Located in Central Washington state just south of the North Cascades lies a little slice of Germany called Leavenworth. While it’s not quite authentically German – the once-prosperous timber community simply decided in 1962 that it would become a “theme” town in hopes of attracting tourism (in fact, the Supreme Court got involved when some businesses resisted the new thematic requirements) – it is at least comparable to a larger version of Disney’s Epcot World Showcase, and is definitely a fun stop in the area.
Just about all of the businesses in Leavenworth have some Bavarian reference in their name or on their sign, and the buildings are designed to make it look as though its inhabitants don lederhosen and yodel. Some private residences even get it on it, with some amusing decorations. Meanwhile, the natural surroundings of towering mountains and rolling green hills lush with wildflowers resemble the Bavarian Alps and are perhaps why the theme works so well here.
The beauty of the natural surroundings and quaintness of the town make it a natural place for visitors to flock during the holidays when the town is blanketed with twinkle lights and fresh ski snow, and there is even a nutcracker museum to help get people in the spirit of the season. This along with bright displays of foliage in autumn help make the town a four season destination.
We happened to be hitched up to the trailer on the day we visited and parked at a large public gravel lot off of Hwy 2 downtown for the afternoon. We were a little bummed to see “no overnight RV parking” signs in the lot despite there being another sign referencing a one-night overnight parking limit and having seen reviews for it on the RVParky smartphone app, but alas, the jury’s still out on that one and we didn’t chance it.
We had originally tried to drop the trailer off at a nearby national forest campground only to have to back the trailer back out onto the highway when we found a locked gate and sign saying that they wouldn’t be open for several more weeks due to tree work. A nice couple we ran into there tried to suggest some boondocking sites near the road they thought they had seen people use on national forest land, but we didn’t get a great vibe from the spots and were even more hesitant when the national forest ranger we later spoke to didn’t even understand our question about them. Having limited options for our itinerary, we opted to park for our first – and last – time at a nearby rest area. Worst night of sleep ever! We’d been across the aisle from idling trucks in Walmart parking lots but having them be right next to you on both sides is a whole other level of loud. Plus, we felt bad taking a spot from truck drivers in a quite busy rest area.
We explored the downtown area on foot, taking in the atmosphere, making friends with an apparently resident billy goat, popping in the gift shops and trying to decide on a place for lunch. We ultimately went with Andreas Keller, an underground German-centric restaurant that advertises “Munich without the passport” (not all of the restaurants in town serve German food, by the way, which is probably good for the locals). The restaurant had cool wooden booths and served all beverages and tableware in steins. I had a lunch that would have made my half German grandfather proud: a weinerschnitzel sandwich, German potato salad, sauerkraut and the house Oktoberfest, and John got a beef goulash with spaetzle that also successfully satisfied our appetite for food that fit the scenery.
We later walked off lunch on the short, but tranquil trails through Waterfront Park to wrap up our day.
Visiting Leavenworth was definitely a nice way to spend an afternoon in a certainly unique place. This was John’s third visit and after having missed it during our time in Washington last year, I’m happy that I finally got to see it!