Looking for the perfect destination to add to your winter travel bucket list? Allow me to introduce you to Leavenworth, a small city in central Washington that’s the stuff Christmas dreams are made of.
Here are just a few of the reasons Christmas lovers go gaga for Leavenworth.8 Good Reasons to Visit Leavenworth, Washington this Christmas #wintertravel Click To Tweet
#1: It’s festive AF
In the winter months, the already charming Bavarian-themed village of Leavenworth, Washington, becomes its most festive yet.
The city comes alive with over half a million twinkling lights that dangle from every possible surface, and there’s even an annual Christmas Lighting Festival held on the first three weekends of December.
For the best chance to enjoy the lighting stress-free, arrive early in the day–this celebration has been drawing bigger and bigger crowds every year, meaning traffic becomes thick on the two-lane highways leading into town, and parking becomes scarce.
Alternatively, you can enjoy the lights during the week when tourists are sparse–but be forewarned that you’ll also miss out on live musical performances and other fun festivities that are exclusive to the weekends.
#2: It’s in a beautiful mountain setting
While I can’t say for sure what the original inspiration was for Leavenworth’s Bavarian motif, I’d wager a guess that the dramatic views of the Cascade Mountain Range may have felt reminiscent of the Bavarian Alps.
And these snow-covered mountains can be enjoyed from afar as you stroll through town or through adventurous outings on skis, snowshoes, snowboard, sled, or snowmobile.
My preference is to admire them from bustling Front Street, a mug of something warm and festive in hand.
Which brings me to my next point…
Glühwein, or traditional German mulled wine, can be found all over town during the winter, either at the pop-up booths on Front Street or at the many winery tasting rooms in town.
This piping hot beverage will add an extra element of fun to your trip, transporting you (in spirit, anyway) to the magical Munich Christmas markets that serve as inspiration for Leavenworth’s winter revelry.
You can pair your Glüwein with some freshly roasted chestnuts for that truly traditional holiday feeling.
#4: You’ll meet some interesting characters
If you’ve got kiddos in tow, keep your eyes peeled for their favorite Christmas characters, from the classic (Mr. and Mrs. Claus, Rudolph, Frosty the Snowman) to the contemporary (you may spot Buddy the Elf if you’re lucky).
Pause for a photo op and bring home a wonderful memory to be cherished for many Christmases to come.
#5: There’s an entire store dedicated to Santa Claus
If you’ve ever dreamt of having a life-sized, animatronic Kris Kringle (from the German Christkindl) in your home, you’ll want to pay a visit to Leavenworth’s aptly-named Kris Kringl, the most festive Christmas store on the planet (that I know of, anyway).
But it’s not just home to terrifyingly large Santa figurines–you’ll find Christmas decor of all kinds, from icicle-shaped lights to tree ornaments to nativity sets and beyond–so you can be your city’s next Clark Griswold.
#6: There’s an entire museum dedicated to nutcrackers
Somehow, I’ve lived here for years without realizing that Leavenworth has its very own Nutcracker Museum that contains more than 5,000 of the things.
And forget what you think you know about these little wooden soldiers–nutcrackers come in all shapes and sizes and are fashioned from materials as diverse as metal, porcelain, and ivory, to name a few.
After you pay the $5 entry fee, you’ll be given a list of special nutcrackers to locate among their vast collection for a scavenger hunt that is far more challenging than it sounds–not to mention fun for kids of all ages (trust us, we tried it ourselves).
On your way out, don’t forget to snap a selfie with Karl, a nutcracker that is quite literally larger than life.
#7: There’s a gingerbread factory
The Gingerbread Factory in Leavenworth is the place where Christmas dreams are baked. They specialize in gingerbread houses and also sell sweets like cookies and other pastries, plus espresso for the energy boost you need to keep exploring the town by foot.
If you can’t visit Leavenworth, you can have your gingerbread creation shipped to you in time for Christmas if you order by December 5th. You can also send them as gifts to your sweets-loving friends and family.
If you want the fun of creating your own, try the DIY kit or the already assembled house that’s ready to be customized.
#8: You can take a ride in a horse-drawn carriage
Should you get tired of walking, take a load off by touring the town in a horse-drawn carriage operated by the Hans Christian Andersen Carriage Company.
The click-clack of horseshoes on the pavement is complemented by the jingling of bells hung around the horse’s neck and will put even the Grinchiest of characters in the Christmas mood.
Keep in mind carriage rides are only offered Friday through Sunday (weather permitting) so if you want to add this to your list of Leavenworth must-dos, plan accordingly.
Have you added Leavenworth, WA to your holiday travel bucket list yet?