Published 12/26/2019 at 4:52 AM PDT
By OREGON TRAVEL DAILY STAFF
(Leavenworth, Washington) – Wander far up enough into the eastern slopes of Washington’s Cascade Range and it’ll be easy to think you’ve somehow been mysteriously transported to Germany and its Bavarian Alps, like one of those weird portals in the show LOST. You’ll even occasionally hear German spoken. It’s still in the Pacific Northwest, however, and this little burgh about two hours from Seattle stretches the imagination, especially in winter. (Photo courtesy Brian Munoz and Visit Leavenworth).
This season is a magical one for the woodsy place, converted into a true German “wunderland” with that country’s tradition of intensely layered Christmas lights and powerful displays. It’s been called “a bit like the interior of a snow globe” by the New York Times – but winter is really just the beginning of something remarkable. As spring approaches, the town morphs into something new.
Indeed, the holiday lights stick around until Valentine’s day, some 500,000 of them still encompassing Leavenworth in an otherworldly glow of bright colors. Nestled in what has been described as the Bavarian Alps of Washington’s North Central Cascades, emerald green forests and rushing rivers showcase the Northwest’s unquenchable thirst for adventure. But the natural beauty of Leavenworth - where the surrounding peaks top out at almost 10,000 feet and watch over the hamlet - is only part of its story. The Bavarian-styled architecture contrasts perfectly against the white of fresh snow.
Even now, after Christmas, visitors can still enjoy a peaceful and romantic sleigh ride through town or let the kids indulge their wild side on Leavenworth’s many sledding hills. Leavenworth also makes an ideal basecamp for skiers and snowboarders who long for the slopes of Stevens Pass or for a more quaint experience at the local ski hill in town, Ski Leavenworth.
“With the holiday lights, Christmas markets, and seasonal celebrations, Leavenworth in winter can feel as if it is taken directly from the pages of a German fairytale,” said Nancy Smith, executive director of the Leavenworth Chamber of Commerce. “But from skiing and sledding, to a taste of Washington’s fine wines and farm-to-table culinary scene, the region’s charm, character, and culture are very real and easy for all to enjoy.”
When the snow begins to thaw, new outdoor opportunities arise. Fishing and rafting on the Wenatchee River that flows through town, mountain biking, and more are in abundance in this natural playground.
Even more, the seasons are ripe with unique and fun events. The holiday festivities continue through the end of December with Christkindlmarkt, a German-style holiday outdoor market. Then there’s The Bavarian Icefest (Jan. 18), Taste Leavenworth! (April 4-5), and Maifest (May 8-10), among the events that ensure the celebration continues long after the new year begins.
Regardless of the season, Leavenworth’s culinary scene is a reflection of its creativity, and deeply influenced by its agricultural tradition. Leavenworth is the country’s largest producer of organic pears — a fact celebrated every April with Spring Sensations — but it also produces cherries, apples, peaches, apricots, and more. Local ingredients gathered from Leavenworth’s forests, farms, and fields are transformed into inspired cuisine. And the perfect compliment to a great meal is easy to find with 24 wine tasting rooms in town — mixing local wineries and those from other parts of Washington state — in addition to a number of local breweries, cideries, and distillers.
“Winter and spring both provide a unique opportunity for visitors not available at any other time of the year,” Smith said. “Much of what has made Leavenworth such a beloved destination in summer and fall is just as attractive in winter and spring. But everything is just a bit more accessible.”
To learn more or to begin planning a visit, visit www.leavenworth.org.
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