The first railway route was built through Stevens Pass in 1892 and Leavenworth became a hub for the timber industry because of its perfect location, which is right after the steep slopes of the Cascades. The city housed the headquarters of then Great Northern Railway, whose railroad network spans from Seattle, Washington to Saint Paul, Minnesota. The city was in the decline in the 1920s however, as the main railroad activity shifts to Wenatchee.
The city struggled until 1962 when Owen and Pauline Watson, owners of a business on Front Street, kicked off Project LIFE (Leavenworth Improvement For Everyone) to transform the city into a mock Bavarian village after their visit to the Danish-themed town Solvang, California four years earlier. Since then, this Bavarian theme has been the main selling point for travelers across the US to visit the area, either just to experience the culture, or as a transit point for outdoor activities in the Cascades.
Leavenworth is located along the US Highway 2, to the west of the junction with US Highway 97, approximately 120 miles east from Seattle and 180 miles west of Spokane. If you are coming from Seattle, this will be the first major town you will pass after driving through the Cascade Mountains.
The nearest Interstate to the town is Interstate 90, from which you may exit at the US Highway 97 junction and turn left at its junction with Highway 2.
- Leavenworth "Icicle" Station, 11645 North Road. Amtrak's Empire Builder, which runs from Seattle in the west to Chicago in the east, maintains a stop at this station, 2 miles to the northeast of downtown Leavenworth. Trains are scheduled to arrive and depart at 8PM eastbound and 6AM westbound. Shuttles by hotels can be arranged to pick you up from the train station.
The tourist portion of Leavenworth is very small and centered along Front Street to the Wenatchee River, approximately a 15min walk from one side to the other on foot.
- Nutcracker Museum, 735 Front St (On the south corner of Front & 8th), ☎ +1 509-548-4573. 2-5PM: daily May-Oct, weekends Nov-Apr. A rather small museum, but is loaded with thousands of nutcrackers. They range from simple prehistoric ones to modern movie character variations of the traditional Bavarian-styled ones. Adults $2.50, Students $1, Children (under 5) free.
- Play a round of golf at the Leavenworth Golf Club.
- Go river rafting or inner tubing on the Wenatchee River.
- Leavenworth is a bouldering destination, well known for its diverse granite boulder fields.
- The Enchantments (The Enchantment Lakes), ☎ +1 509 664-9200. The Enchantments is an extremely popular hiking and backpacking destination during the summer months. Permits for overnight stays must be reserved in advance and are extremely difficult to get, but day hike permits are easily obtained. There are two ways to access the Enchantment Lakes area: The Snow Lakes trailhead (4 miles out of Leavenworth) or the Lake Stuart trailhead (8 miles out of Leavenworth).
- Similar to the German culture it adopted, the Oktoberfest is the largest festival in the area, with residents and tourists alike celebrating by drinking pints of beer and savor the traditional German delights.
- Christmas is also popular with tourists, where the city is bright with colorful lights and snow often covers the ground.
- Most festivals, big or small, from music to parades, are held in the summer.
- A Matter of Taste, 647 Front St, ☎ +1 509-548-6949. Summer: Daily 9AM–9PM, Winter: M-F 11-4PM Sa-Su 10-6PM. A wide variety of spreads, dips, and jams that have free samples, the infamous piping hot sauce, and some little souvenirs.
- Baren Haus, 208 9th St (corner of Front and 9th St.), ☎ +1 509 548-4535. Traditional Bavarian fare with a few 'German' beers to choose from. The large steins are kind of a rip-off, but pitchers are definitely worth the cost.
- Andreas Keller, 829 Front St, ☎ +1 509-548-6000. Daily 11:30AM-9PM. Traditional Bavarian fare, commonly known for its pork hock, schnitzel, and a selection of sausages. Offers large pints.
- Munchen Haus, 709 Front St, ☎ +1 509-548-1158. 11AM-8PM (Mon.-Thurs.); 11AM-9PM (Fri. & Sun.); 11AM-10PM (Sat.). Affordable traditional Bavarian food (mostly a wide range of delicious sausages in hot dog buns) and beers with outdoor seating. All the sauerkraut you can handle from an ample fixings bar that is mostly made up of big squeeze bottles of mustards and more. The menu includes a vegetarian (field roast) sausage option. The outdoor seating includes heating lamps. $4-$8.
- Bavarian Bistro and Bar (Bavarian Bistro), 810 Front St, ☎ +1 509-548-5074. 11AM-10PM (Sun-Wed); 11AM-11PM (Thurs.); 11AM-12AM (Fri. & Sat). A restaurant and bar space on the second floor overlooking Front Street, Bavarian Bistro & Bar has a wide variety of (primarily German) food items, (about half German) beers, wines, and cocktails. The sausage plates are popular, as is the German meatloaf and anything involving sauerkraut (which is to say, most dishes). Many vegetarian options are available, including a delicious salad with quinoa, a generous appetizer portion of brussels sprouts, and a savory sweet potato pie main dish. moderate.
- Icicle Brewing Company, 935 Front St, ☎ +1 509-548-BREW (2739). M-Th 2-10PM, F-Su: noon-10PM. Small local brew pub with both indoor and outdoor seating. Flights, growlers, and some small plates available. 21+ after 6PM. The Boot Jack IPA is a solid option after a long day of trinket shopping or hiking.
- Bella Terrazza Vineyards, 837 Front St Suite A, ☎ +1 509-548-7348. Has a wine tasting room
- Uncle Uli's Pub, 902 Front St, ☎ +1 509-548-7262. Pub with BBQ food.
Although hotels are abundant across the US 2 strip, families and large groups tend to rent cabins just outside the downtown area.
- Evergreen Inn, 1117 Front St., ☎ +1 509 548-5515, toll-free: +1-800-327-7212. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. One of the only cheap places in Leavenworth. Stay includes a free breakfast with make-your-own Belgian waffles. From $80 per night.
- Best Western Icicle Inn, 505 Highway 2, ☎ +1 509 548-7000, toll-free: +1-800-558-2438, fax: +1 509 548-7050. A cheap and family-friendly option. Lobbies are decorated in brown Bavarian style. Outdoor pool, spa, and arcade for leisure travelers with family. From $150 per night.
- There are a number of locations for outdoor activities such as Lake Wenatchee in the west via US Highway 2, Stevens Pass Ski Resort further down the road, and Lake Chelan to the north.
- The small nearby town of Cashmere has a small distillery as well as a few bars and other attractions.
- A drive along US 2 can take you to Seattle in the west (though the highway actually terminates at Everett) or Spokane in the east.
|Routes through Leavenworth|
|Seattle ← Everett ←||W E||→ Wenatchee → Spokane|
|Everett ← Stevens Pass ←||W E||→ Cashmere → Wenatchee|