Updated September 27, 2019

The Christmas season is coming! Snow-filled landscapes and mountain goodness! Holiday decorations and seasonal drinks! Lights! Lights! And more lights!!

Sorry, we tend to get a wee bit excited when the holiday season rolls around. While Seattle may tend towards being a bit…ahem…drab during this time of year, there happens to be a winter wonderland chock-full of snow, fun and festivities waiting to be explored in your own backyard.

Only a short and scenic deluxe motorcoach ride away, the snowy mountain village of Leavenworth brims with plenty of holiday magic and cheer during the town’s old-fashioned Christmas Lighting Festival. (Inside tip: Book early, we sell this tour out each year!)

The event culminates each weekend night in December (the 7th, 8th, 14th, 15th, 21st & 22nd), when the whole town comes alive with lights. One of our favorite tours (and yours!), here are 12 reasons you must experience the Leavenworth Christmas Lighting Festival.

1. Jaw-Dropping Scenic Mountain Views

For journey junkies, the three-hour ride northeast over the Cascades offers a sense of escape few other forms of travel can offer. A rare kind of trip that affords the opportunity to sit back and take in the region’s spectacular geography while someone else does the driving, allowing you to arrive relaxed and ready for adventure.

Incomparable views begin right away. Admire Jack Frost’s handiwork as you wind your way through the frozen mountain passes and watch as snowflakes gently fall on quiet forests.

There is nothing more magical than watching the snow fall on the surrounding forests. Photo: Spencer Thomas
There is nothing more magical than watching the snowfall on the surrounding forests. Photo: Spencer Thomas

When hunger strikes, dig into your Clipper-provided breakfast box and nosh on a Blazing Bagels cranberry orange muffin and Zoi honey Greek yogurt. Just don’t forget to keep gazing out at the natural beauty that surrounds you.

When you start seeing the snow-covered banks of the Wenatchee River, it means you are mere moments away from Leavenworth’s postcard-perfect scene. Rows of classic Bavarian-style buildings decked out in their holiday finest stand against frosted peaks. Scramble off the bus and soak in the sights, sounds and smells of this festive Christmas-themed town.

Soak in scenic views of the icy blue Wenatchee River on your way into town. Photo: Scott Meis
Soak in scenic views of the icy blue Wenatchee River on your way into town. Photo: Scott Meis

2. A Bounty of Boutique Holiday Shopping

Of course, when visiting a quaint town filled with a treasure trove of unique boutiques and galleries, a little retail therapy is an essential part of your trip. Meandering down Front Street, it’s hard to resist the chance to snag some last-minute Christmas décor. Duck into Kris Kringl, the town’s year-round Christmas store for a huge assortment of holiday items.

Blanketed in snow and lights, Leavenworth is a veritable winter wonderland. Photo: Leavenworth Chamber of Commerce
Blanketed in snow and lights, Leavenworth is a veritable winter wonderland. Photo: Leavenworth Chamber of Commerce

If you need something to warm your noggin, head to the renowned Hat Shop. Try on everything from Viking helmets complete with blonde Brunhilda braids to fascinators like the ones worn at royal weddings.

Thousands of lights cover the town, from street poles to the Bavarian-style storefronts.
Thousands of lights cover the town, from street poles to the Bavarian-style storefronts.

Fashionistas should be sure to check out the open and sunny, Posy Handpicked Goods. The shop has an artfully curated collection of small-batch goods that includes luxurious body oils and scrubs, delicate handmade jewelry and stylish home décor. You are sure to bring home more than a few exceptional finds for Christmas.

3. An Entire Museum Bursting with Nutcrackers

Tuck inside the famous Nutcracker Museum to pay homage to one of the beloved icons of the holiday season – the nutcracker! Roam through the two-story building to discover the world’s most extensive collection of nutcrackers.

It's wall-to-wall nutcrackers in every style imaginable inside this charming museum. Credit: The Nutcracker Museum
It’s wall-to-wall nutcrackers in every style imaginable inside this charming museum. Credit: The Nutcracker Museum

Approximately 7,000 metal, porcelain, ivory and wooden figurines from more than 50 countries line the shelves. Catch sight of the whole cast of Wizard of Oz, Disney and Star Wars characters, US presidents and more! Don’t forget say “hi” to Karl, the museum’s larger-than-life mascot.

Looking for a nutcracker with a shield? We found him. Credit: The Nutcracker Museum
Looking for a nutcracker with a shield? We found him. Credit: The Nutcracker Museum

Up for a scavenger hunt-style adventure? Embark on a self-guided kids nutcracker hunt! Arm yourselves with a list, pencil and your eagle eyes and explore the museum to track down every nutcracker on the list. If you find them all, your efforts will be rewarded with a special prize. (Psst – museum admission is free for five-years-old and under!)

4. The Chance to Make Friends with a Reindeer

Meet Santa’s adorable four-legged crew at the Leavenworth Reindeer Farm. Surrounded by snow-capped mountains, it’s a true winter wonderland. Seriously, you’ll feel like you’ve arrived at the North Pole.

How can you not fall in love with these enchanting creatures? Credit: Marcelina Honka

Soak up the history of the family-run farm and more than a handful of fascinating reindeer facts. Then, let your childhood dreams come true and pet, feed (they’ll eat straight out of your hand!) and snap selfies with the endearing creatures to your heart’s content. It’s pure magic.

5. Fantastic Seasonal Sips

Cozy up in Leavenworth’s unofficial town living room at Icicle Brewing and sip on a lineup of frothy brews made with local ingredients (Seriously, even the water is sourced down the street at Icicle Creek). We recommend pairing their exceptional bar bites with a pint of the Bootjack IPA, Colchuck Raspberry Wheat or Crosscut Pilsner.

At Icicle Brewery you can sample over seven different tasty brews. We'll cheers to that!
At Icicle Brewery you can sample over seven different tasty brews. We’ll cheers to that!

Want to pair your beer (or should we say bier?) with a giant, house-made pretzel? Look no further than the newly opened Rhein Haus. Not only does the German-inspired beer hall have phenomenal local beers and eats, but the rustic, pinewood-filled space also boasts three bars, a massive outdoor patio and Front Street’s largest Biergarten.

6. Soul-Warming Winter Wine Tastings

Continue down Front Street and check out the Chelan-based Hard Row to Hoe Vineyards. Sample the tasting room favorite, “Seduction” or their unique, crisp Pinot Noir rose. A few doors down, pop into the log-sided Icicle Ridge Winery tasting room to savor the vineyard’s award-winning white Riesling or their highly-acclaimed red blend, “Romanze.”

Cuddle up by the fireplace at the Icicle Ride Winery Tasting room and sip one of their amazing wines.
Cuddle up by the fireplace at the Icicle Ridge Winery Tasting room and sip one of their amazing wines.

Looking for something different? Indulge in the sweeter side of life and sip on the Huckleberry or Raspberry Riesling. Deliciously fruity, they pair excellently with dessert and are absolute perfection.

7. Harmonious Christmas Shows

It wouldn’t be the holidays without festive tunes. Gather around the Front Street Gazebo to catch musical performances by a top-ranking Army National Guard Dixie band, breakout solo artists and some of the best high school and professional choirs in the Pacific Northwest.

Catch live performances under the Front Street Gazebo.
Catch live performances under the Front Street Gazebo.

The sweet tunes don’t stop there. Follow the sound of carols floating through the air as Leavenworth’s talented Village Voices choir serenades you with joyous Christmas songs while you peek into frosted store windows.

Or tap your toes to live authentic Bavarian beats while sipping a German-style beer. Head to the barn-shaped Icicle Creek Center for the Arts for melodious handbell concerts, a Celtic yuletide songfest, crooning bluegrass and more.

8. Frosty Fun – Sledding, Tubing and Ski Jumping in Leavenworth

When the snow flies, one look around town tells you all you need to know about sledding and tubbing in Leavenworth – the opportunities are endless! Front Street Park’s gently sloping lawn transforms into the town’s sledding hill, where little tykes can get their thrill whizzing down the knoll under a rainbow of blinking Christmas lights.

Smooth slopes offer the perfect snow day sledding spot.
Smooth slopes offer the perfect snow day sledding spot.

More adventurous kiddos will love the slippery slopes of the historic Leavenworth Ski Hill. Zip down the 100-foot tubing hill or launch off the 27-meter ski jump – it’s the only one on the West Coast! Gasp. Laugh. Repeat.

Soar through the air at the Leavenworth Ski Hill. Credit: Ski Leavenworth
Soar through the air at the Leavenworth Ski Hill. Credit: Ski Leavenworth

9. Festive Sleigh Rides for the Kids and Kids at Heart

Snow-dusted scenery. Trotting horses. The soft “shush” sound of sleigh runners gliding over fresh powder. Jingling bells. Warm, cozy blankets pulled up to your shoulders. There’s something storybook-esque about dashing through the snow on a horse-drawn sleigh.

Cozy up behind might horses as they pull you through a winter wonderland.
Cozy up behind might horses as they pull you through a winter wonderland.

Hail a ride from one of the carriages operating in downtown Leavenworth or venture out to a local farm for a ride through the region’s valleys and mountainous landscape. Either way, all traces of reality are quickly left behind as you glide past scenic meadows, woods and rivers.

10. Holiday Hunger? Leavenworth to the Rescue

After an hour or two of walking around town and taking in the nutty aroma of roasting chestnuts and the smell of brats sizzling on the grill, a case of the hungries is sure to develop. Follow your nose to the popular sausage house, Sausage Garten and feast on a selection of house-made bratwurst, currywurst, kielbasa, chorizo and Copenhagen street dogs.

For a larger lunch or early dinner, head inside Sulla Vita’s beautifully crafted, reclaimed wood dining room. A local foodie favorite, the restaurant serves up handcrafted small plates cooked in a wood-fired oven.

Everything from wood-fired pizzas to chorizo and sharp white cheddar stuffed mushrooms await you at Sulla Vita. Photo: Dzhan Wiley
Everything from wood-fired pizzas to chorizo and sharp white cheddar stuffed mushrooms await you at Sulla Vita. Photo: Dzhan Wiley

To get a taste of all the deliciousness, order up as many of these treats as your heart desires (we recommend the gorgonzola stuffed dates, Caprese salad or the sulla vita platter). Pair them with one of the vintages from what may be one of most impressive wine lists in town and you have the perfect meal.

Down the road, the brick-lined Watershed Café is the epitome of culinary goodness in the Pacific Northwest. With a farm-to-table menu that changes daily, expect a new experience every time you visit. Keep an eye out for a few of our favorites, such as the teriyaki roasted wild king salmon or the SRF slow-roasted kurobuta pork chop.

Save room for the restaurant’s warm flourless chocolate cake. Served with house-made caramel sauce, San Juan sea salt and local vanilla ice cream, it is a little piece of chocolate heaven.

Chocolaty, smooth and pilled with whipped cream, this is one dessert you don't want to miss. Photo: Dzhan Wiley
Chocolaty, smooth and topped with whipped cream, this is one dessert you don’t want to miss. Photo: Dzhan Wiley

11. A Lineup of Decedent Gingerbread Factory Desserts

Get a taste of the flavor of the season at the Gingerbread Factory. With a friendly staff, relaxed atmosphere and the scent of freshly baked cookies wafting through the air, this adorable little shop will make you feel like you’ve stepped into grandma’s house.

Eat your way through a lineup of delicious goodies!
Eat your way through a lineup of delicious goodies!

The best part? It’s chock-full of all things gingerbread. Whether it’s slices of old-fashioned gingerbread, fanciful gingerbread houses or ice cream sandwiches with freshly baked gingersnap cookies that tickles your fancy, we bet you won’t be able to eat just one of these mouth-watering confections.

Want more sweet treats? On Sundays, have your kiddos track down free cookies from local businesses by following the Cookie Crawl Map. It’s a great way to scope out the town while the littles burn off extra energy.

12. Holiday Magic Delivered Through More than 500,000 Sparkling Lights

When the last rays of sunlight fade from the horizon, follow the harmonic sounds of alphorns to the Town Square for the highlight of the day – The Christmas Lighting Ceremony. In one magical moment, the entire town comes to life with a synchronized display of more than half a million sparkling lights and live music.

Listen to songs performed by breakout solo artists and some of the best high school and professional choirs in the Pacific Northwest as you sled by the Front Street Gazebo. Photo: Leavenworth Chamber of Commerce
Listen to songs performed by breakout solo artists and some of the best high school and professional choirs in the Pacific Northwest as you sled by the Front Street Gazebo. Photo: Leavenworth Chamber of Commerce

Paired with fluffy white snow, quaint Bavarian buildings and backed by a stunning alpine setting, Leavenworth’s Village of Lights feels like a miniature town plucked straight out of a snow globe. A sight you won’t forget.

Dazzling, brightly hued trees light up the night sky. Photo: Scott Meis
Dazzling, brightly hued trees light up the night sky. Photo: Scott Meis

Bonus: Open-Air Festivities at Christkindlmarkt

If there’s one thing about Leavenworth, it’s that it can never have too many beautiful lights nor places to stock up on unique gifts. Kickoff the holiday season (and skip the Black Friday crowds at the mall) at Christkindlmarkt.

Held in Front Street Park and the Leavenworth Festhalle the weekend following Thanksgiving (November 29-31), the Bavarian-style outdoor Christmas market boasts German eats, handmade arts and crafts and family-friendly entertainment.

Snap a selfie with Mr. and Mrs. Santa Clause inside Christkindlmarkt. Credit: Christkindlmarkt
Snap a selfie with Mr. and Mrs. Santa Clause inside Christkindlmarkt. Credit: Christkindlmarkt

Stick around for the Lantern Parade at 5:00 p.m. and watch families, carrying glowing lanterns, stroll to the Front Street Gazebo behind Mr. and Mrs. Santa Clause. (Join in the fun and craft your own at lantern workshops on Friday & Saturday afternoon). Watch for Christkind, the traditional German giver of gifts, as she shares wishes for the Christmas season.

From snowflakes on your nose to what seems like a million trillion lights, this joyful Bavarian town has endless ways to spark your holiday spirit. Simply put, Leavenworth rocks during the holidays. The Christmas card scenery, fantastic food and drink, outstanding shopping opportunities to get those last-minute gifts and plenty of outdoor activities make for an enchanting Christmas experience.

Additional Trip Planning Information

Is there a bus to Leavenworth?

YES! Clipper Vacations offers weekend day trips to experience Leavenworth’s Christmas Lighting Festival via deluxe motorcoach. Departing from downtown Seattle (Pier 69), Northgate, Bellevue, Auburn, Tacoma and Lynnwood, passengers will ride across the Cascade Mountains to the Bavarian-themed town of Leavenworth.

A complimentary breakfast box including a Blazing Bagels cranberry orange muffin, Zoi honey Greek yogurt, 2 satsuma oranges and a 16 oz. water bottle on board in the morning. On the return trip home, a snack featuring Macrina Bakery Granola Bar Cookies and a 16 oz. water bottle will be provided.

Make your trip to Leavenworth an overnight with a relaxing stay at the Red Lion Bellevue the night before. Get a jump start on the holiday festivities by doing some last-minute holiday shopping at the Bellevue Collection or checking the parade on Snowflake Lane, where “snow” falls every evening.

When is the Leavenworth Christmas Lighting Festival?

The Leavenworth Christmas Lighting Festival is held during the first three weekends (Saturday & Sundays) of December. In 2019, the festival falls on December 7, 8, 14, 15, 21 & 22.

What is there to do in Leavenworth at Christmas?

Famous for its magical Christmas Lighting Ceremonies, there are a number of festive things to do in Leavenworth at Christmas. Catch musical performances in the Front Street Gazebo, shop the array of unique boutiques, sled or tub in local parks, glide over fresh powder on a horse-drawn sleigh and feast on German foods paired with hot spiced wine from traditional Gluhwein tents.

Does Leavenworth have snow?

Leavenworth has an annual snowfall average of 89 inches per year. Check out the Leavenworth Chamber of Commerce webcam to get a look at current ground conditions.

What time is the Christmas Lighting Ceremony in Leavenworth?

The Leavenworth Christmas Lighting Ceremony starts at 4:45 p.m. (dusk) on Saturday and Sundays, when the town is brought to life with more than half a million sparkling lights.

What is there to do in Leavenworth, WA for kids?

There are plenty of kid-friendly things to see and do in Leavenworth. From whizzing down the sledding hill in Front Street Park to meeting local reindeer to tracking down free cookies on the Cookie Crawl Map, there are activities for kids of all ages!

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Feature Photo: Leavenworth Chamber of Commerce