Swap Bavaria for Leavenworth
Pretty Leavenworth, Washington, nestled in the heart of the Cascades, between Seattle and Spokane, is totally unique. Truly, it is Europe in America. If you’re a Sound of Music fan, love lederhosen, beer, mountains, and Christmas, then this is your heaven…or at least Fake Bavaria. Plus, where else can you go to an accordion festival?
Leavenworth was a logging town in the 1920s but reinvented itself 40 years later when the railway closed. One brave store owner remodeled his shop in the style of Bavaria, and it was such a hit with tourists that others followed. So, forget flying 6,000 miles to Bavaria, and taste European sausage, beer, and cheese without having to use your passport.
The Bavarian-styled buildings give the town a surreal edge, but it’s fun—a simple stroll is transformed into an entertaining way to pass the time. The shops are delightful—you can buy anything here from a cuckoo clock to chocolate. Visit the 20-year-old Gingerbread Factory, which is adorable. Eat breakfast and lunch there and then buy a gingerbread house! Haven’t tried sauerkraut? At Andreas Keller’s, you are served by wait staff in Bavarian costumes, and at King Ludwigs, there’s a polka band.
For something more educational, head to the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery, located three miles out of town. Kids can catch salmon or rainbow trout. It’s walkable, but small ones may get tired.
At Smallwood’s Harvest Farm, little ones will enjoy the windmill, teepee village, petting zoo, cattle-roping practice, and gold panning. In the fall, they also offer hayrides and a corn maze, and you can stay here as well.
At the Historic Cashmere Museum and Pioneer Village you can see an old fashioned barber shop, general store, a saloon, and a mission.
But it’s at Christmas that Leavenworth truly comes alive. It generally snows here in December, so wrap up warm, and enjoy the spectacular Christmas Lighting Festival, complete with parade and choir. You will truly feel as if you are in a different country.
Picnic along the Waterfront Park Trail. Pick up cheese, cured sausage, and baguettes from the Cheesemongers Shop, and enjoy a wander through the pine forest on Blackbird Island.
Connect to your inner crazy. Visit The Nutcracker Museum. Yes, really! There are more than 6,000 nutcrackers here (and lots of information about the importance of nuts in your diet). But check ahead—the museum is only open on weekends from November through April.
The Christmas Lighting Festival, held in the first three weekends of December, is the most popular festival of the year, so be sure to book your accommodations well in advance.