About 6 hours from Chicago (or two hours from Detroit) is Bronners Christmas Wonderland. This year-round Christmas store is home to over 50,000 Christmas items, including 6000 different ornaments, 100′s of trees, an entire department devoted to Christmas lights and several art design studios where professionals hand paint ornaments. Bronners is so large, that you’ll need at least two or three hours just to walk through its various departments. Thankfully, a full service cafe awaits tired Christmas shoppers for a mid-point break. Bronners is also home to a theater, chapel and a shipping department where you can ship your purchases back home.
There is something rather odd about shopping at Bronners in the summer, but during my recent visit in September, we were close enough to Christmas that it actually felt quite comforting. Just keep in mind that you’ll leave the store humming Christmas music for the next couple of hours.
Ornaments are sorted by style – and you’ll find entire sections devoted to themes. For example, if you want a bowling ornament, you’ll be able to pick from about 40 different ones. There is even a section just for ornaments decorated for countries. And yes – things do become quite overwhelming, but you’ll have a hard time not finding some really cute Christmas items.
Bronners opened its original doors back in 1945 when Wally Bronner switched from painting signs, to creating Christmas ornaments for the locals. Sixty-five years later, his store is the largest in the world, often welcoming up to 10,000 visitors on a single day. Sadly, Wally Bronner passed away in 2008, but the store continues to grow based on the vision of the man behind it.
Getting to Bronners is a bit of a trek – thankfully there is plenty to do in Frankenmuth, so the drive to Michigan isn’t for nothing.
At night, thousands of lights make the entire complex even nicer to visit. Even when the store is closed, a drive through the parking lot is a show on its own.
Several of the departments sell ornaments that can be decorated, and artists will decorate those for free. On busy days, expect the decorating to take an hour or more. On quiet days, there is usually no wait.
A trip to Bronners is a ton of fun, as long as you allow yourself enough time to browse the various departments. Purchases are all well packaged for your ride home, and even the biggest Scrooge will have a hard time staying grumpy surrounded by so much Christmas joy.