Leavenworth is most famous for its magical Christmas Lighting Festival and lively Oktoberfest, but believe it or not, there’s much more to it than twinkling lights and German beer. The city also has fun festivals and events every month, plus an abundance of natural attractions surrounding. If it's been awhile since you've gone, here are 10 good reasons to plan a visit.
#1: Sip your way through town during the Leavenworth Wine Walk
There are now over 20 tasting rooms in Leavenworth, and the annual Wine Walks offer an opportunity to get familiar with them. You’ll have two chances every year to taste, one in spring, and one in fall. Tickets come with 17 tastings, wine glasses, totes, prizes, and specialty cheeses, not to mention the sheer joy of relaxing and drinking wine in the beautiful Cascades.
The next Leavenworth Wine Walk is September 8, but due to its popularity, online pre-sale tickets sold out. They’ll be selling a limited amount onsite on the day of the event.
#2: Experience an Autumn festival (not that one)
Before Oktoberfest kicks off, there’s the Autumn Leaf Festival at the end of September. This is actually Leavenworth’s longest running festival, and as you can imagine, the fall foliage is absolutely gorgeous this time of year. The festivities are fun, family-friendly and free, minus your hotel room and all the German food you’ll be craving.
#3: Take a self-guided art walk
If you’ve spent time in Leavenworth, you’ve probably seen the Village Art in the Park displays, which showcases the talent of local artists. But the next time you’re there, check out the murals on some of the buildings downtown. There are over two dozen of them, all hand painted by local artists Amanda and Rusty Gibbs as well as some German artists. Start at the building between the Hat Shop and the Leavenworth Boutique and go from there.
#4: Float the river
The Leavenworth area is a nature lover’s paradise, and one of the best ways to experience it is by floating the river (the Icicle or the Wenatchee River will do). And don’t let a lack of equipment or experience stop you?there are several local companies, like Leavenworth Outdoor Center on 9th Street, that will have everything you need to enjoy a relaxing float.
#5: Take a hike
The North Cascades are full of gorgeous hiking trails for people of all skill levels. The Icicle Gorge Trailhead is located just 15 miles from Leavenworth on Highway 76, and the scenic 4.5 mile trek is a nice, gentle nature walk. The loop takes you over the river and through the woods (literally), but it won’t take up your entire day.
#6: Play golf with goats
If you’ve ever been to Leavenworth, you’ve probably seen the adorable mountain goats poking their noses over the fence on the side of Highway 2. They live at the Enzian Falls Championship Putting Course, which is owned by the Enzian Inn and has 18 holes on natural bent-grass greens. Here, you can make friends with the resident goats while you golf.
#7: View the world’s largest nutcracker collection
Did you know Leavenworth is home to what is most likely the world’s largest collection of nutcrackers? Since 1995, the Nutcracker Museum has been displaying these beautiful treasures from around the world along with antiques dating back to Roman times.
This fall and winter, the museum is hosting self-guided Nutcracker hunts for children (and kids at heart), inviting them to look through the collections and find the nutcrackers listed on their sheets. The museum is open daily from 1 - 5 p.m., and admission is just $5 (children under 6 are always free).
#8: Attend a different kind of beer festival
Oktoberfest is always a blast. But if you’re looking for something a little more beer-focused, April’s Ale Fest is the event for you. The two-day festival is held in Leavenworth’s Festhalle, which has a big outdoor deck so you can take in the mountain views while sipping your samples.
Here you’ll find plenty of local, regional, and international brews to try, with a focus on independent breweries. And of course, there are always popular local bands, food, and free coffee available.
#9: Leavenworth is for the birds
Have you ever been curious about Washington’s birds? May’s Birdfest offers the chance to learn more about birding, geology, wildflowers, and conservation. Guided hikes and nature walks are free and full of fascinating information about the area. Next year’s dates are May 16-19.
#10: Create your own food tour
If eating isn’t one of your favorite Leavenworth pastimes, it will be after this. Treat yourself to some cheese samples at Cascade Creamery, enjoy some locally cured meats at Cured by Visconti, then dip a little bread in housemade oils and vinegars at The Oil & Vinegar Center, all of which you’ll find right on Front Street.
And that’s just the beginning. Leavenworth’s shops are full of roasted nuts, artisan chocolates, sauces, dips, mustards, and baked goods that make amazing souvenirs assuming they make it through the drive home.