What is the Leavenworth Christmas Lights Festival?
Village of Lights, Christmas Tree Lighting Festival, The Magic of Leavenworth…it goes by a lot of different names. But the basic premise is that for 3 weekends in December, up to 20,000 people a day trek from all across Washington state to witness the little village of Leavenworth light up with hundreds of thousands of Christmas lights.
To quantify that, just imagine 12 miles of Christmas lights. In the words of Tim-The-Tool-Man-Taylor, we’re gonna need “MORE POWER”….
Not only that, but there are super fun activities (think roasting chestnuts, sledding, Santa Clause… pretty much anything you’d find in a scene out of White Christmas) and if the weather is frigid – and it often is – you couldn’t find yourself in a better spot to have to be stuck indoors. Leavenworth boasts some of the cutest shops and best “comfort food” restaurants in Washington. And we’re not just saying that…
When Is The Leavenworth Christmas Lighting Ceremony?
That’s a bit tricky to answer, because the lights start going up in early December and actually stay blazin’ away until Valentine’s Day. BUT, you will definitely want to hit one of the three weekends listed below, because that’s when they do the actual Lighting Ceremony and light up the whole town at once. It’s also when most of the extra festivities happen.
- Dates: Saturday, December 7-8, December 14-15, December 21-22, 2019
- Time: 4:30 PM (same time for every date listed above)
Tip #1 – How to Travel to the Leavenworth Christmas Festival
In case you were thinking that the only way to get to Leavenworth around Christmastime was to throw on snow chains, load up survival gear and pray your way over the mountain passes, we put together some alternative options that let you focus more on enjoying the experience and less on whether or not you should toss in an avalanche shovel.
If you Google ‘how to get to the Leavenworth Christmas Festival’, you’ll probably find articles about a “Snow Train”. Sound magical? Indeed.
Basically the Snow Train to Leavenworth involves a full day tour, including breakfast and dinner and a train that runs right into town and back from Everett, Edmonds or Seattle. Rumors are that Santa even makes an appearance en route…
South Excursions Festival Shuttle
As long as you’re over 6 years old, South Excursions gives bus tours to Leavenworth from Bellevue and Seattle. You can even bring your sled along! (Did we mention that a bunch of people go sledding at this festival as well?) Early Bird pricing is $65 per person plus about $5 for parking. Definitely worth considering if the Snow Train is outside of your budget.
FAQs about the Shuttle Trip
Another option for a bus trip that leaves from the Seattle Center. About a 2 1/2 hours drive and the entire trip lasts about 12 hours.
Driving Yourself…The Old-Fashioned Way
You can also just pack up the whole family and mush on down to Leavenworth yourself. Because of its central location in Washington state, Leavenworth is actually a fairly reasonable drive from most parts of the state. A lot of people like to stay the night.
Tip: You might avoid some traffic and crowds if you get there on a Thursday or Friday night. The lighting ceremony only happens on Saturday and Sunday evenings, but there are still festivities on Friday nights and most of the local shops have plenty of fun activities going on as well.
Tip # 2 – Pack An Extra Battery When Taking Pictures and Videos of the Festival
You pretty much have the jist by now… wait until 4:30 PM and then take pictures and video all night long! But wait… why is your battery going dead???
Your phone and camera batteries will have a tendency to go dead faster than normal when you’re in Leavenworth, especially if you are using your phone all day without WiFi and not able to recharge it. That’s because a drop of about 20 degrees Farenhieght can result in you losing battery power at a MUCH faster rate.
For those with DSLR cameras, you’ll want to bring extra batteries and try to keep them in a warm place, like your hotel room. See here for more details on keeping your fancy camera protected in cold weather. You’ll want to make sure you have a phone charger with you for your phone as well, even if you are just doing a day trip.
Tip #3 – Plan An Old-Fashioned Sleigh Ride
Can’t you just imagine it? Snuggled under a warm blanket, sipping hot cider… the only sound you hear is the light “swoosh” of the sleigh as you glide over frothy snowbanks and take in the natural beauty around Leavenworth. Before we get carried away, let’s just introduce the caveat that this is all weather dependent. Find your ideal sleigh ride here.
Tip #4 – Best Place to Watch the Lighting Ceremony
As you can see in the video below, pretty much all of Front Street is just covered with people enjoying the lighting festival. Front Street is where most of the action takes place, but the key is to hop in and out of the shops and restaurants so you stay warm.
Also, since most people will be heading outside to watch the lighting ceremony at 4:30, it can be a great time to send the Grinch in your group who doesn’t care about Christmas lights into your favorite restaurant to claim a table for an early dinner. You’ll have a nice warm table with steaming hot food waiting for you after the main lighting event commences.
Tip #5 – Cute Stores You Should Probably Visit While in Leavenworth
Kris Kringl – Open all year round, but you can guess how popular this spot is in December. Definitely worth stopping in to see their collections… especially the Christmas elves, dolls, trains, and more that makes for an overwhelming blast of Christmas nostalgia.
Alpen Haus Gifts – Well, it is Christmas after all. Find some great gift ideas for the whole family.
The Cheesemongers Shop – Yes, yes you should buy 13 lbs of cheese. #noregrets
Tip# 6 – Bavarian-Themed Places to Stay in Leavenworth
So it turns out that in a re-creation of a Bavarian village, most places are going to have some sort of German theme running through them. Below are just a few of the places that we like in Leavenworth.
Enzian Inn – $165-$205 a night. Our favorite spot… great staff, comfortable rooms and a piano player in the evening on certain nights. And the pool is probably unlike any other hotel pool you’ve ever seen.
Bavarian Lodge – $156-193 a night. Classic and centrally located.
Icicle Village Resort – $157-$209 per night. Very comfortable, spa, pool and pet friendly.
Tip #7 – Three of Our Favorite Places to Eat in Leavenworth
Andreas Keller Restaurant – Killer food and the best atmosphere. Sit down at a table in this place, picture the iconic plate of German food, open your eyes and BAM! Good times await…
Munchen Haus – Outdoor courtyard, pretzels galore and one of the most iconic and satisfying stops in Leavenworth.
The Loft – Live music, trivia nights – nothing fancy and good atmosphere.
The only thing left to do is start planning your trip!
So there you have it… we love Leavenworth and are pretty excited to see this year’s Leavenworth Christmas Lighting Festival. Will we see you there?
P.S. If we’ve left out anything important in this article that you think would be helpful to other WA residents, just shoot us a quick note here!