When you’re looking to get away from Seattle for the weekend, booking a trip to Leavenworth is a perfect choice. Since it’s only two hours away from the city, many people only do a day trip to Leavenworth. However, there are plenty of Leavenworth activities to choose from, so you need a weekend in Leavenworth to experience them all.
The town of Leavenworth has an interesting history to it. The first thing you’ll notice when you see pictures is that it looks like a small town right out of Germany.
The village was formed in the early 1900s as a small timber community but struggled to stay afloat once the railroad moved away from it. In the 1960s, the idea was formed to revitalize the town by making it a Bavarian-themed city to draw tourism. The rest is history, as you’ll see droves of people here year-round.
Leavenworth is only a 2-hour drive from Seattle, making it perfect for a last-minute weekend getaway from Seattle. I’ve been to this Bavarian town in Washington every season multiple times, so I put together a list of some of my favorite things to do in Leavenworth, Washington.
This guide will help you plan your Leavenworth trip by giving you suggestions on where to stay, finding the best things to do in Leavenworth this weekend, and providing a sample itinerary for a weekend in Leavenworth.
Tips for Planning Your Leavenworth Itinerary
Here are a few tips to help with your Leavenworth weekend trip.
- Groceries and gas are available – While Leavenworth is a small town, they have almost everything you need. If you go towards the east end of town, you’ll find a Safeway to buy snacks and groceries. They also sell outdoor gear such as floaties and sunscreen. Safeway also sells gas, or you can get gas at one of the 76 stations.
- Parking is all around – While Leavenworth does get crowded during Christmas and the summer, there are several places to park. Street parking lines all the shops, and there are also several paid parking lots around town.
- Make dinner reservations in advance – I recommend making an advanced reservation if there’s a place you really want to go to for dinner. This will ensure you’ll get in at the time you want and don’t have to wait around for too long.
How to Get to Leavenworth
There are several different ways to get to Leavenworth, including driving your car, taking the train, and taking the bus. If you plan on just staying in the town, it’s easy to get around without a car.
However, if you plan on going on hikes or doing other Leavenworth activities that aren’t right in town, it’d be best to have a car for your Leavenworth trip. Here the different ways to get from Seattle to Leavenworth.
- Drive – The drive from Seattle to Leavenworth is pretty simple, as you can hop on Highway 2, go over the mountains, and be there in about two hours. If you’re coming from the south or east part of Washington, you can take I-90 to Route 97 to get on Highway 2. There are many places to rent a car around Seattle, and I recommend Alamo or Hertz.
- Train – If you don’t have a car, you can still easily get to Leavenworth. Many people love taking the train to Leavenworth, as it’s relaxing and provides beautiful views along the way. You can book your ticket through Amtrak before you come on your trip. Many tourists in Seattle use this method when doing a day trip to Leavenworth.
- Bus – There are also several bus tours you can take, whether you’re spending the weekend in Leavenworth or just doing a day trip to Leavenworth. This Leavenworth tour from Seattle will pick you up, do all the driving, and give you a full day to explore the town.
Where to Stay in Leavenworth
While you can take a Leavenworth day trip, I recommend spending several days there to fully enjoy it. There are a variety of hotels in and near Leavenworth to choose from. Here are a few I recommend.
- Icicle Village Resort – I stayed here during my last trip to Leavenworth and liked that it’s on the edge of town and has parking. There’s also a pool, restaurant, mini-golf, and massage on-site. (rates start at $159 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
- Bavarian Lodge – This hotel is central to downtown Leavenworth, has a restaurant and bar, and has parking for guests. (rates start at $161 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
- Posthotel – When you’re looking for a romantic weekend in Leavenworth, book a stay at this adults-only hotel. Make sure to visit the spa one of the mornings you’re there. (rates start at $395 per night; book your room on Booking.com or read reviews on TripAdvisor)
Prefer staying in a vacation rental during your 3 days in Leavenworth? Here are a few places to check out:
- Condo in the heart of the village – You’ll be right in the middle of the action during your Leavenworth trip as you relax in your balcony overlooking the village, and seconds away from restaurants and shops in this condo. (rates start at $197 per night; book your room here)
- Mountainview House – You’ll be downtown and have views of the mountains from this condo that sleeps up to four guests. (rates start at $234 per night; book your room here)
- Three-bedroom home – This house is on the outskirts of town so you’ll have some privacy along with scenic views. (rates start at $147 per night; book your room here)
Best Things to Do in Leavenworth on the Weekend
Here are some fun activities to check out in Leavenworth on the weekend.
1. Walk Along the River
Waterfront Park is my favorite place to start the morning, as it’s a peaceful area with several trails that loop around the river. You can access this by walking down a hill behind the main part of town on Commercial Street and crossing a bridge. There’s no parking here, so I recommend keeping your car in your spot in town.
Since the river is so close to town, it’s one of the more Leavenworth attractions, so I recommend going early in the morning or late at night to enjoy the trail to yourself.
2. Pretend You’re in Bavaria
The German theme of the town is my favorite part of coming here. One of my favorite things to do in Leavenworth is pretending I’m in Bavaria by taking selfies throughout the town.
Not only are the decorations straight out of Germany, but you can get authentic German cuisine here. There are multiple places to get German beer and food, including the following:
- Ludwig’s – live polka music plays here on Saturdays and they have Spatzel and Schnitzel on their menu
- München Haus – good for sausage and beer
- Bären Haus – a variety of German food and imported beer such as Hofbräu
3. Learn About Nutcrackers
You can’t take a trip to Leavenworth without visiting the Nutcracker Museum. There are over 6,000 different nutcrackers here, making it one of the more unique Leavenworth activities.
You can also purchase one to take home in the store next door. If you’re in Leavenworth with kids, ask about the nutcracker scavenger hunt to make a game of finding unique nutcrackers.
4. Go Wine Tasting
While one of the best things to do in Lake Chelan is wine tasting, but you don’t have to drive north to experience that. You’ll be delighted to find there are plenty of Leavenworth wine tasting shops as well.
You can step inside to try a selection of local wines or sit outside to have a glass with friends. While I love having German beer, it’s nice to take a break and try local wine instead sometimes.
5. Visit a Reindeer Farm
I’ve been to Leavenworth about a dozen times and never knew there was a reindeer farm just outside of town until my last trip there. This is even rated as one of the top things to do in Leavenworth according to TripAdvisor. You sign up for a tour in advance and then come at your set time to learn about the history of the animals.
After, you get to take a branch full of leaves into the pen to feed the reindeer. The staff gives you a few safety tips, but they’re overall very gentle creatures who are used to people. I had a blast and recommend putting this on your list of things to do near Leavenworth.
6. Have a Sausage and a Pint at a Beer Garden
One of my favorite things to do in Leavenworth is to go to one of several sausage gardens in town. These really make you feel like you’re in Germany when you can get bratwurst and a variety of toppings. Don’t forget to order a giant pretzel!
Most of these also have a beer garden with them, so take a long leisurely lunch enjoying your sausage and pint of German beer. I stop here every time I visit Leavenworth because it’s such a fun atmosphere.
7. Visit Leavenworth at Christmastime
While I love going on a vacation to Leavenworth in the summer, winter in Leavenworth is unreal. The town comes to life with holiday decorations and events of all kinds such as carolers that roam the streets. They have a tree lighting ceremony on the weekends in December, so try to plan your trip around that if possible. (note – as of 2020, the lighting ceremonies are currently postponed)
Winter is such a cozy time to take a trip here, as the streets are often covered in snow to make it feel even more festive. You’ll want to add a stop to the local bakeries on your Leavenworth itinerary, as they tend to have seasonal goodies to enjoy.
You can also take a Leavenworth Christmas Tour from Seattle if you don’t want to deal with driving. You’ll get to see the lights all around the town, buy some holiday gifts, and even have the option to take a sleigh ride!
8. Take a Hike
There are so many hikes near Leavenworth that you’ll want to make sure you save enough time for one. Depending on your expertise level and how long you feel like hiking for, there are several to choose from during your 3 days in Leavenworth. Make sure to bring hiking essentials such as a water bottle and hiking backpack on one of the most active things to do near Leavenworth.
This is one of the more popular hikes near Leavenworth, so make sure to start early. You’ll be competing with not only people staying for a weekend in Leavenworth but also those doing a day trip to Leavenworth for this hike. You’ll need an NW Forest Pass to park here, or you can pay a daily fee of $5.
The hike is about eight miles roundtrip and takes you to the glacier-filled Colchuck Lake. It’s a beautiful area, but make sure you bring plenty of water and bug spray. Parts of it are easy, but you do gain 2,280 feet, so make sure you have some hiking experience.
Icicle Gorge Trail
If that hike sounds a bit too challenging for you, Icicle Gorge Nature Loop is another great hike near Leavenworth. The loop is only 4.2 miles round trip with a 150 feet elevation. This is one of the most scenic things to do around Leavenworth if you don’t mind getting exercise while doing it.
While it’s still a good workout, it’s much easier for hikers of any level to do. You’ll have beautiful views of the river, and many bird-watchers also frequent this area.
Scenic Hot Springs
As the name suggests, this is a beautiful hike to go on. However, you’ll need to make a reservation if you want to visit Scenic Hot Springs, so plan this in advance. If you’re going when there’s still snow in the mountains, you’ll need to bring snowshoes and appropriate clothing for the hike.
I recommend going on one of the most fun activities in Leavenworth early in the morning, enjoying the hike and hot springs, and then heading back to town to dry off and for a late lunch.
9. Relax at the Spa
If you want a relaxing weekend in Leavenworth, make sure to purchase a day pass for the spa at Posthotel. You can get a massage, facial, and many more spa treatments while you’re there. When you’re done, relax in the pools and hot tubs for a bit.
While it’s one of the more romantic things to do in Leavenworth, you can also spend time here with friends. This hotel is the perfect setting for a bachelorette party!
10. Listen to Live Music
During the warmer months, you can often find people dressed up in traditional German clothing playing accordions and other types of instruments. They tend to be at Front Street Park Gazebo, so grab a bench and watch the show when looking for what to do in Leavenworth.
One of the most lively times to visit Leavenworth on the weekend is during Oktoberfest in the fall. The town holds one of the best Oktoberfests in Washington, so you’ll want to check it out if you have the chance. Come here for beer, dancing, and other festive things to do in Leavenworth at night.
How to Spend a Weekend in Leavenworth
Here’s a suggested itinerary for a weekend in Leavenworth, including what to see and what to do in Leavenworth. You’ll want to save this Leavenworth itinerary.
Day 1 – Explore the Shops
I recommend leaving early on Friday to get the most out of your weekend in Leavenworth. The main area of Leavenworth can get crowded, especially during summer and the holidays, so it’s best to get there before everyone.
If you are able to get an early check-in at your hotel, head into town to have lunch at Leavenworth Sausage Garten. Those who have been to Germany before will love how much this resembles a German beer garden.
They have a variety of German sausages, hot dogs, veggie dogs, and several dozen different kinds of ketchup. Make sure to order a pint of German beer to go with it.
You’ll love how many fun things to do in Leavenworth there are. After lunch, head over to the Nutcracker Museum to see more nutcrackers than you’ve ever seen in your life.
If you’re looking for a snack, head over for a scoop at ice cream at Whistlepunk. They have delicious flavors which are often based on the season, such as huckleberry ice cream.
There are also many places to go wine tasting in Leavenworth, and you don’t even need to drive anywhere during your 3 days in Leavenworth. Icicle Ridge Winery is a good place to taste local wine and you can enjoy the weather by sitting outside.
Baroness Cellars Leavenworth is another great place for Leavenworth wine tasting that has a European-style tasting room.
For dinner, head to Watershed Cafe. This is a farm-to-table restaurant that changes their menu on a daily basis. I recommend the daily seafood options, as they always have a creative flair to them. Make sure to check out their cocktail menu while you’re there as well.
After dinner, watch alphorns play at the Front Street Park Gazebo, which is one of the more popular Leavenworth attractions. I love live music, and hearing Bavarian music with musicians dressed up in traditional clothing is a treat. You might even see people start dancing around when they get really into it.
Day 2 – Get Outdoors
Before you start your morning activities in Leavenworth, head to Good Mood Food for breakfast. They have plenty of healthy choices to choose from, including fresh juice.
There are many Leavenworth activities to do when you wake up, but I recommend you take advantage of the hiking near Leavenworth. Many people just take a day trip from Seattle to go hiking here, but you’ll appreciate not having such an early morning start.
No matter how short or long your hike is, add at least one hike to your list of what to do in Leavenworth in the summer. The weather is absolutely gorgeous during this time of the year.
After all that activity, you’ll be ready for lunch. Head to Munchen Haus for another German meal of pretzels and sausage. For your afternoon activities in Leavenworth, check out all the shops in town.
There are many boutique shops, souvenir stores, and specialty chocolate stores. Be sure to stop by The Taffy Shop to have your pick of dozens of different taffies and a variety of candy from your childhood.
For dinner, you’ll have a taste of Latin food at SOUTH. Grab a seat outside on the back patio and order the basil ginger margarita, one of their specials. It’s a good place for dinner or just happy hour.
If you’re looking for a fun thing to do in Leavenworth after dinner, check out The Sound of Music at the Leavenworth Summer Theater. It’s the perfect way to end a relaxing summer night.
You can also check out Art in the Park, where local artists bring their paintings, jewelry, and more from May until October.
Day 3 – Spend the Morning Relaxing
On your last day, start with breakfast at The Gingerbread Factory. It’s a charming cafe with coffee and pastries, and of course, gingerbread. It makes you feel like you’re in a fairytale, which will make it hard to go back home. You could also get a day pass to Posthotel’s spa for the morning.
A great way to spend your Sunday morning is by walking around Waterfront Park when you’re looking for what to do in Leavenworth. There’s a trail that follows the river through town to walk on. During the warmer months, dozens of people take their Intertubes here for a lazy day of floating on the river.
For lunch on your way out of town, stop by Icicle Brewing Company. They have a variety of items for lunch, such as salads, sandwiches, and soup. There is also plenty of German-style beer to try, and they’re a kid-friendly brewery.
When you leave Leavenworth, carve some time into your schedule to explore fun things to do in Wenatchee. You’ll jump on east on Highway 2 and then go south on Highway 97 for a 30-minute ride. There are plenty of things to do in Wenatchee, including a river walk, hikes, and many local breweries.
You should now have plenty of ideas for how to spend a weekend in Leavenworth. With so many things to do in Leavenworth, you can make your vacation your own with a mix of relaxation or adventure. You’ll find it hard to leave this Bavarian-theme village!