Most recent visit November 2013
The first thing you do when you walk into Bronner's is to remember where you parked, West or South. Then you pick up a map from the entrance so you don't get lost. Then you arrange a meeting time and place for your party or else you may never find them again, cell phones also come in handy. Grab a basket and off you go into the Winter Wonderland.
For those poor men who have been dragged along, they had a big screen TV where they could watch football. They even have a place to get something to eat in case you need a little more energy to finish your shopping.
Our last visit was on a Sunday, they don't open until noon and we arrived shortly after that and there was a line to get in. The line moved quickly but it was pretty surprising to see a line to get into a store.
They had an ornament signing event going on, if you go for something like that, make a beeline to where it is, an hour before the signing there was already a line snaking through the store.
We found a coupon for a free ornament with a purchase of $30 at a rest stop just outside of Frankenmuth, it wasn't any ornament though, a selection of 4 or 5 glass balls.
What to buy: If you can imagine a Christmas decoration, they probably have it here. Ornaments are organized by category (birds, cats, dogs, angels, etc.) and by country and by color. There's a whole section for personalized items. There are lights and garland and trees and stockings. There's an entire room full of Department 56 buildings and accessories to make a Christmas village, shelves and shelves of nativity scenes, blowup ornaments for your lawn.
What to pay: Roughly the same as you'd pay anywhere else, just the selection is vast.
This is going to be a no brainer after you finish reading what I have to say, but there are two places in the relative downtown of Frankenmuth that bill themselves as sausage shops, Willi's, on the main ddrag, and Kern's right on the south end of the highway out of town. We visited both and would say that Willi's is a bit friendlier to the tourist both in locationa nd presentation, but Kern's sausage is much much better both in price and quality. Kern's has polished glass, wraps their sausage in plastic, and I estimate charges about $6 per pound typically. Their selection is far more extensivbe than kern's but that is about the only advantage they have. I bought a package of weisswurst there and foudn it good, with the melt in your mouth quality it should have, but with a the thickest casing I have ever encountered. Kern's on the other hand, charged closer to $2.50 per pound for higher quality sausage without such a thick skin, and also had a better range of local cheeses, beers, and other yummies for much less than could be had elsewhere in Frankenmuth. I saw people coming and going from this store and they looked like locals.
What to buy: I'm only going to provide contact information for Kern's but if you prefer or find Willi's to be more convenient, you won't need to look far.. they are right down on the main drag. I recommend Kern's, and think you should buy whatever sausage they made fresh that day. You can also get it prepackaged in plastic, but it would normally be fresh. Look over their selection of cheeses, wines and beers, all of which are reasonably priced and they have a full butcher shop as well.
What to pay: Local prices at Kern's, tourist prices at Willi's.
River Place is a small shopping plaza that at first I thought would host the usual shops from any suburban mall between Frankenmuth and Timbuktu, but the shops turned out to be more localish or at least possessing an individualistic stripe. There is one or possibly two Bennigan's style restaurants I wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole. Sadly enough, they paid little more than lip service to the Bavarian theme of Frankenmuth, going for cheap before beautiful like any greedy property developer that long since sold their soul at the altar of infamy.
What to buy: I tried to take my 2.8 year old daughter into the mirror maze, an act which I regret because it terrified her. They sell a variety of sports, fashion, collectible and other goods.
What to pay: Average
We didn't think to bring a cooler with us and didn't think that cheese or sausage would survive the long drive home. We did enjoy going inside two of the stores as we wandered down Main Street, the Frankenmuth Cheesehaus at 561 S. Main Street and Willi's Sausages at 316 S. Main Street, both of which had plenty of items to sample.
My niece has a dollhouse that she is furnishing so we spent a lot of time in Rau's Country Store, the entire basement is filled with dollhouses that you can make, ones already put together and any piece of furnishing you could imagine to go inside. My husband was very excited to see all of the things that they had in minature, he's already working on those Peeps projects for next year in his mind!
Upstairs they also have gift items and a selection of old fashioned candy, I couldn't resist stocking up on some salt water taffy. It was much cheaper here than down the street at the other candy stores, $4.49 a lb. here and over $7 a lb. down the street.
The Birch Run Outlets are ok, if you are looking for something name brand. The prices are not any lower that dept stores for the same items. On the plus side, it is convienent to have so many different venders in a central location. There are much better and more unique stores right in the village of Frankenmuth.
What to pay: Average Dept store prices
Everything from homemade fudge to collectibles, popcorn, toys, candles, bath products, chocolates, clothing, crafts and the list goes on. All located in a little village setting.