Stunning light display will go on
By Marguerite Cleveland
The holidays will be different this year due to the continuing coronavirus pandemic. And although the annual Christmas Lighting Festival is canceled for 2020, you will still be able to enjoy the stunning light display that the Bavarian Village of Leavenworth is known for. The village has been described as living in a snow globe, and it really does have that quaint old-fashioned feel to it.
“In order to maximize safety for both our residents and our visitors to Leavenworth, the Leavenworth Chamber Board of Directors are taking a series of carefully considered measures that will decrease density in the downtown core while still delivering the magical holiday experience that only Leavenworth can provide,” said Troy Campbell, executive director of the Leavenworth Chamber of Commerce. “Our hope is that this will encourage visitors to enjoy Leavenworth and the Village of Lights display throughout the week and the season, and online, as opposed to drawing large groups together around festival events on those few weekends (in December),” he said.
Where to Stay
The Icicle Village Resort, a short walking distance from downtown Leavenworth, has a variety of accommodations perfect for any size family. Stunning views of the Cascade Mountains from the resort and its German architecture really make it feel like a getaway. Their pet-friendly rooms are not carpeted, which makes for a more sanitary stay when traveling with your furry friends. Dog bowls are provided as well as a toy, a treat and waste bags. Breakfast is included in the room rate. On site is the Alpine Spa, which has COVID-19 procedures in place to ensure a safe visit. During the month of December, children will love the “Elf on the Shelf” event. Five elves are located on the resort grounds. Take an “Elfie” with all five and receive a treat from the Front Desk.
Where to Eat
There are a variety of restaurants to pick from while in Leavenworth, but at this time due to health and safety protocols, seating is extremely limited—so plan to eat where you can make a reservation. With the Bavarian theme of the village, there are many opportunities to enjoy German food. Locally made products like cheese, sausages and house-made cured meats abound. Try the locally brewed beer, the array of wineries and a craft distillery.
The Yodelin Broth Company offers fresh healthy food while causing no unnecessary harm to the environment. Choose from noodle bowls with savory broth, Pacific Northwest rice bowls, as well as a good selection of sandwiches.
For a less crowded experience, JJ Hills Fresh Grill, located in the Icicle Village Resort, serves up Bavarian favorites with a Northwest twist. Seasonal food and drink specials, as well as holiday meals, are available. The outdoor balcony has views of Tumwater Canyon, Icicle Ridge and Leavenworth.
The village has some great choices for dessert, with bakeries serving up German specialties or Christmas Stollen. Schocolat is worth a stop to try the delectable handmade chocolates, made fresh daily in the classic European style. Made with fresh ingredients and in small batches, you can really taste the difference. The smell of cinnamon-infused waffle cones baking draws you into the WhistlePunk Ice Cream Shop. The ice cream and waffle cones are all made from scratch using all-natural ingredients. The ice cream is not super sweet, so you really taste the add-in flavors. Try their hot chocolate float for a winter treat.
What to Do
To get in the holiday spirit, plan a visit to the Leavenworth Reindeer Farm, a family owned business. Make a reservation online to see these amazing creatures. COVID-19 procedures limit the group sizes for each tour, and there is space for social distancing. This year, Santa will remain in his sleigh with a specially designed clear COVID-19 mask. Photos may be taken standing next to the sleigh to keep Santa and his visitors safe. The gift shop is super cute, with a variety of fun reindeer-themed gifts.
The Leavenworth Winter Sports Club has lots of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors this winter. The alpine ski area has two rope tows and a ski jumping hill. Explore the 26 kilometers of Nordic Trails. The tubing hill is super popular. Bring sleds if you have them, as there are lots of spots in and around town to get that adrenaline rush roaring down a hill. Stevens Pass Ski Resort and Mission Ridge Ski Resort are both driving distance from Leavenworth.
For a unique experience, book a snowshoe tour of the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery—which was the largest in the world when it was built in 1940. The Grand Coulee Dam completely blocked fish passage to the upper Columbia River when it was built; the hatchery’s mission was to produce salmon to make up for that impact. The snowshoe tours are offered through the Wenatchee River Institute for $12 and include snowshoes. Tours meet at the hatchery. You must call ahead to book your spot at 509.548.0181.
There is nothing quite like a festive sleigh ride through the snow. Leavenworth Sleigh Rides is only offering private sleigh rides this season, with several different sizes of sleighs seating up to six, 12 or 16 guests. Each ride, which lasts about 50 minutes, takes its guests through scenic open meadows and forests to a barn stop for hot cider around a roaring fire. For safety reasons, you will want to bring your own blankets. No pets are allowed on the sleigh ride.
Plan to spend some time after dark exploring the light display in the village. More than a half a million Christmas Lights transform the town each year. Front Street (the main street in downtown Leavenworth) is closed to vehicle traffic for more social distancing. Shops will be open but limited to 30 percent capacity, so you may have to wait to enter. Try to support the local businesses during your stay, as many rely heavily on tourism for their livelihood. Hours vary with shops closing between 5 and 8pm.
The holiday season in Leavenworth will still be festive despite cancelations and changes. When planning your visit, traffic the first three Saturdays of December will be very heavy, even with the Lighting Festival canceled. If possible, visit during the week, when you will experience less people than on the weekends. Before your trip, verify hours and reservations for activities, lodging and restaurants. With the ongoing pandemic, everything is subject to change if cases begin increasing. Weather is unpredictable this time of year, so be prepared with warm clothes and carry chains for your car.
Where to Stay
Icicle Village Resort - IcicleVillage.com
Where to Eat
Yodelin Broth Company - YodelinBroth.com
JJ Hills Fresh Grill - IcicleVillage.com/JJ-Hills.php
Schocolat - Schocolat.com
WhistlePunk Ice Cream - WhistlePunkIceCream.com
What to Do
Leavenworth Reindeer Farm - LeavenworthReindeer.com
Leavenworth Winter Sports Club - SkiLeavenworth.com
Snowshoe Hatchery Tours - WenatcheeRiverInstitute.org
Leavenworth Sleigh Rides - LeavenworthSleighRides.com