"Bavarian" Leavenworth, Washington: A guide to an American town with a German flair

By Tetiana PavlichenkoJan 15, 2024 22:33 PMBudget trips
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"Bavarian" Leavenworth, Washington: A guide to an American town with a German flair
Leavenworth has been transformed into a charming Bavarian resort. Source: Image Roc0ast3r, CC0/Wikimedia.org

U.S. residents don't have to fly to Germany if they want to immerse themselves in a typical Bavarian town for a while. If you look at photos of Leavenworth, Washington, you might think you're looking at a small German town with alpine-style storefronts, twinkling signs advertising sausages, healthy beer mugs and pretzels.

This festive Bavarian town atmosphere originated in Leavenworth, Washington in the 1960s. In the early 1900s, the town was a regional branch of the Great Northern Railroad, but in 1925, its route was changed, which took a toll on the town's economy: stores moved, sawmills closed, and the population dwindled, as did the number of tourists. But a few decades later, local leaders, as part of a civic initiative, proposed turning the town into a tourist centre modelled after a Bavarian village. The themed architecture and interesting annual festivals again inspired travellers to visit Leavenworth.

Today, the town of nearly 2,400 people attracts millions of tourists each year. The highlight for visitors is the Bavarian-style town centre, but the natural environment in the Cascade Mountains and the extensive recreational opportunities are equally important. Winter sports are replaced by hiking, bicycle tours and rafting on the Wenatchee River during the warmer months.

Leavenworth and its attractions are popular for interesting family vacations and romantic weekends away. Festivals and special events are held here year-round, and attractions are open, so visitors of all ages will find entertainment to their liking. Oktoberfest draws crowds to Leavenworth in autumn, Christmas lights in December, and picturesque city streets in the summer.

This guide to Liverworth will tell you what to see, where to stay and what attractions, restaurants and stores to visit.

Best hotels and resorts

"Bavarian" Leavenworth, Washington: A guide to an American town with a German flair
Christmas lights adorn every building during the winter carnival season

Although the territorial scale of Leavenworth is not so large, places to stay in the city are more than enough as tourism is a major part of local life.

PostHotel Leavenworth

The most suitable option for a romantic and relaxing stay in luxurious surroundings is provided by one of the best hotels in Leavenworth, PostHotel Leavenworth. After rich walks, hikes and mountain biking, guests can enjoy the hydrotherapy seawater pools, steam baths and saunas, followed by a refreshing dip in the hotel's small pools. Vacations here are geared towards wellness and rejuvenation.

Bavarian Lodge

For travellers who want to enjoy the Bavarian atmosphere throughout their stay in Leavenworth, the Bavarian Lodge Hotel should be the first place to stay when choosing places to visit. Its rooms offer views of the city centre or the mountains. The hotel has a year-round heated pool with hot tubs, and many rooms feature fireplaces, patios, and private balconies.

Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort

Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort's first-class, comfortable rooms with a rustic atmosphere will immerse you in the mountain town atmosphere. The hotel is a complex of treehouse-like cabins perched on the banks of a creek. They offer superb views of the Cascade Range. When you're tired after your adventures in and around town, you can end the day with a massage at the spa or a cosy sit-down with hot chocolate by the fire.

Best activities

"Bavarian" Leavenworth, Washington: A guide to an American town with a German flair
The city centre consists of picturesque streets with colourful shops and restaurants. Source: Image Matthewrutledge/Wikimedia.org

Travellers can plan a busy stay in Leavenworth as there are enough things to see in any season.

Take a walk around the city centre

Exploring the picturesque streets is best done in the early mornings when they are a bit less crowded, or in the evenings during the period when the city shines with festive magic lights. Grab a cup of coffee, cocoa or tea at Argonaut Coffee & Biscuits or J5 Coffee and admire the many window displays: local stores have plenty to offer.

Ride an electric bike

A good way to explore Leavenworth is through bicycle tours. Bavarian E-Bike Tours, for example, offers a 16-mile ride that takes you to see downtown, ride along Icicle Creek, and visit the historic Leavenworth Ski Hill.

Go for a hike

During the summertime, take advantage of a great opportunity to visit one of the alpine lakes. For example, you can hike to Icicle or Colchuck lakes. Leavenworth is surrounded by beautiful nature with trails at Blackbird Island and Enchantment Park. All of these trails are easily accessible from downtown, and many are suitable for family hikes.

Take a swim in the Wenatchee River

Many summer adventures in Leavenworth involve the water. There are several companies in town that provide rent of surfboards, kayaks, and tubes for paddling on the river. Closer to town, the river is calmer, but further out there are some rough waters suitable for whitewater rafting.

Sample local wines, cider and beer

In addition to its Bavarian architecture, festivals and delicious food, Leavenworth is famous for its wineries and tasting rooms. Beer lovers must visit the Doghaus Brewery, while a wine aficionado's itinerary should definitely include Icicle Ridge Winery, Silvara Cellars and Usurious Wines. Another interesting tasting awaits at the Bushel & Bee Taproom, where you can choose from a changing assortment of 12 varieties of draft craft cider and mead.

Vacation season

"Bavarian" Leavenworth, Washington: A guide to an American town with a German flair
Landmark shops in the city are open all year round. Source: Image Miscellaneous contributor, CC0/Wikimedia.org

Many of the holiday stores and activities in Leavenworth are available to tourists throughout the year, such as the Nutcracker Museum, Kristmas Kringle Shoppe, and the Gingerbread Factory. But it's after Thanksgiving that Leavenworth's vacation season, referred to as the vacation season, begins, and the city's most significant events take place.

Village of Lights

Christmas lights are the main thing that draws visitors to Leavenworth during the colder months. The twinkling lights create a festive mood for all residents and visitors. Between November 24 and December 25, you can take part in themed activities such as caroling, taking pictures in fun photo zones, visiting the gift-wrapping station, listening to choirs and seeing Santa. More information about the planned events and their schedule can be found on the website.

Reindeer Farm

The farm is open to visitors most of the year. But in November and December, one of Leavenworth's top attractions can be visited as part of a special "Celebrate the Season" event. It's an amazing experience you'll remember for a long time. You can visit the deer enclosure, feed them and take pictures. In addition to seeing the reindeer, guests will also get to meet Santa in his sleigh and visit a store with reindeer-themed gifts and souvenirs, home décor and products made from antlers. And, of course, taste delicious food from the Blitzen Brew farm stand, featuring Norwegian potato lefse or venison sausage, washed down with seasonal hot beverages.

Holiday shows at the Icicle Creek Arts Centre

The Arts Centre's schedule is full of various artistic activities and inspiring events almost year-round, but during the holiday season, the various shows and performances are even bigger. For example, the Winter Piano Festival (cancelled in 2024), Magical Strings Presents, or Celtic Yuletide, a Celtic Christmas celebration with historical stories, music and Irish dancing. The is also Illuminate the Night, a Winter Themed Concert with themed "winter" music.

Sleigh rides

One of the top winter activities in Leavenworth is offered by Leavenworth Sleigh Rides and Icicle Outfitters. These are atmospheric rides around town on beautiful horse-drawn sleighs. Guests are accompanied by friendly guides who are well-versed in the history of the area. There is a pleasant stop at a campfire for a cup of cider or cocoa along the way.

Winter Carnival

The festive atmosphere never leaves the streets of Leavenworth when the New Year arrives. Winter Carnival pays homage to the German tradition of Fasching, a street festival with carnival processions, masquerades and plenty of drink and food before the start of Lent. In this way, the Leavenworth Winter Carnival extends the holiday season. There are usually live performances, ice carving festivals and fireworks every weekend in January. It is better to familiarize yourself with the planned events in advance on the official website of the carnival.

Best restaurants

Leavenworth's culinary scene is thriving, and many restaurants do a great job of maintaining the overall Bavarian atmosphere.

Yodelin Broth Company

One of the favourite places for locals to meet and sit with friends that tourists in Leavenworth should visit is Yodelin Broth Company, a restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating overlooking the river, surrounding mountains, and Blackbird Island. Here you can try rice with wild salmon, savory curry broth or other assorted soups, sweet potato banh mi and great brezels, and wash down your meal with good draft beer and wine.

Andreas Keller Restaurant

"Bavarian" Leavenworth, Washington: A guide to an American town with a German flair
Local restaurants offer Bavarian interiors, food and music. Source: Image Andreaskellerrestaurant.com

Andreas Keller Restaurant will provide a traditional German experience for its guests. Opened in 1989 by David Forchester, this family business epitomized his passion for Bavaria, its culture and food. The restaurant was then taken over by his daughter Heidi, who, along with Chef Anita from Germany, created a modern version of Keller. It serves traditional Bavarian cuisine, imported draught beers and excellent desserts, with live German music in the evenings.

Larch

One of the best restaurants in Leavenworth will delight visitors with handmade pasta of different shapes and flavours and seasonal menu and original alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. This place is worth visiting for lovers of Italian and Mediterranean cuisine. The restaurant is in demand among tourists, so it is better to book a table in advance.

München Haus

You cannot talk about the Bavarian atmosphere if sausages and warm pretzels are not a part of it. You can enjoy it all at the München Haus restaurant. Sit in the family-friendly outdoor patio, enjoy delicious grilled sausages and sample local beers from subsidiary Icicle Brewing Co.

Best time to visit

"Bavarian" Leavenworth, Washington: A guide to an American town with a German flair
Leavenworth has an incredible festive atmosphere during the winter months. Source: Image GS S/Pixabay

The most atmospheric time in Leavenworth is winter when the Bavarian town shines with Christmas lights. But you don't have to come at the peak of the season to admire this glittering beauty. You can see the festive illuminations and attend interesting events at any time from Thanksgiving to the end of February. That said, there won't be the crowds that you'd expect at Christmas or New Year's Eve itself.

Autumn in Leavenworth is notable for some of the events worth planning a trip for in late September and October: cider tasting, Oktoberfest celebrations, and a chance to admire the colourful autumn scenery.

How to get to Leavenworth?

Most travellers arrive in Leavenworth on flights to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. There, you can rent a car and drive to the city in about two hours or make a connection and fly to Pangborn Memorial Airport in Wenatchee. Alaska Airlines flies to this airport about 30 minutes from Leavenworth once a day. From there, cabs or shuttle services are available to the city.

You can also get to Leavenworth by Amtrak train, which arrives at Icicle Station near downtown Leavenworth daily.

How do I get around the city?

Travelling to Leavenworth by car will be convenient and scenic, but a car is not necessary in the city itself unless you want to drive around the neighbourhoods. Downtown is best explored on foot, and Front Street, filled with restaurants, tasting rooms, and stores, is a pedestrian-friendly street.

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