When a trip to Austria is out of the question, a weekend jaunt to this tiny village in Washington state is just the thing to satisfy my desire for mountains and schnitzel. Once a struggling logging town, Leavenworth’s city planners had the brilliant idea to give the town a face lift in the 1960s. Inspired by the surrounding mountains, they turned the main street into an Old World Alpine village. Leavenworth has embraced its identity as a Bavarian village ever since.
Leavenworth makes a great weekend getaway for those in the northwest. It’s only 5 hours from Portland, 3 hours from Seattle and 4 hours from Spokane. You can also take Amtrak there. The area is full of attractions that will appeal to many different tastes. Here I share the 5 reasons I loved my trips to Leavenworth!
1. The Town
The main street itself is totally charming, with colorful, Austrian-inspired buildings, beautiful carvings and murals, shops and restaurants galore. The sparkling Wenatchee River winds its way through town and mountains loom all around. The view is stunning. You can shop til you drop at all manner of clothing, gift and specialty stores. You can indulge your love of all things Christmas year round at Kris Kringle, sample cheese from around the world at The Cheesemonger’s Shop, stock up on artisan chocolate at Schocolat or add to a nutcracker collection at Nussknacker Haus. Are museums more your thing? The local museums won’t break your budget. Visit the one-of-a-kind Nutcracker Museum for $5 or or the Upper Valley historical society museum for $3.
2. The Food
Of course Leavenworth is full of German restaurants and pubs, and there are also cafes, coffee shops and ethnic food restaurants. For the budget conscious, check out King Ludwig’s for decent German food at a price that won’t break the bank or Munchen Haus for quality German sausages and beer at a low price. You can find locally roasted coffee at J5 Coffee and locally made ice cream at Whistlepunk. In the summer, the Leavenworth area and nearby Wenatchee Valley are bursting with locally grown apples, pears and peaches. You can find local fruit at roadside stands.
3. The River
The Wenatchee River is a gem. On it’s winding journey through the mountains, it features whitewater rapids as well as stretches of calm, clear water. All sorts of water sports are available: family tube floats, whitewater rafting, kayaking, stand up paddle boarding….you name it. Nearby at Lake Wenatchee State Park, you can launch boats and jet skis. Even if you don’t have room in your budget to hire a whitewater rafting guide or rent tubes, you can find peace and joy by picnicking and swimming at the river or nearby lakes.
4. The Mountains
They are nothing short of gorgeous. I love the mix of dramatic rocky faces and tree-lined slopes. This area is a hiker’s paradise. There are trails to suit all levels of difficulty and here hikers can get the maximum reward for minimal or reasonable effort. For doable, easy-ish hikes, I recommend Hidden Lake and Icicle Creek. Both are beautiful and there are good spots for swimming on a hot day. For those with hiking experience and stamina, Colchuck and Stuart lakes offer incredible views. In the summer, keep in mind that the parking areas can get clogged by 10 in the morning. Most parking areas at trailheads require a NW Forest pass, currently $5 a day if you don’t have a yearly pass.
In the winter, the ski hills come alive. There are excellent options for both downhill and cross country skiing.
5. Leavenworth Summer Theater
This community theater company puts on The Sound of Music all summer long at their outdoor Skill Hill Amphitheater. Above the stage, you can see the mountains and the rays of the setting sun as Maria sings “The hills are alive with the sound of music”. It’s so fitting! The company also produces two additional musicals each summer, rotating between other popular favorites. There are budget friendly tickets available for the back couple rows of the theater. The theater is not very big, so you still get a great view from the back.
Have you visited Leavenworth, Washington? If so, leave your favorite thing to do there in the comments!