Michigan’s most famous city may be Detroit, but group organizers might be surprised to find the Great Lakes Bay Region, a quiet gem among Michigan’s tourist regions, has much to offer. During a tour, groups can enjoy miles of rivers, authentic German entertainment, a number of cultural opportunities and shopping galore.

Fall is a prime time to enjoy the area. Colors paint the landscape across Michigan, but groups don’t have to travel to the northern parts of the state to enjoy a fall color tour while taking in other sights. Simply turn the motorcoach north on Interstate 75 and head to Michigan’s Great Lakes Bay Region, a short 90 minutes away from Detroit.

The region includes Bay City, Birch Run, Chesaning, Frankenmuth, Midland and Saginaw.

Japanese Cultural Center and Tea House

Japanese Cultural Center and Tea House, Saginaw, Great Lakes Bay Region, Michigan
[/media-credit] Japanese Cultural Center and Tea House, Saginaw, Mich.

Celebrating 30 years of sharing Japanese culture with Americans, the Japanese Cultural Center and Tea House in Saginaw, warmly welcomes guests to its traditional-style tea house. The highlight of a visit is an authentic Japanese tea ceremony.

“There is a lot of order and specific procedure to make a bowl of tea for guests,” said Yoko Mossner, executive director. “Our philosophy behind that is to achieve harmony, respect, purity and tranquility. As guests watch tea being made, they concentrate on the process and their mind is free of stress.”

Beyond the tea ceremony, the tea house itself is worth a visit. Local workers constructed the outside of the tea house. Three carpenters from Japan who were specially trained to build tea houses completed the inside. They finished all the interior work through a series of masterful techniques that didn’t require one nail, coat of paint or varnish.

The tea house can host groups of 25 at a time. It is open from April to October.


Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland, Frankenmuth, Great Lakes Bay Region, Michigan
[/media-credit] Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland, Frankenmuth, Mich.

Groups passing through the Great Lakes Bay Region in mid-September can join in the festivities of “the only officially sanctioned Oktoberfest celebration outside of Munich, Germany,” said Herb Zeilinger, Go Great Lakes Bay Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau motorcoach and group tour expert. During the festival, guests can enjoy German beer and dance the night away in a smaller version of an authentic German beer hall — no passport required. 

“September and October is the busiest time of year for Frankenmuth, especially on the weekends,” Zeilinger said.

Visits during the week offer the same Little Bavaria experience of shopping and dining, but with fewer crowds. Be sure to include a stop at the World’s Largest Christmas store, Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland.

Deer Widows Weekend at Birch Run Premium Outlets

Birch Run Premium Outlets, Birch Run, Great Lakes Bay Region, Michigan
[/media-credit] Birch Run Premium Outlets, Birch Run, Mich.

When deer hunting season kicks off in Michigan, Birch Run Premium Outlets in Birch Run, becomes the place to be for bargain hunters at the annual Deer Widows Weekend.

This event is a great opportunity for groups to shop at the 140-plus stores while enjoying special discounts, parties and giveaways. The event is held on a weekend near opening day of the Michigan firearm deer hunting season, which is always Nov. 15. 

BaySail – Appledore Tall Ships

In the fall, a drive from Detroit to the Great Lakes Bay Region can provide groups with an explosion of fall colors. Getting off the motorcoach and on to water gives groups a different point of view. Groups can board the Tall Ship Appledore IV in Bay City, and enjoy a two-hour sail on the Saginaw River while appreciating the view, hot cider and perhaps spotting a bald eagle or two. The ship holds up to 48 people.

Great Lakes Bay Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau

Article by Deb Thompson