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 sunshine, low rainfall (9 inches per year), and nearby fruit orchards. The town of Leavenworth is located approximately 130 miles west of Seattle.
One way or the other, you have to travel over a mountain pass, or two. Especially 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 the next few decades, more festivals and events are added. The alpine town further revises Leavenworth to ensure it is authentically Bavarian.
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.
Annual Festivals in Leavenworth
Some of the key annual Leavenworth festivals include:
- January-February: Winter Karneval (New in 2022)
- January: Bavarian Icefest on Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend
- May: Maifest on the 2nd weekend in May (usually Mother’s Day Weekend)
- October: Oktoberfest during the first three weekends in October
- November: Christkindlmarkt on Thanksgiving Day weekend
- December: Christmas Lighting Festival each of the first three full weekends in December.
More details and links to each of these festivals is listed below. Upcoming festivals are listed on our calendar.
Winter Karneval in Leavenworth
January-February, the winter fun continues against the stunning backdrop of a half-million brilliant lights, majestic mountains frosted with snow, and an enchanting Bavarian village filled with fun. Enjoy Winter Karneval, a German tradition dating back to the thirteenth century, commonly referred to as ‘Fasching’. Enjoy activities like ice carving and fireworks over Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, along with new entertainment that will be spread out during the rest of the month, making Leavenworth the perfect winter destination all month long.
- Half-price tickets for Leavenworth Village of Lights Festival. Spend the day in Leavenworth with Customized Tours. Enjoy transportation from Downtown Seattle to the Bavarian village in the Cascade Mountains. Spend the day browsing and shopping the village’s quaint old-world themed shops, savor authentic German food from street stands and local eateries, enjoy live outdoor entertainment, and should you choose; splurge on a horse-drawn winter carriage ride. The Village Lights show off the town’s promenade and marvel 24 hours a day as the trees burst ablaze with hundreds of thousands of twinkling lights. Afterward, relax on your comfortable trip home filled with the holiday spirit, and treasured lifetime memories. Regularly $160, half-price through our link $80. When you make a purchase through our links, we might earn a commission at no additional cost to you.
- Half rice tickets for Leavenworth Tour to Reindeer Farm. Experience something NEW this Holiday Season with Customized Tours. Spend the day in the Bavarian village of Leavenworth in the Cascade Mountains. Visit live reindeer at the Leavenworth Reindeer Farm where guests young and old marvel at the hands-on personal reindeer encounter with interactive educational presentation. Drink hot cocoa or cider around a crackling campfire. Then spend the remainder of the day in the Leavenworth Village of Lights where every night is illuminated with bright twinkling lights decorating the town. Browse quaint old-world shops, savor authentic German food from street stands and local eateries, and enjoy live outdoor entertainment. On the way home, relax on your comfortable trip back to Seattle ready to share holiday spirit and treasured memories with others. Don’t forget your camera! Regularly $240, half-price through our link $120. When you make a purchase through our links, we might earn a commission at no additional cost to you.
Bavarian Icefest in Leavenworth, WA
IceFest in Leavenworth, WA is the Bavarian-themed towns winter celebration every year on MLK Jr. Day Weekend. The village is still dressed in over half a million twinkling holiday lights. And the weekend is a flurry of frosty frivolity, including Snow Sculptures, IceFest Games & Activities, Snowmobile Sled Pull, Live Ice Carving, Stevens Pass Grom Playground and Fireworks are just some of the fun for the weekend.
Admission is free. Fees for Games & Activities: Active duty military $0.01, adults 18+ $5, youth 11-17 $3, kids 6 and under are free.
Maifest in Leavenworth, WA
Maifest in Leavenworth, WA celebrates spring…and not a moment too soon! The sun is out, wildflowers are bursting, apple and pear blossoms are springing to life, and the Bavarian Village is ready to celebrate.
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.
Admission is free.
Bavaria Fest in Leavenworth, WA
Bavaria Fest in Leavenworth, WA is the next best thing to being at the world’s largest beer festival in Munich, Germany. Bavaria Fest is a celebration honoring the Oktoberfest tradition and the City of Leavenworth. The festival will highlight the City’s heritage and the local businesses & people that live in the spirit of Bavaria year-round through a celebration of culture, food, and beer.
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.
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.
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.
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