Winter or summer, the central Washington towns of Wenatchee and Leavenworth provide wonderful getaways on the sunny side of the Cascades.
In winter, skiers and snowboarders head to Wenatchee’s friendly and uncrowded Mission Ridge Ski & Board Resort. Decorated to the hilt, the nearby Bavarian-themed village of Leavenworth celebrates Christmas the old-fashioned way—with German festivals and traditions that date to the sixteenth century. Summer brings watersports and hiking. Year-round, visitors to the Pybus Market return home laden with handcrafted gifts and the bounty of the Wenatchee Valley, known as the Apple Capital of the World.
For a unique holiday experience, make the 30-minute drive from Wenatchee to Leavenworth, surrounded by pine-clad mountains. As you enter this small town of about 2,000 residents you may feel like you just went back in time to the Bavaria of 150 years ago, but that’s precisely the point. And these folks know how to party!
Leavenworth hosts four annual holiday festivals, beginning Thanksgiving weekend with Christkindlmarkt, a delight to the senses. The streets are filled with Christmas music and the aromas of pastries, gluhwein (warm mulled wine), and sausages. Booths sell handmade crafts, cookies, cakes, and candies. St. Nicholas visits and kids decorate paper lanterns during the Lantern Festival and parade. Christmas Lighting happens over the first three weekends in December, when the Bavarian village dazzles with more than 500,000 Christmas lights, live music, and Santa Claus—and the lights stay on until Valentine’s Day! Mid-January brings the Bavarian Ice Festival, with snow sculptures, sled pulls, relay races, live ice carving, Stevens Pass Kids Playground, and fireworks. In late January, the Timbrrr! Music Festival brings two days and nights of music and wintertime fun. Any time of year, a must-do is the Nutcracker Museum, home to more than 6,000 colorful nutcrackers. In summer, hit the links at the Leavenworth Golf Club, just a mile from town.
There’s plenty to do in Wenatchee as well. Mission Ridge Ski & Board Resort is especially kid-friendly and has four chairlifts for skiing, snowboarding, and tubing, plus great views from the top. Below, the Columbia River flows right through downtown Wenatchee, with the Pybus Public Market perched along its western bank. Opened in 2013, this huge warehouse is filled with merchants offering gifts like embroidered clothing, artisan soaps, locally crafted jewelry, plants, and flowers. Foodies will delight in the local produce, cheeses, jams, beers, cooking oils, and seasonings.
The 11-mile Apple Capital Loop Trail passes by the market and several parks as it follows and crosses the Columbia River; rent bikes or paddleboards nearby. Browse downtown Wenatchee’s shops, cafés, and breweries or visit the Chamber Tasting Room to taste some prime Wenatchee Valley wines and help you decide which wineries to visit. From April 15 to Oct. 15, stroll through Ohme Gardens, opened in 1929. It’s a 40-acre oasis of flowers, evergreens, and ponds with panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.
Accommodations abound in Wenatchee, from the East Wenatchee Cedars Inn, conveniently located near the airport, to the Apple Country Inn Bed & Breakfast, where you’ll enjoy mountain views and a fresh breakfast. Right downtown, the nine-story Coast Wenatchee Center Hotel offers elegant rooms, plush duvets, an indoor/outdoor pool, and a good restaurant with nice views from the ninth floor.
The Wanatchee Valley is a prime producer of apples and other agricultural products, many of which appear in local eateries. Try The Wild Huckleberry for breakfast or lunch, in Wenatchee and at the Leavenworth Golf Club. McGlinn’s Public House is known for its supremely tender baby back ribs and wood-fired pizza, plus occasional live entertainment. Europhiles head to Inna’s Cuisine European Restaurant for delicacies from Ukraine, Russia, Greece, and Italy. Winter or summer, Wenatchee and Leavenworth are perfect places for a family vacation or romantic weekend.
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