Location: Frankenmuth, Michigan
Webpage: Michigan Town
General Description: Known as Michigan’s Little Bavaria, there are a number of interesting attractions in the town. Frankenmuth was established in 1845 by 15 colonists from the Province of Franconia in the Kingdom of Bavaria, “to give spiritual comfort to the German pioneers in the Midwest, specifically the Saginaw Valley, and to show the native Indians” the love of Jesus. Frankenmuth was to be an exclusively German-Lutheran community, and the colonists pledged to remain loyal to Germany and faithful to the German language. After an arduous 5 month journey from Germany, the colonists purchased 680 acres of Indian Reservation land from the federal government. With the addition of another 90 emigrants the following year, they eventually built a self-sufficient community known for its flour, sawmills, and woolen mills. The community also produced beer, cheese, and sausage. Over the next few years, additional emigrants established three additional communities in the immediate area: Frankentrost in 1847, Frankenlust in 1848, and Frankenhilf (called Richville today) in 1850. Immigration continued through the end of the 19th century with friends and relatives who brought with them many skills and craftmanship from home. Agriculture and self-sustaining businesses were the norm, which served the communities well through both world wars and the Great Depression. However, after World War II, the citizens citizens of Frankenmuth began turning more towards tourism as a source of income. Today, this trend is much in evidence as the town center has slowly become a tourist destination in Michigan. Most of the storefronts have been converted to support a Bavarian theme with many small shops catering to the tourist trade. Colorful flowers line the streets and flowerboxes in front of most of the shops along with the city fountains and squares.
1) While we are generally not attracted to “tourist traps”, we found Frankenmuth to be a nice place to visit. The center of town is truly lovely with all the flowers and fountains. You can certainly spend as much time as you like exploring all the many small shops. We found a couple of interesting attractions in the town, even for someone not that interested in shopping.
2) The opulence of the Bavarian Inn with its glockenspiel can be enjoyed from just the outside alone. The glockenspiel rings out the quarter hour and has performances three times a day. Some of the music during the performance uses the bells, but the main attraction are the figures that rotate out of the clock to a prerecorded sound track that tells the story of the Pied Piper. The shops under the Inn are also worth the time to browse.
3) We found the Frankenmuth Historical Museum to be well worth the $2 price of admission. They have a nice collection of interactive exhibits that tell the story of the community from its founding through both world wars, which were difficult for the citizens with strong German ties.
4) We had lunch at the Frankenmuth Brewery which has a large selection of craft beers they produce. While the menu includes a range of options, you can sample the local sausages that are still being produced in town. This is the original brewery dating back to 1862 and is the oldest brewery in the state.
5) We were also surprised to find that the Woolen Mill is still in operation in the center of town. In the store you can purchase any of the products they still produce by hand and get a look at the cleaning and carding operations. Unfortunately, the carding machine is only operated on Thursdays.