Leavenworth, Washington is technically a tourist trap. It used to be a small struggling town in the eastern half of the Cascades. Leaders in the ’60s decided to convert the city into a Bavarian wonderland. Buildings were remodeled. Local businesses focused on beer, cheese, pretzels, meat and nutcrackers. Hotels sprang from the earth like evergreen forests that surround the city. And all of this revitalization worked. And it’s awesome. I’m kind of a sucker for gimmicky places and what I appreciate most about Leavenworth is its commitment to the gimmick.
Winter is a perfect time to visit Leavenworth. The entire city is strung up with Christmas lights and once the sun goes down…
But what about when the sun is out? Darkness does a great job masking filth. Well not in Leavenworth. When the sun is out and the clouds are away you a presented with clean streets, manicured storefronts and bustling businesses back-dropped by snow covered mountains.
Leavenworth is a short drive from Seattle. Maybe it’s about two hours. I’m not really sure. It doesn’t really matter because Leavenworth is on one of the most beautiful highways to drive in the United States. Highway 2 is (mostly) a small two lane highway that slowly winds through the foggy, rain-soaked forests of Western Washington. As you crest Stevens pass you are smacked in the face with ridiculous views. Unfortunately the person driving doesn’t really get an opportunity to soak in the views. The roads are sharp, the snow is stacked high and the shoulder drops off a cliff real quick.
We made one pit stop on our way home to Seattle. Lake Wenatchee State Park is a few miles west of Leavenworth and it is an absolute must-see.