There is a darling Bavarian town in Washington state called Leavenworth. It is two hours’ drive east of Seattle, where we were staying at a hotel for two nights.
Well, the village at least appears Bavarian, though beneath the surface it’s not as authentic as one would hope. And as the years go by, it becomes more and more a purely tourist trap filled with overpriced gift shops and so many wine tasting shops. Still, it’s worth a look. I have been there often, mostly because one of my favourite wilderness areas has a trailhead just outside of town. But I had never seen it decked out for Christmas. Christmas, it turns out, is the peak time of year for this place.
Our plans were to arrive a little before sundown, so that we could go exploring and see the town in daylight, then not have much of a wait to see the town at night. I was looking forward to the Christmas light display. In previous years, Leavenworth had an official lighting ceremony, in which all the lights came on at a particular time each Friday, and stay lit for the weekend, so thousands would show up all at the same time and gather. This is clearly a bad idea during a pandemic. Their current policy is: lights on 24/7. That means people get to see them whenever they show up, and thus the crowds are much smaller. We arrived on a Tuesday and there was no crowd at all.
The area was heavily settled in the late 1800s when white people arrived to take advantage of the treasures here: furs, timber, and gold. When those resources were used up, the town had to come up with a way to survive. After almost becoming a ghost town, town leaders in the 1960s thought to take advantage of the atmosphere of the surrounding mountains and complete the Bavarian theme. The whole town was redesigned, and festivities were invented throughout the year, to keep people coming back. It totally worked. A million visitors a year show up here.
Today the entire town center has building restrictions that require new facilities to complement the theme. From the Safeway to the Subway and the 76, every building looks traditionally European from the outside.
We walked a couple of streets to get a good look at it, then decided to hike Waterfront Park while we still had a little daylight. It had snowed the day before, and a dusting remained on the trail. It was cold the whole time we were there, hovering around 30-31 degrees (-1 to -0.5 C). By the time we completed the park trails, we were ready to head back into town and find a warm place to sit.
After we finished our beers, we headed back out and now it was time for the lights. The sun dropped quickly and night advanced.
We were happy and satisfied. We climbed back into the Jeep, cranked up the heater, and made the drive back over the snowy pass toward Seattle.
18 thoughts on “Leavenworth in December”
Not so surprising to find Germany in USA. A great read, I enjoyed it.
Thank you Andrew! Yes there are quite a few Germans who helped build this country. Their descendants are probably among those who got this idea.
A wonderful gallery with descriptions, in which the delightful lady with the bear in front of the Christmas window really sets the scene
Oh I’m so glad you liked the photo of her. She was sitting there, looking at her phone, chatting with her adult son standing nearby. I told her that the scene was wonderful and I begged her to let me take a photo. I’m sure that my delighted face was part of what caused her own.
I love the photo of you two the most. Indeed, quite a European feel. I’d say that many of the Alpine towns are just as much tourist traps. Funny that the signs are in German. You did well to come for both day and night.
I think the German on the signs is a nice touch, and yes, it turned out to be a good idea to see both day and night. The lights were lovely, but those mountains are not to be missed! I’m glad we had that photo taken. It went just like the one in the colosseum: a couple asked us to take theirs, and in return they offered to take ours.
This is soooo cute, this way of getting lovely photos of you.
Sounds like a fun place to visit, even if a bit touristy. The lights were very pretty and I liked the photo of your “Cold, but smiling” photo of you and Pedro. Great post!
Aww, thank you. It did turn out to be a nice photo. ❤ Yes, it was touristy but fun. We are glad we went.
I’ve been there twice but never at Christmas time. Always afraid it would get snowed in. We stayed in a room over the bookstore. Doesn’t get any better than that. I loved visiting there. Glad you had a chance to see all the lights.
OH how neat, a room over the bookstore. That sounds perfect for you! Since Pedro and I are both from snow country, we felt comfortable with the possibility of a snowstorm. Between the two of us, we would have been able to navigate the pass, even in snow. But we got lucky and the roads were good the whole time. On the way in, it was pretty slushy, but not icy.
Peggy and I passed through there three years ago, Crystal, but we didn’t stay. We came if from the eastern side of the Cascades and crossed over. Very scenic route. My favs: The park trails (what can I say, I’m a nature boy :)), the trees lit up (always love it when towns do that), the last panoramic shot, and you and Pedro, (naturally). –Curt
I can relate, Curt. I often prefer the trail scene even when I’m visiting a city, like these here. The lit up trees were remarkably beautiful. I loved how they adorned the weeping birch trees, so the lighted branches bent over: very cool look. And yes, it seems that the pic of me and Pedro was a hit. 🙂
We are just woodsy kind of folks, Crystal. 🙂 and you and Pedro always look like you are having fun together.
We always are! It’s one thing I like best about him, that he always wants to play.
A number 1 requirement! 🙂