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Leavenworth is one of Washington State’s most picturesque towns, set near the east side of the Cascade Mountains, a two-hour drive from Seattle. While it’s a popular vacation destination on its own as a Bavarian village complete with Bavarian-style buildings, Bavarian cuisine, those huge steins of beer and more, you’ll also find a wealth of things to do nearby. Any one of these amazing day trips makes for a fun way to break up your vacation here, from outdoor adventures to wine tasting and more.
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The longest natural lake in Washington, Lake Chelan lies at the base of the North Cascade Mountain Range, less than two hours north of Leavenworth. The 55-mile-long lake is surrounded by rugged mountains and boasts strikingly clear turquoise waters and gorgeous beaches that can be enjoyed under a lot more sunshine than what’s experienced on the west side of the Cascades. Look forward to just about every type of water sport imaginable, including fishing, boating, swimming, kayaking, swimming and more. If you don’t have your own toys, you can rent boats, water skis, wakeboards, tubes, scuba gear, paddle boards, canoes, kayaks and personal watercraft from Chelan Parasail & Watercraft rentals.
Just 15 minutes southeast of Leavenworth is the charming town of Cashmere. While it’s mostly associated with apples, applets and cotlets as many of the state’s famous apples are grown in the area, there’s more to it than the fruit. It not only boasts a candy factory that offers tours and samples, but as it sits alongside the Wenatchee River, it’s ideal for enjoying a variety of activities on the water, including rafting and tubing among picturesque scenery in the summer. Cashmere is also home to wineries, distilleries and cider mills that offer tours and tastings, as well as a pioneer village and museum.
Lake Wenatchee is less than 30 minutes from Leavenworth, right off Highway 2 when crossing over the Cascade Mountains. One of the state’s most breathtaking lakes, in the summer, the clear blue waters are ideal for swimming, with a shallow lagoon for the little ones, though the five-mile-long lake is most popular for boating, windsurfing, kayaking and stand-up paddling. Both SUPs and kayaks can be rented right at the lake for navigating the calmer waters along the shoreline. On land, you can bring your bike and ride the miles of trails, or take the nine-mile trek up Dirty Face Mountain for some jaw-dropping views.
The former property of Mel Water’s is located a little over an hour south of Leavenworth near Ellensburg. It hosts a nine-foot-wide bottomless hole and a former dumpsite – while it may not sound like a place you’d want to visit, it does have an interesting background that makes it worth the trip. The hole is said to have an ability to “reanimate” dead animals. No one knows where it leads, and some speculate that it’s actually a tunnel, with a belief in the “Hollow Earth” theory originally proposed by astronomer Edmond Halley several centuries ago. Mel reported sinking a fishing line 15 miles into the hole in an attempt to discover where it leads, but he never did. Others have claimed to see black rays shoot out of the abyss and a dead dog being tossed into the hole somehow returning to life from out of the woods. Whatever the case may be, it’s remained a mystery, though some believe it may actually be a blow hole for Mount Rainier, located about 100 miles west of Manastash Ridge.
Fans of the 1990s TV series “Northern Exposure,” won’t want to miss taking the scenic drive to the small mountain town of Roslyn. It served as the fictional town of Cicely, Alaska in the show. While it’s been off the air for decades now, fans still arrive in droves to visit Ruth-Anne’s general store, KBHR radio station where DJ Chris spun his tunes, and take a selfie in front of the mural on Roslyn’s café. Spark up a conversation with one of the locals, if they’re old enough, and you’re bound to hear a story about the actors and the show that put this charming mountain town in the spotlight.
The Yakima Valley can be reached with less than a two-hour drive from Leavenworth, and is well-worth the trip for wine enthusiasts. It boasts over 120 wineries and five AVAs that are spread throughout 70 miles. The area produces over half of Washington’s wine grapes and more than 17,000 acres of producing vineyards. It’s especially renowned for its intensely flavored, balanced and complex wines like Chardonnay, Syrah and Riesling, as well as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Enjoy tours and tasting, and even chatting with some of the winemakers themselves in the more intimate tasting rooms.
If you like to bike and you enjoy farmers’ markets, hit the 10-mile Apple Capital Loop Trail, starting at the popular Pybus Public Market in Wenatchee, just a 22.5-mile drive southeast of Leavenworth. You can rent bikes right at the market, and also check out the fruits, veggies, prepared meals, wine, and all sorts of other delights. The trail is paved, and the loop traverses on either side of the river, with two bridge crossings. As it travels along the riverfront, you’ll find trees for shade, which you’ll definitely want to take advantage of during the hot summer months.
At the Rocky Reach Dam Visitor Center in East Wenatchee, 24 miles east of Leavenworth, you can get a closeup look at the salmon that pass through the fishway. It’s actually a rather fascinating experience, and a rare treat to see them as they swim throughout the water. May and August are the best months for checking out the chinook salmon, while sockeye can be see most often in July, and steelhead in September.