In the flick of an instant, the entire town of Leavenworth lights up like Vegas.
The annual Christmas Lighting Festival is like being inside a snow globe. On steroids.
Horses pull carriages. Oom-pah-pah bands blare. Chestnuts roast over an open fire. The works.
The Bavarian mountain village is about 100 miles from Everett, but it's over the river and through the snowy mountains you must go.
That ought to tell you something about how hard it is getting there.
You can get there by car, by train or by bus.
Just get there.
Allow plenty of time to make sure you're there when the town lights up at 4:15 p.m. on weekends. Get an early start to make sure you're there for the parade at noon with Santa at the helm.
"Magical" is the buzzword often used about the winter wonderland of a town.
Leavenworth is a slice of Bavaria, with frosty mugs of beer, wine tasting rooms, a nutcracker museum, shopping, skiing, polka dancing and dining.
But first you have to get there.
The Snow Train by Alki Tours picks up passengers in Seattle, Edmonds and Everett for three Saturday trips in December. There and back with time to enjoy Leavenworth, the trips take about 12 hours. However, the trains run on heavily used tracks that are subject to Burlington Northern dispatch. Translation: It might be more like a 14-hour day.
Alki Tours and Clipper Vacations also offer chartered bus trips to Leavenworth.
Wear warm clothing. It's colder on the east side: a coat or jacket, maybe long underwear, a hat and gloves, and walking shoes or boots.
The average daytime temperature in Leavenworth during the winter is in the low 30s. After the sun goes down, temperatures can drop into the teens.
The shops, caroling and many other festivities continue daily all holiday season.
Of course, German beers are amazing year-round, and there's always something to see or do in Leavenworth. It's easier to get there in the summer and just as fun.
If you go
Leavenworth's annual Christmas Lighting Festival is three weekends, Dec. 6 to 8, 13 to 15, and 20 to 22.
On Fridays, there is live music and other entertainment, with St. Nicholas arriving at 4:15 p.m. to hand out pears to children.
The town lights up on Saturdays and Sundays (Dec. 7 and 8; 14 and 15; 21 and 22). Santa Claus arrives by horse-drawn sleigh at the noon opening parade. The Christmas lighting ceremony is at 4:15 p.m., and begins with a star parade and bell ringers.
For more information, go to www.leavenworth.org.
The Alki Tours Snow Train heads for Leavenworth on Dec. 7, 14 and 21.
Cost: Coach is $179.
Departure: Edmonds Station, 8:40 a.m.; Everett Station, 9:20 a.m. Return: Everett, 9:45 p.m.; Edmonds, 10:15 p.m. All times are approximate.
Dress in layers and bring a blanket.
Alki bus tours: Dec. 7 and 8; 14 and 15; 21 and 22. Pick up points include Northgate and Everett park and ride lots. Cost: $54 to $75.
For more information, go to www.alkitours.us.
Clipper Vacations also offers bus tours from Tacoma, Bellevue, Seattle and Lynnwood. Tickets are $50 and $65. For more information, go to www.clippervacations.com.
Amtrak trains to Leavenworth leave from Edmonds and Everett on Friday evenings. Return trip by train is very early Sunday morning, but Amtrak bus service departs Leavenworth about noon. See amtrak.com or call 800-872-7245.
Andrea Brown; 425-339-3443; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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