Sitting in the eastern foothills of the Cascades, 125 miles from Seattle, Leavenworth (pop. 1,965) has successfully transformed itself from an economically depressed railroad town into one of the most popular day-trip destinations in the Pacific Northwest. After the local lumber mills closed down in the mid-1960s, the town took advantage of its spectacular location and re-created itself as an ersatz Bavarian village; it has been drawing huge crowds of tourists ever since—over a million visitors annually. Check out the old photographs on the walls of Der Markt Platz shopping center, on the corner of 8th and Commercial Streets, for the whole story.
Over a dozen blocks of half-timbered pseudo-chalets and Tyrolean shopping malls house a range of low-budget craft galleries, sausage-and-beer gardens, and T-shirt stores, which you can escape by walking two blocks south to an attractively landscaped park along the Wenatchee River. Eat and drink at the Heidleburger Drive-In (12708 W. US-2, 509/548-5471), near the west end of town, or at the elaborate mock-Bavarian McDonald’s. Perhaps the best place to eat and drink is the welcoming, popular, and inexpensive Munchen Haus (709 Front St., 509/548-1158). Another pleasant and moderately priced place to stay is the Linderhof Inn (690 US-2, 509/548-5283 or 800/828-5680, $100 and up).