All Aboard! Take the Amtrak Train from Seattle to Leavenworth

The scenic three-hour, 20-minute ride between Seattle and Leavenworth on the Amtrak offers enchanting scenery and incredible views. Seat children next to the window to look for wildlife among the fir-layered mountainsides and rambling rivers. You’ll also pass through the second-longest tunnel in the U.S., the Cascade Tunnel, while traversing 4000-foot peaks. You won’t deal with closed mountain passes or the twisting highways —  just sit back and relax in the giant seats. The only disappointment: the train’s schedule makes it impossible to go on a daytrip (it leaves Seattle in the evening, and returns in the early morning).


13 Tips for Taking the Amtrak Train to Leavenworth

  1. Book your ticket through and note that kids go half-price, which makes for a sweet (and less-expensive ride). Adult tickets range from $23-40+ each way, depending upon traffic volume. Also, check the “Smart Fares” section of the Amtrak site to find more deals.

    Kid on Amtrak Train

    Kid on Amtrak Train

  2. The Amtrak train departs from three stations en route to Leavenworth: Seattle King Street, Edmonds and Everett. Those living in North Seattle may want to board in Edmonds, Snohomish County residents may want to board in Everett, and South Seattle at King Street.
  3. Parking is limited at King Street, Edmonds and Everett stations. Bring cash for any olden-days pay lots (though most take credit cards), and arrive at least a half-hour in advance to scope out your parking choices. Better yet, ask a friend to drop you off at the station.

    Vintage Amtrak Dining Car Menu

    Vintage Amtrak Dining Car Menu

  4. Weather and freight train backups can delay Amtrak trains. Our train from Edmonds to Leavenworth was delayed by an hour and 15 minutes; our return train from Leavenworth to Edmonds was delayed by three hours and 30 minutes. Sign up for alerts through the site, and check the site for real-time schedule changes. If you’ll be arriving late at night (10:30 p.m. for us), you might think about how to set the kids up to sleep for an hour or two.
  5. Meals are served aboard the train – but for lunch and dinner, only for those with reservations. Sign up as soon as you board the train headed toward Leavenworth, but realize that some seatings may sell out, and you may not make reservations when booking your ticket. Bring extra food if you think you might be hungry.
  6. That said, our dinner was an unpleasant combination of mediocre and expensive; seemingly microwaved vegetable mix and rice, although the meat was okay. Maybe it was an off night (although others told us they had the same experience). The children’s menu was fine, although mostly comprised of cheese and white bread. Bring your own meal, or ask your waitress what she would recommend. Snacks are also served, but those prices aren’t much better. You may also be seated with strangers, if you’re a party of three. Here’s a link to the Empire Builder / Leavenworth train menu Eastbound (dinner, toward Leavenworth) and Westbound (breakfast, toward Seattle). The service was very good and homey, though. I’m pretty sure my waitress even called me “hon.”

    Amtrak Dining Car

    Amtrak Dining Car

  7. Entertainment is limited, and there aren’t movies (as on the Cascades trains) but there are 120-volt plugs next to two-seat configurations. Bring a laptop, card games, books and quiet activity books.
  8. Amtrak passenger seats offer generous proportions, with reclining seat backs, extendable trays, footrests and seat pockets. So don’t worry about leg room – think about three times the size of an airplane seat setup. Seat reservations aren’t available, but the conductor, whenever possible, will try to keep groups together.

    Leavenworth Train Station

    Leavenworth Train Station

  9. Train shelters are heated, so you’ll be warm while waiting. Heat lamps even warm outdoor waits, in Leavenworth. Spend a few moments at the stations to look at historic documents and knickknacks.
  10. The Leavenworth Amtrak station (‘Icicle Station”) is located only about a mile outside town along a quiet road, but you must walk up a steep hill without a wide shoulder. I would not attempt to walk this route with kids, but instead take Leavenworth Shuttle and Taxi, which charges about $5 per passenger. Book your pickup in advance, and drop-off at the Leavenworth station. Our driver was courteous, prompt, and gave us frequent updates on the train delay. The driver does not have a carseat available for babies or younger children, so if that’s important to you, bring one with you.
  11. The Leavenworth Amtrak train leaves early in the morning – boarding is at 6 a.m. (unless late). Ask your hotel if they’re willing to pack a sack breakfast for you, to go – our hotel, the Bavarian Inn, was happy to do so. Request this upon check-in or when making a reservation.
  12. Amtrak rail employees seem both stressed and patient. Employees appear to be doing the best they can, despite demanding, upset passengers — some of whom stuffed paper towels into the toilets on our train, rendering the toilets inoperable. That wasn’t cool.
  13. No changing tables are available, so bring extra changing pads for baby. There are toilet receptacles for diapers in the bathroom,but you might want to double-bag any disaster-scented works.
View from Amtrak Rail Car

View from Amtrak Rail Car

Read more about things to do in Leavenworth hotels, Leavenworth for kids and Sleeping Lady Resort.

Sleeping Lady Resort: Enchantment for All Ages

I’m not quite sure what I expected when I planned a stay at Sleeping Lady. But I figured I would be close to Leavenworth (one of my favorite little Washington towns), and I’d heard good things about the Central Washington resort — although mostly from adults.

But I had no idea that Sleeping Lady was such an enchanting and magical place.

On the 67-acre grounds (which also host a local radio station), quiet pathways weave between native trees, plants — and art. The outdoor Art Walk takes visitors past quirky works sure to delight children, such as a salmon catching a human (“Shaman Salmon”), the nine-foot tall “Chichuly Icicles” and the “Evil Eye Tree,” where the bright-blue glass eyes (traditionally used by Turkish and Greek people as a talisman to ward off evil) hang like teardrops from a living tree.

Sleeping Lady art walk

Along the art walk in late autumn.

Winter is the perfect time to go, perhaps, as snow usually blankets the ground mid December through February. At the resort’s doorstep, 8K of track and skate groomed trails offer a way to nordic-ski off all the calories you’re about to eat (more on that, in a bit).

On check-in, front-desk staff gave us a fun booklet packed with cool facts about the property, jokes, wildlife tips and dot-to-dot and Sudoku activities, and told us about the Saturday night kids’ movie.

Sleeping Lady Trail

An ice-covered pond at Sleeping Lady Resort

We stayed in the double alcove room, which featured hand-hewn fir log beds and desks and down comforters. There was an adorable little alcove that my six-year-old son claimed as his own; he created a tent hideout that entertained him during downtime. But I’ll be honest, the floor space is a bit tight – it’s better for reading and relaxing (there’s no television). To run off kid energy, you gotta get outside.

Alcove room at Sleeping Lady Resort

Playing in the one-bed alcove.

Luckily, you can walk down the trail to the The Grotto for a glass of wine next to the fire pit or inside by petroglyph-laced rock walls (kids allowed until 8 p.m.) or The Library, well-stocked with books, a fireplace and a piano.

The cozy library at Sleeping Lady Resort.

The cozy library.

The Play Barn acts as a game room, with foosball, table tennis and room for a board game or two. You can check out board games at the front desk or bring your own.

In warmer seasons, kids love taking a dip in the resort’s rock-lined swimming pools. But the outdoor adjacent hot pool is heated year round, however. If you think you’ll go, don’t forget to pack sandals and cozy bathrobes for the kids to prevent frozen toes and noses en route from your room to the pool.

You can read more about activities and amenities at Sleeping Lady.

Kid- (and Parent-)Friendly Food at Sleeping Lady

The rosemary-flecked crispy rolls were still warm from the oven at The Kingfisher Restaurant; this was my first hint that Sleeping Lady’s dining experience would be anything but typical.

Most stay packages include dinner buffet and/or breakfast buffet; let me tell you, the food here is worth every penny. “Buffet” is not usually a word that excites me – most buffets are half-warmed congealed cheese-food bakes. Here, the buffet includes all natural grassfed, hormone-free beef hangar steak, served with organic roasted carrots and parsnips and organic pumpkin soup. Local organic produce is sourced from Leavenworth and Sequim.

Oh, and the desserts. Tiny, perfect desserts (flans, custards, pie, cake) in miniature espresso cups, saucers and shot glasses.

Yummy desserts at Sleeping Lady buffet

Yummy desserts at Sleeping Lady buffet

There’s a PB&J station for picky eaters (a great idea I might steal for the next playdate/party I host) and stuffed grape leaves and potato salad for epicurean preschoolers.

Breakfast, well – do you remember that Richard Scarry illustration regarding Kenny Bear’s breakfast? It’s sort of like that. Breakfast included: fruits, assorted cheeses and salami, boiled free range eggs, Samish Bay yogurt, organic steel cut oatmeal, chicken and pork sausage, grilled roma tomatoes, free-range scrambled eggs, boiled free-range eggs, waffles, pancakes, raisin bread French toast. And yes, coffee. There were even more food options, but I got a hand cramp from writing it all down, and I figured you would probably get the idea from the list above.

One of the buffet tables at Sleeping Lady Resort, in the morning.

One of the buffet tables at Sleeping Lady Resort, in the morning.

If you can, ask for a window-side table, so you can enjoy the beautiful views of Icicle Canyon and the soaring Sleeping Lady mountain.

Extra: The small Mercantile has that homespun feeling and sells arty-crafty kits, regional clothing and books and journals.

Caveats: It’s not cheap, generally speaking. But the prices are justified if your children really do eat like Kenny Bear, of course, and some of the packages are good deals. For example, Lowest rates are $208 for Bed & Breakast package and $318 for the Great Escape Package for two adults, 2 kids 5-12 Sunday – Thursday through April 30, 2013.

If I were staying again, I would stay for at least two nights and plan to explore Leavenworth during the day, do some cross-country skiing and spend more time in that pool. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend a one-night stay, as Leavenworth is fairly remote and requires a two- to three-hour drive, unless you live nearby. I personally wouldn’t want to drive those roads in the dark. In the winter, the short days and long drive times would make the visit way too brief to be enjoyable with very small children. Trust me — once you get here, you’ll want to stay as long as you can.

But there’s so much to do in the area and at Sleeping Lady itself that your family will never get bored. Sleeping Lady is now one of my favorite destinations in the Pacific Northwest.

Für Kinder (Kids): Leavenworth, Washington State

Let’s get your assumptions out of the way. You might think Leavenworth is cheesy. It’s fake Bavaria. Leavenworth’s food…well, maybe your great-grandma would like it. Leavenworth is for unsavvy tourists.

OK, some of that is a little true. It was certainly the impression I had after making short visits in the past (an hour or two) without any sense of direction.

But after spending three days in Leavenworth, I have a different take. I looked a little harder, asked a few more questions and found the best spots for a family-friendly vacation.

Yes, the Washington State town’s Bavarian-style building fronts were manufactured during the 1960s and 70s. But the finished craftsmanship is old-world impeccable. On a sunny summer day, when you’re on the flanks of the Cascades – and you can park your car and walk everywhere you need to go – you realize that this dense, populated village has everything you need within a quarter-mile: shops, hotels, restaurants, picnic supplies and movie theaters. Not a bad way to spend a weekend.

Things to do in Leavenworth with kids:

Ride the train with kids. If you’d like to have the complete European experience, take the Amtrak into Leavenworth from Seattle. The train leaves you a distance from the village core (it’s not walkable – don’t even think about it), so you’ll taxi in.  Downsides: The travel time from Seattle to Leavenworth is about four hours, the time schedule is wonky and you’ll miss Peshastin’s fun. But train rides are always fun and you won’t mess with traffic.

kid-friendly leavenworth washington state

Sitting pretty near the Leavenworth Gazebo

Fete and feast. Leavenworth hosts fantastic events year-round, most occurring in the downtown, pedestrian-friendly Front Street Park, in front of the gazebo and maypole. From Maifest through the Christmas season, the festivals offer convivial atmosphere, adorable dancers and kid-friendly bounce houses.

Go for gingerbread. The Gingerbread Factory presents trays of just-baked gingerbread, including dino-style cookies for the kids and chocolate-gingerbread with espresso frosting for the adults. You’ll also find outdoor dining in spring, summer and fall – along with hearty sandwiches.

Spot the salmon. At the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery, kids can meet coho, Chinook, steelhead and Pacific lamprey eels (ew!) before hiking along the Icicle River Nature Trail, a one-mile loop. But this is three miles from downtown Leavenworth, so bring the car or plan for a long walk.

Pack a picnic. Stop by the Cheesemonger’s Shop for an incredible selection of international chesses and sausages – I even spotted wasabi-flecked cheese behind the case. Pick up a baguette (also sold here) and head down to the next stop.

Rove along the river. The Waterfront Park Trail wanders through a pine-and-fir forest, past the Wenatchee River, over Blackbird Island and through animal habitats. It’s a few blocks off of the downtown streets, and a sweet, easy ramble suitable for kids of all ages – but the trail’s suitable for a jogging stroller, too.

munchen haus is a child-friendly restaurant in leavenworth, washington

Munchin' at the Munchen Haus.

Babies, meet beers and brats. On nice days, children, grandparents and international students share long wooden benches in the Munchen Haus beer garden. Select your (beef, veggie or curry) sausage, then choose your golden sauce from over a dozen mustard options. I even like the apple-smoked sauerkraut – and I hate sauerkraut.

Head South. You’re tired of German food and want something different? Try visiting South, where kids get a pack of Wikki Stix to play with while you order your not-so-spicy Mexican-fusion fare. Go for the guacamole!

Check out the scene. A good option with tweens and teens, the Icicle Junction Cinema runs first-run films in a 88-person theater. Skip the video arcade.

Cap yourself. The Hat Shop offers a head-spinning selection of hats, berets, fedoras and crazy caps, including animal, character and food hats. Next door, The Wood Shop’s shelves are filled with toys and locally made wooden puzzles (including pirate, cat family and intricate paint-your-own options).

Kiss the Küche – Mann (chef). Various German restaurants will vie for your dollar. There’s not a huge variation, but I liked Andreas Keller’s basement-level restaurant. You feel squirreled away in here, inside the dark-wood interior laced with heavy beams. An accordion player accompanies your Bavarian-costumed servers. King Ludwig’s Restaurant rolls out an entire polka band for your enjoyment; the informal dining setting (vinyl tablecloths) works better for parents of very young or rambunctious kids.

Not your average nutcracker. A nutcracker museum? Yawn. Oh wait, there’s a Yoda nutcracker? A Darth Vader nutcracker? A Superman Nutcracker? An ancient Roman nutcracker and over 4,000 more nutcrackers? Well, that’s cool. My kids loved this museum.

teens in leavenworth washington state

All the cool kids go to Leavenworth.

Chew on this. Schocolat’s glass cases wait at the back of a store, at the end of a maze of thousand-dollar housewares. Do not bring children inside the store – send your partner in to pluck a orange-dark chocolate or a Montmorency dried cherry-with-brandy ganache.

Things to do (car necessary) in Peshastin, a 10-minute drive:

Find fun on the farm. At Smallwood’s Harvest, there’s a challenging walk-through maze, farm equipment, a small playground, a trike-riding pen, a cattle-roping-practice station and a (cash-only) petting zoo keep kids occupied in summer.

family-friendly farm in peshastin, washington state

The windmill at Smallwood's.

In fall, you’ll find hayrides and a corn maze. It’s a perfect little farm, well-manicured and adorable; overnight lodging is also available.

a family-friendly museum in leavenworth washington

Cashmere Museum and Pioneer Village

Meet plucky pioneers. At the Historic Cashmere Museum and Pioneer Village, we thought we’d stop for about 10 minutes. We ended up staying for over an hour – there was more to explore than the humble building suggests. Kids enjoy museum’s downstairs, stuffed with taxidermied animals found on nearby mountains and plains.

The barber shop.

Outdoors, original buildings found throughout the region were moved to the museum’s back lawn, then populated with vintage tools, toys and furniture. Look into a blacksmith’s or a barbershop, a boarding house or the Buckhorn saloon.

Visit a Dessert Island. Smack-dab in the middle of a dry, desert-like stretch of road, Anjou Bakery crafts upscale, delectable French pastries and hand-makes each espresso shot with love. The cool interior is rustic and homey; the exterior had a small water feature for kids to dip toes into. Try the baguette sandwiches, or grab one for the trip home via Blewett Pass.

Kid-friendly Leavenworth hotels:

downtown leavenworth from my family-friendly leavenworth hotel

A village view from my Bavarian Lodge window.

Bavarian Lodge. We stayed here and felt right at home — there’s an enormous buffet breakfast (with a hot egg dish, yogurt, breads and make-your-own waffles), a free DVD checkout library and year-round outdoor heated pool. Centrally located, right across the street from the city’s gazebo, this hotel has even scored a place on Tripadvisor’s “Top 10 Family-Friendly Hotels in the U.S.”

Enzian Inn. There’s an intense Christian theme at this hotel, which may or may not appeal to you. The indoor pool is certainly a spectacle (in a good way) with a maroon rug on the ceiling, a mural with a Biblical scene and a vivid-blue swim pool and hot tubs. On the top floor, the buffet breakfast is served with a glorious panoramic view of the surrounding mountains.

Innsbrucker Inn. It’s a bookworm’s ideal stay — just pick a book-themed room! Upstairs from the adorable A Book for All Seasons bookstore (great kids’ area), you’ll find among others a Secret-Garden-inspired room, a Shakespeare room and even a “Chocolate Suite” with practically lickable walls. Kitchens, too! Cute multi-paned windows look down on the town.

Pension Anna. If you want to enjoy a Euro-style indie hotel right in the middle of town, try this lodge. The basement-level rooms suit families just fine (the rooms are huge). But the real appeal is staying in the chapel suites in a decommissioned Catholic church — also run by Pension Anna. How often do you get to do that?

How to get to Leavenworth:

Located about two to three hours east of Seattle, from Seattle, Bellingham and points north, I recommend taking Highway 2 out so you can approach the gorgeous Stevens Pass from the west. Return via the ear-popping Blewett Pass along 97, then down to the junction with I-90 (you’ll pass near kid-friendly Roslyn and Cle Elum – stop if you get a chance). The latter route is the best way to go if coming from Southern Washington State or Oregon.

Leavenworth: Washington’s Bavaria

Recently, I went on an article-scouting trip to Leavenworth, Washington with the family. We had a wonderful time. So wonderful that by Saturday evening, I began picking up real estate fliers. Here’s a (very brief!) introduction to the little town, located about two hours northeast of Seattle. I’ll write up a guide to Leavenworth with kids soon, I promise.

Leavenworth sits on the flanks of the North Cascades; the town was remodeled in the 1960s and 1970s with a Bavarian theme.

Leavenworth hosts frequent festivals -- music, food and dancing. And costumes! And bounce houses.

These guys know how to play a mean horn.

I picked up gingerbread with espresso frosting here at The Gingerbread Factory. Yum.

And sometimes you experience cognitive dissonance. Das Bling Shop?

We visited this adorable farm with the kids. It's right outside Leavenworth.

The farm's windmill.

The farm's playground.

The farm's finger-eating goats.

Yes, you should do this.

I took all of these photos with the Hipstamatic App for the iPhone. I recommend it!

To see more photos of family travel, check out DeliciousBaby’s Photo Friday.