Wenatchee’s Snow Sports and Warm Amenities Add Up to Winter Fun
As a light snow paints a fresh layer of white on the brick storefronts of downtown Wenatchee, I can’t help but think I’ve witnessed this scene before. If I squint my eyes just a little, I can believe I’m in a Norman Rockwell painting and downtown Wenatchee is a classic American village full of winter cheer.
The vintage soda fountain, old-school movie theater and quaint antiques stores have me time-tripping back to the mid-1900s, and the powdery snow is frosting on my flashback cake. The clouds break for a moment and the Columbia River and Cascade Mountain foothills gleam in the sunlight.
With crisp and sunny weather in between snowfalls, the city known as the Apple Capital of the World has quietly grown into a hub for cold weather fun. Seated at the confluence of the Wenatchee and Columbia rivers, this destination promises a scenic drive through dramatic terrain from any direction.
- From Seattle: About 140 miles east
- From Spokane: About 170 miles west
Call or visit your nearest AAA store for maps, guides and other travel-planning resources, including assistance from one of our expert Member Travel Counselors.
Ski Slopes and Trails
Looks can be deceiving. That was my takeaway after my first hour of skiing at Mission Ridge (pictured above). Less than 30 minutes south of downtown Wenatchee, the ski and snowboard resort only has four chairlifts, but its 2,000 acres of skiable terrain compare favorably to Crystal Mountain (2,300 lift-serviced acres) and Stevens Pass (1,125), making Mission Ridge one of the most underrated ski hills in the Northwest. With lots of dells and creases to explore, first-timers discover a terrain-filled wonderland, and it’s even possible to find powder pockets on busy weekends. For those with young children, the ski-in/ski-out daycare next to the chairlift is a godsend.
Badger Mountain Ski Hill in Waterville, about 35 minutes northeast of Wenatchee, is a great place to learn to ski or snowboard.Run by volunteers from the Waterville Lions Club, it offers three rope tows, as well as terrain suitable for Nordic skiing and snowshoeing.
The 10-mile Apple Capital Loop Trail is one of Wenatchee’s top attractions for many reasons. When conditions allow, snowshoers, fat-tire bikers and cross-country skiers cruise the banks of the Columbia River in the center of town. The trail passes Town Toyota Center, where the indoor ice rink offers public sessions for skating, pick-up hockey and broomball.
Wenatchee is also within an hour’s drive of more than 70 miles of groomed cross-country ski trails, including those at Chelan’s Echo Ridge, the Leavenworth area, Lake Wenatchee State Park and the community of Plain.
Shop and Dine
The vintage brick buildings along North Wenatchee Avenue between the convention center and Centennial Park are home to locally loved independent shops. Stop by Arlberg Sports to get your skis tuned or rent outdoor gear, including snowshoes, fat-tire bikes, and downhill and cross-country skis. The Owl Soda Fountain dates back to the 1920s and offers a throwback to a simpler time, serving old-fashioned ice cream sodas, banana splits (pictured above) and fountain drinks. Set inside the renovated, 100-year-old Liberty Theatre building, Liberty Cinema offers a nostalgic setting for first-run movies.
For dining comfort, stop in at McGlinn’s Public House, where the expansive menu includes pizzas, burgers, sandwiches, pasta dishes and more in a renovated warehouse. The refined pub offerings at nearby Stones Gastropub are complemented by craft cocktails featuring house-made mixers; the international wine list includes a lengthy list of selections by some of Washington’s top boutique wineries. At family-run Doña Juanas, scratch-made favorites, including tamales, menudos and pozoles, never disappoint.
A Market for All
A renovation completed in 2013 transformed a 1940s steel warehouse into Pybus Public Market (pictured above), and the food-centric plaza has established itself as a vital gathering place for locals and visitors. In addition to shops, cafes and restaurants showcasing the local bounty, the retro-industrial space hosts Friday night concerts and all manner of special events throughout the year.
Stop by to shop for rare cheeses, locally grown fruit, Washington wines and local handicrafts, or linger over a meal at restaurants such as the Parisian-style Pybus Bistro or South, which serves flavorful Latin American specialities and also has a Leavenworth location. Make sure to save room for gelato at Ice.
—Written by Jeff Layton
This story originally appeared in the January/February 2018 edition of the AAA Washington member magazine, Journey, and was updated in January 2020.