If Europe isn’t in the budget this season, try the next best thing. Head east over the pass where Washington’s “little Bavaria” bustles with merriment. Leavenworth is a hot spot for visitors year-round, but at this time of year, the fun centers around festive fare, steaming spiced drinks, sprinklings of snow and jovial tree lightings.
GETTIN’ ACTIVE: Though the region draws outdoor enthusiasts in most any month, wintertime pulls in skiers and snowshoers to the area’s abundant trails. Find package deals for “Washington’s best winter destination,”or consider getting fresh air by snowshoeing routes like those along Icicle River Road or in Washington state sno-parks. And of course, head to Stevens Pass or the Leavenworth Winter Sports Club to get your ski on.
HOLIDAY HAPPENINGS: Weekly tree lightings in December enliven downtown Leavenworth; think carol sing-alongs, roasted chestnuts, sleigh rides, Christmas bazaars and more. Other events around town range from “It’s a Wonderful Life” at the Leavenworth Summer Theater through December 22 to “Christmas in the Mountains,” the Leavenworth Village Voices’ annual choral concert series. Those not wanting to battle the pass themselves can climb aboard Amtrak for a stress-free commute. Alki Tours organizes a special “Snow Train” that transports passengers to the tree lighting and back in the same day. The train features a continental breakfast, dinner and onboard entertainment.
EAT, DRINK & BE MERRY: German fare reigns at many downtown spots, but also consider dining at new addition Idlewood Pizza, Good Mood Food cafe, Visconti’s of Leavenworth and, for a Latin twist, South. At Icicle Brewing Company, a convivial space with friendly wait staff, find winter-themed snacks like the meat and cheese plate or roast beef au jus plus live music Wednesday and Sunday evenings. Delicious, seasonally-rotated beers are made using water from Icicle Creek, which flows into the Wenatchee River less than a mile from the venue (get a sampler to try an array of brews ranging from lagers to porters and IPAs).
Aside from all the steins of beer, Leavenworth serves up a good amount of wine, too. Boudreaux Cellars (open by appointment only) is located on Icicle River just outside town, four miles off the power grid, making it the only winery in Washington state that’s completely self-powered.
Boudreaux owner-winemaker Rob Newsom hails from Louisiana and is a protégé of Gary Figgins of Leonetti Cellar. Newsom produces hand-crafted wines (“smooth, deeply complex reds”) made using fruit sourced from some of the state’s most coveted vineyards. Hints of the South linger here at this Leavenworth outpost—in Newsom’s accent, his Cajun cooking and in the charming property’s decorative elements like the French Quarter hurricane lamps that hang outside the wine cellar. In 2007, Seattle Magazine named Boudreax “Best New Winery” and Newsom “Best New Winemaker.”
COZYING UP FOR THE NIGHT: If you choose to stay overnight (or longer!), lodge at Sleeping Lady, a quaint resort nestled in the Cascade Mountains on the banks of Icicle Creek. The venue offers “a distinct Northwest experience accented by sustainable gourmet cuisine and cozy accommodations.” Located close to downtown Leavenworth, Sleeping Lady has become a year-round retreat for those interested in outdoor recreation and the arts, thanks to the property’s alfresco pieces of sculpture (including a magnificent permanent installation by local legend, glass artist Dale Chihuly) and on-site theaters where live performances take place.
Perks here range from the Aspen Leaf Spa (think organic facials, hot rock massages, even reiki sessions), the lodge-like Kingfisher Restaurant—where diners enjoy fresh and locally-sourced dishes by a roaring fire, the “Play Barn” and alfresco rock pools—decadently heated so they can be enjoyed in chillier months, too.
As a major added bonus, this venue has long been known for its sustainable and ecologically-minded practices and is now a Certified B Corporation, meaning Sleeping Lady has met “rigorous, independent social and environmental performance standards.” A portion of Sleeping Lady’s profits benefit the Icicle Fund, with support going toward the environment, arts and history of the Wenatchee River watershed and its neighboring landscapes. Good folks doing good work: now that is something we can certainly get behind!