Leavenworth, WA Christmas Lighting Festival Trip Report
This past Saturday we ventured to Leavenworth, WA, otherwise known as Bavarian Christmastown. But, wait this is a Disney blog right? Yes, but hang in there, this town has some great themeing. In fact, my very first thought walking through the town was “This is like a really, really cold Epcot!”.
So where to be begin? When we first moved to Seattle a year ago, I heard about this little town in the mountains that goes nuts for Christmas, and the buildings are themed to look just like those in Bavaria. Even better, you could take the train in the morning, and leave in the evening. So, when my Dad told me he was coming in December, I mentioned it to him, and he thought it was a great idea. Then I started researching.
Leavenworth is about 90 miles east of Seattle, and requires traversing at least one mountain pass. You can totally drive there, but the passes in winter may require traction tires, tire chains, or could be closed to traffic. Yes, I did live in Minnesota for six years, but that doesn’t mean I like to drive in snow and ice, and I don’t exactly own tire chains. So the train seemed like the best option, and it’s pretty darn cool to boot!
I looked at Amtrak schedules, and it’s really not convenient. The train arrives in Leavenworth at about 11pm, and departs back to Seattle at about 6am. Realistically we’d need to purchase two nights at a hotel in Leavenworth at peak prices. Alki Tours charters it’s own train from Seattle for a departure early in the morning, and return in the evening. But, I just about had a stroke when I saw the pricing! $179 per person for coach, or $269 per person for dome seats. I could fly someplace awesome for that price! Alki Tours also provided bus service to Leavenworth, but the cost was equally as heart-stopping. However, I did see an Amazon Local deal that greatly reduced the cost.
I came across Clipper Vacations bus service which was much more reasonable at $70 per person (or $65 with 7 days advance purchase). It was still cheaper than Alki’s Amazon deal, and included breakfast.
To be honest, I booked at last minute, and Clipper Vacations only had 3 seats left on a Saturday which departed from Lynnwood, WA. I asked a number of questions when booking, one of which was about our car seat. I was told that I wouldn’t need the car seat because the bus had no seat belts. Um yeah.. I can’t imagine my almost 2 year old sitting patiently in a seat for hours on end.. So I brought the car seat with me anyways along with some bungee cords.
The morning came, and the bus was in a lot across the street from the Lynnwood transit center. It was easy enough to find, and I was able to park right next to the bus for free. It was myself, my Dad, and Miss V. Hubby had to stay home to attend to some work details. Loading was easy, we were able to bring the car seat without an issue, and the bungee cords worked like a cinch.
Breakfast was quickly served and included a muffin, crackers and cheese, granola, yogurt and craisins.
The bus took Rt. 2 which was amazing. Most of the great scenery passed by before I could snap, and many more were blurry due to the combination of iPhone and bus. But, here’s a sample of photos that did come out-
It was incredible. Actually, the drive was my favorite part. I can’t say I’ve ever really been in the mountains, and I was awe-struck.
As soon as we pulled into town, we noticed people everywhere. Our guide told us that if we wanted to go to the hat store, we needed to do it as soon as we got off the bus.
After a restroom break we made our way in that direction.
There was already a huge line, so we skipped. We saw an even bigger crowd coming towards us, so we moved a block off of Front St. and found the Gingerbread House, which had hot cocoa and gluten-free cookies.
We wondered around for a while, but because of the combination of small shops, big stroller, and crowds we mainly stayed outside. We found Leavenworth’s Waterfront Park, which compared to the street two blocks away was deserted. The walk to the park itself was difficult in sneakers as the hill down had completely iced over. But once we got to the river, the scene was gorgeous.
By this time Miss V was frozen over, so we needed to find a restaurant ASAP. I had done some recognizance and found that King Ludwig’s Restaurant and Visconti’s Restaurant both had gluten-free options. We made our way to King Ludwig’s, but the line snaked around the corner. So we headed to Visconti’s. We were told there would be a 30 min. wait, but we could wait inside. An hour passed, and Miss V was getting truly fussy. All attempts to entertain her failed. We were told we were next, but table after table was called ahead of us. We almost ditched entirely, but knew we’d be in for a very long wait elsewhere. Finally, we were seated at a table. The service was actually prompt.
I chose to do a roasted chicken with vegetables, and shared with Miss V-
Dad got gluten-free spaghetti with sausage-
It was a bit after 4 by the time we were done. It was time to stake out a place for the tree lighting! We found a place in a parking lot on a hill above Front St.
Here’s a video of the lighting-
The video is a bit short, as Miss V was beyond tired and getting seriously fussy. I would have liked to have wondered around with the lights on for a bit, but it was important to get Miss V back to the bus and get her settled for a nap. I got Miss V settled, and went to find a restroom by myself. I went ass over tea kettle on my way off the bus. Whoops! I fell hard too, but fortunately was fine. Note to others, wear snow boots! 🙂
The ride back to Lynnwood was uneventful.
Overall, I really liked the trip. Dad and I decided that if we were to ever go back we’d pick a day that wasn’t so crowded. That way we’d be able to experience this small Bavarian town even more.