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imso808 Oct 11th, 2021 06:07 PM

Leavenworth WA in late December
Hi everyone. My husband, 5 year old son, and I want to go to Leavenworth and Steven’s Pass beginning 12/26. Never spent a good amount of time in snow and have never driven in snow (we live on Maui). We’d be flying into SeaTac and driving out there, staying for 5 days. I’ve heard mixed reviews about Leavenworth (beautiful but crowded and expensive) so I'd like to get some opinions on this. Is 5 days enough time or too much? Is it worth staying right in town or try Wenatchee or Cashmere? Any suggestions or advice would be great. Thank you

mms Oct 11th, 2021 08:42 PM

The drive from SEA to Leavenworth is over a mountain pass that can get pretty dicey with snow and ice. Rental car companies do not allow chains and those are sometimes required. All of this along with your lack of winter driving experience is not a good mix. You could take Amtrak, which runs once a day, but then you are stuck in town without a vehicle.

We go over often, but more for the outdoor experiences such as skiing, snowshoeing, hiking etc. IMO five days is exhausting too much for the town itself. Two days is plenty.

Also, yes it will be crazy busy. We head to the cabin just outside of town and last year the town was mobbed the last week of December snd we avoided it completely. Just being stopped at the traffic light was enough to see what a zoo it was.

I would try another place that is a better fit for you for this vacation.

tomfuller Oct 12th, 2021 07:40 AM

I mostly agree with mms on this one. If you do go, take the Amtrak Empire Builder which leaves Seattle King Street station at 4:40PM daily and arrives at the Leavenworth Icicle station about 8PM. Take a taxi/Uber from the station to your hotel in town. Two nights in the hotel in town will be enough to see what you want to see and do. You could go eastbound on Amtrak to Spokane or even Whitefish Montana leaving Leavenworth at 8PM or you could go back to Seattle for NYE. The scheduled time for the westbound train is 6:08AM but is very often late since the train comes all the way from Chicago.
Please don't rent a rental car in snow country anytime in December.
It has been a few years since I took my DW to Leavenworth. I believe our trip was in early November and we stayed in Wenatchee (cheaper). We live in central Oregon so we drove our own car. We have lots of experience driving in snow but don't go anywhere when the weather is bad.

Gardyloo Oct 12th, 2021 09:19 AM

I agree with the others that given your inexperience with driving in snowy conditions this doesn't sound like a very good plan. However if you're set on Leavenworth (of which I confess I'm not a fan - at all) then I'd have a look about flying to Wenatchee (EAT) and getting a car there. It's 30 miles or so to Leavenworth from the airport, most of the distance relatively level and not overly twisty. But in late December it can definitely be snowy, or worse, icy, and daylight hours will be very short. I confess I think five days under those circumstances don't sound like much fun, but of course YMMV.

imso808 Oct 12th, 2021 01:26 PM

Thank you everyone for your suggestions and candor. We are rethinking our travel plans after reading the replies. If we do end up going to Leavenworth, we will most likely catch the train from Seattle, stay for a few days, and head back. Thanks again!

mms Oct 12th, 2021 01:58 PM

imso808--That sounds like a good plan. BTW, it will be very busy so you may want to make hotel reservations now just to be safe, but be sure they are fully refundable etc. Places book out far in advance there. If you do go, there is a lot to do even right in down for 2-3 days.

NorthwestMale Oct 12th, 2021 02:48 PM

... The OP should know that Stevens Pass is about the highest in the state, and that it is especially dicey in winter weather... but that to merely "drive over a mountain pass" in winter is not an automatic don't.

Were this Snoqualmie Pass, which is on an interstate freeway where the summit is 53 miles east of Seattle, it would be much more suitable. There are many times when the average Seattle citizen should not drive over Snoqualmie Pass during a typical winter, but within a day or two it can typically be fine for driving. (less likely so for Stevens Pass)

The problem with all of these responses is that we are all people who have known snowy driving conditions, and who have taken snow somewhat for granted (less and less every year, from what I'm told???)... and we are responding to a family with little or no snow experience (without fairly putting ourselves in their {snow} shoes).

With that said, and for my perceiving that you just want some snow experience (of the human amusement kind, and not to certify yourself for driving 18 wheelers through the mountains during a blizzard)... a person could, from Seattle, rent a vehicle on the shoulders of winter (late Feb / early April, etc)... and uuuuuuuuuuuusually expect to be able to drive up to the ski areas atop Snoqualmie Pass and be rather in awe of all of those there to ski, while finding plenty of SNOW all around up there, for human amusement and bewonderment even if/when the roadway is bare and dry.

Once upon a time my sister was attending Washington State University and had the unique experience of taking a fellow student, who was from Hawaii, home to Seattle for a weekend which would entail the first time that student from Hawaii had ever set foot in snow (Snoqualmie Pass). It is that sort of life experience sense that I perceive the OP here to be seeking. In that way, it wouldn't matter if they were hiking 3/4 of a block in the dead of Leavenworth winter to get to the unique Starbucks there, or knowing a more tame and predictable trip to the mountains of Washington state for fun and frolic in the snow.

I can only guess at the perspective of Hawaii residents where it concerns snow. It just makes sense here to try to offer a more thorough sense of options which the OP can create for herself.

(*** nothing says that the SAME trip to Snoqualmie Summit cannot be enjoyed on mostly bare roadways ON the mentioned December 26th... BUT you shouldn't make your life depend on it! )

(if visiting the area around then, maybe just leave yourselves open to the chance that you might do exactly that IF it seems doable at the time (aka without "chains required" ) driving conditions )

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