Downtown Leavenworth. Photograph by Jane Sherman
Eat / Play / Stay
Double Decker Drinkery
The German-style beer hall Rhein Haus was born in Seattle's Capitol Hill but opened an outpost east of the mountains in 2018. This location doesn't have bocce ball, but they’re made up for it with a 3,000 square-foot biergarten deck that can hold around 170 people. The second-story deck will has heated floors, big tables with built-in fireplaces, and unobstructed mountain views. A dozen authentic German brews are on tap, with support from local breweries trying their hand at the German style (heavy on the hops, heavy on the malt). Is the full-size taxidermied elk on the wall a little over the top? Maybe. But it's unabashedly fun.
Down Home Ale
The town of Leavenworth may look like a Bavarian village, but its most popular beer is all Northwest. Icicle Brewing pours a broad slate of IPAs and pale ales, though there's a nod to Germany in the mix, like a pilsner. The brewpub and tasting room anchors the north end of town's main drag, with lots of outdoor seating and pretzels with cheese sauce.
The onetime founders of the now-closed Seattle vegetarian spot Sutra decamped to Leavenworth for Mana Restaurant, focusing on organic, locally-sourced dishes, and a yoga studio. It's not all vegetarian, but meatless and vegan options are available, given that the meals are based around what the chef could buy nearby or forage. The $85 prix fixe single seating lasts three hours and is made up of eight courses, with the option for wine or non-alcoholic tonic and elixirs pairings. Though it's quite the event, the experience isn't adult-only; kids can get a smaller portion if you think they can sit through the whole presentation.
After the various wild outdoor adventures found around Leavenworth, march back into umlaut-ville for a high-carb regimen of sauerkraut, sausage, and beer. München Haus is an outdoor pavilion-style eatery and beer hall with outdoor heaters and a fire pit. Charbroiled sausages dunked in the Haus’s signature apple-cider kraut goes down nice with the Hofbrau Munchen on tap. Don't miss the mustard bar, with at least a dozen varieties.
Eat / Play / Stay
Hiking trials snake through the mountains that surround Leavenworth and around nearby Lake Wenatchee, but no destination is as famous as the Enchantments. The series of high-altitude alpine lakes is perfectly picturesque, a combination of rocky formations, striking larch trees, and curious mountain goats. Despite the demanding hike to the area, it's incredibly popular, so overnight backpacking permits are limited and available online or at the Wenatchee River Ranger District office in Leavenworth. Day hiking is restricted only by the number of parking spaces at the trailheads, which fill quickly on weekends.
Oktoberfest is less a festival in Leavenworth than a way of life. Since 1998, the German-inspired party has grown to a multi-weekend event full of outdoor beer gardens, costumes, music, and keg-tapping. Even beyond the October (sometimes September) weekends of official partying, one can simulate an oompah-music stein-toasting hang pretty much every week of the year at the town's many beer gardens. Yuletide is the next most popular time with a Christmas Lighting Festival that covers the main street in thousands of tiny lights.
Few culinary tools get the personality of a nutcracker; can you imagine if we carved faces onto our can openers? Leavenworth's Nutcracker Museum is a thorough salute to the person-shaped nut opening figures that are closely tied to Bavaria and Christmastime. Sure, there's something slightly creepy about the wall of intense eyes and square jaws, but if you can't find a face you love among the 7,000 from 50 countries and reaching back to Ancient Rome—well, someone could call you a tough nut to crack. Sorry.
Splash along the Wenatchee River with the white-water raft guides at River Rider. Though the company operates on a number of Washington rivers, the stretch of the Wenatchee has options in high water and moderate conditions, as well as kayaking. Some trips are mellow enough for small kids or fearful adults. In summer, River Rider rents tubes and operates a shuttle for a more mellow tubing trip down the waterway.
Stevens Pass, about 40 minutes west of Leavenworth, has always been Seattle’s most accessible serious ski spot, the parking lots filling before sunrise and emptying only after the late-night live music fades at the Foggy Goggle bar. The mountain used to be the the scrappy underdog of Northwest ski hills—creaky chairs, greasy lodge food, and lifties blasting tunes on the night shift—but a Vail Resorts acquisition meant updated lifts and new dining options. From gentle learning slopes to serious steeps, it's classic Northwest terrain.
Eat / Play / Stay
Soaked in Luxury
Modeled after the rejuvenating spa hotels of the Alps, the luxe Posthotel 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. The hotel itself contains 55 rooms with gleaming white decor and hand-carved marble bathtubs, but the most exciting draw is the sprawling wellness area and soaking pools—small and large, indoors and out. There’s probably no better collection of saunas and steam rooms on the west coast.
Beds are tucked into all sorts of interesting places at Sleeping Lady Resort, like into alcoves, up on lofts, or in bunk beds. While many rooms are hotel style, in clusters of small buildings, two are stand-alone cabins on Woodpecker Hill: an eight-person mini lodge called the Rookery and a romantic hut. Exempt from nearby Leavenworth’s Bavarian theme—it's just outside city limits—the resort is a sprawl of red roofs, a soaking pool, an organic garden, and a grotto bar.
The community-minded Loge Camps, fun hotels in remodeled motel or cabin properties, has a communal feel. The quirky redesigns focus on outdoor activity; the first Leavenworth Loge, located right on the river, has in-room boot dryers and a transceiver park for practicing avalanche rescue skills. Fire pits are meant to bring people together. A downtown location, opening in fall 2020, adds hostel beds, gear rentals, and a beer garden.