Bavaria in the Cascades

I would like to follow up my blog about the American Alps by sharing with you another Washington state destination considered Bavaria in the Cascades. Travel south of the North Cascade National Park and there is a village tucked into the foot of the Cascades that will make you think you have stepped into Bavaria.  Leavenworth sits along the Wenatchee River with a population of just over 2000 people. The main street is only a mile and half long and can easily be walked from end to end while you browse German shops and sample German eateries.

Photo by cottonbro on

Leavenworth was not originally a Bavarian-motif town. Before settlers arrived, the Yakima, Chinook, and Wenatchi tribes coexisted in the Icicle Valley. They wandered from Lake Wenatchee to Icicle and beyond.

When European settlers arrived, the second sawmill in the state created a lumber town here. The railroad linked Leavenworth to bigger communities like Seattle and life boomed for a while. But when the railroad left and the mill shut down, the town struggled to survive. Facing extinction, something needed to be done.

Citizens who stayed in Leavenworth did not want to leave the idyllic alpine location since they thought there was no place more peaceful and majestic than maybe Bavaria. With this thought, two entrepreneurs visited Solvang, CA, a community settled by Dutch immigrants which reflected Dutch traditions and styles. The Bavarian themed town was born in 1960.

My husband and I have visited Leavenworth a number of times. In fact, it makes a nice meeting place if you are trying to gather folks from both sides of the Cascades since it is near the middle of the state. We can come from Idaho and meet with people from Seattle and have lunch at a lovely German Restaurant.

Eating is not the amenity in Leavenworth. The hosts a number of Festivals a year. You can attend the Autumn Leaf Festival, the Maifest or the ever popular Christmas Lighting. In November 2007, Good Morning America went to Leavenworth for Holiday Gifts for the Globe where GMA helped light up the town for the Christmas Holiday. Leavenworth was named the Ultimate Holiday Town USA by A&E Network. (“Holiday Gifts for the Globe”. ABC News. 19 February 2009).

More than 2 million tourist come to Leavenworth every year. If it does not fit your schedule to  attend a festival, there are Walking Tours, live music every Friday, and Art in the Park on Sundays. Many other events are offered on a regular basis too. Check their event calendar for the dates you plan to be there. 
There are many German-themed shops throughout the town. One place you should not miss is the Nutcracker Museum. It houses more than 7,000 nutcrackers from prehistoric to modern. The Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum ~ Antique Nutcrackers, History of Nutcrackers Arleen Wagner began the museum in 1995 and she has been a guest on a number of talk shows as an expert on nutcrackers. At 95, she can still be seen in the museum on a regular basis.

If you want more outdoor adventures, try white water rafting or hiking in the area. There are snow sports in the winter too. At any rate it is a nice diversion.

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