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  • Writer's pictureErin Schoen Marsh

Frankenmuth and Zehnder’s Splash Village: Christmas and Waterparks

Updated: Feb 21


Frankenmuth sign over road reads "Willkommen"

Frankenmuth: A German-American town with Christmas year-round 

After both studying and living in Luxembourg, I can attest that the Christmas spirit is especially strong in both Luxembourg and Germany. The German-American town of Frankenmuth, located in central Michigan about 1.5 hours north of Detroit, tried its best to recreate the magic of their ancestors. 


The farmlands of the Midwest drew many German immigrants, and Frankenmuth – Michigan’s “little Bavaria” – managed to retain its German architecture and influence while adding tourist attractions like waterparks, Christmas all-year-round, old-school chicken dinners and walkable shopping


German-style architecture building with people walking across the street

Frankenmuth is worth the visit simply for the architecture and shopping (from an adult’s perspective), and from a child’s perspective, there is the magic of Christmas year-round, including the world’s largest Christmas store, Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland. Then, of course, there is the waterpark! 



The lazy river at Zehnder's Splash Village

Zehnder’s Splash Village


Our youngest, Camille, wanted to spend her 8th birthday at Frankenmuth, celebrating Christmas in July, where we could also hit up the indoor waterpark at Zehnder’s Splash Village. I wouldn’t recommend Zehnder’s for any children under 8. The waterslides were pretty intense, and while they have a section that is suitable for younger kids, it’s relatively small and therefore packed.


A Zehnder's waitress gives a beaming young girl some ice cream

We stayed one night at Zehnder’s, which was part of a package that included 4 waterpark passes for the day of arrival and part of the next day. That was more than enough time; we were ready to be done by 11AM the second day. 


Even though we opted to do the family style chicken dinner at Zehnder’s restaurant – a must-do and the “fanciest restaurant ever” according to Camille – we did not do the entire package because we did not eat breakfast in Elf Hollow Cafe, choosing to do a simple breakfast instead to save some money. 



Rapid Review:


  1. Weather: Typical midwestern weather and varies year-round, but Zehnder’s Splash Village is nice and toasty. 

  2. Hotel: Zehnder’s 

  3. Room type: 2 queen beds in 1 room, but lofts and suites are available; see options

  4. Activity: Waterpark 

  5. Worth the walk: European-style pedestrians-only shopping area 

  6. Worth the drive: Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland

  7. Kids’ fave to eat: Zehnder’s family-style chicken dinner

  8. Best time to go: Spring/summer for lack of people, but fall/winter for the experience. If you go during the winter, you need to book weeks/months in advance.  

  9. Best ages: 8+ (we saw plenty of teenagers there even)



Accessibility

Deaf/hard of hearing

My daughter and I are Deaf/hard of hearing, and Zehnder’s Splash Village was extremely loud because it was indoors, rendering us deaf. We were able to chat in American Sign Language (ASL) between the two of us, but we were unable to communicate with the rest of the family or fully understand anyone else who spoke to us (we can lipread, but that's an imperfect way to communicate). There were no visual signs used for communication purposes and we were unable to bring technology with us because of the water, so that was a downside to the waterpark. 


Blind/low vision

I am low vision with optic nerve atrophy, so what I notice may be different from another DeafBlind person, but I found Frankenmuth very walkable, similar to a European city. There are parts of the city where you don’t even need to worry about traffic (pedestrians only), and other parts where you are inside and underground, so you needn’t worry about the weather. You could easily go without a car and simply walk from your hotel to every destination spot in the city. 


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