- Things to Do
- Eat + Drink
- Places to Stay
- Plan Your Trip
Make this family trip one for the books when you kick off the weekend in Little Bavaria — with two of Michigan's top indoor waterparks and the world's largest Christmas store!
Breakfast: Sit at patio tables inside Parisian-inspired La Crepe du Jour and enjoy French-style crepes together while French music fills the air. Bonjour! Or begin your day at Honey B's Eatery, with creative options for meat eaters, vegetarians, and vegans alike. Choose the Southern Benny or Honey's Hash (and cave when the kids ask for the Chocolate Chip Pancakes!). You could also dine at Oma’s Restaurant, located inside the Bavarian Inn Lodge, where Sunday brunch buffet is served poolside in the indoor courtyard!
Mid-Morning Outings: Experience sights, sounds, the spirit of Christmas, and more than 50,000 trims and gifts inside the world’s largest Christmas store, Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland. (Psst! Bronner’s offers custom-painted ornaments that’ll make special souvenirs from your weekend away together!) Stroll Main Street to sample treats from Frankenmuth Taffy Kitchen, Zak & Mac’s Chocolate Haus, and Frankenmuth Cheese Haus. Next, book a tour on the Circle Cruiser with PedAle Trolley, and cruise through Downtown Frankenmuth on four- to six-passenger bike!
If you're staying at either of two Frankenmuth hotels that happen to have epic waterparks, you'll want to spend the whole morning soaking it in. Try the 50,000-square-foot Zehnder’s Splash Village Hotel & Waterpark for two indoor waterparks, the four-story Perilous Plunge, and the six-story, four-person Family Raft Ride through the Tantrum Twist! Or, dive into Bavarian Inn Lodge for four indoor pools, two waterslides, four tennis courts, an on-site Family Fun Center with 18-hole indoor mini-golf course, 150-game arcade, and two-story Children's Village play area!
Lunch Options: Dine on the patio overlooking Main Street at Tiffany's Food & Spirits. Choose from homemade pasta dishes, Sicilian-style pizza, and an impressively robust kid’s menu. Follow your nose to food trucks that frequent Frankenmuth, from the Bavarian Inn Cluck Truck for world-famous chicken and crave-worthy sides to The Cheese Trap for fried cheese curds and gourmet grilled cheese. Take your food truck fare to Heritage Park, and enjoy lunch alongside the scenic Cass River.
Afternoon Fun: Cruise aboard the Bavarian Belle Riverboat where kids will enjoy the ride and big kids will love the narrated tour. Book a 30-minute or one-hour river excursion with Frankenmuth FunShips and a 12-person, electric-powered boat will be your chariot. You could even take the family-friendly Wine & Chocolate River Tour to sample wines paired with handmade chocolates, parents — with sparkling grape juice available for the kids. Cheers!
Or, take to the trees at Frankenmuth Aerial Park! With thrilling ropes courses and ziplines, the multi-skill leveled challenges will provide excitement for your whole family, ages seven and up. Discover Frankenmuth Jaycee Spray Park, a zero-depth water play area that is completely accessible for people of all abilities. Enjoy 18 different fountains, sprays, geysers, and have hours of family fun for free!
Dinner Options: Dine at Bavarian Inn Restaurant or Zehnder's of Frankenmuth for world-famous chicken dinners. Both German-themed restaurants offer all-you-can-eat meals served family style, and both are an absolute must for the full Frankenmuth experience. Or, dine in a classic blues atmosphere, complete with live music on weekends, at Slo' Bones BBQ Smokehaus. Dive into smoked wings, mouthwatering ribs, and the Lil’ Slo’s menu for the wee ones!
You could also enjoy dinner at Frankenmuth Brewery, established in 1862, with two levels of outdoor seating overlooking the Cass River and made-from-scratch pizza, burgers, and more. Sample your choice of 15 craft beers available on tap, and order the kiddos a cold mug of Frankie’s Root Bier. The specialty craft soda, brewed in small batches, will have the whole family saying, “That’s one dog-gone good root bier!”
Into the Eve: End your evening on a horse-drawn carriage ride with Fantasy Carriage Company or Frankenmuth Carriage Company. Travel through charming Downtown Frankenmuth for highlights like the Bavarian Inn Holz Brücke (an iconic, covered wooden bridge), River Place Shops, and the Glockenspiel tower. Before bed, save time for a drive down Bronner's 25 Christmas Lane — a half-mile holiday light display, illuminated every night of the year, that's sure to make their little faces light up.
Rest Up for Day Two Find a place to stay after your day of fun in Frankenmuth! Browse Frankenmuth Hotels +
Day two in Saginaw brings new cool, families — from two zoos the kids will go wild for to a beach and spray park where you'll all be splashing together!
Breakfast: Start your day with big smiles because of Fuzzy’s Cinnamon French Toast! Made with thick, homemade, iced cinnamon bread, this might be a smile-maker for the big kids, too (with coffee, of course). Enjoy large portions and low prices at Bringer Inn, and watch your breakfast made right in front of you at this open-concept restaurant.
Morning Outings: Step into more than 16,000 square feet of hands-on fun at Mid-Michigan Children's Museum! Every gallery is interactive, but don’t miss “Insides Out” where your family can climb inside a mouth complete with teeth and a tongue! Go wild spotting animals at the nearby Saginaw Children's Zoo, and ride both the region’s only hand-carved carousel and the iconic miniature train. Toot toot!
You could also visit Wilderness Trails Zoo (with just a quick hop over to Birch Run) to take on a 56-acre park with more than 200 animals and 50 exotic species. With primates, zebras, lions, reptiles, parrots, and more, be sure to partake in the petting area! Smack high-fives at Alpine Mountain with bank-shot basketball, go-karts, bumper boats, two 18-hole mini-golf courses, and refreshments and ice cream!
Lunch Options: Introduce the kids to car-hops at Old Town Drive-In, and treat your whole family to homemade draft root beer and delicious Coney dogs. Savor homemade soups at Fralia's, and choose from more than 20 sandwiches. (Psst! Fralia’s is great for families with picky palates; there are so many options!)
For homemade soups, sandwiches, salads, and Mexican favorites, too — Valerie's Downtown is the place. And Big O Burgers & Barbecue specializes in Southern-style home cooking and keeping it simple with “meat, wood and fire”.
Afternoon Adventures: Hit the beach at William H. Haithco Recreation Area and make memories a’plenty with a playground, sand volleyball courts, horseshoe pits, and paddleboat, rowboat, canoe, and kayak rentals! Indoors, challenge your family to Airborne Adventure Park and its wall-to-wall trampolines. Defy gravity, train like a Ninja Warrior, conquer the Warped Wall, and compete in Ultimate Dodgeball!
Sprawl out together at the four-acre Frank N. Andersen Celebration Park. With a European-style playscape, Bocce ball courts, and nature viewing along Lake Linton, Celebration Park is also home to a 15,000-square-foot skateboard and inline skate park — plus Celebration Square Splash Park with three bays catered to kiddos of different ages!
Take a guided tour on a shallow-draft boat with Johnny Panther Quests Adventure Trips, and experience the 10,000-acre pristine wildlife gem that is the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge. Bring cameras, binoculars, beverages and your picnic basket for this one-of-a-kind outing!
Dinner: Dine from the sushi bar, parents, and let the kids take in a tableside Teppanyaki cooking show by trained chefs at Genji Japanese Steakhouse. It’s high-energy, exciting, and unforgettable! Eat at family-friendly G's Pizzeria for gourmet and signature pizzas, including the gluten-free and vegan Clean Cauliflower Pizza, alongside sandwiches, burgers, and brews!
Into the Eve: Dare to ride a wild roller coaster, race go-karts, play miniature golf, race around through Laser Tag, and play arcade games all in one place that is Kokomo’s Family Fun Center. Don't miss this, families!
Step into Stardust Lanes to bowl, and be ready for the Entertainment Center that's also inside, featuring: a video arcade with more than 60 games, four escape rooms, LED-lit bumper cars, and two-story laser tag for all kinds of family adventures!
Rest Up for Day Three Find a place to stay after your day of fun in Saginaw! Browse Saginaw Hotels +
Riding through town on tandems, splashing at a spray park, or building castles on a sandy beach — day three in Bay City packs plenty of options that are perfect for all ages!
Breakfast: Begin with a cuppa and a Chocolate Frosted Cream Filled Long John at Cops & Doughnuts - Sutherland Precinct, a completely unique and entirely cop-owned bakery. Or, get to Uptown Grill for classic diner dishes served with modern twists. The kids (and big kids) will have to choose between Banana Bread French Toast or Chocolate Chip Cakes, and the truth is, you can't go wrong with either.
Morning Outings: There’s no time like vacation to rent tandems for the fam! Roll into Jack's Bicycle Shop before hitting the Bay City Area Riverwalk/RailTrail, and ride along wildflowers, residential districts, and even a waterfront boardwalk.
Have your camera ready at the Antique Toy & Fire Truck Museum. With a NASCAR and Tonka Room, along with 60 motorized firetrucks on display, smiles get really wide here! Head to Painterly Pottery, a “paint your own” studio with more than 1,000 unfinished items waiting to be made into souvenirs. Want to see your kids as happy as, well, kids in a candy store? Stop into century-old St. Laurent Brothers for homemade treats, ice cream, and candy, and buy some all-natural peanut butter to take home!
Lunch: Eat Downtown at Intermission Deli for daily soups with a bread bowl option, salads, and more than 40 overstuffed sandwiches to choose from. Or, book it to Mussel Beach Drive-In (right by your next stop) for a family-friendly restaurant and premium ice cream parlor.
Mid-Day Adventures: Explore the Saginaw Bay shoreline and sandy swimming beach at Bay City State Park — along with Tobico Marsh, a 2,000-acre wetland preserve with walking trails, wildlife viewing, and two four-story observation towers!
Giggle and play at Spray by the Bay Splash Park, with umbrellas and lawn chairs for rests, and enjoy every minute at the Play by the Bay Playscape. This wooden wonderland, complete with tire swings and climbing nets, is fun for the young and young-at-heart!
Dinner Options: Introduce your family to our state’s culinary history in each and every bite at MI Table. With creative dishes, sourced locally, order from a seasonal menu — and try options like the Chicken Pot Pie with Michigan Biscuits you'll all devour together.
Evening Fun: Experience an evening straight out of “Pirates of the Carribean” when you hop aboard BaySail's Appledore tall ships for a Sunset Cruise. Feel the wind in your hair and save the photo from your family’s unforgettable sail — it’ll be a framer! Have all the fun at Buoy 18 Miniature Golf, Arcade & Ice Cream Shop — or Dutch Village Adventure Park, with mini-golf, batting cages, bumper boats, and a slick track.
Get to Cream & Sugar Ice Cream Company for locally sourced (Michigan-grown sugar and Michigan-produced milk) freshly churned ice cream, and bring down the night underneath the lights of the Third Street Star Bridge! An illuminating art project in the heart of Downtown, the star bridge is an outdoor visual experience that your family won’t soon forget. (Psst! Hope you're still feeling photogenic after your sail, because pictures under the lights of the Third Street Star Bridge are a must!)
Rest Up for Day Four Find a place to stay after your day of fun in Bay City! Browse Bay City Hotels +
Wrap up your weekend of fun making memories in Midland — sky-high on a treetop canopy walk, or deep in the woods discovering nature together!
Breakfast: Start your day with “go-juice” (aka: coffee) at The Loch Coffee Company or Live Oak Coffeehouse. Enjoy Live Oak’s quiche, order the kids cinnamon rolls, and don’t pass on a family photo in front of the colorful mural that spans the side of the building!
Get to Grove Tea Lounge for Boba tea, vegan and gluten-free options like Chocolate Chai Overnight Oats, scones, muffins, and scratch-made donuts. If the kids are into crepes, Crepes Et Amis serves an irresistible Strawberry Cheesecrepe with strawberries, cheesecake filling, and Nutella®.
Morning Outings: Go “two-wheeling” with rentals from Ray's Bike Shop and head out on the Pere Marquette Rail Trail. Begin at The Tridge to ride along a unique three-way bridge, possibly the only one of its kind in the country! Or venture out to Chippewa Nature Center where admission is free, the Visitor Center houses hands-on exhibits in the Ecosystem Gallery, and the Nature Discovery Area will have your whole family playing while witnessing wildlife up close.
Let loose and get loud at The Playground, an indoor haven for kids to burn off some energy and parents to kick back and take a break. Or dazzle all of your senses at Midland Center for the Arts, a family-friendly facility where participation in art, music, science, and history is encouraged.
Lunch: Head to Pizza Baker for wood-fired, Neapolitan-style, crowd-pleasing pizza. Or let the kids “Build Their Own” at Pizza Sam's while the big kids enjoy the Michigan Cherry Salad and The Godfather sandwich. Drop into Amazing Deli for sandwiches, salads, soups, and 10 “Reuben Dog” to “Chicago Dog” hotdogs to choose from.
Mid-Day Adventures: Get to Dow Gardens for 110 acres of floral beauty (including an award-winning Children's Garden) and enjoy the Canopy Walk inside its Whiting Forest which takes visitors four stories high through the trees! The longest canopy walk in the nation at 1,400 feet long, enjoy three walkway arms: The Spruce Arm with tree-supported cargo nets; the Pond Arm with tranquil overlooks; and the Orchard Arm with a glass-floored perch 40 feet above the ground!
Get wild and wet at Gerstacker Spray Park (located near The Tridge and Pere Marquette Rail Trail), or have belly laughs by the buckets, and water spouts, at Longview Spray Park!
Dinner: Dine at Molasses Smokehouse + Bar. If the name alone isn’t ‘nuff said, the Smokehouse Wings, St. Louis Ribs, Mac & Cheese, Kentucky Bourbon Pecan Pie, and Apple Cobbler will have kids and kids-at-heart saying, “Let’s come back here soon!”
Evening Fun: Be ready for big fun at Valley Lanes Family Entertainment Center! Featuring 20 lanes of bowling, indoor mini-golf, a huge arcade, billiards, laser maze challenge, bumper cars, Hologate virtual reality, and two escape rooms, the whole family will have a blast! (And everyone will sleep great after a long weekend of adventures!)
Rest Up Before Heading Home Find a place to stay in Midland after the last day of your long weekend! Browse Midland Hotels +
Jen is a Saginaw native and owner of Feel These Words, an independent copywriting studio & home to the free "5 Day Website MiniBoost". Jen specializes in writing that connects, delivered through website copy, branded content articles, and WingWoman writing services. You'll find Jen camping with her family, laughing, and at feelthesewords.com