Spa Town

Bavarian Leavenworth Is a Self-Care Sanctuary, Too

A quiet soaking enclave opens amid the hustle of the Cascades’ biggest party spot.

By Allison Williams September 24, 2019 Published in the October 2019 issue of Seattle Met

The Posthotel uses historic European style to create a spa with modern swagger.

► Population: 1,995 • Location: 2.25 hours from Seattle

Pedestrian tourists clog the streets, cars puttering past them in search of parking for the festival that’s whipped the mountain town of Leavenworth into an oompah-music frenzy. Can you guess the season in Washington’s fake Bavaria, when the line for a München Haus bratwurst reaches epic lengths? Trick question! So goes just about every weekend here, thanks to more than two dozen annual large festivals and countless small ones.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that; when the municipality embraced a sidewalks-to-shutters salute to the European Alps in the 1960s, Leavenworth was reborn as a novelty decked in wood chalets and edelweiss murals. The onetime timber hub, hugged by mountains and bisected by the Wenatchee River, found a sustainable future in tourism. Every fall, its downtown blocks fill with beer tents, steins, and lederhosen in a massive Oktoberfest ( Someone’s always at your elbow, but they’re probably offering a toast.

That’s what makes the new Posthotel ( such a stark contrast to the rest of town. Modeled after the rejuvenating spa hotels of the Alps, it emits peace, quiet, and exclusivity. Though located downtown and on the edge of the park that fronts the Wenatchee River, it remains its own impenetrable castle, right down to the locked glass front doors with a buzzer. No non-guests can wander through this hotel lobby, which makes sense because many who overnight here walk about and eat lunch in a bathrobe.

Minors are a no-go at the Posthotel, even as overnight guests in the 55 rooms, not that tots would particularly appreciate the gleaming white decor and hand-carved marble bathtubs. And while a hyper preteen could easily turn the sprawling “wellness area” into a water park, it’s decidedly cannonball-free acreage. Based on the principles espoused by nineteenth-century naturopathic priest Sebastian Kneipp, the water features are carefully calibrated for alternating dips in hot and cold. Tiny foot pools lined with river rocks deliver a jolt of reflexology as you move ankle-deep between various temperatures. A large, warm saltwater pool stretches from indoors to out, while smaller cold ones offer the chance for a swift dunk.

One of Posthotel's many pools.

There’s probably no better collection of saunas and steam rooms in the Pacific Northwest, or possibly any closer than the actual luxury spas of the Swiss Alps. Each of the three dry rooms has a distinct character: One trimmed with local pine is set about 130 degrees, while another, shaped like a beehive out of alder, is nearer 150. Steam rooms drip with the delicate aroma of eucalyptus or lavender. The soaking paradise is available only to guests and, on certain weekdays, users who purchase a $60 day pass and a luxe spa treatment—like a honey and beeswax massage or machine-aided HydraFacial.

Service at the Posthotel can be brusque; order a Diet Coke at lunch and expect a clipped “We don’t serve that here.” Day pass users get no lockers and so must haul their belongings around the spa in a wicker bag. The property was named for the post hotels that dot Europe, often the first lodging built in any town and the repository for locals’ mail. The horn hanging over Posthotel’s front desk is an authentic relic of those high-Alps villages, one mail carriers blew on the road to announce their right of way on old dirt thoroughfares. Exclusivity, it seems, is a post hotel tradition.

Across downtown, the new Tumwater Bakery (, open since January, has quickly become a living room–like oasis for locals among the crowds. The draw: pizzas, scones, and the kind of bread loaves you want to house in one sitting. Leavenworth’s party spirit will always be one of its biggest attractions, but it harbors more quiet pockets of indulgence than ever.

The People's Hotel

See the silver-coiffed woman walking a bright-eyed Icelandic Shepherd named Roki through Leavenworth? Maybe grabbing breakfast at O’Grady’s Pantry and Mercantile on the grounds of Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort (, or popping out of a chamber music performance at the barnlike Snowy Owl Theater at Icicle Creek Center for the Arts ( Though she blends in as just another Leavenworth local living the good life, Harriet Bullitt is Seattle famous (her mother founded broadcaster KING), and she celebrated her 95th birthday this year by giving her hotel to the town, sort of.

On January 1 of 2019, the philanthropist transferred ownership of the 58-room Sleeping Lady, which she started in 1995, to the Icicle Fund, the nonprofit she launched three years later and headquartered next door. The group supports area arts, culture, and environmental causes, granting money for river conservation east of town and canoes for Wenatchee youth. Profits from the woodsy resort will flow into the Fund’s coffers and, thanks to Bullitt, not every luxe accommodation in Leavenworth is walled off.

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