Want to experience Bavarian charm without venturing too far from home? Head to Leavenworth, Washington, in the majestic Cascade Range. It’s just a 2-hour drive from Seattle — no passport required!
Things To Do In Leavenworth
Leavenworth may be small, but it’s big on activities. Whether you are looking for adventure or relaxation, Leavenworth has it all.
Leavenworth is most famous for its annual Christmas lights. From Thanksgiving to Valentine’s Day, more than 500,000 lights adorn the town, transforming it into a winter wonderland. The lighting ceremonies that take place on the first three weekends in December in the town square are the most popular times to see the lights.
Just steps from Leavenworth Square is the Nutcracker Museum. The museum started in 1995 as a private showcase of a local couple’s massive nutcracker collection, but it has since grown to include collections from around the world.
Sitting at one of the highest latitudes in the world, the wineries around Leavenworth thrive on Eastern Washington’s uniquely dry climate, using nearby rivers for more controlled irrigation.
Walk around downtown Leavenworth, and you will stumble upon more than a dozen tasting rooms catering to almost every palate. Like dry wines? Head to Villa Monaco. How about port? Try the chocolate port at Hard Row to Hoe Vineyards. And you’ll find 12 kinds of hard cider at Bushel & Bee Taproom. This map will help guide you around downtown Leavenworth, or you could join the Leavenworth Wine Walk. Held in the spring and fall, the event features more than 20 wineries along with local cheese and other goodies.
You can spread out a bit at one of the wineries located just outside of Leavenworth. Only 5 minutes from town, Silvara Cellars offers a casual atmosphere where you can taste wine while soaking in the vast mountain views. The winery produces small-batch, award-winning wines like chardonnay, huckleberry, malbec, and sangiovese.
About 10 minutes from town is a log cabin housing the Icicle Ridge Winery. It’s a relative newcomer to the Washington wine scene, but it prides itself on its homey vibe and creative wines. Here you’ll find creations like Chocolate Cherry Passion and a raspberry riesling mix called Razzamatazz.
If you aren’t visiting Leavenworth while the lights are on display, don’t worry! There are festivals all year long, typically with one main event per month.
Taste Leavenworth is a popular event in April that highlights locally owned and sourced products and foods. In May, locals and tourists gather to celebrate the arrival of spring during Maifest. The three-day event features a parade, traditional Bavarian dances, and even a craft for mothers, since the event typically falls on Mother’s Day weekend. And it wouldn’t be a true Bavarian town without a spectacular Oktoberfest celebration in the fall. The festival comprises three weekends full of authentic German food, music, and of course, beer.
With an abundance of dry, powdery snow, the areas around Leavenworth are perfect for winter sports. Skiers and snowboarders head to the Stevens Pass ski area, just 40 minutes west of town. It has more than 1,100 skiable acres, with the majority of the runs rated intermediate. The ski school offers adult classes that are fairly affordable. There’s even night skiing.
If you’d rather stay horizontal, strap on some cross-country skis or snowshoes and check out the Leavenworth Winter Sports Club’s network of trails. The club also offers tubing and ski jumping. Plain Valley has more than 4 miles of groomed trails, plus nearby restaurants for a cozy meal.
Perhaps the most beloved winter activity in Leavenworth, though, is sledding in the town square. During the winter, you’ll see people out there enjoying the snow with whatever they can sled on!
On water and on land, Leavenworth has multiple options for summer activities.
In town, head to Waterfront Park, where you’ll find the Leavenworth Outdoor Center. This family-owned operation will set you up for tubing, kayaking, or paddleboarding. They provide everything you’ll need and will even pick you up from most local hotels.
Look to the Wenatchee River for more adventure and whitewater rafting. The Class III and Class IV rapids will be sure to get your heart pounding. There are several rafting companies that operate from Leavenworth.
Leavenworth is also home to a large trail system with hikes ranging from very easy to difficult. The flat, easy Waterfront Park Trail winds its way along the river and has plenty of benches. This trail is good for bird-watching, and if you get hot, you can stop at one of the beaches for a quick dip!
If spectacular views are what you’re seeking, then be ready to work for them. The more difficult trails like Dirty Face Peak or Fourth of July Creek are arduous climbs and will take most of the day to complete. Be sure to bring extra water! Some of the trails lack shade.
If all those activities have you aching for a break, check out one of Leavenworth’s spas.
Relax in the organic garden at the Aspen Leaf Day Spa inside the Sleeping Lady Resort before indulging in one of its many services. Jade therapies are the spa’s specialty. The mineral is known to have healing and balancing properties, and incorporating it into your massage or other treatment is sure to leave you feeling rejuvenated.
The Posthotel’s on-site spa is a dip into true luxury. Single treatments include body polishing, scrubs, facials, and massages. Or you can combine them all in a multihour spa experience. Be sure to take advantage of all the spa’s amenities, including separate men’s and women’s saunas and a saltwater pool.
Best Restaurants In Leavenworth
You are in a Bavarian-style town, so sampling traditional German food is a must! But there are plenty of other mouthwatering restaurants showcasing regional ingredients.
Authentic German Fare
Family-owned München Haus started out simple, with grilled Bavarian sausages and local beer. Over the years, the laid-back restaurant has grown to offer more German favorites, like potato salad and pretzels. And you simply can’t beat sitting outside in the beer garden, taking in the views of the surrounding Cascades.
For really good schnitzel, head to Andreas Keller Restaurant, where you can get the German dish breaded or grilled. Started by a father who then passed on the restaurant to his daughter, Andreas Keller has been serving up German fare for more than three decades. There’s live music most nights, plus a menu for seniors.
You can experience fresh, regional ingredients at the relatively new Watershed Cafe. With a constantly rotating menu, this farm-to-table restaurant sources its food from local farms and Pacific Northwest waters. There is an outdoor patio with beautiful views as well.
Other Delicious Eats
Italian is on the menu at Visconti’s, where the chefs use fresh, local ingredients to make old-world dishes. The steaks, pork chops, and pizzas are cooked in a wood-fired oven. The extensive wine list and romantic vibe make Visconti’s a perfect date-night spot.
Step inside a real-life gingerbread house to enjoy all the offerings at The Gingerbread Factory. Just seeing the house is a treat, but inside you’ll find freshly baked desserts, including cookies, cinnamon rolls, and of course, gingerbread! This fun place is the perfect end to a fun day in Leavenworth.
Other restaurants to check out include Blewett Brewing for interesting pizzas (one has ranch dressing on it) and small-batch beer, and Mana for a five-course prix fixe organic meal that caters to all of your senses.
Best Hotels In Leavenworth
To immerse yourself entirely in this Bavarian-style town, stay at the Bavarian Lodge, located right in the middle of town. Visit the on-site restaurant, the Woodsman Pub, for an afternoon appetizer and beer before heading to the outdoor pool and hot tub for some relaxation.
For a more upscale stay, book a room at Posthotel Leavenworth. This adults-only hotel’s main focus is on relaxation and rejuvenation. And it’s easy to do just that. Situated along the calming river, the Posthotel has a spa, putting green, saltwater pool, sauna, and plunge pool. Perhaps the most relaxing amenity, however, is the nap room!
Forgo the traditional hotels and experience the Pacific Northwest by camping in Lake Wenatchee State Park, located just 20 minutes north of Leavenworth. For some extra adventure, opt to visit in the winter for snow camping. But don’t worry — there are heated restrooms and shelters.
Pro Tip: The secret’s out about this Bavarian town, so it’s best to book your stay well in advance. For other U.S. towns that’ll make you feel like you’re in Germany, see this page.