Every year when we enter the holiday season, I allow the excitement of the holidays to take hold, and my smile starts to shine that much brighter. That’s because November means two things to me: ski season is just around the corner, and the time of year filled with holiday cookies, family dinners, peppermint hot cocoa, and pumpkin spice EVERYTHING is finally here! But what am I most excited about? That special kind of magic that comes with the holiday season and covers everything with a blanket of white: snow.
We all can agree that driving around the city in the snow doesn’t exactly top our list of “fun winter activities,” but tubing down a hill with your kids, or walking through a winter wonderland, surrounded by half a million twinkling lights, with steaming hot apple cider in your hand, while carolers stroll by singing your favorite Christmas song — well, that sounds pretty amazing, right? So if this type of magical, snow-filled holiday excursion is what you seek, then look no further than the small, Bavarian town of Leavenworth.
Leavenworth was founded in 1890 under the name “Icicle Flats” when settlers in search of gold, fur and timber settled there. But it wasn’t until the 1960s that town leaders decided to make this quaint destination into the Bavarian mountain paradise we know today.
Driving Distance from Yakima
94 miles (The drive takes under two hours when road conditions are good.)
“Christmas in the Mountains” Concert Series by the Leavenworth Village Voices November 30, December 7, and December 9. See leavenworthvillagevoices.org for more information.
A Bavarian-style market filled with music, crafts, and appearances by Santa Claus, Christkind and St. Nicholas, as well as a lantern parade. The Leavenworth Village Voices also sing during the Christkindlmarkt celebration. Thanksgiving weekend Friday, Saturday and Sunday November 23-25. Got to christkindlmarktleavenworth.com for more info.
It takes 130 steps to make a nutcracker, from the cutting of the wood to the finished product, according to the Nutcracker Museum. With more than 5,000 nutcrackers from over 40 different countries, this museum is an experience you won’t want to miss. Open daily from 1-5 p.m.
Held from 2-4 p.m. every day, these all-ages hunts are fun for the whole family. With a pencil, a clipboard and a list of nutcrackers, guests roam throughout the museum in search of all of the nutcrackers on their list.
Christmas Lighting Festival: Nov. 30, Dec. 1-2, 7-9,14-16
The Leavenworth Christmas Lighting Festival is held during the first three weekends of December. With over 500,000 holiday lights set up all over town, this festival is truly a sight to see — especially since these lights are twinkling over a town frosted in a blanket of snow. Here is a sneak peak at the event schedule for this year’s Christmas Lighting Festival:
• Fridays: Live music and holiday festivities followed by an appearance at 4:30 p.m. by St. Nicholas at the Front Gazebo.
• Saturdays & Sundays: Santa arrives at noon and marches from the Festhalle to the Front Gazebo. Live music with town carolers, plus local and regional musicans, will fill your ears with holiday cheer all day long. There’s also sledding at Front Street Park, a Traditional Bavarian Gluhwein tent selling hot-spiced wine and cider, appearances from Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus as well as Father Christmas. On Sundays there’s a cookie crawl map kids can follow to collect free holiday cookies. A magical day in the snow culminates with the breathtaking Lighting Ceremony at 4:30 p.m. See leavenworth.org for a full schedule of events.
Bavarian Icefest 2019: January 19-20 – MLK Weekend
With snow sculptures, Icefest games and activities, live ice carving, a snowmobile sled pull, a Stevens Pass Grom Playground, fireworks and more, this is a fun-filled weekend for your entire family. The town will still be covered in thousands of lights, and frosted in snow, so you can look forward to a magical trip even after the holiday season has come to a close. See leavenworth.org for more.
Tubing, Sledding, Cross-Country Skiing, Snowshoeing, Snow Biking, Ski Jumping, Downhill Skiing
Located just minutes from downtown is Leavenworth Ski Hill — the place of your childhood dreams. With a 100-foot tubing hill, a rope tow, and tubes on site for rental, Leavenworth Ski Hill has you covered for a fun day of playing in the snow. They even have a lodge for you to snuggle up in while you have some steaming post-sledding hot cocoa with the family. The Leavenworth Winter Sports Club also has trails for Nordic skiing, snowshoeing and fat-biking as well as ski jumps and night skiing for those evening shredders. See skileavenworth.com for more info.
Ice Climbing & Backcountry Skiing/Snowboarding
For the more extreme adventurers, Leavenworth is known for its world class ice climbing and backcountry skiing and snowboarding. For guiding and instruction services, look no further than IFMGA certified guides John and Olivia Race at the Northwest Mountain School. See mountainschool.com for more info.
For an exciting afternoon of nature-based education for all ages, head over to Wenatchee River Institute at Barn Beach Reserve. Located on 9 beautiful acres overlooking the Wenatchee River, this preserve is a great place to not only go birding, but to also learn about sustainability as well as some of Washington’s native plant and wildlife species. See wenatcheeriverinstitute.org for more.
If you are interested in an hour of adrenaline-filled adventure in between lunch and your snowshoe tour, then look no further than a dog sled adventure from Fish Lake, a short distance from downtown Leavenworth. See northwestdogsledadventuresllc.com for more.
There are several farms and outfitters around Leavenworth that offer sleigh rides. Cuddle up with your special someone, or bring along the whole family for an afternoon exploring the snow-covered country from your cozy seat in a horse-drawn sleigh.
The mountains around Leavenworth boast an average of 150 inches of snowfall per year with 500 to 7,000 feet of elevation to play and explore. With 300 miles of state groomed snowmobile trails, you will have a hard time seeing all of the beautiful sights to see during your stay. Snowmobile rentals and tours available from several companies and lodges.
For more tips and trip ideas for your holiday excursion to Washington state’s Bavaria, visit www.leavenworth.org