Leavenworth, Washington is a small town (pop. ~2,000) about 120 miles east of Seattle. Nestled in the western foothills of the Cascade Mountains, the area is graced by mountains rising to 5,000 and 8,000 feet. The area is known for abundant sunshine, low rainfall (9 inches per year), and nearby fruit orchards. One way or the other, you have to travel over a mountain pass (or two), to reach Leavenwoth. During winter months, be prepared for winter driving and check the weather for your route via US2 (over Stevens Pass) or I-90/US97 (over Snoqualimie Pass and Blewett Pass).
A short history of Leavenworth, WA
The area was originally inhabited by the Yakama, Chinook and Wenatchi tribes, who hunted the land for deer and elk, and fished Icicle Creek for salmon.
During the 1860s gold rush, white settlers came to the area. From 1890-1892 the town became known as Icicle Flats and the Great Northern Railway laid tracks across the Wenatchee Valley and over Stevens Pass. In 1893, the town was platted and re-named by a group of financiers led by Captain Charles F. Leavenworth. The booming pioneer town was supported by logging and a sawmill. Around 1910, the railroad re-routed operations, bypassing the community. The sawmill closed in 1920 and the Great Depression further decimated the commercial district. The town struggled for decades.
In the 1960s, the town worked with the Bureau of Community Development at the University of Washington and conceived a plan to draw visitors to the area. In addition to re-making the downtown area as a Bavarian village, the community created a series of festivals in spring, fall, and winter to encourage regular visitors. Over several decades, more festivals and events were added.
Today, Leavenworth is a top tourist destination in the Pacific Northwest with over a million tourists each year. They come to enjoy a Bavarian experience in a breathtaking alpine wilderness setting. Activities include river rafting, snow sports, alpine and river walks, birding, art, cultural events, and seasonal festivals. Listed below are the festivals that occur throughout the year, making it a special time to visit the area.
Village of Lights: Winter Karneval
Village of Lights: Winter Karneval in Leavenworth, WA honors a German tradition dating back to the thirteenth century, commonly referred to as ‘Fasching’. Picture a stunning backdrop of half a million brilliant lights, majestic mountains frosted with snow, and an enchanting Bavarian village filled with fun. There is something happening every weekend in January, such as ice carving or fireworks, along with the usual winter fun, including skiing, sledding, snowshoeing, and more. Most entertainment is free and the spectacular lights for which Leavenworth is well known are on every night in January. Activities vary in fees.
Village of Lights: Love from Leavenworth
Village of Lights: Love from Leavenworth, WA makes February the perfect month to share some love (or keep it all for yourself) with a special escape that includes cozy accommodations, tasty dining experiences, local wine and chocolate pairings, exciting outdoor adventures with views for days and so much more, for the sweetest getaway this winter! Enjou daily prize giveaways and special packages and promotions around town. Leavenworth’s lights are still on every night (with a special Valentine’s twist).
Maifest in Leavenworth, WA
Maifest in Leavenworth, WA celebrates spring…and not a moment too soon! Maifest is a German tradition dating back to the 10th century, when villagers would gather to celebrate the arrival of spring by planting flowers, playing music and games, and raising a “maipole” in the local square. The pole would be decorated with sausages, cakes, flowers, and ribbons. Villagers believed that dancing around the maypole would bring good luck and wealth to their town.
Oktoberfest in Leavenworth, WA
Oktoberfest in Leavenworth WA is a longstanding tradition filled with music, dancing, and the ceremonial tapping of the kegs! Find outdoor/tented dining and Oktoberfest celebrations happening at many establishments every weekend letting you celebrate Oktoberfest the way you want anywhere in town. For the kiddos, a Kinderplatz has been added, with activities, games, and a root beer garden just for them. Tickets are $10 on Fridays and $25 on Saturdays (includes both venues). Kids 12 and under will be free at the Festhalle und Kinderplatz!
Christkindlmarkt in Leavenworth, WA
Christkindlmarkt in Leavenworth, WA is the Bavarian town’s Christmas Market for the whole family is held in Front Street Park and the Festhalle on Thanksgiving Weekend – Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. This popular northwest tradition features delicious and authentic Bavarian foods, handmade arts & crafts for gift giving, kids activities, authentic music, and plenty of family-friendly fun. Admission is free. There is plenty of free family-friendly Bavarian- and Christmas-themed entertainment. You can also shop craft booths for handmade arts & crafts and other gifts, and buy authentic Bavarian foods to keep you fueled for fun.
History of Christkindlmarkt
Christmas markets have been a German tradition since at least the mid 1500s. Known as Christkindlmarkts, they were a festive meeting place for people. Towns, cities and villages across Germany celebrate unique Christkindlmarkts. Local tradesmen sold their wares at the market, which gave each market an individual flavor. Food and beverages served were produced in the region. So, each town’s offerings are a little different. Larger cities, such as Munich, have more than one market.
Christmas markets are a delightful way to begin holiday festivities. The crisp, cold air fills with the fragrance of sizzling sausages, sweet pastries, spices and hot spiced gluhwein. Booths sell sweet treats, such as chocolates, cakes, pastries,cookies and candies. Music of Christmas fills the air, in preparation for Christmas. In traditional fashion the Christkind (a younger, child-like counterpart to Santa Claus) will welcome all to the Market and share wishes for the Christmas holiday season.
Christmas Lights in Leavenworth, WA
The Bavarian village of Leavenworth is truly an unforgettable experience in any season. But especially in winter with plenty of outdoor snow activities and beautiful Christmas lights during the holiday season when the town lights shine bright every day of the week. The light festival begins Thanksgiving Weekend and continues past the Christmas season into February.
Christmas Lights in Leavenworth
From Thanksgiving Weekend through New Years Ever, enjoy the eye-popping display of over half-million lights with music & entertainment, holiday characters for your photo ops, carolers, kids’ activities, roasting chestnuts, Santa photos and so much more! The beautiful Christmas lights will shine throughout the village while you can enjoy over 100 unique shops, eclectic dining, wine tasting rooms and wineries, and local Breweries, Cideries and Distilleries, the World Famous Nutcracker Museum, and German Beer Gardens all winter. More info: Village of Lights: Christmastown – Leavenworth Washington