Welcome to Leavenworth, Washington!
Right off the bat, here is what I can promise you:
I have browsed numerous travel blogs for Leavenworth prior to our visit, and yes some of the things you will find on my page are repeats of what others have done, because some things are a must do when visiting Leavenworth (pretzels, village shops, etc.). However, I can guarantee there are items listed below you will not find on any other post about Leavenworth (as of the date posted) including community workshops, picnic scavenger hunts, and more! Take a scroll below and see for yourself (this is where I would wink at you if we were in some television show or something, but probably not in real life because I don’t do much winking in real life).
This charming Bavarian style town tucked away in the mountains along the Wenatchee River is a scenic two-and-a-half hour drive from Seattle.
When you first arrive you may forget that this town is in Washington and not in some remote location of Germany. The village center of Leavenworth is darling and meticulously designed, encouraging visitors to continue coming back. The town’s unique spirit, location, and style have attracted visitors from all around the world.
In many ways, the history of Leavenworth Washington is the same as countless western frontier towns, except it went Bavarian. Long before it became a Bavarian village, Leavenworth was used by the Yakama, Chinook and Wenatchi tribes for hunting elk and fishing salmon in the Icicle Creek. The land was stolen from the native people and, by 1890, transformed to a logging and mining town. However, when the railway was rerouted, Leavenworth (known then as Icicle Flats) become a relative ghost-town.
The townspeople, desperate to save their home, came up with an idea.
The first thing you will notice when entering Leavenworth is the breathtaking Northern Cascades that surround the town. It was these cascades, resembling Bavarian Alps of southern Germany, and the towns determined spirit to overcome financial hardships post-Great Depression, that inspired the people of Leavenworth to transform the town to its Bavarian theme you see today. But the Bavarian architecture is not the only element Leavenworth incorporated to embrace their new theme; in 1966, yearly festivals were incorporated to attract visitors to the town. Some of the most noteworthy festivals include:
- Autumn Leaf Festival | September
- Oktoberfest | October
- Christkindlmarkt | November
- Village of Lights and Christmas Lights Festival | December
Find the full Leavenworth festival events list | Here
Things to Do in Leavenworth
There is really something for everyone in Leavenworth, with its close proximity to mountain ranges and idyllic waterfront location you have the perfect combination for nature enthusiasts and small town explorers.
I have compiled a combination of our original and (some) recycled-classic activities that we enjoyed while in Leavenworth. I also included a free “Top 10 When Visiting Leavenworth” printout at the very bottom of this post where you can compile the top ten things you would like to do during your visit. Enjoy!
Workshops at the Community Garden
We participated in an Introduction to Beekeeping class presented by Walt Kursave of Kursave’s Apiary. The workshop was incredible, largely due to Walt. He was so knowledgable and engaging. Not only did he discuss the ins-and-outs of basic beekeeping need-to-knows, but he also went over a great deal of information regarding the basics of bees, their behaviors, and general interesting facts.
Shoutout to my friend Diana for this one; I’m not sure I would have found it without her. This was one of the coolest things we did the entire time we were in Leavenworth, and it was very much off-the beaten-path.
Other really cool workshops that the Wenatchee River Institute and Leavenworth Community Garden hosts are:
- Ponderosa pine basket weaving
- Mushroom foraging
- Ornithology courses
- Wreath making
- Nature writing
- Plant Identification
And so many more! Find all workshops and events | Here
Leavenworth Summer Theater | The Sound of Music
I am a little behind on some of the classics, and it was my first time seeing The Sound of Music. Really, I am so glad this was my first experience with the story because holy-guacamole, standing ovation fantastic performances by the cast, and the natural outdoor setting of the theater made it so special.
Leavenworth Summer Theater began in 1994, and has put on a variety of shows over the years including; Beauty and the Beast, It’s a Wonderful Life, Little Women, The Pirates of Penzance, and the list goes on.
Get your tickets for Leavenworth Summer Theater | Here
Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum
With over 7000 varieties of nutcrackers from all around the world, the Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum is one of largest collections of nutcrackers in the world. No matter the time of year, a visit to the nutcracker museum is one you really shouldn’t miss.
Greater Leavenworth Museum
In the opening of this post I shared some brief history of the town, but if you are anything like us and want to have a more in-depth look at the history of Leavenworth, check out the Greater Leavenworth Museum.
For each museum, tickets are $5 per adult, however they offer free admission to active duty military and their spouses.
Icicle Village Resort Mini Golf
This was such a fun unplanned excursion that I almost didn’t do (I was posted in a hammock at our campsite with my Tarantino book), but I am so glad we did. The mini golf course is really cute and the views of the mountains are incredible. After we grabbed ice-cream from Whistlepunk Ice Cream Co. which was the cherry-on-top of the experience.
Little tip: the website is a little misleading. When we looked online it said every time slot was reserved, but when we spoke with the front desk they said they were not actually taking reservations. So, just speak with the front desk at the resort about a time slot.
Picnic Scavenger Hunt with Amazing Co.
Amazing Co. is something my husband and I recently discovered in Boulder, CO.
Amazing Co. provides a unique experience, connecting people with local businesses that you may not otherwise have the chance to encounter. With so many food options out there (especially while traveling) Amazing Co. takes the hassle out of decision making, adding a fun scavenger hunt twist while they’re at it.
Amazing Co. offers activities in multiple location around the U.S, Australia, and the U.K.
More information and tickets for your Leavenworth experience – Here.
Take a Dip in Icicle Gorge
While there are plenty of hotel options when visiting Leavenworth, our favorite travel accommodations are in a tent surrounded by trees and under the stars. I feel like you get the chance to connect with the natural elements of your location when you spend time this way. I’m saying this because we were in prime location for dipping our toes in the water. And because our trip was in July, we were in the peak of summer-heat and having a close spot to jump in the water was absolutely a blessing.
However, regardless of your sleep accommodations, there are plenty of opportunities and locations for you to take a chilly dive in Icicle Gorge.
Is it cold? Umm… yes. But is it worth it… yes!
You can also float the river. Find out more about river tubing rentals | Here.
Shopping in the Village
The Bavarian Village of Leavenworth is chock-full of locally owned shops and boutiques. We just couldn’t get enough of some of the shops. I have included a list of my favorites below with links to their site in the title cards.
The Cactus Room was one of my favorite shops of the many we visited. The owner is such a cool woman who knows her stuff about cacti and she isn’t shy to share it with you. Honestly, I couldn’t get enough and of course we left with our own cactus baby.
A Book for All Seasons is a locally owned and operated bookstore in the heart of downtown Leavenworth. An amazing little spot, I found more books than I needed (as always) and the ones I didn’t purchase I added to my ever-growing TBR list. Such a great shop.
The Plant Ally is the “sister store” (or vice versa) of The Cactus Room. This shop is not only incredibly aesthetically pleasing but it also has a wonderful selection of flourishing household plants and locally crafted art, health, and beauty products.
Cup and Kettle is exactly what its name would suggest. They offer a variety of tea blends and tea accessories like kettles and cups.
The Gingerbread Factory, opened in 1988, is one of those unique shops that only Leavenworth can provide.
They offer all things gingerbread and even the traditional Lebkuchen Hearts which have deep roots in Germany as a staple for celebrations, and are a hallmark Christmas treat.
Best Places to Grab a Bite
Honestly, there was not a single place we ate that wasn’t fantastic. Our theory, with Leavenworth being such a popular tourist town, there isn’t room for anything less – bad restaurants would simply go out of business from all the other great options around.
Most of places you will encounter serve traditional Bavarian foods, and while a bratwurst (vegan options included!) and pretzel with beer-cheese definitely is a must, they’re not your only option.
The Watershed Cafe was our fancy-night-out dinner, and boy was it worth every penny.
The Watershed is a farm-to-table restaurant. Their menu is an ever-changing collection of recipes based on locally sourced produce and Pacific North West Seafood options for the season.
As their website describes, Louie’s Cafe offers traditional and hearty portioned American style breakfast and lunch. I managed to snag a photo of these delicious waffles during our breakfast before they were gobbled-up, but completely forgot to get a picture of my favorite thing, their hash browns.
Visconti’s Italian Restaurant
Visconti’s Italian Restaurant is a fine-dining Italian restaurant, although it will serve you even if your legs are covered in dirt and you smell like days old sweat (trust me, we know from personal experience).
Hands down best pretzels, but the real selling point for me, vegan bratwurst!
München Haus has just about any topping you can think of and endless mustard options. They also have a house-made apple cider sauerkraut, which was just mouth-watering delicious (my mouth is watering now just thinking about it).
If you can find a table in their upstairs courtyard thats an even bigger bonus.
Whistlepunk Ice Cream Co.
Handmade ice cream with a combination of flavors Whistlepunk Ice Cream Co. will invade your nostrils with their house-made waffle cones and just when you think you aren’t in the mood for ice cream, boom, your stuffing your face in a cone. So delicious!
You would think of all the time I spent in this coffee shop I could have grabbed a better photo, but this is the best I got. J5 Coffee has some of the friendliest staff and (perhaps more importantly) wonderful coffee.
On The Outskirts of Town
Just outside of Leavenworth town center you can find lots of berry picking farms, and plentiful farm stands with farm fresh produce. The cherries are scrumdiddlyumptious; I can devoir an entire bag without even thinking.
Popular Hiking Trails Nearby
- Icicle Ridge Trail | 5.5 miles
- The Enchantment Trail | 23.5 miles
- Icicle Gorge Trail | 4.5 miles
More on about trails near Leavenworth | Here
Organize your thoughts and your trip with this Top 10 Must-Do Things in Leavenworth printable.