Leavenworth, Washington is the picture perfect winter wonderland right in the middle of the Pacific Northwest. If you want to feel like you’re visiting a Bavarian village in the United States, Leavenworth in the winter is a must-do trip. If you’re lucky, snow will be falling and it will be a beautiful winter getaway. Leavenworth in the winter is one of the best places in America to spend the holiday season.
If you can’t make it to Germany this winter, head to Leavenworth instead for a magical Bavarian Christmas. We absolutely love Leavenworth around Christmas time! We can tell you about 50 reasons to travel to Leavenworth in the winter, but here’s a list of our favorite 13 things to do in Leavenworth, Washington and how to plan for a Leavenworth winter vacation.
Things to do in Leavenworth in the Winter
Visit the Bavarian town
The town of Leavenworth is an adorable Bavarian town all year round. The winter time is even more picturesque with the lights and snow. Surrounded by the mountains, the architecture is similar to that of Germany or Switzerland, with wooden balconies, two-toned timber, flower pots on the front. Walking around the town is a sight to see, as you instantly feel like you’ve been swept away to the European Alps.
There’s a good chance it’ll be snowy if you visit in the winter, so grab your sled and go sledding right in downtown Leavenworth. Theres a small hill that is perfect for free sledding, with the Christmas lights surrounding you. Grab some hot cocoa and sled down the hills, like the kids.
Visit the Leavenworth Reindeer Farm
Visit this family-run farm to see and learn all about the reindeer in Leavenworth. This is the only reindeer farm in the lower 48 that is open to the public year-round. Leavenworth is at the same latitude as Mongolia, where reindeer thrive, and with the same weather patterns, the reindeer love the weather. The Leavenworth reindeer farm is a USDA certified farm and they aim to protect the woodland caribou, which are now considered endangered species. The tours start with a 10 minute presentation all about the reindeer, and then you will be able to feed and take photos with the reindeer. This was our absolute favorite thing to do in Leavenworth, and it definitely felt like we were visiting the North Pole. If you have kids, definitely visit the reindeer!
You can visit all the year round, but we recommend visiting during the winter to truly experience the magical Christmas feel. During the winter months, tours are $20/person and last about an hour.
Eat Sausage and Bratwursts
To go along with the Bavarian theme, you can’t go to Leavenworth and not eat some sausage and bratwursts. You’ll find plenty of restaurants that serve them, and you need to try at least one while you’re in town. Munchen Haus, is a popular spot, to try a sausage or brat. It’s definitely a festive thing to do while visiting Leavenworth and the cute Bavarian town.
Go Dog Sledding
If you’ve ever wanted to have Siberian huskies lead you through a winter wonderland, Leavenworth has the perfect area for dog sledding. Dog sledding is one of the best things to do in Washington State in the winter. Meet and play with the dogs before taking off on a fun-filled sled ride.
Take a Sleigh ride
As if we needed to make Leavenworth, Washington anymore desirable during the winter, take a sleigh ride around town for a magical Christmas vacation. The sleigh rides are extremely scenic through the forest and open meadows. A sleigh ride through the snow is the perfect winter activity while visiting Leavenworth.
Skiing and Snowboarding
If you’re a skier or snowboarder, Leavenworth is right between 2 first class ski areas: Stevens Pass and Mission Ridge. Stevens Pass is located on highway 2, with skiing for all levels. Stevens Pass is only 40 minutes from Leavenworth, and if you don’t want to drive, you can take the shuttle from Leavenworth. Stevens Pass has some of the best snowfall in the area due to its location. Mission Ridge is located right outside Wenatchee, Washington and has more than 36 runs for all levels, private lessons are available.
If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll want to visit the Gingerbread factory. The Gingerbread Factory fits this Bavarian town perfectly. The gingerbread factory is definitely a must-see while in Leavenworth. Filled with everything gingerbread, other cookies, wraps, salads, drinks and more, you’ll walk out with all sorts of sweets.
The Nutcracker Museum
A museum dedicated to nutcrackers, is located on Front Street in Leavenworth. What started as a personal collection from founders George and Arlene Wagner, the museum is now a non-profit, where others have also donated their nutcracker collections. Now there are over 7000 nutcrackers in all shapes, sizes, and from different countries. You can even see a life-size nutcracker, a 6 foot Bavarian drinking beer, at the museum!
Open from 1pm-5pm everyday of the year. Admission is $5 for adults, $2 for youth.
The Christmas lights paired with the Bavarian town makes Christmas that much more festive in Leavenworth. Between the snow and the lights, it’s like your inside a snow-globe! Each weekend in December the city has a Christmas lighting ceremony. Starting Thanksgiving weekend the town of Leavenworth turns into the Village of Lights. The lights stay on every day of the week from Thanksgiving to Valentines Day, with special lightings every weekend in December.
Leavenworth has some great backcountry trails that are perfect for snowshoeing. With all the snow that Leavenworth gets, it makes these trails perfect for snowshoeing. Snowshoeing around Leavenworth is a great way to enjoy the scenery and get some exercise. You can book a tour, or go by yourself. Snowshoes are available to rent in town if you don’t have your own.
New to Leavenworth this year is a new ice skating rink. A great family friendly event that occurs during the winter. Open everyday from November 22-January 19, 2020.
Glühwein is a staple at European Christmas markets, here in America, we know it as mulled wine. You’ll find plenty of places to stop and have a glass of glühwein while you’re out shopping or enjoying the Christmas lights.
Where to eat in Leavenworth
There is a lot of good food in Leavenworth. We already mentioned sausages, brats, and kielbasa, but there’s actually so much more to Leavenworth.
Best restaurants in Leavenworth
Munchen Haus – tons of sausages and brats with unlimited toppings. This place is SUPER popular and gets really busy. Lots of outdoor seating, with heaters for those cold days. Enjoy your bratwurst with a local beer.
Stein – A beer hall with 55 taps and a variety of food including pretzels, sandwiches, ribs, and more.
Andreas Keller – serve traditional Bavarian food, beers, and live music, including real accordion players. If you’re looking for a true German scene, Andreas Keller is known as the best German food in Leavenworth. Lots of sausages, schnitzels, and beef goulash to choose from.
The Loft – pub grub and draft beers with live music and trivia nights
Sulla Vita – pair delicious wood-fired pizza with some beer or wine, with an outdoor patio, and dog-friendly
South – homemade food and drinks with Latin America flare, with pet-friendly outdoor patio.
Wineries and Breweries to visit in Leavenworth
Like most Pacific Northwest cities, beer and wine is too good to pass up. If you’re looking for a drink, Leavenworth has some great options. Here are our favorite drinks to try in Leavenworth.
Where to drink in Leavenworth
Icicle Brewing Company – local brewery that uses local ingredients to brew their beer, with outdoor seating, indoor seating, live music, games and puzzles. This is a town favorite!
Doghaus – a small craft brewery located in the the basement of a building, but they do allow dogs (on a leash) inside. There are only about 6 seats inside, so it can get crowded, but great beer and worth the stop!
Blewett Brewing – a neighborhood brewpub with beer, wine, and hand-crafted pizza.
Eagle Creek Winery – Leavenworth’s oldest winery, located right in the heart of the Cascade mountains. The winery is only open May-October, but the tasting room in Downtown Leavenworth is open all year long.
Icicle Ridge Winery – a log cabin winery, located in the foothills of the Cascades with gorgeous views and great wine. Icicle Ridge has 2 tasting rooms in Leavenworth, and a log cabin tasting room 4 miles outside of Leavenworth.
Where to Stay in Leavenworth
Pine River Ranch – an adorable bed and breakfast with elegant lodging. This is one of the most romantic getaways in Washington State, halfway between Leavenworth and Stevens Pass. Secluded on 23 acres, the rooms include fireplaces, jetted tubs, and breakfast delivered to your room in the morning.
Icicle Village Resort – great mountain views, relaxing spa, good food and entertainment. A great family friendly hotel and also dog friendly.
Obertal Inn – a great economy budget, in a good location. The hotel has a great Bavarian vibe from the outside, and you love feeling like family. Pet-friendly if you don’t want to leave your pets at home.
How to get to Leavenworth
Leavenworth is located in the heart of the Cascades between Seattle and Spokane. Leavenworth is a super-easy day trip from Seattle. It’s easy to reach and a beautiful drive, as long as you have the right tires or snow chains in case of inclement weather.
If you are driving, Leavenworth is only 2:15 from Seattle via highway 2. The drive is insanely pretty as you drive through the Cascade mountains. Make sure to check the weather before you leave.
Take the Amtrak train to Leavenworth from Seattle. The train is a great option if you don’t want to drive through the mountains yourself. The Amtrak train leaves from King Station in Seattle and arrives in Leavenworth 3:20 later. If you are taking the train in the winter, make sure to book ahead of time.
There is a Christmas train from Seattle to Leavenworth for each weekend of the Christmas lighting. It has a very festive vibe, with carolers and Santa onboard. (The Christmas train is currently unavailable for 2019). The Christmas snow bus is a great option ONLY on the Christmas lighting weekends. For $79/person, enjoy a round trip bus trip from Seattle to Leavenworth, to see the Christmas tree lighting.
If you’re coming from Portland, the drive is almost 5 hours. Take I-84 E to US 97 North through Yakima. Make sure to check the weather before you leave to find out the road conditions.
Things to know before you visit Leavenworth in the Winter
- If you are visiting Leavenworth in the winter, bring snow chains or traction tires. It will most likely snow, or have snow on the roads to get there.
- Book early, especially during holidays and special events. This is considered the busy season, so you need to book ahead, and plan for lots of people and traffic.
Events in Leavenworth in the Winter
- Christkindlmarkt – annual Bavarian-style Christmas market held on Thanksgiving weekend, with delicious and authentic Bavarian foods, handmade arts & crafts and other gifts, and family-friendly, Bavarian- and Christmas-themed entertainment
- Nov 29, 30, Dec 1, 2019
- Christmas Lighting – Visit Leavenworth when the Bavarian village is transformed into a dazzling array of over 500,000 Christmas lights with live music, a special visit from Santa Claus, and more fun for the whole family.
- Dec 6-8, Dec 13-15, Dec 20-22, 2019
- Bavarian Ice Festival – a wonderful winter festival including snow sculptures, sled pulls, live ice carving, and the only annual firework show in Leavenworth. Also, you can still enjoy the beauty of the Christmas lights still twinkling every night from Thanksgiving through Valentine’s Day.
- January 18-19, 2020
- Timbrrr! Music Festival – 2 days and 2 nights of music, drinks, and wintertime fun
- January 18, 2020
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