Seattle Day Trip: Leavenworth

This tiny town, about 2 hours east of Seattle, reinvented itself in the 1960s as a Bavarian-themed village — and became a popular tourist destination. Come for a day and revel in the kitschy, lederhosen-clad fun.

828 Commercial Street
A gingerbread cottage is entirely fitting for the faux-Bavarian village of Leavenworth, and the Gingerbread Factory fits the bill, right down to the lollipop and candy-cane decorations on the walkway. Inside, you’ll find a big case of oversized, colorfully decorated gingerbread shapes, as well as chocolate chip, peanut butter, snickerdoodle, and other classic cookies. The gingerbread is thick, chewy, and fragrantly spiced, perfect for fall. They have a small breakfast and lunch menu; breakfast is mostly pastries and quiche, while lunch is sandwich wraps and deli salads. The Gingerbread Factory makes custom gingerbread houses that you’d actually want to eat year-round, and mail-orders kits if you’d rather decorate your own.
220 9th St D, Leavenworth, WA 98826, USA
You might not be expecting to find a gem and mineral store among the kitschy souvenir shops of Leavenworth, but Mainz Haus of Rock has staked out its own little corner off the main drag. There, you’ll find crystals, semi-precious stone jewelry, mineral specimens and collections, gemology guidebooks, and stone bookends. For budding rock hounds, Mainz has some nice kid-appropriate coloring books and rock guides, break-apart geodes, and boxed rock collections, some with a particular focus on local Washington minerals.
735 Front St, Leavenworth, WA 98826, USA
If you love an off-the-beaten-track, oddball museum full of strange old stuff, then you’ll have a cracking good time at the Nutcracker Museum. Located in the ferociously quaint, ersatz-Bavarian-village of Leavenworth (a pretty wacky place in itself), the museum claims to have over 5,000 specimens on display in its floor-to-ceiling glass cases with typewritten labels. If the narrow aisles and looming dolls give you claustrophobia, check out the extensive gift shop downstairs, which gives you the general idea for free... unless you can’t resist taking home one of these pricey works of art. Open 2-5 pm daily, so plan accordingly.
719 Front St, Leavenworth, WA 98826, USA
Few can resist the fun of playing dress-up with the Hat Shop’s hundreds of zany novelty hats. If you’ve ever mused, “Where can I get a hat that looks like a chicken wearing lederhosen is sitting on my head?” wonder no more. Oh, sure, they have some nice-looking hats that are actually functional, but let’s face it: you’re here to try on the Viking helmet with fake blonde braids attached. In addition to hats, they have neckties, novelty sunglasses, toys and board games, and costumes. On the other side is the Wood Shop, which sells old-fashioned wooden puzzles and toys and is a favorite with kids. Can’t make it all the way out to Leavenworth? Luckily, the Hat Shop also has a Seattle location near Pike Place Market at 1st and Union.
Hotels
190 US-2, Leavenworth, WA 98826, USA
Der Ritterhof’s main claim to fame is being the roadside motel in Leavenworth with the gigantic suit of armor standing out front. It’s actually not a bad place to stay, though; amenities include a decent-sized pool and hot tub, BBQ pits, a large lawn to play on, continental breakfast, pet-friendly rooms, and family suites. The rooms are basic but clean, and prices are reasonable. Even if you’re not staying, though, you should at least pull over and gawk at the big suit of armor as you pass — just another one of Leavenworth’s inexplicable mysteries.
735 Front St, Leavenworth, WA 98826, USA
After you’ve visited the Nutcracker Museum (or if you don’t feel like paying the admission fee), stop by the Tannenbaum Shoppe to get another dose of nutcracker claustrophobia. The walls are packed floor to ceiling with every kind of intricately made, expensively costumed, specially themed nutcracker you could imagine… and then some. These nutcrackers can cost hundreds of dollars, though, so look with your eyes and not with your hands. More affordable are the ceramic figurines, knick-knacks, and holiday ornaments in the rest of the store — Leavenworth is big on Christmas. This is a good place to buy postcards of the Nutcracker Museum and Leavenworth, too.
1323, 636 Front St, Leavenworth, WA 98826, USA
Located inside the Visconti building, Cured is a standout shop in a town that’s full of sausages and wursts. They make bratwurst, kielbasa, chorizo, currywurst and more on-site, and carry local Salumi salami as well as pancetta, prosciutto, and other meats imported from Italy. There’s also a selection of local Washington cheese, including the legendary Beecher’s, and imported cheeses, plus an array of pickled veggies, mustards, and other condiments. On a sunny day, take some sliced meats and cheeses to go and have a picnic outside at the nearby Waterfront Park, or order grilled sausages next door in their beer garden.
709 Front St, Leavenworth, WA 98826, USA
NEIN, you are not in the Bavarian Alps--you are in the Central Cascades of Washington State...and JA there is an outdoor Bier Garten where you can sit your stinky sweaty post-hike self down for a local microbrew! The faux-but-well-done Bavarian ‘theme'-town of Leavenworth (the make-over of a mining town that almost went bust) offers several good places for hearty Teutonic fare. The most hiker-friendly is tucked in to the corner of the main plaza: München Haus. Apple cider sauerkraut and a buffet of mustards await your sausage selection--and we’re talking 1/3-pounder WURST here--nothing skinny that will leave you hungry...And, of course, the Bier Garten, offering beers from Icicle Brewing Co. This is definitely the civilized way to end a day of wilderness trekking.
590 US-2, Leavenworth, WA 98826, USA
As you drive into Leavenworth, you’ll see a steep drop on one side of the road, and below it, a golf course. The Enzian Falls Putting Course features 18 holes of natural bent grass greens with panoramic views of the river, waterfalls, streams and the surrounding mountains. It’s owned by the Enzian Inn, and guests of the Enzian Inn and Alpine Rivers Inn receive a complimentary round of golf. The course is open April through October, seven days a week, weather permitting, but more experienced golfers may prefer to head to the nearby Leavenworth Golf Club for a bigger challenge.
929 Front Street
By official decree, all businesses in Leavenworth must conform to the ersatz-Alpine-chalet theme for their storefronts, and nowhere does this cause more cognitive dissonance than at the Australian gift shop. Agape Outback has a wide selection of Australian hats, western hats, leather coats, guns, and swords, along with plenty of Australian souvenirs and novelty items and some imported Australian food (including Marmite, of course). In the back, they also have women’s clothing and scarves. If you need a palate cleanser from all the Bavarian stuff in town, step into Agape and experience the Outback.
Front St, Leavenworth, WA 98826, USA
Care for a romantic carriage ride through the quaint streets of Leavenworth? This horse and carriage wait for passengers outside the bandstand on Front Street.
More From AFAR