I’ve been working a lot lately, and my 5-year-old has gotten a bit tired of it. So, partially out of guilt but mostly because I wanted to spend uninterrupted time with him, I took him to Frankenmuth for the weekend.

I have fond memories of Frankenmuth, but they are vague: My mom took me there to buy shoes for my first communion, and I know I’ve eaten that chicken dinner at Bavarian Inn in the company of extended family. I haven’t been back as an adult, and I knew I was long overdue. So I reached out to Sonja Wood at the Great Lakes Bay Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau and began planning my trip. (Sonja was nothing but helpful. Never underestimate the local CVB when you need some expert insight and support.)

Because my son is young, we stayed at Zehnder’s, which offers a fabulous water park and an arcade, among other amenities. Saturday I had planned to take him into town but doing so took a fair bit of persuasion—he was quite content to roam the hotel, eat at the very kid-friendly Elf Hollow Café, splash in the pool and accumulate fistfuls of tickets playing Frogger.

Finally, though, I cajoled him into the car. And I’m glad I did—Frankenmuth is actually pretty fabulous. When Grand Traverse Distillery sets up a tasting room in your downtown, your hipness factor is fairly high. The whole shopping region was a microcosm of the best Michigan offers, really, with plenty of green space for my son to run wild and appealing dining options sprinkled throughout.

When it came time to eat, we headed to Bavarian Inn Restaurant, which promotes its chicken dinner with gusto. The dinner’s reputation is considerable, which I realized in full when I tried to walk into the restaurant to eat at 3 pm. Without a reservation, the wait was much longer than I would expect at that time of day. Fortunately, the restaurant has several sections, some of them designed to accommodate for poor planners like me, and my son and I enjoyed some very delicious food, including the biggest, freshest pretzel I’ve ever had. (Note: Frankenmuth is reasonably priced. From the cost of meals at Elf Hollow to shopping in town, prices were not set to gouge.)

Our last morning, we packed in another swim, a pancake breakfast and an exchange of arcade tickets for a new toy fire truck before it was time to say goodbye. We had a wonderful time, and I’m already fielding requests from my boy about when we get to return.

With mostly family-owned shops and restaurants, 26 miles of sandy beaches, and more than double the miles in bike trails, Muskegon sounds like it could be a city on the West Coast. But combine it with snowy winters and a small-town feel, and Muskegon is a Midwestern city full of character. While the city provides plenty of recreational things to do, meetings and events don’t lack in luster. Opening in spring 2021, a new convention center is just one highlight for planners looking to book in Western Michigan, among plenty of other exciting venues to explore. 

 

Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth is one of six recipients of the James Beard Foundation’s 2020 America’s Classics Award, which is given to locally owned restaurants that have timeless appeal and are beloved regionally for quality food that reflects the character of their community. Per the foundation, “Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth, a chicken dinner behemoth positioned between Detroit and Michigan’s summer lake destination, is decidedly on the beaten path. William Zehnder Sr. and his wife, Emilie, bought a former hotel in 1928.

 

What's the first word that comes to mind when you think of Traverse City? Beautiful. Fun. Adventure. Perfect? That last one might seem hard to attain, but when it comes to a destination for meetings, Traverse City is second to none. It really has it all—world-class conference facilities, outdoor activities to connect your attendees, farm-to-table cuisine and breweries and wineries to tempt every palate.