The Magic Of Leavenworth Lit Up For Christmas

Last Updated on October 13, 2021

Where Is Leavenworth?

Leavenworth is a Bavarian-styled village in the Cascade Mountains, in central Washington State. Front Street features alpine-style buildings with restaurants serving German beer and food. Being “Little Germany” in the USA, it is, of course, touristy, but it is still packed full of fun. If you’ve ever been to Germany, you’ll feel like you have been transported back. The architecture is beautiful and the merchants offer everything you would hope to find, including a Das Boot beer glass.

In December, Leavenworth provides all the necessities for romance and family fun during the holidays when it is transformed into the Leavenworth Christmas town.

Leavenworth hosts popular festivals throughout the year, with Oktoberfest being another popular celebration.

What Makes Christmas In Leavenworth Special?

Leavenworth at Christmas is the busiest, but most magical, time of year to visit. We had been to Leavenworth at Christmas four years prior to this trip and were so mesmerized by the magic of it that we felt pulled back again. Plus, last time we were there we somehow missed that there was a Reindeer farm nearbyhow did we possibly miss THAT?

Wandering Leavenworth during the Christmas Lighting Festival feels like you have stepped into a Hallmark Christmas movie, or that you have finally found the North Pole. To get the most out of the twinkling lights, enjoy one of the lighting ceremonies that are held every Saturday and Sunday during the first three weekends of December. Enjoy some delicious German treats to stay warm as you watch the lights come alive.

The Leavenworth Christmas lights are a sight to behold.

The Expectation Of A Snowy Village

Unlike our first Leavenworth experience, there was not much snow in the Village. Apparently, it is an unusual occurrence to not have snow for the start of the Christmas Lighting Festival. I watched the weather forecast up until we left for our trip and went back and forth in my thoughts. No snow? Should we cancel and reschedule our trip? Then I realized that different doesn’t necessarily mean bad and snow does not necessarily coincide with Christmas in the PNW. So we went. And we are so glad we did. Seeing the quaint Bavarian village lit up with half a million lights really is something special.

Just because there wasn’t snow in the village during our second visit to the Leavenworth Christmas Lighting Festival,  didn’t mean that we did not find a ton of snow on the way there. Along Steven’s Pass, there was plenty of snow to admire and play in, with a storm passing through a couple of days before our trip. And to be honest, not having snow in the Village of Leavenworth did make things easier with four kids. So in the end, it was not all bad; the kids just didn’t get to sled down the hill in town.

With that said, even if the town is not covered in snow, still bring all of your snow gear. We pulled over at a great rest stop — with a huge field and a little hill for the kids to sled down. It was absolutely perfect and the sun was even shining. Watching the kids play in the snow is even better than playing in the snow when you’re little yourself. The kids sure bring the magic back into the simple things. Olivia even had her first experience in the snow.

We loved the drive to and from Leavenworth. Snow-covered trees make for a gorgeous and mesmerizing drive.

Related— Leavenworth Reindeer Farm : Teaching Santa’s Reindeer To Fly

The Ultimate Christmas Cheer

It was wonderful being surrounded by such Christmas cheer. We loved the smell of roasted chestnuts, the big group of carolers strolling through town, and that there was a traditional Gluhwein tent (selling hot spiced wine and cocoa). Costumed Christmas characters wandered around for photos, and the kids loved them, even if they were a little creepy. St. Nikolas even made his rounds and if you kept an eye out, you could also find Mrs. Claus.

Taking a stroll around town, if it snows you will be able to enjoy the sight of kids sledding in the heart of town, live holiday Christmas music, and shops serving warm treats. We especially loved the fun countdown to all the twinkling lights coming alive in the heart of the town. The million Leavenworth lights are mesmerizing after dark.

Leavenworth decorated for Christmas
Carolers sing their hearts out around the village

Getting Around Leavenworth

The Leavenworth Lighting Festival is all around the main town and Front Street. There are pay parking lots all around town. If you get there early enough, you may also find some free parking spots along the road. The Christmas Lighting Festival and the surrounding town are completely walkable.

If you are planning on bringing the kids, most stores do not allow strollers inside. If it is snowy, your best bet is to pull the kids around on a sled or babywear. A stroller could be a big pain in all the snow that there was, though the main Leavenworth road was well cleared.

There are busses that run from Seattle to Leavenworth, but if you plan to do excursions, it is best to have a vehicle.

Where To Stay In Leavenworth

If you want to stay at a hotel right in the heart of the Leavenworth celebrations, be prepared to pay a pretty penny and you’ll find that you have to book a year in advance as rooms are reserved fast. Since we didn’t book a year in advance, we ended up staying outside of the town in Wenatchee, both times that we adventured to Leavenworth.

For the ultimate experience, there are several hotels along and nearby the main strip. The Bavarian Lodge is a popular option, right in the heart of the Bavarian village.

Happy kids having a pizza party in a hotel room
After a day of exploring around the Village, we drove to the hotel for a pizza party, some “bubbly”, and a swim in the pool. Ask our kids what their favorite part of the trip was — this was probably it!

What To See And Do

Leavenworth Reindeer Farm

If you would like to visit Santa’s reindeer while they take a break from their flying lessons, some of the reindeer live at the Leavenworth Reindeer Farm. If you are big on Christmas magic, this reindeer farm will knock your socks off. We were even able to snap a group photo with Santa.

If you are taking the kids, remember to explain to them that Rudolph is already at the North Pole getting ready for Christmas. The kids were thrilled to meet some of Santa’s Reindeer-in-training. Honestly, it was magical for us adults too. It was great to feel like kids again. We were all completely enchanted.

Leavenworth Reindeer Farm is located less than 1/2 mile from downtown Leavenworth. A tour includes an educational presentation on reindeer, followed by time to visit with and feed Santa’s friendly herd.

Winter Sleigh Rides

One activity we wished we had time for was a winter sleigh ride. Everything you need to know about reserving a sleigh ride, and the available companies that provide them, can be found here. Get into the Christmas mood wrapped in cozy and warm blankets while you dash through the snow on a two-horse open sleigh along with gorgeous snow-covered trees.

Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum

You are sure to be impressed at the Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum. With a collection of more than 7,000 nutcrackers from more than 50 countries. You will find every Nutcracker imaginable from traditional and antique to nutcrackers that were inspired by modern pop culture. There are also nutcrackers made out of wood, that are mechanical, plastic, and metal; all designed to crack open nuts. Some of our favorite finds were nutcrackers shaped like Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Santa Claus, and Snoopy. You will not want to miss this one-of-a-kind collection.

The Gingerbread Factory

It does not feel like Christmas without the smell and taste of warm, spiced gingerbread. The Gingerbread Factory is full of delicious festive treats, including the most Instagrammable Gingerbread cookies, old-fashioned gingerbread, a gingersnap ice cream sandwich, and a gingerbread latte. Expect to wait in a long line, but it is totally worth the wait. If you are not a fan of gingerbread, they also have various other options, so you are sure to find something delicious that suits your craving.

Explore the Christkindlmarkt

Listen to a live Bavarian band as you wander food stalls and booths from local artisans. Enjoy delicious Bavarian food and take home some Christmas handicrafts from the German-inspired Christmas market.

Kris Kringl Christmas Store

It is Christmas year-round at Kris Kringle in Leavenworth. Explore the two-story, 6,000 feet store filled with trees, toys, and decorations. You are sure to find some unique gems in this store; it will leave you completely mesmerized.

Winter Driving Precautions

When you’re visiting Leavenworth in Winter, be sure you take the proper precautions for winter driving conditions:

  • Don’t rush. Take your time.
  • Winterize your vehicle. This should include an examination of the spare tire, battery, belts, hoses, anti-freeze, tires, brakes, heater, defroster, and windshield wipers.
  • Have winter tires with good traction.
  • Have chains for your tires; both routes from Vancouver to Leavenworth had signage saying chains were recommended, or mandatory.
  • Clear all snow and ice completely off windows, side view mirrors, headlights, taillights, and license plates.
  • Buckle up!
  • Try to keep your vehicle’s fuel tank more than half full. The extra volume can help reduce moisture problems in your fuel system and it adds extra weight to your vehicle. A topped-up gas tank will also be an asset if you become stranded.


Love it? Pin it for later!