Living in Leavenworth, Washington

Thinking of living in Leavenworth, Washington, or planning a vacation there? Here are some things to consider.

Leavenworth is located on the drier east-central side of the beautiful Cascade mountains of Washington state and gets a definite hard four seasons -- warm springs where the wild meadows and town’s streets explode with blossoms, hot summers, gorgeous long falls, and snowfall often late November through March.

Leavenworth, a purposeful Bavarian-themed very small town, was a favorite destination for me while growing up, and it became the place where my kids grew up each Christmas season, and we occasionally visited in spring there during their May Day festival (Maefest).

It really does give you the feeling of being in a village in the Bavarian mountains. I’ve been to the real thing in Europe, though in Europe it’s a little more “real” (sprawling rather than just condensed to one small town, and not quite as “showcase perfect” as this tourist town).

Each Christmas up until the 23rd, we stayed at the Enzian hotel where we could enjoy the bustling, holiday lighted snowy town right outside the door. We’d walk the storybook Christmasy streets and shops, especially the book stores. Our family was addicted to books and we’d find cozy nooks in those shops and read a new treasure, then usually buy one or two.

Sometimes, all four of us tubed or sledded down the town’s hill. Starting at the top, you were facing the lighted fairy tale town, and slid down towards it where bales of straw would stop you from going too far into the street. Other times, my husband and I would sit in a warm restaurant drinking hot cider and eating soup where we could see our kids through the restaurant window, still enjoying the sledding with other kids from various parts of the state visiting Leavenworth.

To actually live in Leavenworth, Washington, which is something I’ve considered and am still tempted at times, here are some things to consider. Obviously, one would need to be enthusiastic about the Bavarian theme. Businesses for those living in Leavenworth, Washington of course, do well if they cater to tourists. The Bavarian theme is so prevalent that even the local McDonald’s is Bavarian-themed -- a feat which I thought was impossible with that mammoth corporation insisting on its architectural brand being strictly adhered to.

Being someone who loves small town living but likes somewhat easy access to larger airports and metropolitan areas not terribly far away, living in Leavenworth, Washington could fit that bill -- depending on what “close” means to you. It’s only about a couple hours from Leavenworth to Seattle. Yet Leavenworth still feels like a world away, with a 180 degree different climate being on the other side of the mountains than maritime Seattle. However, to get to Seattle from Leavenworth, you drive over Stevens Pass with only two lanes for most of the way, and being a mountain pass, driving conditions in the winter call for typical snowy mountain caution.  
In between Leavenworth and Seattle, though, there is a nice ski lodge about 35 or 40 miles from Leavenworth.

Leavenworth is surrounded by beautiful mountains and rural property. Winter sports in the area includes cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and horse sleigh riding. However, there’s not a larger ski and snowboarding resort nearby (just the one -- and it's a nice one -- mentioned above that can take at least an hour from Leavenworth to drive to in winter). A closer larger resort could serve many families well for when their kids become teens and outgrow the sledding on the smaller hill in town. In the more rural areas of Leavenworth, destination farms, B&Bs and horse-drawn carriage or sleigh rides are popular, seeing as though the town draws tourists in all seasons.

Farm and farm animal owners would need to be aware that summer pastures need supplemental watering, and there needs to be plenty of hay in the barn for the long snow covered winters.

Here's a shot of the May Pole festival and dance just as the dancers have finished weaving the ribbons around the pole.

Below it is a shot of the May Pole set up before the dancers and all the crowds have shown up to watch the show. You can see some of the stunning mountains that surround this village.

In a way, living in Leavenworth, Washington allows one to have the business traffic and town income of a larger city with people visiting from all over the world (if you don’t mind the tourists coming in and out numbering in the millions), but still live in a town with a very small population away from larger cities. I’ve known people in other very small travel destination towns (such as Sedona, AZ) who didn’t like to travel -- they loved putting their roots down in one small town location -- but they loved that their town was a popular travel destination because it allowed them to meet people from all over the world without doing any traveling of their own.

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