Washington’s Slice of Bavaria Dazzles Visitors With Year-Round Fun Activities
We all may think we know Leavenworth—the Bavarian-themed town that overflows with flowers and flowered dirndls, along with Black Florest decor, dining and oompah music. Certainly all this is true of this picturesque mountain town wedged into a deep valley between Cascade peaks. Yet Leavenworth offers so much more.
Surrounded by 8,000-foot peaks, Leavenworth is a great recreation base for camping, hiking, horseback riding, river rafting and more during the warm months. Yet it’s in wintertime that the village simply shines. Snowdrifts blanket Front Street Park, decorative balconies, chalet-style roofs and trees are festooned with twinkling lights, glowing storefronts draw shoppers inside and sidewalks are filled with families in a festive mood.
SKIING AND SNOW PLAY
While wintertime celebrations draw crowds on festival weekends, Leavenworth’s outdoor appeal draws outdoors adventure seekers throughout the year. The town is an ideal basecamp for Nordic and downhill skiers, as well as families looking for a snowy outing, with groomed cross-country trails, downhill ski slopes (with a rope tow) and a tubing park at the Leavenworth Ski Hill. For cross-country skiers, the 8-km (nearly 5-mile) Icicle River Nordic Trail offers gorgeous mountain views as it traverses meadows alongside the river. The 5-km (3-mile) Icicle River Snowshoe Adventure Trail takes in the same gorgeous scenery as it winds through woods and over bridges. The 8-km (nearly 5-mile) Golf Course Trail offers exhilarating downhill runs, and if you’re looking for grander adventures, the 22-km (13.7-mile) Plain Valley Nordic Ski Trails beckons just 10 miles outside of town. In addition, Mission Ridge Ski & Board Resort (with 36 runs and 2,250 feet of vertical rise) and Stevens Pass (52 runs and 1,800 vertical feet on two mountains) are only 32 miles away in different directions.
There is plenty to do with the snowsuit set, as well, from snow play to making new (furry) friends at the Leavenworth Reindeer Farm (on the edge of town) to indulging in treats at the Gingerbread Factory.
Food always tastes best after a day outdoors, and Leavenworth has an abundance of restaurants serving up hearty goulashes and sausages. New on the scene is Rhein Haus (a satellite of the original Seattle restaurant), which makes its own sausages and pretzels. Rhein Haus is massive, with three bars and multiple levels, as well as a deck overlooking Front Street — the best seat in town for mountain-viewing and people-watching.
Yodelin Broth, with a deck overlooking the Wenatchee River, opened in mid-2018 featuring bone-broth noodle soups. (“Moonlight” is made with wild salmon-miso bone broth with Vashon Island tofu, “power” greens, oyster mushrooms and edamame.) And the chef-owned Watershed Café bases its not-insignificant reputation on locally sourced foods with a menu featuring the likes of slow-roasted Kurobuta porkchop with potato croquettes and turnip salad. And they meanlocal. A recent menu item was labeled: “Kevin Easley’s neighbor’s blackberries.”
FESTIVALS AND THE ARTS
At its core, downtown Leavenworth is a highly entertaining place for those of any adventure level to spend time. Its Front Street shops, filled with Bavarian knickknacks and outdoors gear, are fun to wander through for gifts and eye candy. Front Street Park, with its vintage gazebo, is the centerpiece of year-round festivals in this town known nationally for its remarkable slate of festivals.
SPRING AND SUMMER FUN
Surrounded by the beauty of Cascade Range peaks and the seemingly endless carpet of the Wenatchee National Forest, and with the enviable sunny days of the east side of the mountains, Leavenworth is a world-class recreational mecca. More than 700 miles of hiking, biking and horseback trails can be found here, as well as whitewater rafting. While most of the hiking is straight up (to amazing spectacles such as the famous Enchantments—well worth the effort if you’re in top shape), one of the best hiking spots is relatively flat and family friendly, with gorgeous views of rapids and small waterfalls: The Icicle Gorge Trail is a loop that parallels the Icicle River for 4 miles. Shaded by forest, it’s ideal for a hot day, but gorgeous for spring blossoms and fall colors, too.
While you dream of summertime hikes, there are a number of great early-spring outdoors options, including Nordic skiing on the Icicle River Trail, a 5-mile trail through woods and meadows along the Icicle River, or on the Leavenworth Golf Course Trail, with speedy hills and sweeping curves. Less than a half an hour north, the Plain Valley Nordic Ski Trails offers more than 60 miles of groomed trails, and five entire trail systems. April through October, the Zipline Park at Mountain Springs Lodge offers speedy thrills, and daredevils can meet their match at the new Bike Pump Park at Enchantment Park, with the only paved track on the West Coast.
—Written by Leslie Forsberg