A visit to this German town in Washington can make you feel like you’ve escaped to Europe for the day. With German-inspired food, festivals, and architecture, your mind will be playing tricks on you. Are you in Europe or the United States?
We have to tell you all about this magnificent German town in Washington. Is it a German town, and how did it become one? What’s there to do there? We’ll answer these questions and more.
Let’s get started!
Where Is the German Town in Washington?
The town of Leavenworth is two hours east of Seattle at the foot of the Cascade Mountains. Only 1.25 sq miles in size, Leavenworth is a Bavarian-inspired village.
The main street features authentic Bavarian architecture. In the shops, you’ll find European goods like cuckoo clocks and nutcrackers, and of course, you’ll find plenty of German-inspired food and fare.
If you’re traveling in an RV, you’re in luck. The town offers free RV parking on the north side of the main thorough street, just west of the shops. They even allow you one overnight stay every seven nights.
The History of Leavenworth, WA, the German Town in Washington
Initially, the Yakama, Chinook, and Wenatchi indigenous tribes lived on the land. In 1890, American settlers came to the area to search for gold and run sawmills.
The town began to dwindle in size following the rerouting of the Great Northern Railroad in 1925. Facing a dying town, the town’s leaders chose to revamp the village in the 1960s. They decided to capitalize on its beautiful alpine hills and transform the town into a Bavarian-themed village.
Over the years, they revamped the downtown area and created various Bavarian festivals to draw people in. Today, more than a million tourists visit each year, making it one of the top tourist destinations in the Pacific Northwest (PNW).
Traveler’s Tip: There’s more than one little Bavaria in the US! Check out 10 best things to do in the German-inspired town of Helen, Georgia.
What Is Leavenworth, WA, Known For?
While the mountainous landscape isn’t quite the Alps of Europe, Leavenworth’s landscape of tall alpine mountains next to the quaint Bavarian village paints a similar picture.
Aside from the natural beauty and the Bavarian-inspired architecture, tourists flock to Leavenworth for their German festivals and food. In addition, tourists know the area for its Nordic skiing and other outdoor adventures.
Why You Need to Visit This German Town in Washington
Leavenworth offers things you didn’t even know you were missing, with numerous festivals. Add in arts and theater, food, and plenty of outdoor fun, and you have a winner. You have to visit this German town in Washington!
Join them for one of their signature events, like the Village of Lights: Christmastown. You’ll see over half a million Christmas lights. Throughout December, visit holiday characters and enjoy other Christmas activities, like caroling and roasting chestnuts.
In January, come for the Village of Lights: Winter Karneval. Pay homage to the Fasching tradition with their carnival entertainment, fireworks, and live ice carvings.
In February, they offer the Village of Lights: Love from Leavenworth. In May, you must witness their Maifest. It’s chock full of Bavarian celebrations, like Maipole dancing, a grand march, and alphorn concerts.
Other events include the German tradition of Oktoberfest and the city’s longest-running event, the Autumn Leaf Festival. In the summer, they host the Leavenworth International Accordion Festival, complete with the Accordion Parade.
This city is full of events and groups that will enrich your cultural experience. During the summer, the Leavenworth Summer Theater showcases musicals outdoors and under the stars.
You’ll hear German music at the Music in the Gazebo events on the weekends. Other musical acts include the Leavenworth Village Voices, bluegrass concerts from Cashmere Community Concerts, AlpenFolk yodeling at their music and folklore events, and the Northwest Accordion gatherings. Each Saturday, there’s a Saturday Serenade where the Leavenworth Alphorns put on a show.
If you prefer to feast your eyes on art and theater, visit the Front Street Park on the weekends from May to October to view the outdoor gallery of Village Art in the Park. You can also catch an opera or performance at the Icicle Creek Center for the Arts.
If the food’s more your idea of cultural experience, get ready. You’ll have the expected Bavarian fare of beer, sausage, and German schnitzel. You’ll also have other cuisines, like authentic Italian and Pacific Northwest cuisine.
For a sweet treat, hit up the Bavarian bakery for homemade German pastries, pretzels, and strudel. Don’t forget about the Gingerbread Factory for some yummy gingerbread cookies and ginger snaps.
With ski resorts nearby and 800 miles of trails, Leavenworth offers four seasons of outdoor recreation. The town has its historic ski hill for tubing, skiing, snowshoeing, and fat biking.
Or hit the trails on a snowmobile with one of the local tour companies. There are plenty of hills around Leavenworth to take a sled out in the winter months.
For the warmer months, there’s hiking and biking. But if you’re daring, hit up the water for white-water rafting the rapids of Wenatchee River, stand-up paddleboarding down the Icicle River, or even ziplining.
If you’re a golf lover, bring the clubs to test out championship courses with the most beautiful scenery around you. If you’re fearless, there’s a big bouldering community in the area. Hit up Icicle Creek or The Tumwater Canyon.
Top 10 Things to Do When Visiting This German Town in Washington
We’ve narrowed down the top things to do while visiting Leavenworth. Whether you’re looking to stay indoors to head outside for your next thrill, we have you covered.
Visit the Nutcracker Museum
You will learn facts about nuts and their importance throughout human evolution, but you’ll also learn about the development of the nutcracker. With a collection of nutcrackers from all over the world – over 7,000 nutcrackers from 50 different countries – you’ll see nutcrackers from different periods and mediums.
The museum’s open daily, and you’ll need to pay for admission, although it’s free to visit their store and pick out your nutcrackers to buy. Before you leave the museum, greet the iconic Karl nutcracker, a life-size statue of a beer-drinking Bavarian.
Get a Treat at the Gingerbread Factory
You can’t leave Leavenworth without visiting the Gingerbread Factory. Known for their traditional gingerbread cookies and houses, they whip up pastries and other sweet treats.
They also serve wraps, espresso, beer, and wine if you’re looking for something less sweet. People rave about their gingerbread cookies, saying they’re the “best gingerbread cookies ever,” and proclaim the ginger snap cookies as “out of this world good.”
If you don’t get your fill before leaving, rest assured that they offer shipping throughout the U.S.
Visit a Beer Garden
Beer gardens, or outdoor areas where you order beer or food, started in Bavaria. We had to include them on this list! This buzzing village has several beer gardens. We suggest making a progressive beer crawl out of it rather than choosing just one.
There’s the largest all-ages cider house in eastern Washington, the Leavenworth Cider House. You can also visit Stein Beer Hall, which has 55 rotating drinks on tap and is in one of the original Bavarian buildings in Leavenworth. München Haus has some of the best ratings in the area, and Gustav’s also gets a lot of praise.
Go to the Spa
What better way to round out your trip to the romantic city of Leavenworth than a spa day? Head to the mountains for a massage, facial, or other body treatment at the Alpine Spa at Icicle Village Resort.
Or visit the grounds of Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort to Aspen Leaf Day Spa, which features an array of spa treatments.
Float the River
There are a handful of outfitters that’ll set you up for a float on the Wenatchee River. Relax the day away and soak in the mountain views.
Blue Sky Outfitters, Adventure River Tubing Leavenworth, and River Riders all rent out equipment you’ll need for a float trip and help facilitate transportation to the drop-off and pick-up points. Leavenworth Outdoor Center offers tours with instruction in addition to their rentals and shuttle services.
Go on a Hike
Leavenworth is full of trails. Lake Wenatchee State Park offers plenty of trail options.
The Leavenworth Chamber of Commerce published a list of their 20 top-rated trails, ranging from easy to difficult. Favorites include the Icicle Ridge Trail, a challenging trail that’s four miles roundtrip. You can also travel a half-mile for a fantastic view of Leavenworth.
The six-mile round trip hike at Lake Minotaur is difficult and might leave you feeling like you’re standing before the Greek coast rather than the PNW. The Eight Mile Lake trail is an easy seven-mile round trip hike that’s highly popular. For a shorter walk, opt for the one-mile hike on the trails of Ski Hill.
Visit Lake Wenatchee
Lake Wenatchee State Park sits in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. Fed by glaciers from the Cascade Mountains, the park is five miles long and nearly 250’ deep.
It sits 16 miles from Leavenworth. It offers almost 500 acres of camping and has over 12,000’ of waterfront access with sandy beaches and a swimming area, an area to rent kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards.
There’s trail riding for equestrians and plenty of trails for hiking and mountain biking. In the winter, visit the lake for Switzerland-type views without a passport. There are 10 miles of marked snowshoe trails and over 30 miles of ski trails.
Do you want a different view? Head to Leavenworth Ziplines and get a birds’ eye view of up to 190’ above the Beaver Creek valley.
They boast nine zip lines, one a quarter-mile long! You can choose from two zipline tours, and you can try five lines or all nine.
Visit the Reindeer Farm
You don’t need to travel to the North Pole to spot reindeer. One mile from Leavenworth, the Leavenworth Reindeer Farm offers year-round farm tours.
Come in November or December for a Santa tour with hot chocolate and apple cider. In the first two months of the new year, you can expect the snowiest scenes and smaller crowds.
With spring comes even smaller groups and the chance to meet baby reindeer. Much of the reindeer will be shedding and regrowing antlers during this time.
Over the summer and early fall months, the reindeer’s antlers will be growing up to 1” per day, and they’ll have thinner summer coats. During this time, a soft velvet covers the reindeer’s antlers.
Make reservations ahead of time as spots fill up quickly. Each tour includes education on reindeer, chances for feeding reindeer, petting them, and even snapping a picture. Finish the tour with a stop at their gift shop.
Enjoy Live Entertainment at Ski Hill Amphitheater
Have you ever been to a theater on National Forest Service land? Now you can!
For most of the year, people bring their skis, tubes, and fat bikes to hit the Ski Hill slopes. During the summer, you can head to the amphitheater for plays put on by the Leavenworth Summer Theater.
When’s the Best Time of Year to Visit This German Town in Washington?
With this German town in Washington bustling all months of the year, any time is an excellent time to visit Leavenworth. They offer a host of activities and events that will take your vacation up a notch.
From German-inspired festivals to a rich arts and culture scene with plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventure, this Bavarian town has it all. Please make plans to visit some of our top 10 things to do during your visit here.
Have we convinced you Leavenworth is a must-stop destination for your travel list?