K.C. was a featured writer for Yahoo! Travel before joining trips to discover in 2013. She is the author of Best Travel Guide for First Time Visitors to Ireland, an Amazon bestseller every year between 2013 and 2016. She has been a featured expert on Newsweek, Travel + Leisure, Travelocity, among others.
Read full bio
Leavenworth is a quaint Bavarian village that sits on the eastern flanks of the North Cascades. The charming town in Washington truly offers something in every season, from brilliant foliage and Oktoberfest in the fall to its magical Christmas atmosphere during the winter, along with a host of year-round activities.
Leavenworth is one of the best places to truly experience Bavaria in the U.S. Authentically designed in the fashion of an old Bavarian village, here you can enjoy traditional German fare, shop for unique goods and visit a traditional German biergarten. Munchen Haus is ideal for sipping German beer or mulled wine paired with a variety of bratwurst offerings. Open year-round, when it’s chilly, staff will bring you a tray of hot coals for warming your hands. You can even have your photo taken wearing traditional Bavarian clothing at Studio 1890.
For such a small town, Leavenworth hosts an impressive number of unique shops, some of which offer the chance to purchase items that it would be difficult to find anywhere else. Look for Bavarian-themed gifts and souvenirs, including beer steins and music boxes, unique clothing and all sorts of specialty foods like wine, oil and vinegar, and chocolate. Of course, you can also buy typical souvenir goods, like magnets and t-shirts too. As it’s so popular during the holidays, a number of Christmas stores have opened up over the years, providing the chance to buy unique ornaments, handcrafted Nativity figurines and more.
Waterfront Park is one of Leavenworth’s hidden treasures, where locals and visitors like to enjoy a stroll on the tree-lined trails that follow the Wenatchee River, stopping to relax and take in the scene from one of the many benches along the way, as well as to read the interpretive signs that explain the natural and cultural history of the area. Spring is ideal for bird watching, and in the fall, you can marvel at the salmon embarking on their difficult journey upstream. When the weather is warm, take a detour onto one of the small stretches of sand and enjoy a refreshing dip in the cool water.
The Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum is home to over 6,000 tools that were solely invented for cracking nuts. It’s hard to believe there are many devices created specifically for this purpose, but these nutcrackers are made from all sorts of materials and date all the way from the Roman times through today. You’ll see the quintessential wooden toy soldiers made popular by the ballet, as well as European carved wooden figures, Asian Betel cutters, elaborate Victorian silver nutcrackers, and precious ebony, ivory and porcelain figures among countless others. The collection that’s believed to be the world’s most extensive, was gathered by George and Arlene Wagner, who donated their collection, and the building it’s housed in, to the city of Leavenworth.
Visit Leavenworth in the summer months and you enjoy a special theatrical treat. The Leavenworth Summer Theater opened more than two decades ago and it’s become the biggest summer theater between Seattle and Spokane. The annual “Sound of Music” production at the stunning Ski Hill Amphitheater draws over 20,000 each year, performed outdoors under the stars. Hatchery Park Stage and the Leavenworth Ski Hill Amphitheater both include live orchestras with an awe-inspiring backdrop of Icicle Ridge that will make you feel as if you were suddenly transported to the Swiss Alps.
Eagle Creek Ranch is a historic year-round horse ranch set in the spectacular Cascades, surrounded by the Wenatchee National Forest, offering sleigh rides in the winter and horseback riding during the spring, summer and fall. Horseback rides are led by friendly experts guides on the scenic, forested trails, while the winter sleigh rides bring the chance to glide through a magical snowy wonderland through the woods and meadow, pulled by a team of Belgian or Percheron draft horses. For a more intimate experience, couples may want to choose the more romantic ride, heading out in a small private sleigh. Both excursions include blankets for warmth, and afterwards, sipping hot apple cider by the old-fashioned barrel wood stove.
Leavenworth Ski Hill is a place both locals and visitors flock to for fun and affordable wintertime activities. It’s an ideal spot for beginners and young children to learn to ski, but it offers more than skiing and boarding. The area includes the opportunity for snowshoeing and also hosts the only ski jump on the west coast. Tubing and sledding are available at the tubing park, which includes a 100-foot tubing hill that comes complete with a rope tow and tubes, along with tasty hot cocoa for enjoying after a ride.
The Osprey Rafting Company has been drawing outdoor adventurers for nearly 30 years. Its team is made up of professional guides with years of experience whitewater rafting on the Wenatchee River and is the only one in the Leavenworth area that provides rides down class 4 rapids through its High Adventure route. There are also family floats that offer a more gentle ride for enjoying the gorgeous surrounding scenery and wildlife that includes bald eagles, otters, beavers and even the occasional bear. Other options are available through Osprey too, including kayaks, tubes and paddle boards for rent.
Less than a 30-minute drive west in the Cascade Mountains, Lake Wenatchee is a popular day-trip from Leavenworth during the warmer months of the year, with its clear sapphire waters ideal for swimming and a variety of other water sports like kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, windsurfing and boating. Both SUPs and kayaks can be rented right at the lake, a great way to explore its nearly 2,500 acres. On land there are miles and miles of trails for mountain biking and hiking – the nine-mile trek up Dirty Face Mountain offers especially breathtaking views.
Aspen Leaf Day Spa, located at Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort, offers a day spa welcome to everyone. It may be the perfect way to relax and refresh after days spent in the great outdoors, with a wide range of holistic services that include a variety of massage options. Its signature jade treatments provide healing, balancing and harmonizing that is aimed to maintain skin tone and boost the immune system while improving circulation and melting tension away. Wraps, facials and foot scrubs are just a few of the other options. You’ll get a robe and slippers as well as organic tea and chocolate. The property also offers relaxation and walking meditation in its organic garden, a self-guided art walk, a spa boutique and a mercantile. Advance reservations are recommended.
The only outfitter in the Leavenworth area offering a ride down class 4 rapids, Osprey Rafting Company, it’s private High Adventure route on the Wenatchee River may be the highlight of your time here, especially if you plan to visit between May and July. Its Main Event adventure features class II and class III whitewater trips that are ideal for beginner and intermediate riders. It includes more than 15 river miles on a four-hour excursion running from Leavenworth to Cashmere, ending with a BBQ beach party.
There are multiple places to enjoy wine tasting in the up-and-coming Leavenworth Valley Wine Country region. Eagle Creek Winery is one of the most popular, and the oldest in the town of Leavenworth, producing high-quality premium wines from hand-picked grapes grown in its own vineyard. A visit here might feel like you’ve somehow been transported to Tuscany. From May to October, visitors can meet with the owner and winemaker, Ed Rutledge for a tour of his personal wine cellar. Afterward, enjoy a local cheese and fruit plate while sipping wine on the patio or in the treehouse that overlooks the vineyards. There’s also a tasting room right in downtown Leavenworth with gorgeous mountain views and hand-carved woodwork created by the winemaker himself. At both the winery and tasting room, you can purchase a bottle or two.
Golfing enthusiasts can enjoy a round at the nearly 100-year-old Leavenworth Golf Club which offers a well-maintained 18-hole all grass course with spectacular views of the Wenatchee and Icicle Rivers, the mountains and, occasionally, the wildlife. The clubhouse offers dining and great cocktails along with a spa, swimming pool and fitness center as well as a shop with souvenirs and golf merchandise.
Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery was built as a response to the Grand Coulee Dam that was constructed in the 1930s. It impacted the many fish that swam down the Columbia River, closing off hundreds of miles of river. The three hatcheries help to compensate for that loss of habitat while helping sport and commercial fisheries by keeping fish numbers higher. The hatcheries can be toured, allowing visitors to learn about their history and operations that include raising spring Chinook salmon, summer Chinook salmon, coho and steelhead. You’ll be able to witness thousands of young salmon swimming in the ponds and raceways and ask hatchery employees any questions that you might have too.
If you’re up for a thrill that doesn’t involve being on the water, a zipline ride might be the ideal option for experiencing a different perspective of Leavenworth. Anyone nine years of age or older can enjoy it, and there’s no real level of fitness required. You’ll feel as if you’re flying, making those dreams you had as a kid a reality while enjoying a fun adrenaline rush. Leavenworth Ziplines offers eight different ziplines and two suspension bridges that sit 190-feet above the valley floor. Whiz over the canyon and forest surrounded by jaw-dropping natural beauty while assisted safely by certified guides.