When bored urban planning committees “seek to revitalize,” places like Leavenworth are born. What this means for the easily distracted is that all we have to do is drive two hours northeast of Seattle, and gesundheit, we’ve hit Bavaria-land, a place where beer and sausages reign supreme. It’s where even the banks, gas stations and fast food restaurants have to abide by the gingerbread-house building code. And where goats mow the grass (although they find the whole thing a bit much, too), and idiot tourists pet the goats (yes, that’s my hand in the photo; at least my fingers are tucked in).
Lamenting our historical lack of local road trips, I planned a two-night mid-week stay for the height of the hot in Leavenworth, when hiking, rafting and inner tubing are the activities du jour. In the week leading up to it, forest fires broke out in several surrounding areas, and a stretch of Highway 2 into town was closed. We took the alternate, equally easy, and beautiful route through Blewett Pass, and arrived just as the only storm front the area will probably see for the summer moved in.
Unenthused by the rain, we didn’t hike, but the helpful woman in the tourist information office gave us a good map of the trail options, and knew enough about inclines and durations to help us pick what would have been an appropriate route for our criteria. Nor did we inner tube down the Wenatchee River; I was all ready to go had there not been thunder and lightning. The intel on tubing, however, is that some companies want you to drive 10 miles to Cashmere, then float to Leavenworth, at which point they’ll shuttle you back to Cashmere, but there are outfits who start by shuttling you upriver, so you float right into home base. We were going to go with Leavenworth Outdoor Center, who also seem to offer a longer float if you start before 2 pm than some of the other places.
We didn’t mind that our visit lost all structure as soon as the skies opened up; a sleep-in and slow breakfast are never a bad thing. In between rain showers, we walked the streets and supported the local economy by purchasing consumables (divine creations from Schocolat, and our new favorite soap from The Bubblery). If you’re a trinket collector, Leavenworth is loaded. It has a nutcracker shop, with the Nutcracker Museum upstairs, and between all the boutiques, you can easily find the words “man cave” on any object you desire: Mug? BBQ apron? Golf bag? Check, check, check. Vessel in which you put the blood of your best hunting buddy to hold sacred the time you shot your first squirrels together? I have no doubt it’s there on the shelves, too.
All in all, the town is novel and the setting scenic. It’s an accessible location for anyone coming from Seattle or B.C., and would make a fabulous spot for a family reunion or trip with the kids. (We heard it’s jam-packed on weekends, so were glad to be there mid-week. It also gets extremely busy for Oktoberfest, of course.) But for the same reasons I can’t stomach the Eiffel Tower in Las Vegas—or Vegas itself, to be honest—I found myself more drawn to the mountains around it than the town itself. In that sense, I guess, Leavenworth has something for everyone, whether made by man, or Mother Earth.
Have you ever been to a theme town? Or a place that was unique in its consistency of character? Please share!