The little Bavarian-styled town of Leavenworth sits two hours east of the hubbub of Seattle, in the foothills of the Cascades. And while there’s definitely pretzels lining the streets — yep — and amazing beer and carillon bells and lederhosen, there’s also hiking. Stargazing. Leafy fall drives. Theatre, shopping, fruit stands, cider, and killer views.
This once-upon-a-time day-tripper town is now a Seattleite’s long-weekend getaway. A PNW getaway. A countrywide getaway. And in fall? It cannot be beat. Here’s how to spend the best weekend of your autumn, right here in Leavenworth.
Roll into town. Are you staying in a glamper-style yurt? A suite on Front Street? A million-dollar log cabin with more fireplaces than you have square feet back home? A campground steps from the Wenatchee River? Great. Go there. Set up. Sit for a sec and soak it in. Then make your way to Front Street.
This is going to be your new favorite drag. We’ll cover the shops and sights in a bit, but for now, food. Let’s start with a bang — here’s the rundown:
- Sulla Vita – If you’re anywhere within two blocks, it’s their pizza your nose can’t get away from. The fig & prosciutto pie is unbelievable, and not in one of those strange what-can-we-combine-for-effect kind of ways. It’s just really, really, really, really good.
- Mana Restaurant – You’ll get eight courses of foraged food prepared by yoga masters. It’s a three-hour commitment to do dinner here, and there’s only one seating, two or three days a week (because, again, they have to go find that awesome food). And in the middle of it all, they’ll test you to see if you can decipher the ingredients in the previous courses.
- If you’re here for the Deutschland experience, hit up the Bavarian Bistro for one of their soft pretzels. They’re warm and salty, and the homemade cheese sauce makes it a double-billing. You can also pair it with traditional mustard, chipotle dijon, bacon coconut peanut butter, or chocolate cream cheese for dipping. Or, as I call it, dunking and slathering.
We’ve got two more full days, so let’s not get carried away. With food, at least. Drinks? Another story. After dinner, head to the patio at Icicle Brewing Company for a cold one, stick around the Bavarian Bistro for one of their kickin’ cocktails, or check out Stein — they’ve got 50+ beers on tap, all color-coded to make selection less overwhelming.
If you’re the “all-I-want-is-coffee” type, hit up J5 Coffee for your sustenance (I suggest anything with their maple bourbon flavoring). If you’re like me and recognize that carbs are the closest you can get to God, hit up the Bavarian Bakery for their Apfelstrudel or a cherry danish. And meat-eaters? O’Gradys = corned beef benedict.
Whatever your pick, toss those crumbs to the birds and jump in the car for the fall leaf-peeping drive to Plain. Make sure to start out on Chumstick Hwy, going in a loop counterclockwise. Nature’s colors are a 128-box of Crayolas here, the drive cutting through the middle of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. Vine maples, aspen, red cedar, loads of varieties of pine — it’s Washington State at its finest.
Break up the drive — and the bold autumnal colors — with a stop at the newly constructed yet still old-school 59er Diner. The hot pink and teal signage isn’t lying about having the best burgers around. Grab a quick one (and a blackberry milkshake, if you have any self-respect), and then drive back down Hwy 2. Feel free to pull over for photo opps and splashing in the Wenatchee. It’s right there.
Time to head back toward Leavenworth. Since it’s Naturday (Nature Saturday? No? Just me?), get outdoors and out of the car. You’ve got a ton of options:
- Hike up Icicle Ridge – It’s a four-mile thigh workout to amazing views that justifies that milkshake. Look for a small brown sign on Hwy 2 about 1.5 miles from town, go up the gravel for about six seconds, turn left, and you’ll see the trailhead.
- Bike Freund Canyon – The trail is a skinny single track with plenty of switchbacks, and it takes you up over the valley and through a handful of area orchards.
- Paddleboard Lake Wenatchee – If you’re a pro paddleboarder, you could take on the Wenatchee River, but the rest of us will stick to the lake and its Switzerland-esque views.
- Stroll through Waterfront Park – This follows the Wenatchee at a much more tranquil pace — aka however fast your feet take you. The three-mile Waterfront Park Trail leads to a number of beachy outlets for toe-dipping, too.
Or you could always just stay and play in the river.
Workout secured, go shower, put yourself back together, and track down dinner. A freshly ground reuben or a sausage hoagie at Renaissance Café or Baren Haus, some pub fare from Blewett Brewing Co., or one of the Friday-night options should do the trick.
For nightlife, make a beeline to Bushel & Bee to celebrate the day. The owner, Kayla, is a straight-up superhero with fantastic taste in cider and beer. She built the place herself (“I’d say I knocked it down to the studs, but I took those out, too”), and while she’s not brewing yet, her regional stock — and the schedule of live music and events — makes that a non-issue.
Before you sit down, locate the bookshelf full of “adult” coloring books and colored pencils in the center of the room. If you finish yours — preferably while knocking back One Tree’s Lemon Basil Cider — you get to hang it up on the very, very, very rainbow wall. (Look for the one about mermaids. That one’s mine.)
Sandwiched right between Front Street Park and Waterfront Park on the corner of Commercial and 9th is a spot that’s easy to miss. Local Yokel is small and deconstructed…kind of like their menu. Their breakfast burrito might be the farthest your six dollars ever went — they’ve got sandwiches, bagels, and wraps, too — and the smoothies (snaps to blueberry coconut) should be winning awards. Otherwise, or in addition to, make the four-minute jaunt to Smallwood’s Harvest and load up on produce. Their fruit selection is so distracting you might not even notice the onsite goats that you’re completely welcome to pet and coo over.
Then it’s shopping time. If you’re anything like me, you’d rather it be literally any other time. This is what Amazon is for, right? But in this scenario, both you and I are wrong — shopping means something different in Leavenworth. My last Leavenworth morning went from two floors of Christmas to 30 free samples of cheese (I went for the double-cream gouda, thanks) to subversive car air fresheners to Earl Grey with Speculoos Cookie ice cream to being stared at by 6,000 nutcrackers. If that smoothie didn’t wake you up, this certainly will.
Get out of the vortex — that is, if you want — and take a break from your “Front Street hypnosis.” What’s the opposite of being lulled into a buyer’s trance? Adrenaline.
Ideas: Head up to Mountain Springs Lodge for ziplining, fly fishing, or mountain horseback riding. Go for a round at Leavenworth Golf Course (look around for bears or a stray moose playing a hole). Hike the Tumwater Pipeline Trail, or just settle in for a photo sesh on the old Pipeline Bridge. Do whatever water activity you’re itching to tackle at Lake Wenatchee State Park. Or check out any of the above ideas you didn’t get to yesterday.
It’s officially dinnertime, followed by dessert time. Here’s your abridged 101:
- Pavz Cafe Bistro – “North Cascade Cuisine” at its finest. For dinner, eye the angry shrimp salad or one of the seafood crepes. For dessert, their sweet crepes, if you can fit ‘er in.
- Mozart’s or Uli’s – The former has a balcony, the latter has a patio, and both have fondue that rivals — if not surpasses, depending on your tastes for kirsche — any in Switzerland.
- Watershed – They have an elk meatloaf that will convert anyone whose childhood cafeteria ruined the dish for them. Also consider their steamed clams, and pair whatever you feel like with a meringue cocktail.
And, of course, don’t leave town without a quick stop at the Gingerbread Factory. Grab a gingerbread man to accompany you on the ride home. Or to eat. Or one to set on your mantle to remind you that Bavaria isn’t so far away.