Christmas destinations make up a long list of holiday-loving travelers' desires. The Christmas markets in Europe, Paris’ city lights, New York’s famous tree, and even Chicago’s Christmas itinerary are high on tourist delights. But the small town of Leavenworth in Washington State should make its way up travelers Christmas Lists, and we’re telling you why.

(Yes, Santa Claus will probably be coming to town, but that’s not the only reason.)

Festivals, markets, Christmas attractions, decorations anywhere you look and its charming Bavarian-inspired architecture - which works perfectly with the scenic mountains in its background- make Leavenworth a holiday card come to life; aka the perfect end of year destination.


Origins and reinvention

Leavenworth is a small town in Chelan County in Washington and has less than 2,000 inhabitants. In its early history, it was a small timber community depending on being a part of the Great Northern Railway; when the railway was relocated in 1925 it suffered greatly economically.

Leavenworth wasn’t going to let itself become a ghost town though - in an attempt to revive the city, it reinvented itself as what is called a ‘theme town’ and adopted an alpíne German and Bavarian-inspired architecture and aesthetic, to bring out the beauty of its alpine hills. Today, the city survives and thrives mostly on tourism (and psst, visitors can learn all about its history in the Greater Leavenworth Museum).


Leavenworth is a year-round destination, with catered attractions, a multitude of hotels and lodgings, and festivals like Summer Theater, Maifest, Autumn Leaf, and even Oktoberfest at one point keeping the city busy with activities month after month.

Beyond the festivals, theater, music centers, and art fairs, wine and beer tasting tours in Leavenworth’s own distilleries, parks, and outdoor all-season sports attract many people; This tiny town sees millions of tourists in its streets every year and has been mentioned in many top destinations in the United States.

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Christmas magic

Though Leavenworth is certainly a worthy destination all year, every season, there is just something extra magical about its winter and Christmas attractions.

Village of Lights: Christmastown

The first is its Christmastown festival. From Thanksgiving through February, Leavenworth lights up in the most illuminatingly beautiful display of Christmas lights, worthy of calling itself ‘Christmastown’.

The festival includes glassblowing decoration and gingerbread house exhibits, special performances, street parades - and yes visitors can take pics with the giant snowmen - and Santa letter writing and Christmas tree giveaways. Holiday carolers give and other musical and entertainment performances will be held throughout the month.

Krampusnacht is held over a week to highlight the Krampus myths and traditions, with handmade masks by the Seattle Krampus and Krampus themed drinks available at bars and fairs. During December, international and multi-cultural representations of Santa Claus in traditions around the world will also parade through Leavenworth’s decked halls and streets.

Holiday workshops, gift wrapping, letter writing, present giveaway, and Christmas stores and market promotions also happen throughout the whole month, so everyone can truly participate in the Christmas cheer and discover Leavenworth’s unique shops like the many handmade jewelry and décor shops, like Kris Kringl, a traditional ornament shop, a Nutcracker specialized shop (and a Nutcracker museum with a collection of over 7 thousand antique nutcrackers on display), cute boutiques and even a gingerbread factory aptly called The Gingerbread Factory.

It's a truly next-level holiday experience. Even long-distance on Youtube, videos about Leavenworth’s Christmas attractions rack up hundreds of thousands of views: walking tours around the city, Christmas lights sightseeing, Christmas markets, and Santa parades.

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Village of Lights: Winter Karneval

For those worried that come December 26 all the magic will be gone, think again. Leavenworth’s Winter Karneval (A carnival in winter is a popular celebration in some countries in Europe, in particular the German-speaking ones, with pre-Christian roots.) is sure to keep the month of January as bright, illuminated, and amazing as its December Christmastown wonderland.

Firework shows, fire dancers, and the Christmas lights around tall are sure to bring warmth and light into the wintery January of the new year. The Karnaval also includes a live ice carving fest over Martin Luther King Jr. weekend and attractions inspired by the ancient Fasching Karneval traditions in Germany, Austria, Bavaria, and Switzerland.

During the entire winter season, December through February, Leavenworth also offers many winter sports opportunities for sporty visitors looking for a bit of thrill. Backcountry skiing, birding, sledding, and dog sledding, ice climbing, skiing, and nordic skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling and snowshoeing, tubing, and sleigh rides are all available to explore and experience in Leavenworth.

An entire calendar detailing all events month by month is available on Leavenworth's official tourism website.

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