With timbered alpine buildings, snow-capped mountains, and festive European vibes, the charming town of Leavenworth is ripped right from the pages of a German fairytale. This Bavarian-style town is one of Washington’s most unique attractions, and for a good reason.
Between the spectacular scenic landscapes and rich cultural heritage, there are plenty of exciting things to do in Leavenworth.
Catering to foodies, families, and outdoor enthusiasts, Leavenworth truly has something for everyone. Best of all, it’s only a short 2.5-hour drive from Seattle, which makes it the perfect destination for a quick weekend getaway from Seattle. From wine tasting and polka dancing to wildlife watching and white water rafting, your trip to Leavenworth is guaranteed to be a memorable one.
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What to Do in Leavenworth
While you’re planning your trip to the mountains, you’ll probably be wondering what to do in Leavenworth. With an action-packed calendar of events in the village and numerous opportunities for outdoor sports and adventure outside of it, you really won’t have to look hard to find something fun and engaging to do during your visit.
Float the Icicle River
On a warm summer day, there’s nothing like gliding down the tranquil Icicle River on an innertube. With your feet dangling in the refreshing waters, you’ll get to soak in the stunning mountain views while enjoying a leisurely float with your friends and family.
There are numerous companies in the village that offer river float trips, including Blue Sky Outfitters and Leavenworth Outdoor Center. They’ll load you and your innertube in a van, drive you up the river, and let you float back down at your own pace. If you plan on floating during the weekend, it’s recommended to book in advance, although walk-ins are also accepted.
The companies will provide everything you need for a safe trip, including paddles, life jackets, and dry bags. The only things you’ll be responsible for is sunscreen and maybe a few ice cold drinks (you can also rent a float for your cooler). If you’re looking for a laid back activity that’s fun and relaxing, then floating the Icicle River is a great option.
Sample Washington Wines
Although Germany is known for beer, Leavenworth is instead known for wine! There are quite a few wine tasting rooms and cellars dotted throughout the village, although some of them are tucked underground underneath the main street of shops and restaurants.
Bergdorf Cellars is located in the back of a quirky gift shop on Front Street. You can order a glass of your favorite chardonnay or malbec, but if you can’t decide, then you can opt for a wine tasting experience instead. If you are visiting in the winter, you absolutely need to try the warm and delicately spiced Glühwein (mulled wine), a popular winter treat in Germany.
With grapes grown right here in central Washington, Kestrel wines are considered one of the best producers in the state. You can choose five wines for your tasting, or you try one of their frozen red or white slushies for something more unique.
Patterson Cellars is another favorite amongst visitors and locals. Once you set eyes on their extensive menu of reds, whites, rosés, sparkling wines, and dessert wines, you’ll have a hard time choosing which five to add to your tasting (although you can always come two days in a row to try them all!) In addition to their wine-only tasting, you’ll also have the option to participate in a wine pairing with chocolates or charcuterie.
Visit a Real Life Reindeer Farm
Say hello to some of Leavenworth’s most adorable residents when you visit the Leavenworth Reindeer Farm. Open year-round, this farm offers daily tours where you can pet, mingle, feed, and take photos with real life reindeer.
However, reindeer aren’t the only creatures roaming the farm. You’ll also find ponies, turkeys, chickens, and pigs pining after your attention as well.
And of course, you can’t talk about reindeer without mentioning the big man in red who flies with them. In the winter, the reindeer farm tours are accompanied by the one and only Santa Claus, who will be more than happy to take photos and listen to your Christmas wish list.
While winter is a beautiful and festive time to visit the reindeer farm, fall and spring also have their advantages. Starting in October, the male reindeer start shedding the velvet on their horns, exposing their new, fully grown antlers. And if you come in the spring, you might get the opportunity to see little baby reindeers frolicking in the fields!
Hike to Colchuck Lake
Surrounded by snow-capped mountains and tree-lined forests, Colchuck Lake is one of the most spectacular natural attractions in Washington, and is near the top of our list of the best hikes in Washington.
Best of all, it’s only a short 30-minute drive from downtown Leavenworth, which makes it an excellent day trip for hikers.
The 8-mile round trip trek is steep and can be challenging for more inexperienced hikers. If you’re planning to do the entire route, you should set aside between six and eight hours for the entire hike. Despite its steep incline, anyone who embarks on this adventure will surely be rewarded with jaw-dropping views of Colchuck Lake.
And what views they are! The vibrant shade of aquamarine with the rugged Dragontail Peak and Colchuck Peak in the background is a sight that needs to be seen to be believed. One glimpse and you’ll realize that the views were worth every single step.
Have a Relaxing Soak at Scenic Hot Springs
Hidden in what feels like the middle of nowhere, Scenic Hot Springs is one of Leavenworth’s most undiscovered gems. Perched high above the canopied trees sits several hot spring pools. Each one is heated to a different temperature, and all of them have unreal views of the valley below.
The hot springs are located on a private property, and visits must be reserved far in advance, which only adds to the exclusivity of this spectacular place. And don’t expect to just pull up in your SUV and park in front of the building. As the pools are located in the mountains, you’ll need to hike uphill for approximately an hour before you get there (so make sure to pack your hiking boots along with your towel).
With only ten people allowed to visit each day, you’ll want to book a spot through their website the second you plan your trip to Leavenworth. Nudity is optional (although it’s encouraged if you want that traditional German spa experience), so don’t be surprised when other guests show up in nothing but their flip flops!
Forty miles west of Leavenworth is Stevens Pass, a winter paradise for skiers and snowboarders. It’s home to 52 different slopes and runs, suitable for all types of skill levels, from first timers to black double diamonds. There are even multiple terrain parks with pipes, ramps, and rollers so you can practice your extreme jumps and spins.
One of the coolest experiences at Stevens Pass is night skiing, which is offered five days a week until 10 pm during the winter season. During this time, the slopes are illuminated with bright lights, so you can cruise down the mountains with the twinkling stars above you. It’s a truly unique experience that you can’t experience at other ski resorts!
While Stevens Pass shines in the winter, it’s also a beautiful place to visit during the warmer months. From mountain biking to disc golf, Stevens Pass has several exhilarating outdoor activities to please all adventure lovers, even in the summer. The ski lifts are still open, so you can enjoy the picturesque views and sunshine while you soar high above the beautiful landscape of the Pacific Northwest.
If you’re coming from Seattle on Highway 2, you’ll pass Stevens Pass on your way to Leavenworth. Otherwise, it’s a 45-minute drive from the village, which makes for an easy day trip.
Raft the Wenatchee River
Calling all thrill-seekers! The rolling rapids of the Wenatchee River are beckoning you for an exhilarating rafting adventure. The waters are home to the largest rapids in Washington, and the diverse scenery of apple orchards, lush valleys, and nesting wildlife provides the perfect backdrop for an afternoon of fun.
There are numerous class III rapids to cruise, including the infamous “Boulder Bend,” “Rock n’ Roll,” and “Drunkards Drop.” Your experienced guide can make your trip as calm or as wild as you’d like, so it’s still a great activity even if you’ve never been on the water before.
Rafting season goes from April until October, and wetsuits are recommended and provided for chillier days. But since the Leavenworth area is known for having almost 300 days of sunshine each year, you can bet on having a memorable time in the sun white water rafting down the Wenatchee River.
Where to Eat & Drink in Leavenworth
After a day of hiking up the mountains or floating down the river, you’ll inevitably be hungry for something tasty to sink your teeth into.
Luckily for you, Leavenworth has a wide array of dining options, from casual sausage joints to fine dining establishments and everything in between. And if you’re looking for a place to kick back with an ice cold beer, then there are some pretty amazing watering holes and breweries.
Eating in Leavenworth
Here are five places to eat in Leavenworth after a day of exploring.
Serving some of the best Bavarian cuisine outside of Germany, Ludwig’s is the place to go to experience traditional German culture. Indulge in hearty favorites like Spätzle, Schnitzel, and crispy roasted pork knuckle while you listen to live polka music. Who doesn’t love a little accordion music with their roasted meat?
On a warm, sunny day, it’s worth heading to München Haus for the mouthwatering sausage, cold craft beers, and beautiful courtyard setting.
Don’t forget to dress up your sausage with their impressive selection of over 30 different types of sauces and mustards. Walk up the narrow staircase and grab a seat on the hidden second deck, where you can enjoy your delicious German meal with views of the mountains.
A staple in Leavenworth since 1989, this family-owned establishment is known for it’s cozy, Bavarian atmosphere and delectable German dishes. There’s also an impressive selection of important German beers as well as local Leavenworth wines, which we recommend enjoying in their lively top floor bar.
Leavenworth Sausage Garten
Made in house, the sausages served at the Leavenworth Sausage Garten are some of the best in town. Bockwurst, bratwurst, currywurst, kielbasa – the list goes on and on. This casual outdoor joint is a popular spot for lunch, dinner, or even an in-between meal snack.
If you need a break from heavy German cuisine, then make sure to book a table at Mana. Focused on organic, healthy eating, Mana hosts a 2-hour, 5-course dinner made from locally sourced and sustainable ingredients.
Where to Drink in Leavenworth
And six places to grab a drink in Leavenworth, from your morning coffee, to the last beer of the night.
After the success of their Seattle restaurant, Rhein Haus opened up another spot right here in Leavenworth. With delicious German food, scenic views from the outdoor patio, and a young and lively crowd, it’s also one of the most bustling places in town for drinking.
Leavenworth Cider House
The Wenatchee Valley has one of the highest concentrations of apple and pear orchards in Washington, so naturally, hard cider is a popular choice in the area. At Leavenworth Cider House, you can sample dozens of ciders from multiple producers that grow right here in the valley.
With a prime location right on Front Street, Icicle Brewing Company is a popular hangout for craft beer aficionados, music lovers, and even families (until 10 pm, that is). Grab a pint of their Bootjack IPA or Crosscut Pilsner, as well as their soft German pretzel with warm cheese and beer dip, and post up in the cozy tasting room or outdoor patio.
Get your early morning caffeine fix with a latte, cappuccino, or cup of pour over coffee from J5 Coffee. This sleek espresso bar only uses the highest quality ingredients in their drinks, including organically roasted beans from small batch roasters.
Hand-tossed pizza, cold pints of beer, and warm customer service are just a few of the reasons to add Blewett Brewing to your Leavenworth itinerary. Ask for what’s on their rotating tap menu or choose a combination of five beers for a tasting flight if you’re feeling indecisive.
Bushel & Bee
Showcasing some of the best distilleries and breweries in Washington, Bushel & Bee is known for its extensive selection of cider, beer, and mead. With over 24 drinks on tap, your hardest task will be choosing which to order first.
Getting to Leavenworth
Surrounded by towering hemlocks and lush green pines, Leavenworth is nestled in the middle of Washington’s Cascade Mountains. It’s centrally located between Seattle and Spokane, making it a popular destination for anyone visiting the Pacific Northwest.
Driving from Seattle to Leavenworth
The easiest way to get to Leavenworth is by car. You’ll have two main routes to choose from – I-90 and US 97 or Highway 2.
Taking I-90 and US 97 from Seattle takes roughly 2.5 hours and gives you the chance to stop at the breathtaking Snoqualmie Falls along the way.
However, taking Highway 2 is faster (you save 15-30 minutes) and generally considered more scenic, with picturesque views of mountains, forests, and rivers throughout your entire journey.
Traveling with Amtrak
If you’re traveling without a car or looking to save on gas, you can take the Amtrak train from Seattle to Leavenworth instead. The ride takes a little over three hours and boasts fantastic views that you can enjoy from the comfort of your seat.
However, there’s only one train per day (and it leaves Seattle in the late afternoon). In addition, the Leavenworth train station isn’t downtown, so you’ll either need to arrange for transportation (like a taxi) or be prepared to walk a mile if you’re staying in town.
If you’re planning to visit on a Saturday in December, Amtrak offers day-trips to and from Leavenworth to see the magical Tree Lighting Festival. This is a great option if you’re short on time and want to experience the best of Leavenworth without spending the night. This special Christmas-themed train also has live music, magicians, and even surprise visits from Santa to keep everyone on board entertained.
The Best Time to Visit Leavenworth
With so many activities in and around town, there’s really no bad time to spend a weekend in Leavenworth. However, the types of events and activities available will depend on what month and season you plan on going.
Between the warm weather and abundance of outdoor activities, summer is one of the best times to visit Leavenworth. You’ll be able to take full advantage of the mountains and rivers, spending your days hiking, cycling, or even tackling class III rapids while white water rafting. But with the school holidays and summer vacations, it also can be the busiest time to visit, so make sure to book your accommodation and activities in advance.
Fall is another great time to visit, especially if you’re a fan of parties or beer (or both!). Although it’s not as iconic as the world-famous festival in Munich, Leavenworth also hosts their own version of Oktoberfest, where you can sing, dance, drink, and celebrate Bavarian culture. Bonus points if you’re wearing lederhosen or a dirndl – the traditional type of dress worn in Bavaria.
Once winter rolls around, Leavenworth becomes a snowy wonderland, making it one of the most popular and magical times to visit. During the winter months, you can go dogsledding, snowshoeing, and skiing, or you can simply hang out in town and admire the festive Christmas decorations, displays, and events.
Spring is far less busy than summer and winter, although there are still plenty of fun and outdoorsy things to do during your visit. Come to celebrate Maifest (one of Germany’s most beloved holidays) with parades, live music, and dancing around the maypole.
As you can see, Leavenworth has plenty to offer in terms of fun, food, and outdoor adventure. Are you planning a trip to Leavenworth soon? Let us know in the comments below!
Where to Stay in Leavenworth
As one of Washington’s biggest tourist destinations, Leavenworth has different types of accommodation to choose from.
If you’re planning to spend most of your time in town, we recommend staying in a hotel or vacation rental close by, so you won’t have to spend your time walking back and forth.
However, staying in a more remote place also has its benefits, as you can easily pop over to the mountains or river for a day of outdoor adventure.
Icicle Village: Boasting an on-site spa, an outdoor swimming pool and hot tub, and its own mini-golf course, Icicle Village is a popular choice for families. With everything you need in one place, it might be hard to convince yourself to leave (especially if you’re lucky enough to score a room with a fireplace or mountain view). But if you do, then thankfully, the village is just a short 12-minute walk away.
Bavarian Lodge: Smack dab in the heart of Leavenworth is the Bavarian Lodge. You’ll love the rustic-chalet décor and the picturesque views from your guest room. Best of all, its central location means you’re never too far from shops, restaurants, or bars.
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