Archive for the ‘Frankenmuth’ Category

Wally Bronner, You’re My Hero

August 21, 2009

Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland is to me, what Tiffany’s was to Holly Golightly.  “Nothing bad could ever happen to you there.”

Bronner's CHRISTmas Wonderland

Bronner's CHRISTmas Wonderland

You can walk through the doors of the world’s biggest Christmas store, on a hot day in August, and drift away into a holiday haze.  A soundtrack of your favourite Christmas tunes follows you as you meander your way through two-football fields worth of sparkling, glittering ornaments, trees, and trimmings.

This was our second visit to Mr. Bronner’s masterpiece and this time I had a plan.  The first time we shopped at Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland we were overwhelmed by the magnitude of the place.  The number and variety of ornaments is dazzling.  Every interest or occupation or motif you can think of, Bronner’s will have an ornament to suit.  Prior to this trip, I visited the website and honed in on my areas of interest.  Like last year, we went into our shopping trip with the intent to each purchase one special ornament.  This year, Duncan got a log cabin with a red roof, because it looked a bit like our house.  Liam debated between a sparkly elephant and a John Deere Tractor.  In the end he chose the tractor.  I got a pop-up trailer and had it customized to say Cottage On Wheels on the top.

Cottage On Wheels

Cottage On Wheels

Not Sure if it's Daddy or Not

Not Sure if it's Daddy or Not

They have, pretty well, everything you might want for Christmas; including Santa suits.  Duncan went behind a shelving unit and came out wearing a Santa hat and beard.  Liam wasn’t sure what to think.  It was as if he was almost sure it was Daddy, but didn’t want to trust his intuition.  As soon as Duncan took the costume off, Liam thought it was tremendously funny.

When we got back to the trailer Liam grabbed his favourite blanky (also John Deere) and stuck it in his mouth so it spilled down like a beard.  He announced, “look Mommy, I’m blanky Santa”.  Very imaginative, I thought.

Blanky Santa

Blanky Santa

Year Round Christmas Displays @ Bronner's

Year Round Christmas Displays @ Bronner's

We were staying at Jellystone Park, right across the road from Bronner’s, so once it was dark; we went back over to see the Christmas light display that’s set up year round.  The lights and displays were lovely and fun to see in shorts and a tee shirt.  We had the dog with us that time and she was thrilled.  She was absolutely positive that the sheep in the nativity were real.  She had to investigate and give them a good sniff.  Eventually she joined the nativity herself.  I’m fairly sure there was a small black and white dog by the manger when Jesus was born…can’t rule it out anyway.  When she realized that she couldn’t herd the sheep she got bored and we left.  No harm done.

An Addition to the Display

An Addition to the Display

I’m already planning our next shopping trip.  I’m going to need a shot of Christmas next summer too.

Don’t Forget Your Pic-A-Nic Basket Boo Boo

August 20, 2009
Posing with Yogi

Posing with Yogi

Have you ever wanted to take a vacation in one of your favourite cartoons?  Try this on for size.

We spent two nights at Frankenmuth Jellystone Park, which is part of the Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp Resorts chain.  This was the first experience I’ve had with this chain of parks.  Actually, it was the first I’ve heard of this chain of parks.  There are more than 70 Jellystone Park locations but only 5 of them are in Canada, the rest are in the U.S.  I guess that’s why I was so clueless.

At $55 a night, it was a little pricey for a campground but, in exchange for the extra ten bucks, you’re getting a great location.  Jellystone is right across the road from the world’s largest Christmas store and is, literally, walking distance to downtown Frankenmuth.  You don’t get that kind of convenience at most campgrounds.

I’m not going to lie to you; taken at face value, the campsites are very small.  Had the park been full, I think the sites would have been untenably small.  As it was, however, even on a weekend at the height of camping season, the staff was able to space the campers out with two or three sites between them and never backed one pop-up directly behind another.  This gave everyone plenty of space.  I’m actually getting used to the fact that most vacation parks have smaller campsites than government parks.  As long as everyone respects each other, it works out fine.

The park has a variety of amenities including a fantastic mini-golf course, a playground, free wi-fi, and a fantastic store with all sorts of cool souvenirs.  There’s a snack bar serving hot food and ice cream.  The park shows Yogi Bear cartoons in the morning and family friendly movies in the evening.  There’s a recreation hall where there are crafts and activities planned everyday.  Yogi himself can be spotted in the park at different times through the day and there are Yogi statues scattered around, just begging to be posed with.

Liam loved the indoor pool and declared that he “can swim now”.  His father and I disagree.  I’d call it floating around in a PFD holding onto Daddy for dear life.  He’s obviously becoming more comfortable with the water, though.  He’s doing just fine for a two year old.

Look!  You're Floating!

Look! You're Floating!

Here’s a heads up about an unusual rule.  There’s a Frankenmuth city ordinance that requires a campsite fire be contained in a fireplace that is one foot off the ground.  The flames cannot exceed two feet high.  If you don’t have a fireplace and you’d still like a fire, there are community fire pits, in the park, that can be shared among the campers.  Fires must be extinguished by 11:00 p.m.

There really isn’t much I can criticize about Frankenmuth Jellystone Park.  The staff made sure we had a good time.  I can’t say enough about how friendly and welcoming they were at Jellystone.  There’s no shortage of things to do without ever leaving the park and when it’s time to go site seeing you’re a hop, skip and a jump away from everything Frankenmuth has to offer.

Now that I know about the Jellystone chain I’ll be on the lookout for them.

Frankenmuth: Michigan’s Little Bavaria

August 18, 2009

Frankenmuth is home to the all-you-can eat fried chicken dinner.  It’s impossible to leave that town with a healthy digestive system.  I love it there, but it’s probably a good thing we only go once a year.

The Cottage Crew @ Zehnder's Restaurant

The Cottage Crew @ Zehnder's Restaurant

That's Some Good Lookin' Chicken

That's Some Good Lookin' Chicken

There are a couple of popular spots, in Frankenmuth, for family style all-you-can-eat dinners.  The gang from the cottage reconvened at Zehnder’s Restaurant.  It’s a good idea to wear you’re Thanksgiving pants if you’re going there.  Zehnder’s is the largest, family owned, restaurant in America with seating for 1,500 people.  They had no problem accommodating our group of eleven.  The service was friendly and fast and the food was delicious, as always.  We sat there and ate for two solid hours.  I got the chicken sweats a couple of times, but it was so good.

The next day, Duncan, Liam and I tried the competition across the street.  The Bavarian Inn Restaurant was comparable to Zehnder’s in price, menu, quality and service.  I got the impression Zehnder’s is more likely to accommodate a large group.  I believe both restaurants are actually owned by the Zehnder family…but don’t quote me on that.  The meal was good but as it was our second all-you-can-eat dinner in as many days; I ruptured something important and had to stop eating, or die.  I did get to hear Eleanor Rigby on an accordion, though.

Covered Bridge in Frankenmuth

Covered Bridge in Frankenmuth

Now, there’s more to Frankenmuth than the food.  It’s not called Michigan’s Little Bavaria for nothin’.  The architecture and style of the whole city is reminiscent of a German fairy tail.  It’s very tempting to lose yourself in the whimsy of it all.  Some of the town’s highlights include (but are not limited to) a covered bridge, a glockenspiel and innumerable shops, hotels and businesses all built with the Bavarian aesthetic in mind.

The Frankenmuth Clock Company is a great place to stop and examine the craftsmanship that goes into making a good cuckoo clock.  It’s also a funny and noisy place on the hour.

Cuckoo Clocks

Cuckoo Clocks

The Kids Watching the Riverboat on the Cass River

The Kids Watching the Riverboat on the Cass River

If quaint modes of transportation are your thing, you may be interested in taking a cruise on the Bavarian Belle Riverboat or in taking a horse-drawn carriage ride down Main Street.  I haven’t done the carriage ride, but we did do the Bavarian Bell last year.  It was cool because I was able to cross ‘ride a riverboat’ off the list of things I wanted to do in life.

Whether you’re shopping for fancy cheese, fresh fudge or a pair of lederhosen, Frankenmuth has it all.  But, if you’re not tired of shopping, it’s only a short trip to the Prime Outlets at Birch Run.  The outlet centre is home to over 140 stores all prepared to set you up with some bargains.  You can spend a whole day there…if your husband will let you.

I know you’ve noticed that I haven’t said a word about Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland.  That’s because it’s too awesome to talk about now.  I’ll tell you all about it later.  I’ll also let you in on the pros and cons of Frankenmuth Jellystone Park.  All in good time my friends.