On our way back from Florida, we received word that our friend Mike’s father had passed away on Easter night. So, we spent one night in Byron Center before heading to the east side of the state. Mike and his wife Cindy both grew up in Essexville, at the base of Michigan’s thumb. Mike’s dad was a hard working farmer and was well loved, as was evident by the packed funeral home the night of the viewing. His red Farmall tractor was parked out front with a beautiful bouquet of flowers in the seat. What a great send off.
Our go-to campground in that area is the Jellystone Park in Frankenmuth, which is about 1/2 hour south of Essexville. At first glance, this park appears to be high priced, somewhat tight and geared towards kids…all of which is true. But, there is so much more to this story, especially for us.
Yogi has taken care of us over the years. When Diana’s dad was suffering with terminal cancer in Flushing (just to the south), we parked our travel trailer here and Diana used it as a retreat to come back to and regroup. The staff was as good as gold to her. They also have one of the best indoor pools you will ever find at a campground.
It comes complete with an excellent climate controlled environment, huge whirlpool, and an evening adults only hour. Nice.
Frankenmuth is known as Michigan’s Little Bavaria. Settled in the mid 1800’s by Immigrants from what was Germany’s Franconia region, Frankenmuth has become one of Michigan’s prime tourist destinations.
Most folks come for the family style chicken dinners at either the Bavarian Inn…
…or at Zehnder’s. Both are great, but our favorite is Zehnder’s. We both have a lifetime of experiences in this restaurant, from our early childhoods until now. :). There also is a brewery/restaurant in town, along with other popular food destinations.
If shopping is your thing, Frankenmuth has an array of quaint stores with plenty of offerings. Perhaps the grandest shopping experience in Frankenmuth is Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland. (Wally Bronner wanted to make sure people remembered the holiday was Christ’s birthday, hence the case-sensitive spelling.)
Bronner’s bills itself as the world’s largest Christmas store. It is open 361 days a year and is loaded with every kind of ornament imaginable. They also have outdoor displays that are lit year-round.
And even though the focus is Christ, Santa Claus is also well represented. But perhaps one of the most compelling features of Bronner’s is the Silent Night Chapel.
The chapel is a 1:1 replica of the chapel in Oberndorf, Austria. The hymn ‘Silent Night’ was first played on Christmas Eve in St. Nicholas church in 1818. After the church was razed, the chapel was built on the altar site. Wally Bronner travelled to Austria in the 1980’s and obtained permission to construct a replica in Frankenmuth.
Surrounding the chapel are these signs displaying the lyrics in over 300 languages. The speakers in the surrounding landscaping continually play different versions of the hymn. Pretty nice tribute for a simple but powerful tune.
So if you are ever driving up I-75 in lower Michigan, be sure to check out Frankenmuth. It is definitely different than what you would expect from the area. The people of Frankenmuth should be no suprise though, as they are as hard working as most of the rest of area’s residents…people like Mike’s dad. You will feel very welcomed here.