Wander: Summer Vacation in the Pacific Northwest
Summer in Leavenworth is oh, so worth it ….
When I told someone about our vacationing in Leavenworth, I had to explain that we weren’t visiting the prison in Kansas, but the Bavarian-like village in Washington state. They still weren’t impressed, especially because they were used to us travelling to exotic places. The summer before we were in Tokyo, Angkor Wat, an island in Thailand and Singapore.
For some, the idea of vacationing in a town, designed `a la Disney, to attract tourists with its Bavarian theme, may sound like a prison sentence. But we were pleasantly surprised. We were visiting relatives, so to be honest, we probably would not have ventured here if not for the offer of a free condo with views of the mountains.
We also did not go during the annual Oktoberfest celebrations, when even the town locals avoid the main town. But we soon learned a trip to Leavenworth is well worth it, especially in the summer, if you like the outdoors, hiking, rafting and German beer. Make it a Pacific Northwest adventure. We spent 3 days in Seattle before making the drive out.
Getting there: Leavenworth is about 120 miles and a two-and-a-half-hour drive east of Seattle. And Leavenworth gets 202 sunny days annually. If you are wondering, Seattle gets 152 sunny days on average.
Day 1 – Leave Seattle after breakfast. Suggestion: Top Pot Doughnuts for a cup of coffee and one of their “hand-forged” doughnuts. (I have no idea what that means, but whatever they do there, the doughnuts are to die for. )
At the halfway point (about an hour from Seattle) take a hiking detour to Wallace Falls in Gold Bar. We had read rumors that the hiking here could get crowded, but we went during the middle of the week and found plenty of parking. We hiked up to the gorgeous view of the famous 256-foot waterfall. And also, you get to do this famous "I made it" pose for your Instagram site.
After a rigorous hike, stop for a flame-broiled cheeseburger and fries at Zeke’s! Even the local TV station liked our pit stop!
Leavenworth is another hour and half drive, you’ll get in just in time for dinner.
Day 2 – Tour the town. Leavenworth was an old logging town saved by German beer. Actually, back in the 60s, when all seemed bleak for this town, a group of people came up with a brilliant idea to save their dying village. They realized their town, nestled in the mountains, could be transformed into an alpine village.
Today, tens of thousands of people pour into Leavenworth for Oktoberfest and Bavarian-style Christmas celebrations. In the summer, it’s popular too. But not as crowded.
Sure, it’s a little kitschy with all the nutcracker, beer stein and t-shirts souvenirs shops, but there are some local standouts, including a very good chocolate store called, Schocolat.There are new owners since we visited, but according to their Facebook page, the new owners underwent some extensive chocolate training before taking over – gosh I hope so, that chocolate was amazing.
Go Wine Tasting – Yes, you’ll find beer, but this area is also known for its very good wine. There are several wine and cider tasting rooms in the village, so you can drink wine to your heart’s content. My favorite was Icicle Ridge on Front Street or you can visit the vineyard just a few miles away.
Dinner – Go to München Haus for beer, brats and pretzels!
Take a hike! There are several great hikes in the area whether you are a novice or expert hiker. Our hosts were serious hikers so they took us on the famous Lake Colchuck hike. You’ll climb 5580 feet up, crossing creeks and navigating steep rocks. You will be rewarded with a spectacular glacial lake, a spot dubbed the gateway to the Enchantments. It’s strenuous, so bring good hiking shoes, but we went up with an (experienced) 8-year-old. If she could do it, so could you.
Make sure to bring a picnic lunch, plenty of water and if you can handle the icy temperatures, a swim suit. My teenaged daughter went in. I, on the other hand, dipped my toes in and that was good enough.
Post-hike dinner at the Blewett Brewing Company, where we had one of the best pizzas ever. And that’s not the post-hike hangriness talking. Order a beer and a Mr. Bacon. You’ll thank me later.
Day 4 –
Visit the Sleeping Lady Resort. Or even better, book your stay here! Next time we visit, I want to spend a night or two here. It’s a beautiful resort, with cabins nestled in the forest, about 3 miles from the main town. It’s located on the banks of Icicle Creek, surrounded by the Cascades. There is a spa, horseback riding nearby, and from time to time art events. There are also a couple of places to eat. We had lunch al fresco at O’Grady’s and on another night we had dinner at the Kingfisher Restaurant. After your meal, take in some art. The resort has a very cool self-guided Art Walk, where you’ll find a variety of sculptures including Dale Chihuly’s first outdoor installation, the Icicle Chandelier!
You can also opt to take another hike. Try the Icicle Creek hike, a 4-mile hike that isn’t too strenuous.
Day 5 – Paddle boarding or White Water rafting along the Wenatchee River. We came in late summer, so the water had calmed down. We rented paddleboards from the Osprey Rafting Company and paddled our way (slowly) from the Icicle River to the Wenatchee, surrounded by soaring mountains. And you’ll work out your core too! You’ll end right in the main town, in time for lunch or early dinner.
If you go in the Spring or early Summer, you can ride some major rapids! Maybe next time.
And one last note: Before you leave Leavenworth, pick up some pastries and fresh bread at the Bavarian Bakery (1330 US Highway 2) for your trip back to the Seattle Airport.