NO PASSPORT REQUIRED: WILLKOMMEN TO LEAVENWORTH
The idea of spending time at Oktoberfest in Munich, or hiking among wildflowers in the land of The Sound of Music, might sound good in theory. But the reality is that between language, currency, and cultural barriers, the hassle of international travel, and the constraints on our precious free time, a summer or fall trip to Bavaria might look better on paper than in person.
But what if you could enjoy the culture, traditions, and vibe of a traditional Bavarian alpine village, and the accessibility, convenience, and familiarity of a domestic destination – with No Passport Required?
Willkommen to Leavenworth!
Nestled at the base of Washington’s north central Cascade Mountains, every detail in Leavenworth feels more like a visit to a Northern European hamlet than a Pacific Northwest mountain town. But Leavenworth is quite a bit of both, and it’s all just a scenic 2.5-hour drive from Seattle.
Since its transformation from a former railroad and timber town to an authentic Bavarian village began in 1965, Leavenworth has evolved into one of the country’s finest examples of German architecture and tradition.
Recently named one of Travel + Leisure’s 20 Most Beautiful Small Towns in the U.S., a visit to Leavenworth might have you doing a double take as the Alp Horns welcome each day from the balcony of the Enzian Hotel. This daily serenade sets the tone for an experience that has to be seen, to be believed.
Charming facades, timber-framed buildings, colorful frescoes, and ornate detailing provide an immediate and unmistakable sense of place. So too do the surrounding peaks of the Cascades, the Wenatchee River as it meanders through the valley floor, the traditional 96-foot Maipole in the center of town, and the abundance of wildflowers and wildlife. In fact, the atmosphere is so authentic and charming that in recent years it has served as the setting for two feature films – the Amazon Prime Video original movie Somebody I Used to Know (2023), and the Lifetime original movie Cloudy With a Chance of Christmas (2022).
Perhaps best known for its annual Maifest (May), Oktoberfest (Sept./Oct.) and Christmastown (Dec.) celebrations, there’s no shortage of things to do during the summer months in Leavenworth either. Among the many highlights:
- Whitewater rafting & stand-up paddleboarding on the Wenatchee River and Icicle Creek
- Open air theater performances at the Ski Hill Amphitheater and Hatchery Park outdoor stage
- Wine, cider, beer & spirits tasting at local vineyards, orchards, breweries, and distilleries
- German musical tributes including the Leavenworth Alphorn Celebration and the Leavenworth International Accordion Celebration
- Hiking and mountain biking in and around the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest
- Exploring the new Leavenworth Adventure Park, featuring Washington’s first Alpine Coaster
- Weekly favorites including the Leavenworth Farmers Market and Art in the Park outdoor art gallery
Of course, there’s plenty of German beer and food to be found any day of the year – think brats, schnitzel, and spaetzle – and lots of nutcrackers including the Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum and the 12-foot tall town mascot, Woody Goomsba. It all combines to make Leavenworth an unforgettable destination.
Let’s face it. International travel can be fraught with challenges. Perhaps it’s time to see for yourself why Sunset Magazine recently urged travelers to Visit a German Mountain Town Without Leaving the West. No passport required.