Michigan’s Best Day visits Frankenmuth, Michigan


Guten tag! I’m John Gonzalez and I’m Amy Sherman. Willkommen in Frankenmuth! [upbeat accordion music] It might be surrounded by farmland
instead of castles and mountains, but this city is Michigan’s Little Bavaria. The heritage of Frankenmuth’s German settlers can be found around ever corner. And it’s one of the state’s top tourist destinations attracting millions of visitors each year. Today, we’ll be stopping by the iconic Bavarian Inn and showing you all the best things to do see, do, and eat all over
town. And to start the day you need to head over to one of Michigan’s Best pizza shops. Pizza for breakfast? Are we crazy? If you’re traveling with children, pizza is always on the menu and T-Dubs, located right in the middle of town was one of our top picks during our first-ever Michigan’s best Pizza search. their fluffy basil dough makes for a wicked good pie and their specialty pies with creative topping combinations like the Harbormaster make for a tough decision. But if you’re here in the morning, it’s time for breakfast pizza. T-dubs opens at 7 a.m., 7 days a week with a full menu of American-breakfast favorites, but this is your chance to skip the pancakes and go big by choosing either the Good Morning America topped with bacon, links, potatoes, scrambled eggs, and a three-cheese blend or the Sleeping Bear, featuring sausage, gravy, eggs, onion, green pepper, ham and bacon. John and Amy: Who has the best pizza? Staff: T-Dubs! Get that penny. I’m going. Every tourist town has a place where you can spend a penny or two, and Frankenmuth has got you covered.
has got you covered if you’re a serious If you’re a serious shopper you can spend all day hunting for deals at the nearby Birch Run Premium Outlet mall Lining both sides of Main Street here in town you’ll find gift shops, boutiques, galleries, and plenty of free samples. And there’s one store that’s been helping Michiganders get a good night’s rest since 1894. The Frankenmuth Woolen Mill celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2019. Abby Curtis and her husband Matt
bought the business in the early 2000s. At the front of their store, you’ll find
woolen bedding products made by local employees which have been a recent boom
to their business. In the back of the shop, peek through the window to get a glimpse of their vintage carding machine. [machinery running] Amy: How long has this machine been here? Abby: It was built in the 1870’s John: What? Abby: And it was installed here in the 1930’s. If you call ahead, you can get an up-close tour of the entire operation which is fascinating. The raw wool arrives in large bundles and is then soaked and
washed in bathtubs located in the basement. It’s then sent to the 19th century wool carding machine combing into fully sheets of batting before being
cut to size for the pillows and comforters. Do you tighten the bottom first? Yep Oh, you’re hired. Stick around – stick around. [laughter] [German accordion music playing] Hey Amy, Why did the chicken cross the road? Oh John, it doesn’t matter what side of the road you’re on in Frankenmuth, you’re gonna find some, incredible famous chicken dinners here. Here at the Bavarian Inn and across the street at Zehnder’s you’ll find homemade goodness that rivals dinner at Grandma’s house. But how do you pick which one to visit? Good question. But first, a little history rewind. Narrator: The restaurant that is now the Bavarian Inn was opened in 1888 by Theodore Fischer. Fischer’s hotel was run by his family for two generations. The Fischer’s, not the Zehnder’s, are credited with serving the first family-style chicken dinners in Frankenmuth. The Zehnder’s entered the picture in 1928 when William and Emily Zehnder sold their family farm to buy the restaurant across the street from the Fisher’s – The Exchange Hotel. they remodeled it in the style of Mount Vernon. And renamed it Zehnder’s and open for
business on Mother’s Day in 1929. In 1947, the Zehnder’s’ turned the business over to their two daughters and five sons. In 1950, the Zehnder family bought Fischer’s Hotel. William Tiny Zender and his wife Dorothy
managed the restaurant. Within 10 years, they expanded adding Bavarian architecture and German entrees. They dressed their staff in Bavarian costumes and renamed the restaurant Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn. Today, Zehnder’s and the Bavarian Inn are both run by members of the Zehnder family but they operate as
separate businesses and friendly competitors. And that brings us to the present day when patrons faithfully choose their favorite of the two or
simply picked the one with the shortest line. Inside Zehnder’s colonial style building, you’ll find an elegant bustling dining hall. At Bavarian Inn, the warm wood
finishes and charming hand-painted murals provide a cozy ambience. The star of the show at both restaurants, and let’s admit it, the reason why you’re here are the chicken dinners. The all-you-can-eat option will set you back
around $25 a person and it’s worth every penny. Dinner is served family-style and starts with fresh-baked bread, homemade salads, and noodle soup. Then hearty sides of buttered noodles, mashed potatoes, vegetables and dressing fill the table. Oh my gosh, this chicken from Bavarian
Inn looks incredible, it’s got this really thin kind-of crackery coating. I love how light it really is. When you think of fried chicken you think of really greasy and thick This actually kind of feels healthy to me. And as great as the chicken is here at Bavarian Inn, it’s equally good over at Zehnder’s it’s a very similar recipe with just a few slight
differentiations. You’d be hard-pressed to almost tell the difference. Oh, Amy, I’m stuffed. Well I hope you saved just a little bit
of room for dessert. Oh, I did. Amy, we had a great dinner here at Bavarian Inn. We sure did, it’s always fantastic. Part of the reasons is because we love hanging out with Dorothy’s Zehnder. She is pretty amazing, she’s in her 90’s, she still works six days a week. And you know what keeps her so young? What is it? She eats chicken every single day. It’s some form of chicken. It’s not always fried chicken, it
can be stewed chicken, or a chicken sandwich or a salad with chicken, but yes, I eat chicken every day. I’m gonna start eating chicken every day. You’ve been working in this restaurant now, the Bavarian Inn, for over 70 years. Yes, I love to come to work. I must admit, I’m sure I made mistakes but all-in-all, I don’t want to brag but I think we did a pretty good job. I think you can brag. So why do you think you have so many repeat customers? Why do people come back generation after generation with their families to the Bavarian Inn? It’s just something about Frankenmuth. It’s friendly, and it’s a nice town to visit. You’re located right across the street from Zehnder’s, also known for chicken dinners, but also part of your family. My husband, and the gentleman across the street were brothers. It’s friendly competition. Who has the better chicken? Well, of course I would say we do. No, I don’t want to say that, they have
good chicken, also. They have good chicken. [bells ringing] The 35 bells of the Carillon here at the
glockenspiel tower at the Bavarian Inn can be heard across Frankenmuth every
hour on the hour. Pop by at noon, 3 p.m., 6 p.m., and 9 p.m. to see the wooden figurines in action as they tell the tale of the Pied Piper. When the show is over you can head up the street to get a closer look at authentic German cuckoo clocks at the Frankenmuth Clock Company. [cookoo clock chiming] Arrive here at the top of the hour to
go cuckoo for cuckoo clocks. It’s the country’s largest retailer of authentic cuckoo clocks imported right from the black forest region of Germany. Owner Gregory Burton recently took the reins of the store that’s been ticking for
more than 150 years. Explain to me what makes a clock a cuckoo clock? Well, it’s gotta have a little bird that comes out. It started with farmers who would make clocks in the wintertime when they couldn’t do anything else because the winters were
always kind of rough. Especially in the black forest – they get feet of snow rather than inches. When you go to the Black Forest you hear cuckoo birds cuckooing all over. And it’s not just in the Black Forest but all throughout Germany. You also repair clocks. Yes, right now, we have three to four hundred repairs waiting to be done. Ho, you are busy! There’s a huge influx of repairs because there’s not a lot of people that do it anymore. It’s not just a clock, it’s somebody’s memory, it’s somebody’s heirloom. The sentimentality of a clock that’s been passed down through generations you can’t put a price tag on it. So that’s why we do what we do. [clock chime playing] Across the street from the Clock Company
you’ll find the Frankenmuth River Place Shops. Here you’ll find an eclectic selection of stores selling gifts and treats. At N’Orlins cafe you may think you’ve left Little Bavaria and entered the Bayou for a southern-style pick-me-up. Beignets, light and airy deep-fried pastries, are made fresh served hot and topped with powdered sugar. Terry Renaker is a former Marine
who was inspired to start a cafe serving beignets after a visit to New Orleans. So Terry, tell me, why beignets? Why not? I love powdered sugar. Yeah? I love beignets. I love the New Orleans culture, the food, I used to go down there all the time
with my brother. We just decided to bring them up north. We’re in Frankenmuth, Michigan known as Little Bavaria, fried chicken – No, no they’re known for beignets now! Now what makes a beignet a beignet? Isn’t it just doughnut with like powdered sugar on it? No, it’s more than just a doughnut, it’s like a funnel cake and an elephant ear and when you break it apart, they’re kind of
hollow inside and people love to dip them. So we sell dipping sauces. After four years I get so many people returning now. The thing we hear the most is: You’re our first stop and usually our last. Fantastic. [jazz music playing on piano] Frankenmuth is full of amazing people who love to share with you all year round. Be sure to check the local events
listing before you plan your trip here, you’re sure to find something fun on the
calendar. The annual Snowfest in the winter puts massive snow sculptures on display. The dog bowl and balloon festival kicks off the summer season. And Oktoberfest gets the town dancing in the fall. But there’s one season that lives on year-round: Christmas! Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland is the world’s largest Christmas store. A couple hours here can fill a Grinch’s heart with the spirit of the season no matter what time of year. Founder Wally Bronner started the business in 1945. Today, it’s over two acres, yes, two acres of non-stop noel, filled with more than 50,000 Christmas products. From trees and ornaments to nativities and Santa suits, it has anything you could ever want to deck your halls. You can take home something uniquely yours like a personalized hand-painted ornament. Kids can share their Christmas list with Santa from the day after Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve. Open 361 days a year, it’s the perfect place to bring your family and create lasting memories. Ho! Ho! Ho! If you’ve had a great day in downtown Frankenmuth, you might want to unwind. Maybe with a glass of wine and some
charcuterie at the charming Prost. Toast to the end of a day in Frankenmuth at
Prost. Wine comes by the glass or carafe from one of six rotating taps or pick a bottle from their wine cellar If wine is not your thing, try a handcrafted
cocktail or a Moscow Mule. Build your own appetizer board or let Prost do it for you. Choose from an incredible selection of
charcuterie, cheese, and sides. Don’t miss the balsamic onion jam. We had a great time in Frankenmuth. From checking out authentic German cuckoo clocks to visiting the world’s largest Christmas store, Plus, we did a little bit of shopping. And of course, we had excellent chicken dinners. That’s how you spend a Michigan’s best day in Frankenmuth. We’ll see you on our next adventure. [accordion playing] This episode of Michigan’s best day was
brought to you by the Michigan Retailers Association which encourages Michiganders to support their communities by shopping at nearby retailers.

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