By Marci Jensen-Middlebrook
Why not celebrate Christmas in Bavaria without leaving the country? Christmas in old world Bavarian Leavenworth, Washington is jammed with family fun during the annual Christmas Lighting and Village of Lights festival.
You may remember that parts of David Lynch’s campy, cult TV series Twin Peaks was filmed here, which helped to kick-start the economy of this dying timber and railroad town. Now morphed into a destination alpine village, more than a million tourists come to Leavenworth each year.
Locals take a campy approach to marketing their town: their ambassador is “Woody Goomsba” a free-wheeling Bavarian nutcracker playboy. We’re told some of Woody’s favorites include nuts, The Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood” and Thoreau’s “A Life in the Woods.” He’s made out of wood, after all, so you get the idea. This is a place for play!
Leavenworth is transformed into a wonderland of lights from the end of November to mid January. On weekend evenings, gather at the gazebo for the lighting ceremony with Father Christmas. Sing along with the carolers, roast chestnuts and watch the kids sled in the park. The final lighting ceremony includes a parade through town with kids carrying their own handmade lanterns.
Leavenworth offers a huge variety of places to eat where you can experience authentic international foods. King Ludwig’s Restaurant and Beer Garden specializes in German cuisine and music: be sure to have the Bavarian specialty hax’n on pork hocks. Have dinner at Visconti’s Ristorante Italiano where the ravioli di zucca, a house specialty, is made fresh daily. Munchen Haus Bavarian Grill and Beer Garden serves up mouth-watering sausages along with apple cider kraut and specialty mustards. German beer or a glass of Washington wine completes the European experience. And the beer, oh the beer! Check-out the seasonal offerings at the local Leavenworth Brewery and the Icicle Brewing Company.
Alpine skiing and snowboarding packages begin with the opening of Mission Ridge and Stevens Pass. There are more winter sports available than you can do in a week.
A favorite place to stay is the Cashmere Mountain Bed & Breakfast but it is for adults only. Plan your next luxe getaway from the kids there. Just minutes from downtown Leavenworth, innkeepers, Brian and Rochelle Shugrue provide lavish amenities in this stunning location. Ask for Rochelle’s smoked salmon quiche for breakfast – exceptional!
The town is located in the heart of Washington State at the base of the stunning Cascade Mountains. The area is famous for fruit orchards and winter paints them in stark beauty. If you’re driving, Leavenworth is approximately two-and-a-half hours from Seattle, three hours from Spokane or Bellingham, and four-and-a-half hours from Portland on scenic roads.
Leavenworth is a year round destination with four seasons of fun. Make plans to return in the spring when the orchards are in full flower. Simply intoxicating!