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Bavarian holidays, skiing, wine, and applesBavarian holidays, skiing, wine, and apples

Wenatchee and Leavenworth, WashingtonWenatchee and Leavenworth, Washington

Winter or summer, the central Washington towns of Wenatchee and Leavenworth provide wonderful getaways on the sunny side of the Cascades.

  • Charming downtown Leavenworth looks like an old-time Bavarian village, surrounded by steep, beautiful mountains. Photo courtesy Leavenworth Chamber.
  • In winter, Leavenworth is transformed into a winter wonderland. Photo by Brian Munoz.
  • Pangborn Memorial Airport (EAT) is set in the wide Wenatchee Valley. Photo courtesy EAT.
  • Bavarian music on the gazebo and a visit from Santa, all during the Lantern Parade at Christkindlmarkt. Photo courtesy Leavenworth Chamber.
  • Fireworks light up the sky during Leavenworth’s Ice Festival in mid-January. Photo by Brian Munoz.
  • Kids compete in the Frisbee Sweep during the Leavenworth Ice Festival. Photo courtesy Leavenworth Chamber.
  • The Ice Festival also includes “Smooshing”—a Leavenworth original. Teams of four strap into 2x4s and race down Front Street, with the team leader yelling “left, right, left, right” to keep everyone in sync. Photo courtesy Leavenworth Chamber.
  • There’s plenty of family fun to be had at the Mission Ridge Ski & Board Resort. Photo courtesy Mission Ridge Ski & Board Resort.
  • A skier digs into some fresh powder high above the Wenatchee Valley. Photo courtesy Mission Ridge Ski & Board Resort.
  • Take a detour off the 11-mile Apple Capital Loop Trail to touch the Columbia River as it passes through Wenatchee. Photo courtesy McGlinn’s Public House.
  • The Ohme Gardens is a quiet retreat high in the hills above town. Photo courtesy Ohme Gardens.
  • Fall colors light up the banks alongside the Columbia and Wenatchee rivers, both of which run through Wenatchee. Photo courtesy EAT.
  • Built in 1920, the Apple Country Inn Bed & Breakfast sits above the town, providing guests with excellent views of the valley and mountains. Courtesy Apple Country Inn Bed & Breakfast.
  • Great views will accompany your romantic dinner at the Rivertop Bar & Grill, situated on the ninth floor of the Coast Wenatchee Center Hotel. Photo courtesy Coast Hotels.
  • McGlinn’s Public House occupies the 1922 Garland Building, originally home to the Orondo Recreation Club, where some major league ball players worked in the off-season. Local minor-league baseball players stayed in some of the upstairs rooms. Photo courtesy McGlinn’s Public House.

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. Beside the river, the wonderful Pybus Market is open year-round.

Although terrible wildfires charred several other neighboring valleys in 2014 and 2015, Wenatchee and Leavenworth escaped with their beauty intact. The fires scared away many tourists, so you can visit now to escape the crowds and help rebuild the local economy. In flight over central and eastern Washington, use caution for numerous power lines and towers extending to 200 to 300 feet agl, due to dams and other power generation facilities. Watch for cable crossings in the gorges as well. You’ll fly to Pangborn Memorial Airport, where you can rent a car or borrow a courtesy car. This bustling little airport is home to a glider club, flight school, and a manufacturer of powered parachutes, Six Chuter International. Set up a tour if you’ve always wondered about these fun machines.

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!

Beautifully groomed runs at Mission Ridge Ski & Board Resort overlook the Columbia River. Photo courtesy Mission Ridge Ski & Board Resort.

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 locally-crafted gifts, specialty foods, and the freshest local produce.

Blackened salmon, smashed potatoes, and red cabbage slaw from McGlinn’s Public House. Courtesy McGlinn’s Public House.

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, and around the Mediterranean. Winter or summer, Wenatchee and Leavenworth are perfect places for a family vacation or romantic weekend.

The enormous Pybus Public Market overlooks the Columbia River in downtown Wenatchee. Photo courtesy Pybus Public Market.

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Crista Worthy

Crista V. Worthy

Crista V. Worthy has been flying around the United States with her pilot-husband Fred and their children since 1995, and writing about fun places to fly since 2006. She has single-engine land and sea ratings. Her favorite places to explore are the backcountry strips of Idaho and Utah's red rock country. She currently lives in Idaho and serves as editor of The Flyline, the monthly publication of the Idaho Aviation Association.
Topics: US Travel

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