Best Things to do in Leavenworth: A Guide to Washington’s Bavarian Village (2024)

things to do in leavenworth wa

If you haven’t taken a holiday to Leavenworth in Washington State, it’s probably time you put it high up on your list of places to visit in the USA.

You might wonder, why? What’s the big attraction at Leavenworth?

Leaven is worth visiting because it’s a stunningly beautiful German village in Washington. It also offers many activities that you can do in any season. 

In this post, I’ll give you a little history lesson about Leavenworth, the best activities you can do in each season, the restaurants and foods you should try, and the means you can use to get around. 

Where Is Leavenworth Washington?

Leavenworth is located in the beautiful Cascade Mountains.

leavenworth german town

It’s a Bavarian town in Washington state, about two and a half-hour drive from Seattle, or a four-hour stunning train trip. You’ll love to experience the Bavarian way of life outside of Europe!

Don’t forget to check out my post on the Top 10 Cool Things to do in Seattle.

The train trip that follows the coast from Seattle for a couple of hours was a favorite of ours, especially when it heads inland, up into the picturesque Cascade Mountains.

While driving can be faster, we recommend taking the train for a more laid-back experience and sightseeing. 

Why Is There a German Town in Washington?

In 1903, a large sawmill was built and Leavenworth became a thriving logging town. 

In the early 1900s, it was also the headquarters of the Great Northern Railway, but when the railroad rerouted its track to Wenatchee in the 1920s the town’s economy suffered severely.

In the 1960s, the townsfolk decided something had to be done if they wanted the town to survive and a committee was formed to research options to revive their town.

Because of the location of the town in the mountains, it was decided they would reinvent the town with a Bavarian theme.

The entire town worked together and completely renovated the downtown area and created some Bavarian-style festivals to attract the crowds. It has worked brilliantly well! 

Today, Leavenworth attracts about two million visitors a year.

You don’t need to fly all the way to Europe to experience the Bavarian way of life (but if you do, make sure you book your accommodation in Munich beforehand!)

Fun fact: Did you know Leavenworth hosts one of the largest Oktoberfest celebrations outside of Munich? It’s also one of the best Christmas destinations in the US?

Leavenworth Christmas lights and tree lighting are so popular!

leavenworth wa christmas lighting

Where to Stay in Leavenworth WA

You can stay in luxurious five-star Bavarian-style hotel cabins in the woods and riverside lodges.

If you don’t have a car, one of the best downtown Leavenworth options is the Howard Johnson by Wyndham.

The location is a few minutes walk from the township. We had a kitchen in our apartment, so we could cook a meal if we had had a big day and didn’t feel like dining out. 

Don’t worry if you’re there just for the Bavarian theme. Most of the lodges and hotels have a Bavarian theme and many are situated in, or very close to, the township. 

The Bavarian Lodge is another popular choice as it’s right in the township. It has a heated pool, two hot tubs, and a great pub on site. For large and or family groups The Riverside Cabins is right on the river.

🛏️ Click here for more Leavenworth accommodation options.

When is the Best Time to Visit Leavenworth WA?

Anytime is great to visit this Bavarian town near Seattle of Leavenworth! However, it depends on what you want to do!

Do you want to participate in winter activities, or summer activities, or admire the spring flowers? By answering this question, you’ll discover the best time to visit this German city in Washington state.

Keep reading and you will know what to do in Leavenworth in different seasons of the year, so you can choose when to go depending on what suits you more.

Things to do in Leavenworth, Washington

We’ll show you the different activities you can do in winter, summer, and spring. That way, you’ll know which time is more suitable for you. Let’s begin with the cold season. 

Things to Do in Leavenworth in Winter

If you are an enthusiastic winter sports fan, there are two major ski resorts: Mission Ridge and Stevens Pass. There are also some local ones for skiing and snowboarding and plenty of trails for cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. 

Whether you prefer skiing or snowshoeing, participating in winter sports is one of the best things to do in winter in Leavenworth.

There is also a sledding hill on Front Street Park and a bigger one on Waterfront Park.

Leavenworth winter

But wait, to do all of this, you need to go when it’s actually snowing, not just when it’s cold.

So, when does it snow in Leavenworth, Washington? Between October and March is your best bet. I recommend going in December if you love the Christmas lights, or in January if you don’t fancy the crowd.

Things to do in leavenworth in december

Also, for the romantics amongst you, there are sleigh rides and horse-drawn carriages to take you around town. The scenery, laid-back experience, and snowy fields will be a beautiful memory for couples.

If you’re fit and keen, do a one-and-a-half to two-hour hike on your snowshoes up to the Scenic Hot Springs where there are three hot tubs in a wilderness setting that seat a maximum of 10 people.

Keep in mind that it’s on private property; you need to make a reservation before you go.

If you’re there in December, don’t miss the popular Christmas lighting ceremony held there. If you’re a bit later in January, there’s an Ice Festival for you to enjoy. And, of course, plenty of gluhwein (mulled wine) and bratwurst sausages to keep you fueled!

Other things to do in winter in this Leavenworth Bavarian village include going on a sleigh ride, browsing the Nutcracker Museum, or enjoying the Bavarian-style Christmas decorations especially if you can’t visit the Christmas markets in Europe.

Things to do in Leavenworth in Summer

visit leavenworth

Some fun activities in Leavenworth you can enjoy in summer include paddle boarding on Icicle Creek or renting a tube and just laying back and floating down the river. 

For the more daring, there’s the adrenalin-pumping white water rafting on the Wenatchee River.

leavenworth activities

For hikers, you can stretch your legs on the Icicle Creek Nature Trail or the Icicle Loop Trail which is a good two-and-a-half-hour family trail.

This is truly one of the best things to do in summer in Leavenworth, a German town in Washington.

Leavenworth things to do

We were amazed to come across a couple of deer on the trail who weren’t the slightest bit afraid of us. They just carried on grazing and completely ignored us.

However, when we got to the bear and the bobcat warning signs started, we decided to turn back. We are kiwis from New Zealand and had no idea what to do if we came across the animals!

Oh and for bikers, there’s great mountain biking at Stevens Pass and plenty of other hiking trails.

Blackbird Island, just over a small walking bridge from town, has a pleasant mile or so of tracks for strolling or jogging which is one of the fun things to do in Leavenworth!

Seattle to leavenworth wa

Take a visit to the Leavenworth Fish Hatchery which has, you guessed it, more walking and biking trails, horseback and sleigh rides, and in September, the Wenatchee River Salmon Festival. As you can see, there are plenty of great picnic locations all around Leavenworth.

The annual Leavenworth Summer Theatre program is an absolute must-do if you enjoy live theater outdoors, under the sky, on a warm summer night; one of the most romantic things to do in Leavenworth.

What to do in Leavenworth in Spring

What to do in leavenworth wa

Leavenworth is one of the best family spring destinations! In spring, you will enjoy the wildflowers and in the fall the very colorful fall leaves. 

Leavenworth is a huge organic pear growing area and April is pear month in Leavenworth. The wineries, breweries, and restaurants all feature pears in their menus or drinks.

Don’t forget to visit the Leavenworth Reindeer Farm. Keep in mind that this is a family-run enterprise and you need to book ahead. You can feed the reindeer and, in spring or early summer, see the super cute baby reindeer.

Here’s a unique experience! Visit the family-friendly, largest nutcracker museum in the USA. There are over 7,000 nutcrackers on display with some that date back 500 years.

There’s also a little shop where you can collect a souvenir or two.

Where to Eat in Leavenworth, Washington

places to eat in Leavenworth

Our favorite café was Munchen-Haus Bavarian Grill and beer garden in the center of town.

This is an authentic Bavarian grill and beer garden with a great selection of delicious Bratwurst sausages, exotic mustards, sauerkraut, and beers.

Other local favorites are the upmarket Watershed Cafe with its locally sourced food and wines, Mozart’s Leavenworth Steakhouse if you’re a steak fan, El Chavo for Mexican food, and Rudloofs for their Bavarian pizzas to go complete with sauerkraut, sweet bell peppers, and bratwurst. Yummy!

best restaurants in leavenworth

Another big family attraction is the Gingerbread Factory. “The little bakery with the big heart” is its slogan.

This is a bakery and café set in a Bavarian-style house selling gingerbread houses and cookies and an assortment of wraps and salads and espresso coffee — one of the best restaurants in Leavenworth.

Leavenworth wa food

There are wineries in abundance with 20 tasting rooms in Front Street alone. The Eagle Creek and Icicle Ridge wineries are worth a visit.

Icicle Brewing Company is a rustic pub serving locally sourced share plates & snacks, with weekend brewery tours available.

Getting around Leavenworth

We spent most of our time walking around Leavenworth looking at cuckoo clocks and lederhosen.

We took the public bus to Wenatchee to have a look around there also. There are major car hire companies in town and a taxi and shuttle service. You won’t find it difficult to get around.

🚗 Click here for rental car information and the latest prices.

As you can see, there’s so much to see and do in and around Leavenworth that we strongly recommend it as a great holiday destination.

Hope you liked this Leavenworth travel guide and the best things to do in Leavenworth. It’s a great winter day trip from Seattle!

FAQs about Leavenworth

Why Is Leavenworth Washington So Famous?

A large chunk of Leavenworth’s fame lies in its authentic German experience that you can live without hauling to Europe. The scenery, food, people, and culture vividly show what it’s like to have a taste of German life. 

Is Leavenworth Dog Friendly?

Leavenworth itself is dog and pet-friendly, but you have to be careful when you’re taking trails, as animal’s interactions with each other can be unpredictable. You don’t want to test the waters if your dog meets a wild bear. 


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leavenworth washington
Are you traveling to Leavenworth and looking for what to do? This Leavenworth travel guide will give you all the best things to do in Leavenworth in every season. Whether you want to visit Leavenworth in summer, winter, or spring, there is something for you to do. The post also gives ideas on where to stay in Leavenworth plus where to eat in Leavenworth to fully enjoy this Bavarian town in Washington state.
Are you traveling to Leavenworth and looking for what to do? This  Leavenworth travel guide will give you all the best things to do in  Leavenworth in every season. Whether you want to visit  Leavenworth in summer, winter, or spring, there is something for you to do. The post also gives ideas on where to stay in  Leavenworth plus where to eat in  Leavenworth to fully enjoy this Bavarian town in Washington state.

Sara Rodríguez

A passionate traveler with a mission: Help you plan your next trip easily and enjoy it to the fullest.

In this travel blog you will find everything you need to get inspired and organize your next adventure. Read more about my story here.

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