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A Leavenworth Christmas

With a Delightful Village in Our Own Backyard, There’s No Need to Travel to the North Pole for Holiday Spirit

Article by Mary Bernard

Photography by Icicle TV, Brian Munoz, Leavenworth Chamber of Commerce

Originally published in Kirkland Lifestyle

For many people, nothing signals the advent of the winter holiday season more than putting up lights and a Christmas tree. One town, which already looks convivial even in the off-season, does this in a big way: the Leavenworth Christmas Lighting Festival.

This year, the festival runs Dec. 6–8, 13–15 and 20–22. Although the Village of Lights is the main attraction, there are other events occurring throughout the festival. In addition to the more than half a million lights, carolers stroll the streets singing holiday songs, and St. Nikolaus appears at 4:30 p.m. at the Front Street Gazebo with gifts of “gold” for good boys and girls. At noon on Saturdays and Sundays, Santa arrives via a parade route along with a host of holiday characters such as Mrs. Claus and Father Christmas to greet visitors at the gazebo. 

Each Saturday and Sunday at 4:45 p.m., the powers that be ceremoniously flip the switch on the more than half a million lights that turn the village into a winter wonderland. (Note that while there is not an official lighting ceremony on Friday nights, the lights remain lit.)

The Sound of Music

The Front Street Gazebo is the focus of many of the festivities. Musical entertainment throughout the day happens here and at the Icicle Creek Center for the Arts and includes handbell choirs, the Army National Guard Dixie band, Celtic music, bluegrass and some of the Pacific Northwest’s top high school and professional choirs, according to the Chamber of Commerce.

If adequate snowfall allows, there will be sledding in the Front Street Park, but if not, areas around Leavenworth may offer opportunities for tubing, sleighing, dogsled rides, snowmobiling, skiing, snowshoeing and more.

Good Grub

No village festival would be complete without food, and the Leavenworth event offers delicious snacks that include seasonal fare such as roasted chestnuts, cocoa and hot spiced wine at the Gluhwein Tent. On Sundays, children can follow the “Cookie Crawl” map to collect free Christmas cookies. Restaurant fare includes German foods such as locally made bratwurst at Sausage Garden, small plates at Sulla Vita, King salmon at the Watershed Cafe, along with local wines and beers at various locations, according to Clipper Vacations.


For those whose holiday gift list is not yet a fait accompli, there are unique opportunities to shop in Leavenworth. One can visit the Nutcracker Museum; the Gingerbread Factory; and the Hat Shop, which sells Viking helmets complete with Brunhilda braids. Kris Kringl is the town’s year-round Christmas store with a variety of holiday items on offer.

The Trip to Leavenworth

Some say it’s the journey, not the destination, and the journey to Leavenworth is scenic in its own right. Leavenworth is about a 2-hour drive from Kirkland via the Cascade Loop, and the trip offers spectacular winter vistas of snowcapped mountains and forest scenes punctuated by the Wenatchee River running through them as you near Leavenworth.

The festival draws large crowds, so plan travel well ahead. Amtrak’s Snow Train will not be operating in 2019, but there are tours via the Snow Bus ( or coach tours ( to get you there. If you can’t make it in December, the Village of Lights runs through Valentine’s Day.

For more information on the festival, visit