This Midwest Destination Is A Must-Visit During The Holiday Season

If you love the holiday season, you've likely heard of some of the world's most magical cities for Christmas cheer. Whether it's sledding with reindeer in Northern Finland or sighting penguins down in Antarctica, the bucket list of winter wonderlands is seemingly endless. Luckily for you, with the festive season upon us, it's not too late to start planning where to head this year. There's one particular midwest destination where you're likely to encounter Kris Kringle and gallivant through some of the most charming Christmas markets in the country.

Frankenmuth, Michigan, feels like a slice of Germany, a notable destination for Christmas markets, right here in the USA. Frequently referred to as "Little Bavaria," Frankenmuth is a festive destination that can make visitors feel like they're traveling internationally without ever whipping out their passports. If you're more of a ribbon-wrapped bundle of Christmas cheer than a grouchy Grinch, it's time you finally add this underrated Michigan city to your holiday bucket list.

Why visit in the winter

Frankenmuth is enjoyable year-round, but it is especially delightful during the holiday season. Arguably, the most popular Christmas attraction in Frankenmuth is Frankenmuth ChristKindlMarkt, a large open-air market inspired by the Christmas markets of Germany. This year, the market is open from November 24 to 26, December 1 to 3, and December 8 to 10. Visitors should take advantage of Little Bavaria's "Little" Driving Light Tour, where they can be pulled by a horse-drawn carriage or drive their cars to see the city's most festive light displays. There's also the Holly Jolly Trolley Light Tour, a 30-minute tour on the Golden Ticket Trolley.

Sighting Santa here is not unusual, as he often frolics around town. Common Santa sightings are at Bavarian Inn Restaurant, Santa's Reindeer Farm at Grandpa's Tiny Farm, and 'Tis the Season Weekends at River Place Shops. You can even eat breakfast with him at Zehnder's of Frankenmuth on December 2 at 9 a.m.

'Tis the season for ugly sweaters, and Frankenmuth Brewery is hosting a contest for who's is the ugliest this year on December 14. The festivities take place between 12 p.m. and 7 p.m., but getting there earlier can pay off. Participants should let staff know they are interested in joining the competition, and from there, they'll have their photo taken, which will be placed on social media. The photo that gets the most reaction by the end of the competition will get a $50 gift card to the brewery.

The charm of Little Bavaria

Winter charm aside, Frankenmuth has a wide variety of recreation to offer visitors. With deep German roots, you'll want to check out some local museums to understand better the history, particularly the Frankenmuth Historical Museum. For a more Americana experience, head to the Michigan Heroes Museum, which honors the men and women of Michigan who have had wartime experiences.

Grand Traverse Distillery is a must for those interested in sipping some Michigan spirits. It might surprise you that Michigan has a bustling wine scene, and Modern Craft Winery in Frankenmuth offers guests a wide variety of fruit-infused wines. You can even taste vino at the oldest wine company in Michigan at St. Julian Wine Co.

If wellness is more your cup of tea when traveling, make sure to head to Serendipity Wellness Spa. Bavarian Inn Castle Shops is a great way to spend an afternoon, with a unique variety of boutique shops, like a doll and toy store and a Castle Shop Bakery. Here, you can even roll your own pretzels in true Bavarian style.