Thanks to Visit Leavenworth for sponsoring this post.
One of our favorite scenic drives near Seattle is on Highway 2. We love stopping along the way at all the roadside attractions on Highway 2, including our favorite – The German town in Washington: Leavenworth.
On our latest road trip, we spent two days exploring the best things to do in Leavenworth, WA. We could have spent so much more time doing Leavenworth activities. Since you are probably limited in your time, too, I’ve come up with a two-day itinerary that packs in the best things to do in Leavenworth in summer.
If you want to celebrate a Leavenworth Christmas, I’ll include some resources for that, too. They really do go all out on winter in Leavenworth.
History of Leavenworth, Washington State
Today, Leavenworth is home of some of the best things to see in Washington State, but the town wasn’t always a tourist destination.
Leavenworth started out as a small timber community and grew when the Great Northern Railway housed its headquarters there in the early 1900s. In the 1920s, Great Northern moved to Wenatchee, which wasn’t so great for Leavenworth’s economy.
In 1962, a group called Project LIFE (Leavenworth Improvement For Everyone) formed to revitalize the town. They looked at other towns, including Dutch-themed Solvang in California, and decided to turn their town into a Bavarian town in Washington State.
Lots of people come through on weekend trips from Seattle or while driving across the state. Others make it a part of a road trip to nearby Western-themed Winthrop, Chelan, or Wenatchee.
Like us, they are drawn in by the Bavarian-style buildings, abundant and overflowing flower baskets, and the wide range of outdoor recreation opportunities that surround the town.
The Leavenworth hotels, restaurants, gift shops, and even the gas stations are full-on Bavarian. Admittedly, the first time I visited, I thought it was over the top. But, then I spent a month in Bavaria in winter, and found out it really is like that in Germany.
Leavenworth is situated on the east side of the Cascade Mountains with the Wenatchee River running through town. Apple and peach orchards, and wineries surround it. Breweries and distilleries balance the ice cream parlors and bakeries in downtown Leavenworth.
I am going to share our two-day itinerary (with options to do it a little differently). I think we did a pretty good job of getting the full Leavenworth experience in just a couple days. We started each day with an outdoor activity and then time in town or at fruit stand/winery.
Travel Tip: Visit on a weekday or during the shoulder seasons (fall and spring) if you can to beat the crowds!
I’ll also include Leavenworth lodging, Leavenworth vacation packages, and how to get to and around this German village Washington should be proud of.
Leavenworth Itinerary Day 1
We started the day with a drive from Seattle to Leavenworth where we had been staying with friends.
Our first stop was the deli at Dan’s Food Market (1329 US-2, Leavenworth, WA 98826). This might be the best kept secret for picnic supplies in Leavenworth. The front of the market is a well stocked grocery store, including lost of local foods, and the deli is tucked away in the back. We got sandwiches with chips and cookies for under $5 each. And they were delicious sandwiches.
Hikes Near Leavenworth
Of course, hiking topped our “Leavenworth Things To Do” List. We originally planned on hiking to Icicle Ridge, but ended up at Waterfront Park with some friends who happened to be passing through town.
There are so many great trails around Leavenworth. Here are a few I recommend, depending on how rigorous you want to get. Most trails are in the Wenatchee National Forest and some require a USFWS Northwest Trail Pass to park at the trailhead, which you can purchase at the trailhead.
In addition to these hikes, the trail up Icicle Gorge is meant to be beautiful and relatively easy, it’s just a bit of a drive from town.
Distance: 9 miles (round trip)
Elevation Gain: 1,665 feet
Description: The trail to Stuart Lake is a lovely one. If you like spunky streams, alpine meadows, scree slopes, forested hills, granite peaks, and a beautiful lake, you’ll love this walk.
Follow the creek for 1 mile and cross the footbridge. From here you’ll switchback to a junction at 2.5 miles. Go right and keep climbing to epic vistas. As the trail flattens, you’ll see Mt. Stuart and reach the lake at 4.5 miles.
Dogs are not permitted.
Getting There: From Leavenworth, drive west on Highway 2 to the end of town. Turn left on Icicle Creek Road and drive 8.5 miles to Road 7601. Turn left and drive 4 miles to a dead end at the trailhead.
Permit: USFS Northwest Trail Pass and self-issuing day use pass.
Distance: 4 miles (round trip) or longer
Elevation Gain: 1,800 feet
Description: The trail to Icicle Ridge switchbacks up a steep slope through Ponderosa Pine forests and open meadows to a ridge with a view over Leavenworth and Icicle Creek. The saddle at about 2 miles is an obvious turn around spot, but you could easily keep hiking for more miles. From the saddle, turn right and walk a few hundred feet further for more views.
If you continue on from the saddle, you’ll reach the junction with Fourth of July Creek Trail at 9 miles. The entire Icicle Creek Trail runs almost 30 miles.
Getting There: From Leavenworth, drive west on Highway 2 to the end of town. Turn left on Icicle Creek Road and drive 1.4 miles to the Icicle Creek Trailhead sign.
Permit: USFS Northwest Trail Pass and self-issuing day use pass.
Waterfront Park Trail
Distance: 3 miles (round trip)
Elevation Gain: Negligible
Description: We enjoyed this mellow in-town walk along the Wenatchee River. There are beaches to play on, a river to wade in, wooded areas, and benches. The trail wanders through various green spaces, including Blackbird Island and the Enchantment Park Systems.
Wildlife is abundant here. We saw herons, other birds, and bear scat.
Getting There: From downtown Leavenworth, walk down 9th Street toward the river, turn left on Main Street, and you will see the parking area.
Downtown Leavenworth WA
After tooling around Waterfront Park, we wandered into downtown Leavenworth. I wrote about what to do in Leavenworth in my post about Highway Two Roadside Attractions, but I’ll add a few items here.
There are so many great things to see in Leavenworth and I can’t list them all, so these are some of my favorite stops, but as you walk through town, poke your head into the gift shops, boutiques, and eateries to find your favorites.
A Book For All Seasons
We loved this bookstore. Lots of local reads, as well as books from around the country. You’ll find cute gifts, AMAZON Ravensburger puzzles(my favorite!), and a wonderful selection of children’s books.
707 Hwy 2, access from Front Street behind Woody Goomsba.
Whistlepunk Ice Cream Co.
Next door to A Book For All Seasons is this darling ice cream parlor. If you aren’t sure what to do with your time in Leavenworth, spin the Wheel of Adventure and let it decide for you. Or just read this amazing Leavenworth itinerary and let me share the best things to do in Leavenworth.
707 Hwy 2, access from Front Street behind Woody Goomsba.
Basically, Woody Goomsba is a big, wooden nutcracker and the mascot for Leavenworth. You may want to get your photo taken with him. We did. Even if you are just on a Leavenworth day trip, you can fit this in. Front Street and 8th Street.
Front Street Park
This centrally located park is right downtown and perfect place to relax and eat your ice cream. While we were there, an oompa band played in the pavilion and cart of kegs (with people dressed in Bavarian duds) was parked out front. Between Hwy 2, Front Street, and 9th Street.
No Leavenworth trip would be complete without a stop at the Gingerbread Factory. It’s more bakery and ice creamery than factory, though the gingerbread is baked in Leavenworth. The Gingerbread Factory has moved since our last visit and is now bigger and located across from the Front Street Park.
This is a great place to buy gingerbread cookies and to buy gingerbread men. Our kids liked that there were gingerbread dinosaurs and gingerbread squirrels. They also have gingerbread houses for sale.
If you can’t make it to Leavenworth, you can find gingerbread cookies for sale online (along with other gourmet cookies and gingerbread houses). 829 Front Street.
Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum
The Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum is filled with a huge variety of antique and newer nutcrackers. Did you know there are four ways to open nuts (direct pressure, indirect pressure, screw, and percussion)? Neither did I.
Even the tour buses on day trips from Seattle stop here. You should check it out. There are kids activities, but your kiddos will probably be pretty enthralled just staring at all the wacky nutcracker faces. 735 Front Street
Upper Valley Museum
This museum, dedicated to preserving the heritage and history of the greater Leavenworth area is moving to the space above the Nutcracker Museum in November 2019. You can visit the Nutcracker Museum and then pop upstairs to check out this gem and deepen your experience in Leavenworth.
The museum also offers guided walking tours of Leavenworth – both a historical town tour and one focused on mills and the railroad. Find out more about the museums and tours here.
Tumwater Bakery and Pizza
I am starting to think that this Leavenworth town tour is a little food-centric. I haven’t even gotten to the beer and spirits, yet! The Tumwater Bakery serves delicious pastries, breads, sandwiches, and coffee. Plus, beer and wine if you want to sit in.
Two sisters and their husbands own the bakery and everything is made in-house.
My friends who do Seattle day trips to Leavenworth always stop here and recommended it to me. Now I recommend it to you. 219 9th Street
Dinner and Live Music in Leavenworth
There are a lot of places for dinner in Leavenworth and a lot of good restaurants. Our favorites are Icicle Brewing Company and Andreas Keller Restaurant.
At Icicle Brewing, I recommend the Farm to Table Meat and Cheese Platter and a pretzel with a Bootjack IPA. 935 Front Street
Andreas Keller is very German. They serve homemade Bavarian food, German beers, and the décor will make you think you are across the pond. There are a bunch of gluten free options. 829 Front Street
A lot of places have live music most nights in the summer and it often starts early, making it family-friendly.
Leavenworth Itinerary Day 2
Like our first day to visit Leavenworth, WA, we started the second day with an outdoor activity. It would have been hard to choose between white water rafting and horseback riding, but as the river is low in early September, rafting wasn’t an option.
Horseback Riding in Leavenworth
There are several options for horseback riding in the Cascades. We chose the 4-Mile Ride with Icicle Outfitters and Guides. The barn is located less than ten minutes from downtown Leavenworth.
Our guide, Wendell, regaled us with stories while leading us along the fish hatchery and Icicle Creek. It was an easy, mellow ride through ponderosa pines. We did get a good view of the mountains at one point, but the scenery wasn’t awe-inspiring. However, it was pretty and we had a lovely time.
If you want to get more into the mountains, consider a ride from their stables at Lake Wenatchee State Park or with Wild at Heart Horse Rides. We didn’t have a lot of time, so the 2-hour ride close to town was perfect.
Water Activities in Leavenworth
If horseback riding isn’t your thing, and it’s early enough in the season, rafting, kayaking, or stand up paddle boarding is an option. Icicle Creek flows into the Wenatchee River just south of Leavenworth near the Leavenworth Golf Club.
Between the creek and the river, there are a lot of opportunities to get on the water. This is one of the favorite places to visit near Seattle for freshwater sports.
There are a handful of companies that offer white water rafting in Leavenworth –whether you are looking for a high adrenaline run or something less bumpy and quite scenic.
Leavenworth Outdoor Center rents rafts, kayaks, and inner tubes, and stand up paddle boards. They run shuttles or can guide your trip. See rafting and kayak outfitters on the Visit Leavenworth site.
Zipline tours are another way to get your family outside and everyone’s hearts racing. Leavenworth Ziplines has both 5-line and 9-line courses that include ziplines, a double deck platform, and a suspension bridge. You need to weigh at least 70 pounds, so this isn’t an option for little ones.
After you’ve had your outdoor adventure, it’s time to eat. Check out one of the Leavenworth restaurants mentioned in Day 1, grab a picnic from Dan’s Food Market, or try O’Grady’s Pantry and Mercantile at Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort (right next to the horseback riding!).
When we take day trips in Washington State, we love to stop at O’Grady’s and eat on the outdoor patio. There are yummy vegetarian and vegan options along with burgers and other meaty meals. For a mixed-eating family like ours, it works out well.
You can even stay at the Sleeping Lady Resort and make a whole vacation out of it.
Agritourism in Leavenworth
No trip to Leavenworth, WA is complete without an agritourism experience. (Agritourism or agrotourism, as it is defined most broadly, involves any agriculturally based operation or activity that brings visitors to a farm or ranch.)
Apparently, the area around Leavenworth is great for growing fruit. Apples, pears, and grapes, and the products that come from them, are big here.
In this Bavarian town, Washington apples are a top crop. You can buy them at one of the fun farm stands outside of town or as apple cider – both hard and non-alcoholic. Pears are becoming just as widely grown and cidered (I made that word up) as apples.
Leavenworth Farm Stands
At Smallwood’s Harvest, there is more than produce and specialty food. There is a small petting zoo, a children’s train (which goes pretty fast!), a playground and more. Families with young children could spend a whole afternoon here. Each activity has a separate fee, so be prepared to spend if you come here. 10461 Stemm Road, Peshastin, WA 98847
Prey’s Fruit Barn sells over 40 varieties of their homegrown pears and apples, along with other fruit from local farms. They are about one mile east of Leavenworth. 11007 Highway 2, Peshastin, WA 98826
For a more grown up, but still family-friendly experience, Leavenworth wine tasting fits the bill. Just walk down Front Street in Leavenworth and you can pop into Icicle Ridge Winery, D’Vinery Eagle Creek Winery, WooHoo Winery Tasting Room, Gooseridge Estate Winery, Boudreaux Cellars Tasting Room, and several others.
In other words, you can drink yourself silly in just a couple blocks. You don’t need to know anything else about what to do in Leavenworth, WA. Just kidding.
If you are serious about your wine tasting, check out one of the vineyards and tasting rooms just east of town.
Icicle Ridge Winery is in a log home with views of Icicle Ridge and the vineyards. 8977 North Rd, Peshastin, WA 98847
Silvara Cellars sits atop a hill with views of the Cascades. They specialize in small batch Bordeaux-style wines. 77 Stage Rd, Leavenworth, WA 98826
Wedge Mountain Winery does wine tasting in an underground cave, behind the thick walls of the straw bale building, or outdoors in the “orchard garden.” 9534 Saunders Rd, Peshastin, WA 98847
Any of the wineries would be a good addition to your Leavenworth vacation.
While I recommend visiting Leavenworth during its slower times, the quaint Bavarian town is known for its festivals.
Leavenworth Summer Theater
Leavenworth Summer Theater performs three plays each summer in two locations: Leavenworth Ski Hill and the National Fish Hatchery. The seasonal arts troupe does a professional job of bringing theater to life in both of the stunning and inviting locations. Call for tickets (509.548.2000) or book online. Tickets go on sale in June.
You can’t have a German town without an Oktoberfest and they do it up in Leavenworth. There’s music, dancing, food, and of course, beer.
The festival runs over three weekends and takes place at four venues. Tickets go on sale online around Labor Day and can be purchased at the gate.
Hotels book up quickly, so make a reservation asap. You can also stay in Wenatchee and take a shuttle to Leavenworth.
Leavenworth, Christmas Town Washington State
The Leavenworth Winter Festival is another big deal. Leavenworth becomes a “City of Lights” between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day. There are so many things to do in Leavenworth, WA in the winter.
It starts with the Christkindlmarkt, a Bavarian-style Christmas Market. We went to a couple Christmas Markets in Zagreb, Croatia and Salzburg, Austria and fell in love with this tradition. In Leavenworth, there is Bavarian foods, drink, arts and crafts, music, and other entertainment.
The Christmas Lighting Ceremony is next and the village sparkles with the lights of 500,000 bulbs and a visit from Santa Claus as part of the Leavenworth, WA winter festival.
In mid-January, the city hosts the Bavarian Ice Festival. There are snow sculptures, live ice carving, and a firework show. Then, at the end of January, you can enjoy the Timburr! Music Festival.
Throughout the winter season there is skiing, dog sledding, snow play, and the famous Leavenworth Sleigh Ride. Get all the details at the Visit Leavenworth site.
More Things to Do in Leavenworth, Washington
As if that wasn’t enough fun to fill a few days, here are a few more fun Leavenworth activities.
Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery
Situated on the banks of Icicle Creek, this is a great place to hang out and picnic, watch for wildlife, or take a nature walk. We went past here when we were horseback riding and the same trails are used for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. There is a visitor center that is open year round and hatchery tours are available. They also hold festivals here at the hatchery, including the Wenatchee River Salmon Festival. More about the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery Complex here.
Leavenworth, WA Hotels
Whether you are on weekend getaways from Seattle or visiting from farther afield, there are plenty of lodging options in Leavenworth.
Bavarian Lodge – Centrally located, this Leavenworth hotel has nice, comfortable rooms, including turret suites, incredible mountain and village views, complimentary full breakfast buffet, heated outdoor pool, two hot tubs, rustic beer pub, and is rated high for hospitality. See TripAdvisor reviews and find the best deals.
Hotel Pension Anna – They call themselves the “most authentic and unique Bavarian Pension in Leavenworth with the only true German breakfast in the village.” A stay here is meant to be a German experience without the airfare or passport. This Bavarian hotel is just off Main Street, so it’s quiet, but centrally located. We love the German décor, large rooms, and friendly staff. See TripAdvisor reviews and find the best deals.
Obertal Inn – We stayed at this friendly hotel. It’s in town, but off the main drag and quiet. They offer regular hotel rooms and a three-bedroom townhouse. All rooms have a small refrigerator, microwave, hair dryer, coffee maker, and LCD TV. See TripAdvisor reviews and find the best deals.
Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort – Located about ten minutes outside of town and along Icicle Creek, this resort prides itself on cuisine and accommodations in sync with nature. As mentioned above, the are horseback riding stables on the premises, and it’s close to hiking trails. The cottage rooms are nestled in the forest so you’ll feel like you are on your own, but with access to amenities including a pool, restaurant, spa, and fitness center. See TripAdvisor reviews and find the best deals.
Cabins in Leavenworth, WA
For cabin rentals, Leavenworth, WA has some cute ones.
Check Airbnb for a variety of cabins, condos, and cottages in or near Leavenworth.
If you haven’t used Airbnb before, use this link to get $40 off your home booking. And you get $15 to use toward an experience worth $50 or more.
Leavenworth, WA Christmas Hotels
All the hotels in Leavenworth decorate for Christmas and have a cozy, wintery feel. If you stay in a cityside room at the Bavarian Lodge you can watch the Tree Lighting Ceremony right from your room.
Leavenworth is a small town, so no matter where you stay in town, you can walk to all the Leavenworth WA things to do.
Hotels Near Leavenworth, WA
Since the hotels in Leavenworth can fill up during busy times of the year, you may need to look outside the city limits. Wenatchee is about a 35-minute drive from Leavenworth and the closest “city.”
The Best Western Cheiftain Inn – If you are looking for the Best Western Leavenworth WA, you’ll have to go to Wenatchee. The Best Western Cheiftain Inn is the closest Best Western to Leavenworth. The hotel has cozy, clean rooms, an outdoor heated swimming pool, hot tubs, and a full breakfast buffet. See TripAdvisor reviews and find the best deals.
Springhill Suites Wenatchee – This hotel is basic and comfortable. It’s clean and has everything you need, including access to Leavenworth German town up the road. See TripAdvisor reviews and find the best deals.
Getting to Leavenworth
Just as when you are traveling in Germany, there are many ways to get to Leavenworth. You can take road trips from Seattle in your own car or a rental vehicle; you can take the bus to Leavenworth, and you can even take the train.
Train to Leavenworth, WA
You can take the Amtrak Seattle to Leavenworth train for a comfortable and scenic ride. Amtrak’s Empire Builder runs regularly, stopping at Icicle Station in Leavenworth. Of course, you can take the Leavenworth to Seattle train to return.
You can take the same train from Everett to Leavenworth, or from Spokane or Wenatchee in the other direction.
In winter, there is a special Leavenworth train tour.
“Each Saturday in December, Alki Tours, operates the only day-trip train that goes from Seattle to the winter wonderland of Leavenworth to see the annual Tree Lighting Festival. On each departure, 800 passengers board the special chartered Amtrak train to enjoy a catered continental breakfast, onboard entertainment including strolling musicians, magicians and of course Santa. Near the 4000 foot summit, the train will traverse Cascade Tunnel — the second longest in North America. At approximately 12:30 pm, the train will roll to a stop in Leavenworth.”
See more on the Amtrak site about both the Snow Train and the regular train from Leavenworth WA to Seattle WA (and return).
Bus to Leavenworth
If you’d prefer wheels to rails, the Seattle to Leavenworth bus tour does the job. Greyhound runs twice daily from Seattle and back from Leavenworth to Seattle. Bus trips can be as fast as two hours and 55 minutes if you go direct.
There is also an Amtrak Thruway bus that does Leavenworth tours most days.
As a more affordable alternative to the Snow Train, consider the Leavenworth Snow Bus. It will get you there and back and pastries are served on the bus! Check the Alki Tours site for more information.
Drive to Leavenworth
Leavenworth is one of the best day trips from Seattle, but if you can swing a few days there, you won’t regret it. See distance below for how long and how far it is to your destination, Leavenworth.If you are planning on renting a car for your road trip to Leavenworth, click here for big savings on car rentals.
Distance to Leavenworth
- Spokane to Leavenworth – 192 miles, 3 hours 10 minutes
- Wenatchee to Leavenworth – 22.5 miles, 33 minutes
- Bellevue to Leavenworth – 110 miles, 2 hours 10 minutes
- Everett to Leavenworth – 100 miles, 2 hours
- Seattle to Leavenworth WA – 117 miles, 2 hours 15 minutes
- Tacoma to Leavenworth – 148 miles, 2 hours 36 minutes
- (WA) Vancouver to Leavenworth – 281 miles, 4 hours 45 minutes
- (BC) Vancouver to Leavenworth – 215 miles, 4 hours 10 minutes (plus border crossing)
More Fun in The Pacific Northwest
Staying and playing in Leavenworth is one of the highlights to a road trip in the Pacific Northwest. I’d recommend following Highway two all the way to Everett and then up to Anacortes where you can hop a ferry to the San Juan Islands.
We haven’t explored all the San Juan Islands, but spent a week on Lopez Island and San Juan Island. Lopez is quieter and flatter (great for biking!), and San Juan has more to do, but still has that lazy island feel.
What is the German town near Seattle?
The Seattle German town is called Leavenworth. Scroll up to read all the details about planning a trip to Leavenworth.
What is there to do in Leavenworth, WA?
The best things to do in Leavenworth are outlined in this article: hiking, rafting, eating, and wandering through this quaint Bavarian-style town.
What is there to do in Leavenworth in the winter?
There are many things to do in Leavenworth in the winter, including the Christmas Market, music festivals, and winter sports – skiing, snowshoeing, sleigh rides etc. The Snow train makes it possible to do day trips from Seattle in winter, but by staying a few days, you can really experience a magical, Bavarian winter.
What is Leavenworth known for?
Leavenworth, Washington is known for its Bavarian-styled buildings and outdoor recreational opportunities.
When is the best time to visit Leavenworth, WA?
To experience the best things to do in Leavenworth in the summer, visit between June and August. For winter fun, try December – February. For smaller crowds, weekdays and the shoulder seasons are best. And autumn is a lovely time for hiking, apple picking, and exploring this German town in Washington State.
When does it snow in Leavenworth, WA?
It can snow in Leavenworth any time between November and April (maybe even in October). For the best snow and to enjoy all the Leavenworth winter activities, plan to visit December – early March.
How long is the drive from Seattle to Leavenworth?
The drive from Seattle to Leavenworth is two hours and 15 minutes via I90 and two hours and 20 minutes via highway 2.
How far is Leavenworth from Seattle?
It depends which way you go, but about 2 hours and 15 minutes. This article covers both the Highway 2 route (five minutes longer, but more scenic route) and the route via I90. For how to get to Leavenworth, Washington, see the article – they include driving, taking the train, and bussing.
Is there a train to Leavenworth WA?
There is a train to Leavenworth, which make for perfect Washington day trips or overnight stays. See the “Train to Leavenworth” section for more details.
What county is Leavenworth, WA in?
Leavenworth is a city in Chelan County, Washington.
What is the Leavenworth, WA elevation?
The elevation of Leavenworth is 1,166 feet above sea level, while the nearby Cascade mountains range between 5,000 and 8,000 feet.