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Plan A Magical Winter Family Trip to Leavenworth with Kids

Aerial shot of snowy Leavenworth town center adorned with holiday lights, showcasing Bavarian-style buildings and festive decorations.

Imagine a snow globe … then picture yourself in it.

There is nothing quite like Leavenworth in the winter. This charming Bavarian-style village, nestled in the Cascade Mountains, transforms into a snow-capped fairy tale each winter, making it an ideal destination for families seeking a blend of outdoor adventure and quaint village charm.

It is such a popular spot for a winter family vacation. There is something for everyone – activities to get the body moving (and energy out), delicious food to eat, wine to taste, a cute little town to stroll, and a quaint and peaceful atmosphere to relax.

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Where to Stay in Leavenworth, Washington

To have the best experience, it’s important to choose the right accommodation. There are two excellent options to consider: hotels and vacation rentals. Each has its own benefits, so choosing the best one depends on what you and your family are looking for. Let’s take a closer look at both options together! 

Hotels in Leavenworth

Bavarian-Themed Hotels: Leavenworth is famous for its Bavarian-style architecture, and many hotels in the area embrace this theme. These hotels often offer family-friendly amenities and are conveniently located near the town’s main attractions.

Amenities and Services: Hotels typically provide services like daily housekeeping, on-site dining, and sometimes included breakfast, which can be a big plus when traveling with kids.

Family Rooms and Suites: Look for hotels that offer family rooms or suites with separate sleeping areas for children. This extra space can be invaluable for comfort and routine.

Indoor Pools and Play Areas: Some hotels in Leavenworth have indoor pools, which can be a great entertainment option for kids, especially after a day out in the cold.

Here is a range of hotels to choose from, all located downtown, which is a great central place to stay especially if you are spending just a weekend in Leavenworth.

Bavarian Lodge

The Bavarian Lodge offers a quintessential mountain town experience with its lodge-style ambiance, making it an ideal choice for a memorable stay. Situated conveniently right across from Leavenworth’s town center, it’s an excellent option for families seeking Bavarian-style lodging within easy walking distance of all the town’s attractions.

Icicle Village Resort

The Icicle Village Resort presents a diverse array of lodging options in a charming village ambiance, ranging from cozy hotel rooms to spacious 3-bedroom condos, many boasting breathtaking views. Guests can enjoy the warmth of the year-round heated pool. For exploring the area, complimentary bicycles are available at the front desk. Engage in fun with the family at the miniature golf course, open seven days a week (seasonally), and don’t worry about leaving your furry friends behind, as the resort is pet-friendly.

A few more hotel options

Vacation Rentals in Leavenworth

Home-Like Comfort: Vacation rentals, such as cabins, cottages, or apartments, offer a home-away-from-home experience. They often come with multiple bedrooms, living areas, and sometimes even outdoor spaces.

Kitchen Facilities: Having a kitchen can be a significant advantage when traveling with children. It allows for easy meal preparation, which is not only cost-effective but also helpful for kids with specific dietary needs.

Privacy and Space: Rentals usually provide more privacy and space, which is excellent for families who need room for their kids to play or adhere to nap schedules.

Unique and Personalized Stays: Vacation rentals often have unique and personal touches that can enhance your stay, making it more memorable.

Here is a vacation homes to choose from, all located downtown, which is a great central place to stay especially if you are spending just a weekend in Leavenworth.

Rockwell Retreat

Rockwell Retreat (4 bedroom, 2 bath): We had a wonderful time at Rockwell Retreat Cottage with our two families and grandparents. The cousins had a blast at this four bedroom house! Rockwell Retreat is a rare, in town find, with plenty of room for extended families, and groups. Take a short stroll to any of Leavenworth’s acclaimed restaurants, pubs, breweries, shops, and boutiques – all within walking distance! The home is a delightful mix of old and new with charming decor. 

Getting There: A Tale of Scenic Beauty and Adventure

Setting out from Seattle to Leavenworth, our family was buzzing with excitement for the wintry magic that awaited us. This road trip, which spans about 2 to 2.5 hours depending on the whims of the weather, is far more than just a route; it’s an integral, scenic chapter of our winter escapade. While there are two main paths to choose from – the adventurous Highway 2 or the I-90 – we opted for the I-90, a decision influenced by its proximity to our home.

🚗 The Start: Urban Seattle to Mountain Vistas

Leaving the City: Our journey began in the bustling city of Seattle. As we navigated out of the urban landscape, the scenery gradually transformed, revealing the natural beauty of Washington State.

🏞️ Through the Cascades: A Shift in Scenery

Snoqualmie Pass: One of the highlights of the drive is crossing the Snoqualmie Pass. This mountain pass is not just a pivotal route but a visual treat, especially in winter when the snow blankets the surrounding peaks and forests.

Weather Check: We made sure to check the pass conditions before leaving, as winter weather can be unpredictable. Carrying chains and preparing for possible snow driving was essential.

🌲 Cle Elum: Our Go-To Pit Stop

A crucial part of our journey, especially with kids in tow, is planning our stops wisely. The Cle Elum Safeway has become our traditional pit stop, perfectly positioned for both necessity and enjoyment.

Why Cle Elum Safeway? About an hour and a half from Seattle, Cle Elum is ideally located for a break. It’s just far enough from the city to warrant a stretch but not too close to Leavenworth. Here’s why it’s our favorite stop:

Potty Break for the Kids: After the initial excitement and the first leg of the journey, this is the perfect time for a restroom break.

Starbucks for the Adults: The Safeway in Cle Elum houses a Starbucks. A caffeine pick-me-up is essential for us to enjoy the beautiful drive ahead.

Snack Refuel: It’s also a great opportunity to grab some snacks, ensuring everyone is happy and energized for the remainder of the trip.

🍂 The Beauty of Highway 97

Post-Cle Elum Drive: The drive through Highway 97 is a reminder of the serene beauty of Washington State. The towering trees and the natural landscape offer a peaceful transition from the bustling city life to the quaint charm of Leavenworth.

A Note on Connectivity and Facilities: It’s important to remember that cell reception is spotty on this highway, and there are no bathroom facilities. So, Cle Elum is not just a convenience but a necessity. We always ensure we’re prepared for this part of the drive, especially with the kids.

🎄 The Final Stretch: Entering the Bavarian Village

Entering Leavenworth: The final leg of the journey into Leavenworth is nothing short of magical. As we approached, the Bavarian-themed architecture began to emerge, creating a sense of stepping into a different world.

Winter Wonderland: Arriving in Leavenworth during winter is like entering a living snow globe. The town’s festive decorations, snow-covered roofs, and the backdrop of the Cascade Mountains are breathtakingly beautiful.

🚗 Tips for the Drive:

Leveraging Sleep Schedules: We planned our departure to coincide with our kids’ nap times. This strategy turned out to be a game-changer. Not only did it ensure a quieter and more peaceful drive for us as parents, but it also meant the kids were well-rested upon arrival.

Make Cle Elum Your Essential Stop: Especially with kids, this stop is a lifesaver.

Plan for No Cell Service: Download maps and music for the Highway 97 stretch.

Pack Essentials: Extra snacks, water, and maybe some travel games for the kids can make the journey smoother.

Be Prepared for Emergencies: In the stretches of road surrounded by forests, particularly along Highway 97 where rest stops are sparse, having a car potty proved invaluable. This simple addition to our road trip gear allowed us to manage bathroom emergencies quickly and efficiently.

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Must-Visit Stops Along the Way

When traveling with kids, finding the perfect pit stop can be a game-changer, especially on routes like the one to Leavenworth.These road trips offer not just the promise of a delightful destination, but also the opportunity to explore some fantastic stops along the way. Whether you’re traveling via Highway 2 or taking the I-90/US-97 route, there are several spots you won’t want to miss. These stops are perfect for breaking up the drive, grabbing a bite, and experiencing local flavors and charm.

Exterior of 59er Diner near Leavenworth on Highway 2, covered in snow, with a retro design and classic diner signage.

Route: Highway 2

🍔 59er Diner (15361 Highway 2, Leavenworth)

A Nostalgic Experience: Featured on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” the 59er Diner offers a trip down memory lane with its retro decor and classic jukebox.

Culinary Highlights: Don’t miss their famous milkshakes and hearty, delicious diner fare. It’s a great spot to fill up and enjoy a fun, family-friendly atmosphere.

🥪 Zeke's Drive In (43918 US-2, Gold Bar)

Classic Drive-In Experience: Zeke’s offers a quintessential drive-in experience, complete with a menu that appeals to both kids and adults. It’s a throwback to simpler times, and the casual, easy-going atmosphere is perfect for families.

Menu Highlights: From juicy burgers and crispy fries to classic milkshakes, the menu at Zeke’s has something to satisfy everyone.

Route: I-90/US-97

🥧 Liberty Cafe (Off US-97)

Quaint and Cozy: This charming cafe is a must-visit for those looking for a throwback cafe with old memorabilia dining experience. Located right on US-97 on your way to Leavenworth. Check website for hours, as they close at 2 p.m. and cash only.

Homemade Delights: Their breakfast and lunch menus are delightful, but the real stars are the made-from-scratch pies. A slice of pie here is the perfect comfort food after a long drive.

🍟 Twin Pines Drive-In (Cle Elum)

A Step Back in Time: Operating since the 1950s, Twin Pines Drive-In is a testament to enduring quality and a classic drive-in experience.

Tasty Traditions: Though it has changed hands over the years, the commitment to high-quality, tasty food remains the same. It’s a great place for a casual and enjoyable meal.

🍳 Sunset Café: A Culinary Treasure with Homestyle Flavors

Homemade and Heartfelt: The Sunset Café specializes in homemade family recipes that have been passed down through generations. This commitment to tradition and quality is apparent in every dish.

Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner Delights: Whether you’re craving a hearty breakfast, a satisfying lunch, or a delectable dinner, Sunset Café has you covered. Star dishes include the Elk Hunter Benedict featuring in-house corned beef hash, the acclaimed Prime Rib dinner, hailed as the finest in Kittitas County, and burgers crafted from prime steaks ground right in their kitchen.

🍔 Mountain High Hamburgers: A Haven for Burger Lovers

Family-Friendly Fare: Known for their mouth-watering burgers, Mountain High Hamburgers caters to all ages and tastes. Their menu boasts a variety of options, ensuring even the pickiest eaters find something they love.

Casual and Welcoming: The casual vibe of this burger joint is perfect for families. You can unwind and enjoy a hearty meal in a setting that’s both comfortable and inviting.

7 Kid-Friendly Winter Fun in Leavenworth

Leavenworth, with its picturesque setting and array of winter activities, is a paradise for families looking for a memorable cold-weather getaway. From hitting the slopes to thrilling tubing adventures and serene sleigh rides, there’s something for every child (and child at heart) in this charming Bavarian-themed town. Here are some top kid-friendly activities to enjoy:

1. Sledding Down the Downtown Hill

Location: In the heart of the Bavarian Village, this sledding hill is easy to find, right across from the Kringle shop and steps away from the Gingerbread Factory (which is another must visit spot for yummy treats).

Experience: It’s a perfect spot for some classic winter fun. The hill is ideal for families, offering a safe yet thrilling sledding experience. However, you will need to bring your own sled, as this is just a hill in the Leavenworth town center.

Tip: If you find the Downtown Hill too crowded, Enchantment Park and Leavenworth Golf Course are great alternatives. The golf course charges a fee, but it’s worth it for the well-maintained slopes.

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2. Visit the Gingerbread Factory

Sweet Treats: Just steps from the Downtown Hill, the Gingerbread Factory is a must-visit for delicious cookies, gingerbread, and other baked goodies.

Atmosphere: The whimsical decor and the smell of fresh baking make this a magical experience for kids and adults alike.

3. Skiing at Leavenworth Ski Hill

Ideal for Beginners: The ski hill features two groomed slopes, perfect for those just learning to ski or snowboard. The presence of rope tows and a moving carpet helps beginners ease into the sport.

Affordable Fun: With reasonably priced lift tickets and lessons, it’s an excellent spot for families to enjoy skiing without breaking the bank.

Equipment Note: Remember, rental gear isn’t provided at the ski hill. Plan to rent equipment before your arrival in Leavenworth.

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4. Tubing at Lt. Michael Adams Tubing Hill

Thrilling Experience: The 100-foot hill at Lt. Michaels Adams Tubing Hill offers an exhilarating tubing experience for both kids and adults. A purchased ticket grants you six runs down the hill on provided tubes.

Age Consideration: The hill is recommended for kids 8 and older, but younger children, as young as 4, have also enjoyed the tubing fun.

Independence Required: All tubers need to be able to ride independently, so it’s suitable for kids who can manage this. Tubers under 8 years old must be supervised by an adult, and also ride independently.

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5. Peaceful Sleigh Rides

Serene Outing: Sleigh rides through the snowy landscape offer a peaceful and incredibly scenic experience. Options include Leavenworth Sleigh Rides, Eagle Creek Sleigh Rides, and Icicle Outfitters and Guides.

Booking Advice: These rides are quite popular, so it’s wise to book well in advance. Some people reserve their spots weeks or even months ahead to ensure availability.

Sleigh Vendors: Here are a few options Leavenworth Sleigh Rides, Eagle Creek Sleigh Rides or Icicle Outfitters and Guides

6. Leavenworth Reindeer Farm

When visiting Leavenworth during the winter, a trip to the Leavenworth Reindeer Farm is an absolute must, especially if you’re traveling with kids. This unique experience brings the magic of the season to life and offers an unforgettable adventure for the whole family.

🦌 Meet and Greet Real Reindeer

Interactive Tour: The highlight of the Leavenworth Reindeer Farm is the opportunity to go inside the reindeer enclosure. Here, you and your family can meet and feed the herd, creating memories that will last a lifetime.

Photo Opportunities: The setting is perfect for capturing some Instagram-worthy moments. Imagine the delight in your children’s faces as they get up close with these gentle creatures – these are the kind of photos that you’ll treasure for years to come.

Duration and Suitability: The tour typically lasts around 60 minutes, making it a perfect length for families. It’s recommended for children aged eight and above, but younger kids are welcome too. Just remember, little ones need to be under direct adult supervision and within arm’s reach at all times.

📅 Planning Your Visit

Book in Advance: These tours are incredibly popular and often book up months ahead, especially during peak winter months. To ensure you don’t miss out on this magical experience, plan and reserve your spot well in advance.

Check Age Suitability: While the farm is family-friendly, it’s a good idea to consider whether the experience will be suitable for your very young children, based on their comfort with animals and ability to follow safety guidelines.

7. Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum

A World of Nutcrackers: With a collection of over 6,000 nutcrackers, some dating back centuries, it’s a fascinating place for kids to explore. The museum boasts an extensive collection of nutcrackers, ranging from antique treasures to modern novelties. The variety of designs, sizes, and origins of the nutcrackers make it a captivating experience for visitors of all ages.

Interactive Learning: The museum is not just about viewing; it offers a chance for kids to learn about the history and artistry behind these unique objects.

Unique Souvenirs: The museum’s gift shop is a treasure trove of nutcrackers, from the functional to the purely decorative. It’s hard to resist taking home a piece of this magical world.

Disclosure: If you like what you see, please consider supporting us by using our affiliate links (if you make a purchase through these links, we may earn a commission with no additional cost to you).

- Packing List -

Here is our essential packing list for Leavenworth, Washington for kids. We kept it simple to the main winter gear you do not want to forget. Here are some of the items and brands we packed on our last trip:

– Ski or Snowboard Rentals –

REI rentals or from your local ski shop. Or check out Facebook Marketplace for cheap previously owned gear (kids grow fast!). Don’t forget goggles (we love the Smith brand) and a ski/snowboard helmet.

*Plastic Container/Bags or Laundry Basket for the wet snow clothes

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