Does the thought of vacationing inside of a life-sized snow globe appeal to you? Get a taste of European charm and holiday magic in the Alpine village of Leavenworth, Washington. This Bavarian-style village, dominated by German A-line architecture, is a two-hour drive from Seattle in a narrow valley of the Cascade Mountains. From Thanksgiving until February, the entire town of is decked out in Christmas lights and hosts carolers and numerous holiday events, making it one of America’s most festive Christmas destinations. Grab your mittens and snow boots and get ready to make some unforgettable holiday memories as we explore the Northwest’s slice of Bavaria.
Visit Christmastown and Karneval
December is one of the best months to visit because Leavenworth transforms into a literal village of lights. Boasting over half a million brilliant lights, downtown Leavenworth lives up to its seasonal nickname “Christmastown.” Weekends are filled with family-friendly events featuring music and entertainment as well as photo ops and kids’ activities like roasting chestnuts and Santa photos. There’s even a nearby reindeer farm.
If you stay until the new year or book your trip in January, you can enjoy Karneval, a German a German tradition dating back to the thirteenth century, commonly referred to as “Fasching.” You can expect to winter activities such as ice carving and fireworks. Karneval lasts the full month, and the Christmas lights will stay on until Feb 1st, giving you the chance to enjoy the festivities through the heart of winter.
Global Fare with Local Charm
Dining in Leavenworth is a unique experience due to the authentic Bavarian-influence of the cuisine. Craft German-style beers, homemade brats, schnitzel, and other European fare can be found with ease. To experience the German feeling of Gemütlichkeit, or geniality, visit Andreas Keller Restaurant. The restaurant boasts a full menu of Bavarian-style cuisine, craft beer, and more live music than anywhere else in town.
Families, or anyone with a sweet tooth, will want to visit The Gingerbread Factory. The bakery offers an array of gingerbread treats as well as top shelf cookies and has a wonderful display of gingerbread houses and other festive treats. Situated next door to Andreas Keller Restaurant, it’s a great stop for dessert. Custom gingerbread house and lebkucken heart orders can even be made to bring home or send to loved ones.
Beer connoisseurs will want to visit Stein, a German-style beer hall with 55 taps of beer. Full of American craft beer, mostly from microbreweries in the Pacific Northwest, as well as imported German beers, Stein is a genuine European-style beer hall, not a bar. Housed in one of the original Bavarian style buildings from the early 1900s, expect big open seating (both indoors and outdoors) and plenty of Bavarian pub food to pair with your favorite beer.
Discover Imported and Handcrafted Treasures
Leavenworth features countless unique shops and boutiques full of imported goods. These range from what you’d expect from a Bavarian village, nutcrackers, cuckoo clocks, beer steins, music boxes, and holiday decorations, to handcrafted goods like chocolates, cheeses, and soaps and candles. Higher-end boutiques can be found as well selling fine china, import clothing, and jewelry.
Since it’s the holiday season, a trip to Kris Kringl is a must. The boutique features handmade holiday décor and rustic lodge art imported from Germany, Poland, and other European countries.
Another can’t miss is Boulder Bend Glassworks for their beautiful one-of-a-kind glassworks. These glass pieces are genuine works of art inspired the world’s natural beauty and no two are alike.
Stay in Top-class Mountain Lodges
There’s no shortage of luxury lodges in Leavenworth. For an adults-only vacation, Abendandblume and Cashmere Mountain are two luxury bed and breakfasts that come highly recommended. Both are secluded and private but only a few miles from downtown and feature beautiful mountain views and spacious rooms. Families can try Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort, a well-known establishment famous for its natural beauty and sustainability efforts. Situated near Icicle Creek and the Cascade Mountains, this resort has everything you need for a cozy mountain getaway.
Jet It Owners can fly into Pangborn Memorial Airport in East Wenatchee, about 45 minutes away from downtown Leavenworth. And if the big city is calling, Seattle is a half-hour by plane and two hours by car from Leavenworth. There’s so much to love about this mountain getaway and there’s not better time to Jet It to the Cascades than this winter!