Just outside of Seattle, you'll find one of our favorite winter escapes, a town called Leavenworth, a charming Bavarian-styled village nestled in the heart of Washington State's Cascade Mountains.
Some interesting history about the area (via the City of Leavenworth) —
The Yakima, Chinook, and Wenatchi tribes were the first to originally roam the town we now know as Leavenworth, living off the land by hunting deer and elk and fishing Icicle Creek for salmon.
In the 1890s, the area was soon bustling with settlers who were in search of gold, furs, and fertile farmland.
At the end of the century, the arrival of the rail line and its tracks that passed right through town, brought a new economy, new jobs (in logging, the local sawmill, and the railway), and new commerce to Leavenworth.
However, that soon feel apart when the Great Northern Railway Company re-routed its tracks out of Leavenworth entirely and the town closed the once-booming sawmill — many lost their jobs and the town was left on the brink of extinction for more than 30 years.
But, in the 1960s, local leaders saw tourism potential in their small town nestled in the hills, and remodeled Front Street to resemble a Bavarian village; the whole community rallied to create the illusion of Bavaria in the middle of Washington State.
In addition to the town’s facelift, seasonal festivals were born, such as The Autumn Leaf Festival, Maifest, Oktoberfest, and a Christmas Lighting Ceremony.
Today, close to two million tourists come to Leavenworth each year, making this one of the most visited areas in the PNW (City of Leavenworth, 2019)
When visiting Leavenworth in the winter season, add the following must-sees and stops to your list:
Attend the annual Christmas Lighting Festival (starts on the Friday after Thanksgiving and continues for three weeks through mid-December on Saturdays and Sundays at 4:30 p.m.).
Enjoy the village of lights, which is illuminated from Thanksgiving through Valentine’s Day.
Visit the Gingerbread Factory.
Go on a festive family or romantic sleigh ride pulled by dashing Belgian or Percheron draft horses at Eagle Creek Ranch. You can also check out Mountain Springs Lodge, Icicle Outfitters + Red-Tail Canyon Farm.
Check out Christkindlmarkt, the Leavenworth Christmas Market.
Go sledding, tubing, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, or snowshoeing.
Visit the Nutcracker Museum and go on a nutcracker hunt.
Stroll through Front Street at night to embrace the holiday magic, where over one million lights illuminate the town.
Eat fudge from Alps Candy Store.
Ski at a local ski area, like Stevens Pass, Mission Ridge Ski Area, or Leavenworth Ski Hill.
Check out local dog sledding.
Visit the Kris Kringle Christmas Store.
Attend the Bavarian Icefest in January, where a winter wonderland is on full display, like ice carving with ice sculptures to admire, a snowmobile sled pull event, and a fireworks display after the sun goes down.
Check out the Leavenworth Ski Jump (the only American ski jump on the west coast).
Ride on Fat Bikes, which can take you on a biking adventure; yes, through the snow, because of their extra-large tires.
Cozy up with hot chocolate in the local lodge, like Pine River Ranch.
Stroll along the Wenatchee River at Waterfront Park.
Leavenworth is the perfect place to get into the holiday spirit during December or enjoy a day trip or weekend staycation through the winter months. Enjoy the cute downtown atmosphere and ambiance, learning about its history, and admire the colorful, scenic Alpine-style buildings while you eat a warm German-style pretzel in one hand with a beer (or mocktail) in the other.
Have you been to Leavenworth?
All photos by Hannah Ziegeler | @hzphotos
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