn Restaurant
- Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth
- da Vinci’s
- Michigan on Main
- Willi’s Sausage Co
Thanks for Listening!
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Transcription of this Episode:
Jamie: Coming to Frankenmuth is an experience that people remember. It’s creating memories with your loved ones, whether it’s your family, your friends. That’s really what it’s all about. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing when you’re here. I think it’ll be a memorable experience and one that, that you’ll all remember together and you know, that time together is what’s most precious.
And so I love looking out my window and, and seeing families connecting. And sometimes we’ll see fathers sort of skipping along with their kids. And you know, it’s that time to let your guard down and just enjoy each other’s presence. And that’s, to me, what’s really special about our streets. It sort of brings out that, that magic and it’s part of the charm I think, of our community.
Cindy: Hey, this is Cindy Scott from Cinders Travels. Welcome to the Locals Know Best podcast. This is episode 10. Locals Know Best is a biweekly podcast where my guests share the places and outdoor travel adventures they love most, right in their own backyards. Topics range from unique lodging options, treasured outdoor activities, favorite dining spots, and a breakdown of whether the Insta-famous and possibly overrated spots in town are even worth checking out.
Today, I’ll be speaking with Jamie Furbush. Jamie is the President and CEO of the Frankenmuth Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitors Bureau. She has been in that role for over 12 years and has worked for the organization for 19 years. She’s a born and raised Michigander who loves living in pure Michigan and representing the Michigan travel industry.
This also happens to be the last episode of Locals Know Best for 2020. In the spirit of it premiering during the holidays. I thought it would be fun for today’s episode to embrace the winter holiday season and highlight one of the United States most magical Christmas towns, Frankenmuth, Michigan. This in turn will make the episode a bit more festive than outdoorsy.
But don’t worry, I still really wanted to keep outdoorsy elements in it for everyone listening. So at the end of the episode, we are gonna switch over to a summer day in Frankenmuth and cover a few warm-weather outdoor adventures as well. If you wanna follow along with links to all the places we’re talking about in a map of the area, this episode show notes can be found at localsknowbestpodcast.com/10.
Thanks so much for listening. Let’s get into the episode. Thanks so much for joining me today, Jamie.
Jamie: Hi. Thanks for having me. I’m excited to talk travel with you.
Cindy: Yes, I’m really pumped to talk Frankenmuth, especially for the December 22nd episode. Perfect time of year.
Jamie: It’s always a perfect time of year to talk about Frankenmuth if you’re, if you’re asking me.
Cindy: Well, there is just something about Frankenmuth that awakens the holiday season for me personally, and I’m sure tons of other people. Frankenmuth is such a huge part of my childhood history, and so there are not many other places I could think about that are better for this episode.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. How long have you lived in the Frankenmuth area?
Jamie: So I’ve lived here 19 years and it’s, it’s really the only home my family has ever known, my kids have ever known. So it’s, it’s home to us now, but I grew up about an hour south of, of where I live in Frankenmuth now. So,
Cindy: And what ended up bringing you to Frankenmuth?
Jamie: That’s a funny story actually, we could probably have a whole episode on. But essentially we, my husband and I were engaged here and ended up having our wedding in Frankenmuth as well. His family is from north of here. Mine was from south of here. So we sort of landed in the middle and decided to do the destination wedding thing so our families could all have a little mini vacation out of it.
And that was almost 20 years ago. So it’s been our life ever since.
Cindy: What a great place to get married. I’m sure that was a lot of fun.
Jamie: It was. It’s a really charming community and, you know, it’s evolved. My, my passion for the city has evolved and changed over the years because it’s, it’s different when I, you know, didn’t live here and experienced it first as a, a visitor.
And we have a lot of, we have a lot of people that come here for their weddings, but that’s sort of how I got my introduction to Frankenmuth. But my love has grown for the city in different ways now that I’ve lived here for so long.
Cindy: Can you kind of dive a little bit into that? How has it altered?
Jamie: So living here for as long as I have now, I’ve, I’ve really come to appreciate.
Hospitality is a really important piece I think, of what people love about Frankenmuth and why people continue to come back generation after generation. But that’s really a thing that’s rooted in the people that live and run their businesses here. Most of our businesses are family owned and operated, and so it’s a community of entrepreneurs and you know, when we look at the year that we’re dealing with here, I’m just inspired all the time by how our businesses continue to reinvent themselves and and support community causes and continue to make it not only great but better.
It’s just really a great place to be surrounded by people who care about each other.
Cindy: Yeah. So now you’re seeing it on a new business level of how much people care about the community
Jamie: Yeah. And care about each other. It’s a place where neighbors help neighbors and look out for each other and that kind of thing.
So I appreciate that as a, a resident, and I think it sort of trickles into the experience that our visitors have because it’s just the culture here.
What is so Special about Frankenmuth Michigan?
Cindy: Yeah, I guess we should go into describing what Frankenmuth is all about because I, so I grew up in Michigan as well, and Frankenmuth is part of my childhood story.
You know, we go there in the fall for the chicken dinners and the shopping kind of thing. Like it was just part of our annual traditions. So tell the listeners a little bit all about Frankenmuth.
Jamie: Frankenmuth’s really best known for chicken and Christmas, like you mentioned. So we have two chicken dinner restaurants that serve world famous chicken dinners, and we also have the world’s largest Christmas store, Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland.
And so those are really our most popular visitor destinations. But we also have become, over the years very much known for, well, we’re also known as Michigan’s little Bavaria. I should, should make that clear. Our roots of the community are German. We were settled by 15 German Lutheran missionaries. And so the roots and the heritage of the community have always been very, very important.
And you can see that and feel that sort of as you’re walking the streets. And a big part of course of going to places like Germany is, is some of their festive atmosphere. So it’s very festive here all year long as well. We have a lot of festivals that are what people know us for. Things like the Octoberfest or Bavarian festivals.
Cindy: And describe a little bit the atmosphere we’re seeing around us in Frankenmuth.
Jamie: Our community every time of the year is very much into decorating for that season. And so as we lead up to Christmas, even in the early fall, you would see a lot of mums and and beautiful fall decor. We have a lot of cornstalks.
In fact, we often have a lot of scarecrows around our businesses. There’s a little business competition, and so those are fun to look at and it just feels very fall festive. And so we do transition right about Hunter’s weekend around November 15th. That weekend is usually when our Christmas decor is then in place.
So if you come before that, you might see fall stuff. If you come after or that weekend of opening season here in Michigan, you would get the transition to the Christmas time. And what that looks like is, is really, and this year bigger than ever, we have tree-lined streets all the way up Main Street.
The trees are, are lit. We have overhead banners on Main Street as well. All of the businesses really deck themselves out.
What is the Best Time to Visit Frankenmuth Michigan?
Cindy: Okay. Well, tell us… What are the worst or best times to visit Frankenmuth?
Jamie: There’s no worst time to visit Frankenmuth. Um, anytime’s a good time, but I will say my favorite times, if I was, um, not from here, my favorite times to come would be either, especially if we’re doing outdoor adventurous things, the, the summertime, there’s some really awesome, um, things that I think are unfamiliar to a lot of people.
And then, The Christmas season is really the most wonderful time of the year here. It looks and feels a little bit different this year, but it’s actually been growing and we’re really excited about the changes that have happened this year and how we’re gonna build upon those in the next couple of years as well.
Cindy: Oh, awesome. I can’t wait to hear about that. Okay, so let’s say we’re doing this trip in the late fall, early wintertime. Right around the holidays, but at the end, I want to also, we’re gonna get a double episode here with Jamie. I wanna also hear a little bit about some of the summer activities, because I am actually completely clueless about those.
I don’t think I’ve ever been to Frankenmuth in the summer. And also that’s what a lot of people tuning in wanna hear. So we’re gonna do both, if that’s all right with you.
Jamie: Oh, love it.
Where to Stay in Frankenmuth MI
Cindy: Okay, great. Well then let’s start off our perfect day. Where are we waking up in Frankenmuth? Where are we starting off our day.
Jamie: I think we would start off probably, well, it depends how adventurous you are. So Zehnder’s Splash Village and the Bavarian Inn Lodge are both indoor water parks and the Bavarian Inn Lodge, for example, they have an indoor putt putt course. So it’s one of my kids’ favorite things to do in the winter is to go inside and still be able to play putt-putt all winter long.
And at Splash Village, they have some really incredible slides. My kids are getting older and they like to be a little bit more adventurous, so they have some pretty awesome and adventurous slides that I won’t do myself.
Cindy: Yeah. I’ve stayed at both hotels. Okay. And the Bavarian Inn really reminds me of childhood.
It has the, I remember there’s little play places down there. There’s an arcade, and the mini-golf is impressive. It’s not just mini golf. I mean the, the, there’s high ceilings. It just feels like you’re outdoors even though you’re not. And then I went to Splash Village for the first time ever a couple years ago with our friend’s little girl, and I was amazed by that place.
Tons of slides, lots of adult slides, lots of kids stuff.
Jamie: Yeah. They also have a retractable roof on their,
Jamie: part of the water park, which is really cool because in the summertime if it’s nice outside, you actually feel like you’re you you are in an outdoor water park, but all winter long when the weather’s not as good, it’s closed and it’s an indoor water park.
So it’s, it’s pretty cool experience. Various times of the year, it’s different.
Breakfast in Frankenmuth
Cindy: Yeah. So where are we having breakfast? Is there a really great coffee spot or tea or a breakfast meal you recommend?
Jamie: Yeah, so right downtown, Harvest Coffeehouse is really the popular place to stop and get, a coffee in the morning.
And it’s a beautiful little stroll from any of the hotels on Main Street, and it’s just right in the middle of everything. And so I would definitely say we’d go grab a coffee there and right now when a lot of our restaurants are doing takeout, Honey B’s restaurant does takeout they’re a incredible breakfast place, they do brunches as well.
It’s one of my favorite meals is their quinoa and cauliflower hash that they do for breakfast. It’s amazing.
Things to Do in Frankenmuth
Cindy: Ooh, that sounds good. So we’ve had breakfast and our coffee. What is our first fun thing we’re doing with our day?
Jamie: I would say enjoying some of the shops. So especially this time of year when shopping is so popular, a lot of people really enjoy going into the fudge shops and the candy shops and then finding those unique things that you just don’t find at other stores.
We have the Michigan Amazin’ Mitten, excuse me, and Michigan Shop, where there’s Michigan specific things, really unique kind of custom shops that are, are just different than you’d find in big cities. One other thing I really would kind of an insider tip is encourage people. A lot of people stay right down where the visitor center, Zehnder’s and Bavarian Inn are, and we have a lot of our shops right in this area, but, and there’s a hill then that goes up to the north and there are some amazing shops and things.
If you keep walking up that hill. It is not a difficult hill, but sometimes visually people just stop and they don’t keep going and there’s so many more treasures up the hill, there’s a really cool popcorn shop called Kernel Benny’s and they have a cigar shop there as well. And it’s just amazing and I would encourage people to keep going.
It’s, it’s not very far, just another block and, and you’re gonna be able to find perhaps a new favorite spot.
Cindy: I don’t know if I’ve been over the hill. I’m trying to think about it,
Jamie: Where the hill is, where the Frankenmuth Brewery is, and so that’s, you know, you gotta get up the hill to get to the brewery as well, so that helps move people up there.
Cindy: Well, I’ve only been once drinking age to Frankenmuth, so I haven’t enjoyed that whole adultness of it yet. I need to go back and do that. It’s great that you point out, we haven’t really talked about the fact that Frankenmuth is pretty small. It’s all within a few blocks. Very walkable, I would say.
Jamie: Very walkable.
Yeah. Our entire city is only about two and a half square miles from one end to the other. So I think the next thing I would do is probably head down to Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland. It is the biggest Christmas store in the world, and it’s what most people come to Frankenmuth for this time of the year.
So there’s no Christmas visit complete without a stop at Bronner’s. And so, I’d head over to Bronner’s and check out all of their personalized ornaments. And one of my favorite sections is, they have all of the, the mini villages and a lot of different types of really cool Christmas villages that I like to look at.
And it’s just so charming to look up when you’re at Bronner’s, uh, and see all of the cool displays. And it’s a great way to get ideas too for your own house. If you have kids traveling with you, just seeing the awe in their eyes when they look up and there’s a surprise around every corner and there’s something really magical about that, and it’s great indoors and out.
On the south side of their property. They also have the Silent Night Chapel, which is really, to me, it’s a very serene place. It’s an exact replica of the one in Obendorf, Austria, and they had to get permission from the government there to replicate it here. And so there aren’t ceremonies or things. It’s just a very serene place, but it does have.
You know, it talks about when the Hym Silent Night was for sung, and so it’s really a cool, charming thing to do this time of year. It really sets the mood.
Cindy: Yeah, I had no idea it was an exact replica.
Cindy: All right. And so we’ve spent time doing some shopping around town and, and this is a cooler time of year, right?
So this is a good activity to be doing. You’re staying inside a lot.
Cindy: Because we’re gonna get into the summer stuff later. All right, well, what’s next?
Frankenmuth Chicken Dinner
Jamie: Well, either lunch or dinner, you definitely have to make a stop at one of the chicken dinner restaurants because just like, uh, a stop to Frankenmuth is not complete without Bronner’s, it’s also not complete without a chicken dinner.
And so, Bavarian Inn Restaurant or Zehnder’s restaurant. They both serve the world famous chicken dinners. Their atmosphere is just slightly different. The Bavarian Inn is obviously Bavarian themed, and the Zehnder’s is more early American. And so that would be a must do, whether it’s for lunch or dinner.
Cindy: Are they owned by the same person?
Uh, my dad told me they’re owned by the same family. Is that true? Both of them. So
Jamie: they’re cousins.
Jamie: Yeah, it they’re both Zehnder families, but they’re run by by cousins.
Cindy: Okay. I didn’t know the decor theming kind of differences actually, cuz I feel like you’re either a Zehnder’s family or a Bavarian Inn family kind of with the, I like, I’ve never even stepped foot in the Zehnder’s.
Jamie: That’s funny. I think a lot of Michiganders sort of do have their favorite or their, their loyalty lies with one or the other. When you’re local, like I am, you definitely go back and forth cuz then you,
Jamie: More to pick. But, um, yeah, the Zehnder family actually started at Zehnder’s restaurant, which is, it sort of looks like Mount Vernon because Grandpa Zehnder really liked that style of building.
And so when he remodeled he, he made sure it was sort of early American and there was a Fisher’s restaurant across the street, and when that restaurant decided they were gonna looking at selling, the Zehnder family decided to purchase the restaurant across the street. And so one of the brothers then ended up with his family, uh, Tiny Zehnder and his wife Dorothy, who just actually had her 99th birthday.
Jamie: Yeah. And she still works in the Bavarian Inn Restaurant about six days a week. She’s an incredible woman.
Cindy: Oh my gosh,
Jamie: When you get back up here. I highly, um, recommend, um, stepping in to say hello. She’s a wonderful person to talk to. Loves visiting with all of her guests.
Cindy: Wow. Okay. So explain what it’s like in, let’s pick the Bavarian Inn just cuz that’s what I’m familiar with.
Explain what it’s like in the Bavarian Inn when we go in for this meal.
Jamie: Yeah, so the Bavarian Inn from an architecture perspective, as you would imagine, is very Bavarian. They do have costumed waiters and waitresses as well in the lederhosen and dirndls and often have an accordionist playing throughout the restaurant as well.
So you’re definitely getting, uh, the full immersion experience. But one of the things I love about both, um, restaurants is the style in which the meal is served. And so the dinners are served, family style, and especially this time of year as we’re in talking about the holidays. It’s just great to be gathered around the table.
It, it sort of feels very traditional and very warm and close and and friendly to gather with your family and friends that way. To me, that’s part of what’s special about the experience. So you first get a course of wonderful salads and breads from their bakeries, and then they bring out your soup and then they bring out your main entree, which is the, uh, world-famous chicken.
Of course, it’s so good. And they have all the sides that go with it, which are again, very traditional mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, the seasonal vegetable, and my favorite seasonal vegetable this time of year, it’s the blue Hubbard squash that they serve. It’s grown locally at a farmer’s field, and both the restaurants serve that in the fall and winter, and it’s so good.
And then we have a lot of really cool other restaurants that you could do a quick stop if you wanted for lunch or dinner, whether it’s Tiffany’s Across the Street is a great place, kind of a local hangout. They’re known for their pasta pizzas, and so that’s a really cool place to go if you wanna really have kind of a local experience.
Some people will go to our Italian restaurant on the north end of town, da Vinci’s. That’s kind of where the locals go as well.
Cindy: So you’re telling me you don’t eat chicken dinners every day?
Jamie: Not every day, but it’s definitely part of the regular rotation.
Cindy: Well, that’s awesome to hear about those other places.
I actually don’t think I’ve ever had anything other than the chicken when I’m there. So,
Jamie: You know, even our, our chicken dinner restaurants, One of the things that I love to do is, is to go and enjoy something that’s not chicken from one of the chicken dinner restaurants. So Bavarian Inn Restaurant for example, has Michigan on Main where they have a lot of meals that are all made from Michigan products, and that’s pretty cool too.
So yeah, you don’t have to get a chicken dinner, although I always recommend adding it to the… Some people just like to grab a quick brat and, uh, Willi’s Sausage Company often has like a grab and go. They’re a sausage market, so they, they sell meats and, and cheeses and things like that, but they also do a lunch special.
So they’re not really a restaurant, but they often do where you can grab and go a brat and sort of keep going on your way. So that’s kind of a cool thing to do and, and very Frankenmuth experience.
Cindy: Yeah. You gotta get a brat in little Bavaria.
Jamie: Right? Right. Yeah.
Things to Do in Frankenmuth in the Evening
Cindy: So my next question then is, what are we doing in the evening?
What are we doing to wrap up the day?
Jamie: Yeah. Well, I think this time of year is the best time to enjoy a stroll at night when the lights are all on. And we’ve just added this year an awesome new Christmas tree downtown that does a music and light show. It’s once an hour in the evening. We have a couple of shows during the day, but every night you can see that show on the half hour. And it’s really just a, a great way to experience the outdoors and be part of something that feels like a, a celebration, which is pretty cool.
Cindy: Yeah, just take in the atmosphere, the holiday feels.
Jamie: Yeah. All the holiday feels and you know, it’s right there by the horse carriages.
You can hear the jingle bells on the, the horse carriages. All the senses are going,
Cindy: yeah. Okay, great. Was there anything else you wanted to put into our perfect winter day?
Jamie: The only other thing I’d add about the winter is if you, um, aren’t able to get here, By Christmas. We do have an awesome snow festival in January 29th, 30th and 31st.
And that’s a really cool time to do outdoor fun in Michigan too. So I know you’re, you’ve avoided the winter a little bit, but Yeah,
Cindy: Me personally, yes. But it’s just cuz I’ve had my fill. Tell us a little bit about that festival. I’m curious.
Jamie: Yeah, so there’s massive 20 foot snow blocks that there’s snow sculptures created out of.
So you walk around and can look at all the really cool sculptures. There’s also 10 foot blocks that are, are done in the Zehnder’s and Bavarian Inn parking lots. And then throughout town we have ice sculptures at many of the different businesses as well. So there’s a lot of really cool snow and ice things to check out.
And depending on the year and what’s going on, there’s sometimes other festivities. This year things might be a little different, but usually we have, there’s warming tents and bands and and other things too that are really just a good way to enjoy, not the Christmas, but the winter season and the outdoors in Michigan in the winter.
And depending on the weather, sometimes those snow and ice sculptures last throughout the week. So when you talk about what the best time is to come, I always encourage people if they wanna avoid crowds to come midweek, because you can still get the same experiences without the crowds. And you know, usually the day or two after the snow, Depending on how the weather is, those, those snow and ice carving sometimes stay up an extra couple days.
So that’s an insider tip.
Cindy: Would you recommend that throughout the fall too? Coming during the week as opposed to the weekend?
Jamie: Yeah, absolutely. It’s definitely, if you wanna avoid crowds anytime of the year, mid-week is better than the weekends.
Best Spots for Photos in Frankenmuth
Cindy: So where are some of the best spots in town for Instagram spots?
Jamie: This year many of the businesses added cozy little benches and places where you could get your family photos done. And then there’s some big spots too. So you know, a lot of people have their picture with that giant Santa at Bronner’s outside. But you can also, right across the street from my office, there’s a big Frosty the Snowman that you can get your picture with, or we have an ornament bench and giant wreath that you can get your picture in.
And a cool train at the top of the hill and lots of really cool spots.
Cindy: Yeah, lots of Instagram spots.
Jamie: Yeah, I think we covered most of ’em. I could go on, we have, I think we have probably more than a dozen for sure, maybe two dozen spots that are mentioned on our Christmas guide, both on our website, and we have a brochure here at the visitor center that tells you all those wonderful spots.
Cindy: Oh, great. Maybe we could put a link to that in the show notes.
Cindy: So people can see it too. Is there a spot that’s really picturesque town-wise?
Jamie: Yeah. One of the most popular spots for pictures is the Covered Bridge. It’s just very charming and there’s a number of different ways you can get the angle. A lot of people will do something close up right in front of the bridge, but if you’re standing in the river play shops, you can sort of get it from far away. There’s a pedestrian bridge that goes from Main Street to river play shops, and that’s a beautiful angle of the covered bridge. You can also get a beautiful skyline of the river play shops, which is all Bavarian architecture as well. Very, very lit up this time of year as well.
Cindy: Awesome. Lots of picture spots in Frankenmuth.
Jamie: Yes, we love pictures.
Are there any Overrated Spots in Frankenmuth?
Cindy: Are there any overrated spots in Frankenmuth?
Jamie: Some of the most popular spots that always surprise me, one of my kids’ favorite spots, believe it or not, is the cheese mouse by the Frankenmuth Cheese Haus. It’s a, a giant right outside the cheese haus, it’s a giant block of cheese with a mouse attached to it, and his name is Klaus. He’s, um, he’s famous. Thousands of of families get their pictures with Klaus, the, the cheese mouse. So it’s just iconic and I’m not exactly sure why it’s so ironic, but it’s just something people do and have to do and the kids love it.
So, but every time my kids wanna go on it, I’m like, really? So that’s kind of a, a fun thing that is iconic that people always do. You almost have to do it. But as parents, sometimes you’re like, really? We have to do this again?
Cindy: That’s so funny.
Jamie: And the other thing is the Glockenspiel. So at the Bavarian Inn Restaurant, there’s the Glockenspiel, and you know, people are standing out there every day watching the story being told of the Pied Piper of Hamlin. And sometimes I get surprised by that too, how many people stand there and, and watch it if they’ve seen it before. But there’s things in Frankenmuth that are just about tradition and I think a lot of people, or they’ve never seen it before, and they, they come and do that and have to do it every time because it’s part of their annual trip.
Cindy: I’m so glad you brought that up. The Pied Piper. That is for me for sure. Tradition. Yeah. That is something I stand and watch every time, but yeah, it doesn’t change. Right?
Cindy: I mean, I think it’s still the same from when I was a little kid. I remember the Pied Piper thing’s so funny because I remember being a kid watching that and being like, wait, this guy’s leading children away.
Like this is kind of like a creepy story.
Jamie: It’s a creepy story. Yeah. And that’s the part that sort of befuddles me a little bit, but. It’s one of those traditional things that people sort of do and you know, the Glockenspiel itself is, is pretty iconic and, and cool in its function and it’s just a cool instrument, so that’s pretty neat.
Cindy: And for people that don’t know what that is, it’s the, it’s up at the top of the building outside.
Jamie: Yeah. It’s a 35 bell carillon that has a window that then opens and characters come out, and it does play music, but it also at various times throughout the day, comes out and the figures tell the story of the Pied Piper of Hamlin, as we’re mentioning.
So it’s a beautiful attraction and clock tower, essentially that’s very iconic. You know, most German communities have, in Bavaria, have a Glockenspiel in their city center, and so it is very appropriate for the building and for our community.
Cindy: Yeah, I think that’s why it feels so traditional to me at least, is it’s something you don’t see anywhere else really.
Not here in the states.
Jamie: Right. So you would love, probably now we have at the Cheese Haus, which rebuilt in the last couple of years, they have a new figure in spiel, which comes out and tells, it’s a different story. It’s uh, about cheese. It’s stories about cheese, and it has these little characters that are actually built after family members that they and their family, which is really kind of cool.
But it’s by that cheese mouse, so you’ll have to figure that one out next time.
Frankenmuth Summer Activities
Cindy: Yeah, so you’ve already given us our whole daily run-through for the fall-winter season, and I think it was amazing. Let’s talk summer for a moment. I’m assuming we’re eating and drinking a lot of the same things, but what are we doing outside that’s different this time of year?
Jamie: Yeah, so in the summer, I agree with you a lot of the same eating and drinking and places to stay, but the activities are what really changes in the summer. We have a number of really cool seasonal businesses. So one thing I personally love that I think is a hidden treasure is kayaking the Cass River. A lot of people, because there’s so much going on on Main Street, don’t even realize we have a river running right behind the visitor center between us and the Bavarian Inn Lodge. And so enjoying a day on the river is really cool and there’s so much to do. We do have a, a kayak rental if people don’t bring their own company. And so it’s really neat to all of a sudden get on the river and have this sort of outdoor adventure experience right in the heart of little Bavaria.
And one of the other things that I would love to do during the um, summertime is there’s multiple boats tours. There’s a paddle wheel if you have kids. It’s really cool. They like to throw popcorn off to the ducks. Um, but the fun ships, they do a wine and chocolate tour, and it’s an electric Duffy boat. So they’re small boats, uh, maximum of, I think 12 people per boat.
It’s so charming. It has a ceiling and they have windows that can be opened or closed. So in the summertime they’re open, but if there’s inclement weather, they can zip ’em up. And so you still can go on it and, and when it’s raining. So they’re so cute. And once you make it around the bend, our river kind of bends around.
It’s so serene and you almost don’t even realize that the hustle and bustle of Main Street is right around the corner and it’s just, we’ve been on it before and seen bald eagles and, and deer and all kinds of wildlife and it’s just incredible to me to be able to get that kind of experience right here in the heart of all this other fun stuff going on.
And so those are kinda a couple of the adventures I would, I would recommend. And for the more adventurous person, we also have the Frankenmuth Adventure Park, which is a zip line and ropes course up in the trees. It’s located back behind Bronner’s and it’s also sort of a hidden treasure. A lot of people don’t know it cuz it’s hidden back in the trees, but it is a very, very fun experience and it would be another really cool thing to do.
Cindy: I didn’t know that was there. How long has that been there?
Jamie: Um, maybe five years, I’m guessing. Yeah. Frankenmuth’s always evolving, so the businesses that exist are constantly reinventing themselves and adding things to their own businesses, and also new businesses that come in. So we have things like a pedal trolley now where you can get on, uh, trolley and pedal and stop at various bars with your, you know, a group or anytime that they’re running group tour, so things like that that are definitely new that have popped up in the last five years or so.
Cindy: That’s fun.
Is Frankenmuth Worth Visiting?
Cindy: Yeah. All that stuff to do on the river. I’ve never been on that river. It’s always cold when I go there. Give us your best sales pitch. Why should we be going to Frankenmuth?
Jamie: So coming to Frankenmuth is an experience that people remember.
It’s creating memories with your loved ones, whether it’s your family, your friends. That’s really what it’s all about. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing when you’re here. I think it’ll be a memorable experience and one that, that you’ll all remember together and you know, that time together is what’s most precious.
And so I love looking out my window and, and seeing families connecting and sometimes we’ll see fathers sort of skipping along with their kids and you know, it’s that time to let your guard down and just enjoy each other’s presence. And that’s, to me, what’s really special about our streets. It sort of brings out that, that magic and it’s part of the charm, I think, of our community.
Where to Find Out More About Frankenmuth
Cindy: How do we find out more about Frankenmuth if we wanna come visit?
Jamie: If people want information or need information about coming to Frankenmuth, they can always visit our website at frankenmuth.org. We are changing it all the time as we learn new things that are coming up and events obviously into the new year are continuing to change.
So people have to kind of check back with us frequently, but, and our phone number is 1-800-FUNTOWN. I don’t know if you knew that. So we’re here, um, seven days a week to answer questions as well.
Cindy: Well, thank you so much for being with me today, Jamie. This was wonderful. I’m pumped to share Frankenmuth with everyone out there.
I really hope other people tune in and are interested in coming and sharing in the vibes, the good holiday vibes, cuz it’s worth a visit. It’s a really charming, wonderful place. I’m not just saying that because it’s in my childhood. It’s really great.
Jamie: Thank you so much, Cindy. Thanks for having me and hope to see you back in Frankenmuth soon.
Cindy: Thanks so much for tuning in. Once again, if you wanna grab the show notes for this episode, head on over to localsknowbestpodcast.com/10. If you enjoyed this episode, I’d love if you would leave a review in Apple podcast and let me know what your favorite part was. Make sure to check out the Instagram post for this episode over at Cinders Travels, and please feel free to share this episode with your favorite travel buddy.
Thanks so much. Catch you next time on Locals Know Best.