Nestled in the heart of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula is an attractive group of destinations known as the Great Lakes Bay region. This diverse area offers plenty to reward both the business traveler and the casual tourist.
“What makes hosting meetings and events in the Great Lakes Bay region so special is our hospitality team,” says Sonja Wood, manager of meetings and conventions with the Great Lakes Bay Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau. “The collaboration and camaraderie that is shared amongst our hotel properties, alternate meeting venues and our attractions is priceless.”
Only about a 90-minute drive from Detroit, the region is served by MBS International Airport in Freeland.
The area’s cornerstone is the Frankenmuth- Birch Run community, including the twin venues of Zehnder’s Restaurant and Bavarian Inn. (Each is run by a different branch of the Zehnder family.)
At Bavarian Inn Restaurant, dinner meet- ings can be hosted for groups from 12 to 375, and theater-style meetings can be held for up to 450. An extensive catering menu is offered, along with a full array of audio-visual equip- ment and a number of activities to entertain guests, including German wine and beer tast- ing, and wine and chocolate pairing.
The nearby Bavarian Inn Lodge offers many of the same services, but boasts a full 15,000 square feet of meeting space, offering banquet capability for up to 400 and meeting space for up to 600. Both facilities also accommodate wed- dings, with the Lodge offering greater capacities.
Across the street at Zehnder’s, recently ren- ovated facilities and a warm atmosphere make even a large function seem intimate. Parties from 20 to 350 can be hosted at the restaurant. For an especially family-friendly location, Zehnder’s Splash Village Hotel and Water Park (which just completed an extensive renova- tion) is a perfect choice, and also offers facili- ties for banquets and meetings for up to 120. Unexpected menu items like the Splash Village Nacho Bar and Elf Hollow Pizza Party round out the menu of traditional American fare.
An event held in Frankenmuth can also be timed to coincide with one of the many festivals held throughout the year, providing your guests with a welcome diversion. Besides the well- known Oktoberfest (September 17-20), there is also the Blues, Brews and Barbeque (August 21-22), the Bavarian Inn Triathlon (August 1) and the Keepsake Collection Arts and Craft Show (multiple dates throughout the summer).
Just a short drive from Michigan’s Little Bavaria is Birch Run, home of Birch Run Premium Outlets. One of the most frequented shopping destinations in Michigan, the center offers 145 outlet stores, including Calvin Klein, Polo Ralph Lauren, Columbia Sportswear and many more. Book a stay at either the Country Inn and Suites or the Comfort Inn and take advantage of their Shop and Stay promotion.
Each room will receive a $25 gift card for use at Prime Outlets. Comfort Inn also offers space for meetings up to 83, and both hotels include busi- ness centers with Internet and fax machines.
Bay City is home to the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Bay City – Riverfront, located downtown on the banks of the Saginaw River. The 150-room hotel—a 2014 recipient of the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence Award and a 2013 recipient of the MMPI Silver Plate Award—offers 16,000 square feet of meeting space, including a ballroom that can host 550 people. The hotel’s Riverfront Grille offers sea- sonal outdoor seating. Meeting attendees can take a break by strolling the nearby Riverwalk, which winds past downtown shops and restau- rants. If you’re looking for an organized excur- sion for your guests, check out the Bay City Boat Lines river cruises.
The Bay Valley Resort and Convention Center combines lodging, meeting facilities and amenities such as a Desmond Muirhead- designed golf course. The center offers more than 10,000 square feet of meeting space; Bay Valley’s meeting options include intimate spac- es for meetings as small as 10 people, up to a 5,000-square-foot ballroom that can host 400.
A new addition to the hotel scene in Midland, The H Hotel sets a high standard for luxury and sophistication. Part of the international Dolce chain, the H boasts a AAA Four Diamond Rating. More than 8,000 square feet of meet- ing space is available, and the hotel’s Indigo Ballroom can seat up to 300. Facilities for business guests are state-of-the-art and include connectivity kiosks with printing and faxing capabilities and the latest presentation technol- ogy. The H also offers several packages combining lodging and meeting accommodations.
“The H is best known for its Four Diamond facilities and unparalleled service,” says Tim Shelton, the hotel’s director of sales and mar- keting. “We are very proud to have the highest guest and meeting planner satisfaction rank- ings in our company—three years running.”
In Saginaw, the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel, which recently underwent an $8.5 mil- lion dollar renovation, offers 4,000 square feet of meeting space, and can accommodate up to 250 attendees, or 200 for a sit-down meal in the 2,700-square-foot ballroom.
On the campus of Saginaw Valley State University, Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum pays tribute to one of Michigan’s most celebrated artists. Museum tours are available for groups, creating a nice way to cap off a trip to the Great Lakes Bay region.