Just a couple hours east of Seattle in a valley on the drier east slope of the Cascade Range, Leavenworth is a quintessential tourist town with a wealth of year round activities. Its downtown evokes a Bavarian village, complete with distinctive wood lattices, flowerpots and restaurant employees clad in traditional lederhosen.
If you're looking for a quick getaway this summer, head to the most exciting small town in Washington State for fun warm-weather activities.
Village Art In the Park, one of Leavenworth's signature events, is known officially as the "Pacific Northwest's longest continually-running outdoor art show." For a town of less than 2,500 year-round inhabitants to host such an event is notable in itself, and the fact that Art In the Park runs throughout the entire warm season helps contribute to the great summer season in Leavenworth.
All proceeds from the event, which is run by a local non-profit organization, fund college scholarships for students of the arts as well as community art projects around the area.
Another unique and unexpected institution, the Leavenworth Summer Theater, attracts theatergoers from around the Northwest and beyond with a typical bill of three to four shows per year. This summer, it's putting on The Sound of Music, Thoroughly Modern Millie, and Annie Get Your Gun until Labor Day weekend, with a special double feature on Saturdays.
Colder weather brings another "summer theater" tradition, as the same company puts on A Christmas Carol every year during the festive month of December.
Now in its 11th year, the Leavenworth Wine Tasting Festival is probably the best place to sample the full variety of Washington wines in the eastern half of the state. Tickets cost $40 per person and $75 per couple and include a free "wine bag," a commemorative wine glass, access to live musical performances and 12 wine tasting tokens.
Once again, all proceeds from the event fund the efforts of a non-profit organization, in this case the Cascade Foothills Farmland Association, showing the town's large tourism draw really help more than just the local storefronts.
If you're a fan of the outdoors, Leavenworth is an awesome place to be. With bicycling, golfing, hiking, swimming, inter-tubing, river rafting, camping, rock climbing, river fishing, lake fishing, and boating all in close proximity, Leavenworth is a major draw for its natural elements alone. If you want a more a structured trip, guided package trips are available all summer through Icicle Outfitters, the region's premier outdoor sports authority.
The summer's centerpiece is the annual Hike It and Like It, a five-day hike through the foothills and mountains surrounding the city that costs just $600, including meals and supplies. The best part: Pack animals do the heavy lifting on this trip, so all you'll have to worry about carrying is an extra memory card for the camera you'll no doubt be using constantly.
Despite the presence of some family-owned farms, the area around Leavenworth is about as pristine as it gets. In addition to all the above activities, there is also wine tasting at local wineries, dozens of cute little stores, and a good selection of restaurants and traditional Bavarian bars more than happy to help you unwind after a long day outside.