Many cruises leave from Seattle to Alaska during the summer. Anyone who has a little extra time to spend in the area will find that Seattle has a lot to see. With time to venture a bit farther away, there’s even more.
Nestled snugly into the Cascade Mountains, just east of Stevens Pass sits the very unique town of Leavenworth Washington. While many towns sprang up in the last century when mines, trains, or sawmills provided work, a lot of them faded into oblivion, or became ghost towns when the work disappeared. Leavenworth on the other hand refused to die.
The trains found a safer route through the mountains following a disastrous avalanche that knocked two trains off the tracks killing nearly 100 people. Once the trains left town, the sawmill shut down. Then the great depression hit. For several decades Leavenworth struggled to survive. Then they came up with a brilliant idea. Inspired by the mountains surrounding the town, and their resemblance to the German Alps, the whole town went Bavarian in hopes of attracting tourists.
The town did more than survive. It thrived and grew. Many charming Bavarian themed shops line the main streets of town, surrounded by Bavarian themed hotels. The town hosts many parades and festivals throughout the year. They also have art in the park and the highlight of the year, Christmas tree lighting.
Trains once again stop near Leavenworth with the recent addition of the Icicle Station on the Amtrak empire builder route. Buses also provide transportation from Seattle, though most people arrive by car. Seattle has many car rental options for people who fly in from other places.
Leavenworth offers a wide variety of restaurants and hotels to fit any budget. Some hotels even allow pets. Most have pools. Some even have indoor pools open year-round. Many area wineries have tasting rooms in Leavenworth. You don’t have to walk far through town to find the next one. There’s also plenty of places to buy clothing, gifts, sweets, jewelery, and just about anything else a tourist could want.
Famous for their white chicken chili as well as the decor, the Soup Cellar sits down a flight of stairs from the main road through town. The walls of this tasty eatery are papered with a multitude of dollar bills, each one signed or decorated by the customer who hung it there.
The Enzian Inn, one of the nicer places to stay in town, has both indoor and outdoor pools. It also has a real grass golf putting course where hotel guests are allowed to play for free and others for a fee. Goats graze in a hillside pasture between the sidewalk and the golf course, often stopping for passers-by to pet or photograph them.
Pretty much everywhere in Leavenworth has great mountain views. Most hotels include free breakfast with a night’s stay. Other options include Bed and Breakfast places, or nearby campgrounds and resorts. Der Ritterhoff even allows people with motorhomes and trailers to stay in their field right in town.
While a great destination in itself, Leavenworth’s prime location also makes it a good base for further adventures such as horseback riding on nearby trails or taking a pack trip into the mountains. Icicle Outfitters has horses available for day rides on Icicle Road just outside of Leavenworth. They also do guided pack trips for people wanting more than a day ride.
Rafting down a nearby river, whether white water or a scenic float, also makes a great way to spend a day. River floats meet in nearby Cashmere or Lake Wenatchee State Park. Several companies offer raft trips, including Alpine Adventures.
Year round there is always something to do in Leavenworth. In the wintertime sleigh rides and skiing make use of the mountain snow in and near the town.
I’ve been to Leavenworth a few times and stayed in a variety of places. One snowy winter we stayed at the Evergreen Inn for a night on the way farther east. We had a nice room there, large bathroom and two separate rooms for the beds. It is pet-friendly, which is nice since my dog came too. The breakfast included make-your-own Belgian waffles. This hotel sits on the same road as many shops, about a block beyond the stores and off the highway in a pretty quiet location. My daughter Sheri and her husband quite enjoyed late night sledding down the very small hill that leads up to the shops. Some things in the room did show a bit of wear, but that’s to be expected where pets are allowed.
I’ve also stayed at the Alpine Rivers Inn, but long enough ago I don’t remember what the room was like. Which means it was probably average with nothing especially bad or good to stick in the memory. That one is around a bend in the highway on the river, a short walk to town. It belongs to the same people as Enzian, so free golf is included, but the price at Alpine Rivers is significantly lower.
I’m normally pretty budget-conscious, but my sister, niece and I stopped in Leavenworth before and after a pack trip and river rafting adventure this summer and decided to splurge and try the Enzian one night. The Enzian keeps the Bavarian theme going inside as well as out. The room was more spacious than most, and nicely decorated. The breakfast included made-to-order omelettes along with an array of fresh fruits and pastries, and other hot choices such as eggs and ham, They had a beautiful breakfast room with lots of windows and nice views. This inn also had other common areas where people could sit in several lovely rooms or on an outside terrace. Their schedule included some daily music options as well. If I wasn’t normally looking for the cheapest price, I’d stay there every time.
Due to a recent eye surgery, I could not get any UV into my eye. I couldn’t talk the others into using the indoor pool on a bright sunny day though, so I thought I would look like the village idiot swimming in sunglasses. Much to my surprise, for a time my sister and niece were the only ones in the pool NOT wearing sunglasses. Then some young kids jumped in, and all the adults scurried quickly to the shallow end to avoid getting our sunglasses splashed while the kids played in the deep end. A bit opposite, but whatever works.
We tried a restaurant I hadn’t been to before called Visconti’s. We sat on an outside terrace and had a tasty meal with a scenic view of part of the town and some of the surrounding mountains. We split two orders between three people and still had food left over.
Like most tourists, we managed to leave our money in some of the shops, each of us buying different things. My sister and I found some great touristy hats, with strings to hold them on our heads through horseback riding and river rafting. Probably great for embarrassing the niece as well. She did not wear a hat, and did manage to sunburn her head. That’s probably worse, especially when the part in your hair burns, and then peels like mondo dandruff flakes. I’ve never been a hat person either, but with the eye thing I had to become one.
On the way back we stayed at the Howard Johnson. More the average motel – sufficient and a lot lower priced. Parking was a bit tight, so it is a good thing we did not have a big truck or SUV, although some people did. They had an outdoor pool and a breakfast that included biscuits & gravy and make-your-own waffles. It also allows pets in some rooms. This one we got cheap on Travelocity, and ours was one of the rooms near the end of the hall that are a bit smaller than the rest. Whether that is coincidence, or if they keep the smaller rooms for the cheap travel sites I have no clue.
Pretty much anyone could find something to enjoy on a visit to Leavenworth.