I had no intention of living in Leavenworth, Washington for more than 6 months. I came here to learn how to ski and then move on to the next adventure.
2 years later, I’m still here. It’s really fun. Shocking, I know.
Leavenworth has a fascinating history. When I first moved here, I thought a German community had lived here in the past, which was why everyone was wearing lederhosen and listening to polka music.
Turns out, I was wrong. It happens. (not often of course, ::wink::)
The town started to suffer economically when the Great Northern Railway Company pulled out of Leavenworth, leaving many without jobs.
So, the town got a major facelift in the 1960s, hoping to revitalize the community and bring in tourists. It seems cheesy from a distance, the carefully crafted imagined German town. And it does feel a little bit like Bavarian Disneyland when you live here.
But it’s absolutely gorgeous. And when winter hits, everything seems even more magical. The layer of snow can easily make you feel like you’re in a different country all together.
It’s more than just a pretend German town in Washington state. There’s so much to do! Or even if all you want to do is take beautiful pictures of snowy mountains.
I heard it said once that pedestrians hate motorists, motorists hate pedestrians but everyone hates cyclists. Which seems a bit unfair to the bike lovers among us, but I suppose cyclists are equally good at annoying everyone.
When you live in a small community that bases its economy off of tourism, the locals find the tourists irritating and the tourists find the locals irritating. And everyone hates the economy.
We both need each other, but often we would rather not deal with each other. And it can be an actual madhouse in Leavenworth in December. Which means everyone is exhausted.
If you’d rather fly under the radar and enjoy the town like a local, here are a few tips…
Don’t come here on the weekend
I know you want to. You have the weekend off and you really want to pretend like you’re in Germany, drinking spiced wine, taking pictures of the Alps. But I promise, you will hate it here on a Saturday in December. It looks pretty but there’s nowhere to park, every restaurant has a 2 hour wait and it’s freezing outside. Take a sick day and actually enjoy yourself while you’re here.
If you do come on the weekend to ski/board, get up early
There’s not a chance in hell you will find a parking space at 9am on a Saturday at Stevens. Get up at 6am, drive up to the pass and get yourself a decent parking spot. Bring a blanket and some whiskey while you wait for the pass to open. Like a local. Or stand at the entrance to Tumwater Canyon on Hwy 2 and hitchhike to the top. Not legal, mind you, but totally normal around here.
Get out of Leavenworth
Ok, again, I know that this seems ridiculous seeing as you’re coming here to see the adorable Bavarian town. But locals tend to avoid downtown this time of year. There’s fluffy snow at Stevens Pass. You can snowshoe or cross country ski at the Fish Hatchery. You can go for a walk with your dog down by Red Bridge. The Leavenworth area has more to offer than bratwurst.
Come on a Sunday if you must see the “lighting ceremony”
You’ll have a slightly more relaxing time if you have a desire to watch them turn the lights on. (This is literally all that happens. Lights off, lights on. Done) But honestly, the lights are on all week and look just as beautiful, sparkling around town at night on a Tuesday. Plus the shops have more time to spend some time with you and give you better service. And you don’t have to worry about them running out of hot spiced gluhwein. Win/Win/Win.
Come during the week to enjoy downtown
There are some great deals in town during the week, when the crowds have left. The Bavarian Bistro has an amazing happy hour from 4-6pm, Monday through Friday. The Watershed Cafe hosts a local’s night on Monday, where everything on the menu is $20 or under. The Blewett Brewery also has a Monday night dinner special – a $15 pizza and beer combo. You can actual get a pool table and play at the Post Office (affectionately called the “PO”) during the week. The locals finally have some time off and come into town to play. And I promise, we are fun.
People can get burnt out during the weekend. If you get the opportunity to come during the week, you will find a much more relaxed, social atmosphere.
Locals love to share the stoke, and tell you where to find yummy snacks, fun trails or general good times. You might even end up at a local’s house for a bonfire and a late night acoustic guitar session. (bring a good coat!)
If you see me, don’t be shy and say hi. See ya out there!
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