A Winter Wonderland Road Trip to Frankenmuth, Michigan


chicken dinners in MichiganFrankenmuth, Michigan, has my heart. The best part of this picture-perfect year-round Hallmark Movie town is it is only a four-hour trip from Columbus. So for the past two holiday seasons, my five-year-old daughter, Samantha, and I have done a girls trip to “Christmas Town,” for all things silver and gold, red and green, lights, hot cocoa and of course, Santa!

Frankenmuth, known as Michigan’s Little Bavaria, is notorious for all things Christmas but can be a perfect getaway for any time of year. The town has great shopping, festivals galore, some of the best restaurants and more. There’s no shortage of things to keep you busy (or not…if sitting and relaxing by the fire is more of your thing!) Both trips we’ve taken, we’ve gone the first week of December – we did weekdays to avoid the weekend crowds (but any time is magical!)

Where to Stay

waterpark hotel in MichiganLast year we stayed two nights; this year, we stayed one. During our trip last year, we stayed about 20 minutes away from Frankenmuth in an adorable Airbnb in Bay City, Michigan. Airbnb had a ton of historic charm and gave us an opportunity to explore a different town in Michigan. 

This year we stayed at the Zehnder’s Splash Village – and holy moly. This place is worth the four-hour drive itself! The most amazing indoor water park with slides, lazy rivers, a giant kids’ area, and more! Sam and I both spent hours swimming, splashing, and sliding. 

Are you looking for something a little more quaint, like a tucked-away B&B or a hotel? There is no shortage of options! 

Where to Eat

Frankenmuth for ChristmasFrankenmuth and classic German chicken dinners, are synonymous. For world-famous chicken dinners give Zehnder’s or Bavarian Inn Restaurant a try. Interestingly enough – they are two of the nation’s largest independently owned restaurants serving up more than two million chicken dinners a year together. Chicken, not your thing? No problem – both places have a full menu and not to mention a town full of other delicious dining options. Whatever you do, however, make reservations – both places fill up fast, especially this time of year. Be sure to save room for dessert, fudge, hot cocoa and sweets! And, don’t forget to grab a stein at Michigan’s oldest brewery, Frankenmuth Brewery

What to Do

Christmas magic in Michigan ice skating in MichiganWait – you mean you’re supposed to do things besides eating and shopping? (Kidding!) Frankenmuth has no shortage of fun things to do – especially during the holidays! Grab the FREE Frankenmuth shuttle and check out things like the Musical Christmas Tree, write a letter to Santa, and more. Both years Sam and I went ice skating and both years were the most fun disasters ever. We both spent more time lying on the ice than standing upright! HA! A few groups that do horse and carriage rides — we did one last year. They are pricey (and fill up fast), but it is as magical as it gets! Here’s a full schedule of events for this holiday season! 

Where to Shop

Weekend getaway from ColumbusPut Bronner’s at the tippy top of your list. Why? Because it’s literally the world’s largest Christmas store. The building alone is more than seven acres big, PACKED full of ornaments, stockings, trees, decorations and more. Charter buses of people descend on Bronner’s year-round, so be sure to get there early! In addition, the Frankenmuth town square is chalked full of specialty shops, souvenir shops and so much more. And it’s all walkable! Or check out the ChristKindlMarkt, mid-Michigan’s largest open-air holiday market! 

Tips and Tricks! 

  • Christmas townIf you can swing it, go during the week. For the last two years, we’ve gone during the week, and the town center is far less crowded than it is on a weekend night during December. Don’t get me wrong – the weekends are peak magic in town, which also draws large crowds. 
  • Look for money-saving opportunities! If you go this holiday, be sure to grab a Peppermint Perks card which can be found at the Visitor’s Center and the Ice Haus. There are coupons for SO many shops and restaurants on this card – including a $5 coupon at Bronner’s
  • Carriage rides are fun – but they book FAST. Like weeks in advance. Call early to reserve a spot – or check on the current day to see if any cancellations have opened up.
  • SFrankenmuth, Michiganpeaking of Bronner’s – if you spend more than $30 in-store (which I guarantee you will), be sure to fill this out to receive a free ornament! 
  • This Christmas Guide and Christmas Map is your one-stop shop for everything you need to plan your experience!

Here’s to the holidays, making memories and experiencing so much Christmas magic! 

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Amanda Decastro
Amanda DeCastro has called Columbus, Ohio home her entire life. She currently lives with her husband and four-year-old daughter Samantha in Grove City, where they love to share everything there is to do south of Columbus and beyond on their Instagram handle @BusyInGroveCity. In addition to sharing their favorite things to do around town, Amanda and Samantha stay busy making kids crafts - and they truly live by the motto “the messier the better!” When Amanda isn’t shuttling her daughter from activity to activity, she can be found working part-time at Spectrum News 1 OH where she heads up community relations. An elementary school principal’s wife, Amanda is also involved with the South-Western City Schools Educational Foundation board and serves on the advisory committee for the South-Western City Schools Career Academy Interactive Media Design program. A Capital University grad, she is also involved with her alma mater serving as a frequent guest speaker and mentor for current public relations and marketing students.