Leavenworth, WA is a small Bavarian-style town located in the Cascade Mountains, about two hours from Seattle. It was originally home to the Yakima, Chinook, and Wenatchi tribes. The pioneers were drawn to the area in search of riches in the form of gold and furs. They also found the land good for farming and at the end of the 1800’s, with the arrival of the rail lines of The Great Northern Railway Company, the population increased.
After the area was logged, the sawmill eventually closed and the trains were routed elsewhere and for over thirty years the town was merely a shell of the place it once was. It wasn’t until the early 1960’s that the town transformed. Instead of abandoning the town entirely, the community and leaders decided to make the most of their gorgeous alpine backdrop and turn the special place into a tourist destination. They remodeled the buildings to look like a Bavarian village, and as they say, ‘if you build it they will come’. And come they did! The town is now busy year round, with over two million visitors a year!
Unlike some tourist towns that thrive either in summer or winter, Leavenworth has something to offer year round. Located at the base of the Eastern side of the Cascade Mountains, you will find rivers, pines and gorgeous mountain views. In addition to its stunning scenery, the town is known for it’s many festivals. Mai Fest, Octoberfest, Chrisrkindlmarkt, Christmas Lighting and summer theater productions, to name a few. If you’re looking to ski or snowboard, Stevens Pass is only thirty minutes away (note, there is a small ski hill right in town). And in the summer you can take a tube down the river, or go on a guided white water rafting trip.
Of course, there are those brave souls who kayak down the river in mid winter. We had a group of three kayakers glide past our place as we were building a snowman! Leavenworth also offers the opportunity to go rock climbing, hiking, snowmobiling, fishing and camping. And not only are there a variety of activities for outdoors folks, it also has some amazing dining and great shops as well!
We visited Leavenworth in early February. After spending five nights there, we decided we definitely want to return in the summer! Below, you will find information on some of the shops we visited. You can find links to the places we stayed and ate as well. Leavenworth offers a multitude of lodging options, from family condos in town to luxury cabin rentals on the river. I highly recommend taking a look at the places we stayed. We thoroughly enjoyed our time in this magical little storybook town, and hope that you find yourselves lucky enough to see it too!
The Cheese Monger-
We stopped in at the Cheese Monger at the recommendation of a woman at the visitors center. We were glad we did! Although they don’t make their own cheese, they have been in business for sixteen years and have a wide variety of tasty delicacies on offer. They have both domestic and imported cheeses. We tried the Vampire Slayer, a garlic cheddar, that was so good we simply had to take some home. My favorite was a gouda cheese made with coconut milk. We also tried a German butter cheese that melted in your mouth! The owner Dave was there working and we found him to be a very amiable fellow with a great knowledge of cheese. They also have sausages, sauces, beers and wines available. And note, I did notice an assortment of nonalcoholic drinks as well. This shop is located downstairs, but we found it easily with their sign hanging on the main level of Front st. They are at 819 Front St. You can visit their website at http://www.cheesemongersshop.com.
The Oil and Vinegar Cellar-
If you like fine quality infused olive oils and balsamic vinegars make sure to stop in to the Oil and Vinegar Cellar. It’s located below street level in a cozy space at 633 Front Street, Suite F. They have bread bits out for sampling and not only were the oils and vinegars really good, they have handy plaques in front of each that give you ideas on what you could use the various flavors for! They also offer gourmet Sea Salts and give ideas with them as well. For example, their website states you can use them for “sprinkling over popcorn, sweet potato fries, roasted veggies, encrusting roasts, rimming cocktail glasses, or even sprinkle over ice cream!” I found this really helpful, as I always love flavored oils and balsamic’s but then find myself at a loss as to how to use them!
Their website can also help you with actual recipes that use their products, yummy sounding things like sesame-ginger and cucumber soba noodles, truffle mac & cheese, baked brie with caramelized onions and lemon pesto! For more information take a look at http://www.oilandvinegarcellar.com.
The Danish Bakery-
Located at 731 Front Street, the Danish Bakery is known for it’s Almond Kringle. It’s a pastry with almond paste and custard, topped with sliced almonds and it was amazing! I hate it when my husband orders the better thing! I have to say, that though I’d wished I’d gotten the Almond Kringle, my strawberry danish was very good too. The Danish Bakery doesn’t seem to have a website, but they do have a Facebook page. You can find it at https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Danish-Bakery.
Kris Kringl, The Christmas Store-
One of the very popular stores in town is the Kris Kringl. It’s a year round Christmas Store that’s been open for 28 years, and chalk full of sparkly Christmas wares for those who love Christmas. It’s a fun place to look around, and make sure you don’t miss the upstairs! They sell everything from ornaments, to ribbons and lights. They have a plethora of nutcrackers and Santas and sweet little miniature towns.
I loved the Grinch town. It was tucked in at the bottom of the stairs. If you’re a Disney fan, they also had a Mickey’s Christmas Village set. For those folks who are more into Halloween, they even have a miniature Halloween town area…complete with a Harley Davidson Dying to Ride Bike Club and giant pumpkin water tower. There was also a Clown of Terror Drunk Tank that I found particularly disturbing! You can find Kris Kringl at 907 Front Street. Their website is http://www.kkringl.com.
J5 Coffee is relatively new to Leavenworth. They started out with roasting and selling their coffee at the local farmers market, but now have a store front located about a half a block off of Front St. at 215 9th St. They offer hand crafted coffee and espresso drinks as well as an assortment of gifts. Something I noticed was that they don’t use the typical coffee house syrups. They use Sonoma syrup company (http://sonomasyrup.com) for the vanilla, hazelnut, caramel and almond flavors. And 5 Sparrows (http://www.5sparrowsbrand.com) (naturally sweetened with Xylitol and Stevia) chocolate for the mocha, white chocolate mocha and chai.
I ordered an almond flavored latte and my husband had the mocha. They were both very good! Unfortunately, at this time there are no tables and no chairs to sit down on at J5, though they may be able to offer that in the future. This was the only downside for me, as I love finding the best coffee shops in the towns we visit because I like to sit and read, write and people watch. I find it a great way to get the flavor of a place. That being said, the J5 had a nice clean-lined ambience and their barista was very knowledgable and friendly. I also had the pleasure of meeting the owner, Jesse (the “J” of J5) and found him to be a very nice guy. I’d defiantly recommend J5 if you find yourself looking for coffee to grab as you wander the streets of this sweet Bavarian town. Their website is http://www.j5coffee.com.
This was by far my favorite store that we came across. It’s what I would call a whimsical romp for the senses. They have everything from heart-warming messages emblazoned on signs and gorgeous hand stitched towels, to huge prints of cows and goats staring out sweetly from huge canvasses that adorn the upper part of the store. There are filament bulbs that have a vintage look with a modern twist. There is jewelry by Zuma, and clothing and shoes as well. There are cards that will make you laugh, and Poo-Pourri for when you go and don’t want anyone to know! Adorable baby clothes, whimsical maps of the USA, lovely roll-on perfumes by Pacifica, cute stuff for the kitchen and cookbooks…well, you know what they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, and I took a lot of them, so here you go…
From out front, it can be a bit confusing as there are four different shop names, Copper Creek, JT Blu, Pine Hill Mercantile, and Paprika. However, they are all part of the same shop and owned by the same person. They are linked inside, so there is no need to go back out to the street and in again. They are located at 715 Front Street.
The Plain Hardware Store-
The Plain Hardware Store is a fun place to look around and have a coffee. It’s located about 20 minutes out of downtown Leavenworth. However, it’s a beautiful drive and you might enjoy seeing more of the area. To be clear, there is a hardware section to this store, which may come in handy if you need something, but the main attraction for me is the front half of the store. They carry a variety of things from jewelry, to toys, to notebooks and clothes. The difference is, the stuff is not just tacky souvenirs, the gal who does their buying has great taste!
They have clothing lines such as Prana, Aventura and Angie and jewelry by Rain among others. There were some items that I’ve seen at other places (even the Leavenworth Boutique that I mentioned above), however, they had a lot of things I hadn’t seen before as well. Another huge plus to stopping in at their coffee counter!
They use D &M Coffee which is out of Ellensburg, WA (http://www.dmcoffee.com). My husband and I both had a latte and they were indeed very good! I always ask for “half sweet” when getting a flavor added (as most places make them very sweet) and found it to be the perfect amount of flavor. Everyone we encountered there was friendly and seemed genuinely happy to be working there. The environment is light and happy and I just feel good when going there. I’d only been there once before and it was years ago. The fact that I’d remember a ‘hardware store’ definitely says something!
The Plain Hardware Store was convenient for us as we stayed in a cabin for the last two nights of our Leavenworth trip that was only about a mile away, Whiskey Retreat. The store is also close to the gorgeous Mountain Springs Lodge, where we did a sleigh ride and dinner. You can find the Plain Hardware Store at 18636 Beaver Valley Rd, Plain, WA. Their website is http://www.plainhardware.com.
Over the next two months I will be posting separate reviews on lodging, restaurants and activities that we enjoyed during our winter trip to Leavenworth. Watch for the links here.