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Leavenworth in Fall: An alpine wonderland in the Pacific Northwest
Huddled under a heat lamp in the beer garden, our faces were flushed red and warm. It wasn’t yet the end of October, but the wind in Leavenworth in fall was biting. On our way there, we even witnessed our first snow of the season.
The blue ridges of the Cascades seem to have their own thermometer and set of rules when it comes to the weather. I puffed out smoke with each breath, but the fall festivities in Leavenworth sees no shortage of Oktoberfest goers bracing the cold in skimpy Bavarian-inspired outfits.
Throngs of men in lederhosen with felt hats and women donning colourful dirndls over puffy short sleeves passed by, accompanied by jolly cheers and drunken slurs. Out of nowhere, a table belted out I want it that way… and I couldn’t help but chime in at the chorus.
Visiting Leavenworth from Seattle
Leavenworth is about a two and a half-hour drive from Seattle via US Highway 2. There is also public transit between Leavenworth and Wenatchee for those taking up lodging in neighbouring areas. For the three Oktoberfest weekends in the month of October, shuttle services are available for a small fee. My friends and I opted to drive from Seattle to Leavenworth for a day trip.
At Stevens Pass, flurries went splat against the windshield. Within seconds, grey fog obscured our view. I was staring at something on my phone when my friend told me to look up. I was shocked at the snowy landscape that surrounded us. Luckily, this didn’t last long. The landscape soon resumed its colourful facade, with greens and reds dotting the bald cliff faces.
We arrived in Leavenworth on the last Oktoberfest weekend and had to make do with paid parking that cost between $20-30, depending on the walking distance to the town centre.
Tourists flock to Leavenworth all year round. But fall in Leavenworth is simply breathtaking.
Leavenworth transitioned from a dwindling settler town in central Washington to a Bavaria-inspired tourist hotspot in the 1960s. It’s easy to see why this new identity sticks. The chiseled blue ridges of the Cascades are coloured by the colourful storefronts and ornately embellished rooftops. Leavenworth both resembles a quaint village in the Alps and has no shortage of kitschy gift shops either.
In fall, the magic of the season is even more pronounced with Oktoberfest to ring in the festivities, and vibrant flora to complete the experience.
The walk to town was short but absolutely enrapturing with snow-veined mountains looming in the near distance. It didn’t take long for us to catch the first glimpse of the festivities ahead, as a group of costume-clad partygoers passed by.
Soon, rows of houses styled after the distinctive looks of the Bauernhaus completed our imagination of Old World Bavaria. Each building is different from one another, some donning bright, cheery coats of colours, others with decorative trims and murals, and still others in a classic combination of wood and stucco walls.
Fall festivities in Leavenworth: Oktoberfest
The fall season sees one of the biggest celebrations in Leavenworth– Oktoberfest, which is said to be “the next best thing to being in Munich”. In this festive atmosphere, music rings through the village while the pubs and restaurants are teemed with crowds.
As the day drew on, crowds gathered around the fenced venue and got ready for a night-long celebration. We stopped some people to take photos, feeling severely underdressed for the occasion.
Food, drinks, and shops
For lunch, it was a no-brainer to get some bratwurst and sauerkraut. The lines were expectedly long but efficient, and the trick was to divide and conquer. One person went to scout for a table, while the other went to place the order. We sat in the outdoor terrace of Leavenworth Sausage Garten, which boasts sausages made in-house.
The bratwurst was heavy on black pepper. Dense and packed in flavour, it went perfectly with the refreshing IPA. I couldn’t resist a bite of the pretzel as well, despite being on the keto diet. The piping hot pastry, sprinkled with sea salt and dipped in sour cream was a cool twist.
Fall is the perfect time to indulge in all things nice and spice. By afternoon, we were craving some sweet desserts, so we stopped at The Gingerbread Factory. We got a cinnamon bun, the size of my face. Once heated, the gooey, sticky sweetness covered our hands and mouths.
Fall foliage in Leavenworth
The highlight of a trip to Leavenworth in fall would have to be the foliage that frame the photos. After soaking in the festive spirit in the downtown streets, we went leaf peeping in the waterfront park, where the paths followed the winding river to an astounding landscape.