Bavaria in the Cascades

It started as a simple “Let’s take a drive” suggestion on a lazy Saturday morning.

It ended 100 miles later, smack dab in a picturesque German fantasyland of giant ice cream cones and frothy beer mugs.

That’s right. We landed in Leavenworth.

Wow, what a difference two hours makes.

The ride from the Everett area to Leavenworth is entertaining in itself. The eastward journey along U.S. 2 is through ever-changing landscapes, from pleasant stretches of farmland to grip-your-seat switchbacks over Stevens Pass.

The first stop to stretch your legs is Eagle Falls, about two miles east of Index where the South Fork Skykomish River parallels the road. The waterfall is a short trek along a trail with thick brush and a slippery jump over precariously spaced rocks over water. There are two small pullover spots, though you wouldn’t know from the road there’s anything special back there.

It’s worth getting your feet wet.

Don’t change your shoes yet. Next stop is Deception Falls, about 20 minutes down the highway. The trail is safer to negotiate for kids and uncoordinated adults. There’s an observation bridge where you can see the rapids up close and hear them roar.

Romping around this neck of the woods is a day trip in itself for hiking, rafting and losing yourself in nature. But all that foamy water made me really want a cold beer.

I’d heard a lot about Leavenworth’s summer charm as well as the winter fest where the town lights up like Las Vegas, but I’d never been there.

It was time to go, wet shoes and all.

The first sign of this Bavarian village’s popularity is the many hotels lining the road on the way in. To plan an overnight stay at an inn, cabin, condo or resort, there are plenty of online resources and travel reviews.

For a day trip, you don’t need a travel guide or app or newspaper article to lead the way. Park the car and wander. Walk the streets and go to what speaks to you.

Shops sell everything Bavarian: dirndl bodices and lederhosen, fine art and Christmas doodads. There are wine and brew tastings galore. This is a kid- and pet-friendly town. Dogs are allowed to belly up to the table on the street patio at Icicle Brewing Company.

Like nutcrackers? You’ll be in nutcracker nirvana at the Nutcracker Museum, which houses 6,000 of the lanky statues.

Can’t decide whether to indulge in a horse-drawn carriage ride or a souvenir at the tattoo haus? Oh, just do both.

Of course, there’s a lot of German food. The smell of bratwurst and schnitzels float with the summertime breeze.

The pizza, taco, burger and noodle places all looked really good, too. You can’t come here without consuming at least twice your recommended daily quota of calories. We went for crepes at Pavz Cafe Bistro, with an open kitchen where we could spy our savory white-sauced dishes spring to life on brightly colored plates.

Dessert was a waffle cone from an ice cream stand and fistful of taffy from a candy shop. I washed it down with a beer or three. It seemed the proper German thing to do. One more beer, though, and I would have had to buy one of those “What Happens in Leavenworth, Stays in Leavenworth” T-shirts. And I might have had to stay there as well.

The Bavarian theme is everywhere in town, and even the chain stores and restaurants abide by the tradition of using teutonic facades. As one Yelp reviewer described the Leavenworth experience: “It’s got the Disneyland motif, just without Mickey or Goofy in costume nearby.”

Instead, there are men in lederhosen blowing alpine horns and dogs snoring at the bar.

Peak events include Oktoberfest in the fall; December’s Tree Lighting Ceremony, when the town is wrapped in Christmas lights, carolers and hot toddies; and “The Sound of Music” under the summer stars at Leavenworth Summer Theater.

A purpose-driven trip is one way to experience Leavenworth.

The other is what I did: just show up.

Andrea Brown; 425-339-3443; abrown@heraldnet.com

More online

For more information about Leavenworth, go to www.leavenworth.org.

Guide with places to eat: www.leavenworthrestaurants.com.

Leavenworth Summer Theater: www.leavenworthsummertheater.org.

Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum: www.nutcrackermuseum.com.

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