It’s hard to believe that a two hour drive east of Seattle can put you in a winter scene that’s worthy of a snow globe. But that’s exactly what you find in the quintessentially quirky town of Leavenworth, a faux Bavarian village nestled in the snow-covered Cascades. Leavenworth is known for a lot of things: Nutcrackers. Brats. Beer. Not to mention it’s penchant for celebrating Christmas year-round. Fact is, it’s also a destination for family fun.
What to Do:
The heart of the town is Front Street Park Strausse, with its Bavarian-style buildings festooned in colorful lights throughout the winter months. Bring a sled so the kiddos can cruise down one of the small paths created on the slight hill of the park. Leavenworth shops are Disneyesque (the same architecture is what you find in Fantasyland at WDW in Orlando!), so it’s especially fun for kids to stroll through them. Try on hats at The Hat Shop; dig into big, old-fashioned candy jars at the Bearly Perfect Gift Shop; watch the machine making taffy at the Taffy Shop; check out the selection of toys at Alpenhaus Toys. An absolute must see is the Nutcracker Museum, which houses 6,000 nutcrackers from around the world. (You can start your own collection downstairs at Nusskaacker Haus, which sells them in all shapes and designs.)
For more serious snow-related activities, take the short drive over to Ski Hill (and be sure to notice the funky, painted houses along the way), where you can go tubing or skiing on a slope that has a rope tow. Ski Hill also offers Nordic skiing and snowshoeing, as does the Fish Hatchery, which has two courses; the shorter one is well suited for young beginners.
Where to Eat:
For eats, there are all sorts of offerings in the Front Street Park Strausse, and you’d be remiss if you didn’t try the brats at the Munchen Haus, which only has outdoor seating (with heat lamps!) and a dazzling array of mustards (and darn good beer, too). For a warmer setting, there’s a good kid’s menu at Gustav’s, which just might have the best fries in town.
Where to Stay:
Given that Leavenworth’s a tourist town, you’ve got your pick of hotels. But you really can’t beat the Enzian Inn, which has indoor facilities – pool, hot tub, basketball court, ping pong room – that are great for burning off some pre-bedtime energy. The kiddos will need to get some rest, though. A delicious hot breakfast awaits in the hotel’s top floor, along with special daily entertainment. Every morning at 8:15 and 9:15, Enzian founder Bob Johnson, decked out in authentic Lederhosen, climbs atop the balcony railing and plays the Alphorn, a super-long wooden horn. His backdrop is a stunning view of the mountains, and the whole scene…well, it makes you feel as if you’re actually inside the snow globe.