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Leavenworth is a famous Bavarian village offering festival-goers the chance to experience German culture in the United States. Located at the eastern edge of the Cascade Mountains, it’s absolutely stunning all year-round, but the fall is one of the best times to visit with beautiful autumn foliage highlighting its striking beauty. Held over three weekends in October, you’ll be able to attend one of the top Oktoberfests in the entire country, which draws visitors from across the globe.
Every Saturday at noon during this authentic Bavarian Oktoberfest, there is a special opening ceremony that includes a spectacular parade down Front Street. Led by the Muenchner Kindl, the Bavarian procession is followed by villagers that carry both American and German flags. You’ll be able to watch the town’s own Musikkapelle play traditional Bavarian instruments including familiar polkas and marches, marvel at the elaborately decorated wagons, and the horse-drawn carriage which carries Leavenworth’s mayor. After the parade, the party moves to Festhalle where the traditional Keg Tapping Ceremony begins.
Oktoberfest is all about beer, and Leavenworth’s is no exception. After all, it wouldn’t be authentic without the traditional drink. While the village has lots to offer beer lovers throughout the year, there may be no better time to indulge than now. Hofbrau, Alpine, Ayinger, Paulaner, Weihenstephan and Warsteiner are all served during this October festival, and there are three breweries downtown, all within walking distance like Icicle Brewing with an outdoor patio for the sunny, crisp autumn days as well as indoor seating to take advantage of if it’s too chilly out. DogHaus Brewing only has room for around five patrons, but if you’re one of the fortunate to find a seat, be sure to sample the 3 Dog Night, a barrel-aged dark IPA.
The autumn festival is a true foodie’s paradise. From traditional brats and turkey legs to BBQ ribs and pulled pork sandwiches, there’s lots of options for soaking up all that beer – and it all comes with coleslaw and beans. If you can manage to save enough room for dessert, the German cakes with whipped cream and root beer floats are to-die-for. If you’re looking for a sit-down dining experience, there are numerous options like the open-air Munchen Haus, renowned for its beer and brats, along with casual German eats like Little Korner and the Leavenworth Sausage Garten.
The music at Leavenworth Oktoberfest is always a highlight. Each year, the town’s own Musikkapelle Leavenworth takes the stage, and other talented artists come from across the country and beyond, including Canada and Germany. You can expect bands like The Beer Barrels, known for their Oktoberfest and European dance tunes, German music by Happy Hans, Oregon Polka Beats, Silver Stars, and The Gordonairs.
Bring the little ones as this Oktoberfest is especially family-friendly and hosts Kinderplatz in the main park downtown. The area is just for kids and features a climbing wall, bouncy toys, live music performances, a magician and L-Bow the Clown. It’s a great way for pint-size Oktoberfesters to burn off energy. If you want a break from the festival, you’ll find many non-Oktoberfest things to do with the kids as well. The Trout Unlimited Fishing Pond is stocked with trout and open throughout the year for children under 15, located within the Bavarian Village inside the Enchantment Park. The Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum displays a history of the Nutcracker tradition with some remarkably unique, nontraditional nutcrackers, and even offers the opportunity for a nutcracker scavenger hunt.
Everyone can look forward to browsing and buying the multiple vendor booths that sell all sorts of souvenirs, crafts, souvenirs, unique flavored cigars and a wide range of German items, along with that tasty cuisine. This is your chance to pick up an impressive Oktoberfest stein or a cool coffee cup, exclusively offered at this event. Every year, there is a different mug with a new design making an ideal souvenir as well as being useful long after it’s all said and done.
Just about everyone that attends Munich’s famous Oktoberfest dresses in traditional Bavarian outfits known as trachten. Why not do that in Leavenworth too? In the 16th and 17th centuries, traditional Bavarian garb was a common part of everyday life in Munich. With the use of the traditional clothing beginning to fade, groups of locals came together for a huge revival to bring it back. If you don’t want to go out and purchase the attire, Studio 1890 offers the chance to at least try it on for a time, and have your photo taken too.
While you’re here, you should really take advantage of the many opportunities for recreational pursuits while enjoying the area’s magnificent scenery. There are endless trails for hiking and biking in the Cascade Mountains just outside of town, or head to Waterfront Park, one of Leavenworth’s best-kept secrets. Here you can take a stroll on the colorful tree-lined paths that follow the Wenatchee River, reading the interpretive signs that explain the natural and cultural history of the area, and occasionally stopping on the benches scattered about along the way to rest and enjoy quiet contemplation. Autumn is also the time for watching the salmon battle their way upstream.