Combining charming alpine scenery, an abundance of family-friendly activities, and winter outdoor recreation, there’s nothing quite like a Leavenworth Washington Christmas! Our guide will help you plan your visit to this magical destination during the holiday season.
Leavenworth, Washington shines in every season. As cliche as that may sound, this delightful town is always full of charm! However, come winter, Leavenworth becomes even more magical. With the entire town decking itself out in twinkling lights, a ton of festive activities and events, and even a traditional European Christmas market, it’s easy to see why so many people come to experience a unique Leavenworth Washington Christmas.
With its charming Bavarian architecture and cobblestone streets, a winter evening here feels like a quick trip to Europe. Combine that with the perpetually joyful, bustling air that seems to envelop the city — especially in the first few weeks of December. Expect tons of Bavarian pretzels, elaborate costumes, hot drinks, and other Christmas-themed fun!
One of the things that makes Leavenworth such a fantastic winter destination is that there’s a ton to explore outdoors before the evening celebrations. From snowshoeing and skiing to sledding and sleigh rides, the spectacular nature surrounding Leavenworth is perfect for wintertime adventure. Just because it’s cold, certainly doesn’t mean it’s inaccessible!
A Leavenworth Washington Christmas is truly dreamy. Let’s dive into all the unforgettable things to do, see, eat, and drink this winter!
- What to expect
- Things to do during Christmas time
- Tips for enjoying Christmas in Leavenworth
- Where to stay
Psst! Before you go, be sure to read our complete guide to Leavenworth Washington, including things to do in all seasons, plus our favorites places to eat and lots of insider tips we picked up while living there for a season.
What to expect for your Leavenworth Washington Christmas
Spending your holiday in Leavenworth Washington during Christmas time is a magical experience, but requires some advanced planning. Here’s everything you need to know about spending the holiday season in Leavenworth.
When is Christmas in Leavenworth celebrated?
Leavenworth Washington Christmas festivities span several months.
The lights start on Thanksgiving weekend, the same time Christkindlmarkt kicks off. Other themed activities continue through December, there’s a winter carnival in January, and the lights are taken down in February.
When can I see the Christmas lights in Leavenworth?
To ease overcrowding in town, Leavenworth no longer hosts a lighting ceremony. Instead, you can visit the Bavarian village anytime from late November to February to see the magical town lit up, all the time.
What is Krampusnacht?
Leavenworth’s Bavarian influence extends beyond pretzels, beer, and mulled wine…like this dark twist on St. Nicholas. Krampusnacht, always the weekend closest to December 5th, is an Austrian and German holiday celebrating Krampus’ lore.
While the town doesn’t officially organize any Krampusnacht events, you’ll see many folks wearing horned costumes and “scaring” children on the naughty list.
Things to do during Christmas time in Leavenworth
Get ready for a major dose of holiday cheer with all the fun Leavenworth Washington Christmas activities!
1. Stroll through the Village of Lights
Kicking off on Thanksgiving weekend, everything centers around the Village of Lights in Leavenworth. Organized on pedestrian-friendly Main Street, this is where the magic of small-town Christmas comes alive.
Expect a warm, festive atmosphere with entire buildings decked out in lights, cheery music, and local businesses roasting chestnuts and offering hot cocoa.
The city organizes tons of fun activities — areas for writing letters to Santa, ornament and gingerbread house decorating, and even a gift-wrapping station. This main stretch of town is the primary reason so many Leavenworth Washington Christmas and it’s easy to see why.
2. Visit the Leavenworth Reindeer Farm
Interested in seeing Rudolph’s siblings in real life? Head to the Leavenworth Reindeer Farm to interact with the majestic animals in a conservation-focused environment. This family-run business lets visitors hand-feed the reindeer, and there are plenty of opportunities for photo ops with the herd!
Around Christmas time, look out for special themed events, like campfire nights and Santa Claus appearances. Make sure to book in advance, as tickets do sell out.
3. Shop at the Christkindlmarkt
Held over the long Thanksgiving weekend in Front Street Park, Christkindlmarkt is one of Leavenworth’s most beloved holiday attractions.
Modeled after traditional European wintertime markets, expect local artisanal producers selling everything from handmade ornaments and toys to cookies and locally brewed beverages. The atmosphere is bustling and there’s always a festive Christmas soundtrack playing in the background, with dozens of wholesome events including a lantern parade.
4. Go on a sleigh ride
One of the most approachable (and fun!) ways to immerse yourself in Leavenworth’s wintertime surroundings is by taking a sleigh ride. Enjoy an almost-hour-long excursion through the mountains and valleys, while being pulled by horses wearing festive bells.
The scenery is wonderful and the excursion ends with hot cider around a campfire—the epitome of Leavenworth Washington Christmas. Carriages are available in different sizes, ranging from private rides all the way up to groups of 16.
5. Try snowshoeing or cross-country skiing
It may not be considered hiking season, but that doesn’t mean you can’t exercise outside. Leavenworth is home to several excellent places to enjoy snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
Of the two, snowshoeing is more beginner-friendly. Consider renting a pair (several places in town offer inexpensive rentals) and exploring around Leavenworth to see how you like it before venturing further out to trails like Icicle Ridge.
Before you go anywhere, check out this guide to snowshoeing for beginners!
Cross-country skiing is just a bit more difficult than snowshoeing, but well worth trying. Keep in mind that it generally requires groomed trails. Head to one of the rental shops in town to learn about routes and pick up some gear.
6. Go sledding or tubing
Sledding may seem like an activity for kids…until you find the right hill! Truly a fun affair for all ages, this is one Leavenworth Washington Christmas activity that never disappoints. Front Street Park is popular and free for sledding.
Alternatively, head to Lt. Michael Adams Tubing Park at the Leavenworth Winter Sports Club. A rental is included with admission, so there’s no need to bring your own sleds or tubes, and they’ll even haul your tube to the top of the hill for you.
7. Eat your heart out at the Gingerbread Factory
Enjoying the snow and crisp winter air is great and all, but what are the holidays without a sweet treat?
The super cute Gingerbread Factory is bursting with several amazing types of cookies, ornate gingerbread houses, and other baked goods. It’s the perfect spot for a morning coffee or afternoon snack, and the building is hard to miss. Just look for the real-life gingerbread house in the center of town.
8. Check out the Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum
Smack in the center of Leavenworth is an unusual, quirky museum — that’s also a seemingly perfect fit for this holiday-loving town. The Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum lives up to its name, with over 9,000 (yes you read that correctly!) nutcrackers.
In addition to the enormous figurine collection, the museum also hosts DIY nutcracker making workshops. Check the calendar before planning your visit!
With over 150 miles of trails across varying terrain, elevations, and difficulty, it’s safe to say Leavenworth is paradise for snowmobilers. Whether you’re new to this thrilling sport or have some prior experience, stop into one of the three rental shops in town to hit the trails.
10. Go skiing or snowboarding at Stevens Pass Resort
Why not add skiing or snowboarding to your Leavenworth Washington Christmas itinerary? After all, the town has it all when it comes to outdoor pursuits.
Stevens Pass Ski Resort is only 40 minutes from town and has 54 runs that span a variety of terrain and difficulty levels. The views are gorgeous and there are a handful of shops and restaurants on the mountain as well.
11. See a Christmas themed show
In a beautiful setting just outside of town, the Icicle Creek Center for the Arts is a cultural gem. Their excellent Christmastime productions cover everything from dance renditions of the Nutcracker to cool showings of The Magic Flute on a giant projector.
Best of all, the center opens its doors to community involvement, organizing everything from adult piano camps to children’s theater camps.
12. Shop for Christmas decor at Kris Kringl
Kris Kingl is something of a legend — not just in Leavenworth, but all around Washington. Jam-packed with every type of holiday-related decor imaginable, it’s safe to say the store goes above and beyond.
Even if you don’t plan to buy anything, be sure to pop in. All the products are arranged in impressive sets and their rare ornaments are really something you have to see to believe!
13. Try some of the winter brews at the local breweries
Leavenworth’s Bavarian theme means plenty of tasty local brews, and the town loves a good seasonal offering.
The aptly-named Icicle Brewery serves up several fun wintertime releases. Toast your Leavenworth Washington Christmas experience with a fun beer like German chocolate cake ale. Alternatively, head to Blewett for some nice winter taps accompanied by delicious pizza.
14. Have a soak at Scenic Hot Springs
Its name is not an overstatement — Scenic Hot Springs is indeed one of the most magical, picturesque hot springs in Washington. In fact, it’s our personal favorite!
There are three hot tubs suspended in a remote valley with a stunning view of the Cascades, but it doesn’t come easy.
The hot springs are on private property, so you have to reserve a spot well in advance and the trail is a bit tricky, requiring an uphill hike. In the winter, this often involves snowshoes. However, all your efforts will absolutely be rewarded!
Use our guide to visiting Scenic Hot Springs on our sister site for everything you need to know about making a reservation and how to get there.
15. Celebrate Winter Karneval
Leavenworth Washington Christmas doesn’t end on December 26th—a whole new round of festivities continues into January.
The town’s festive lights are still up, serving as a beautiful backdrop for a fireworks show, a fierce ice-carving competition, and classic carnival entertainment. With abundant snow, all of the outdoor activities are also at their peak well into the new year.
Tips for enjoying your Leavenworth Washington Christmas
- Bring plenty of patience for the inevitable crowds and traffic. The delights of a Leavenworth Washington Christmas are no secret!
- Accommodation can be difficult to find. Reserve far in advance or consider staying in a nearby town like Wenatchee.
- Parking is an issue, so it’s best to utilize the Link Bus, which offers a free park-and-ride option. The shuttle runs seven days a week and departs from behind Safeway.
- It gets very cold in Leavenworth, especially in comparison to Seattle, so bring adequate winter clothing.
- To enjoy the same lights and snowy magic with far fewer crowds, visit Leavenworth just after Christmas in January/February.
- There are several free public restrooms throughout town. One is in Leavenworth Festhalle, one is at Front Street Park, and another is at 8th and Commercial Street.
Where to stay in Leavenworth
There are plenty of excellent accommodations to choose from in Leavenworth, catering to a variety of tastes and budgets.
Bavarian Lodge: Situated right on Main Street, you can see the Christmas lights right from your room and walk just about everywhere.
Sleeping Lady Resort: Set in a beautiful valley, this property is especially beautiful in the wintertime and has a ton of snowshoe trails nearby.
Icicle Village Resort: An especially family-friendly hotel with a hot tub, (seasonal) outdoor pool, free breakfast buffet, and free parking.
Enzian Inn: Just off the main town center, this property has an indoor pool and hot tub, free breakfast buffet, and offers guests complimentary cross-country skiing equipment in the winter.
Leavenworth also has a fairly large Airbnb market, ranging from cozy, romantic cabins for couples to affordable apartments right in town. Especially around Christmas time, make sure to book your property well in advance!
Are you planning a PNW trip?
You’ll definitely want to check out these articles to help you plan your trip!
- Top places to see in Washington State (our favorite US state!).
- Read this if you’re going to Olympic National Park!
- Read up on all the fun things to do in Seattle.
- Headed south? Read up on all the unique things to do in Portland.
- Plus, you’ll want a list of the best places to visit in Oregon!
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Are you planning a magical Leavenworth Washington Christmas trip and still have questions? Leave your comment below and we’ll do our best to get back to you!