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Exploring Leavenworth

Leavenworth's main attraction is the town itself. Back in the early 1960s, this was just another mountain town struggling to get by on a limited economy. Sure, the valley was beautiful, but beauty wasn't enough to bring in the bucks. A few years after a motel with alpine architecture opened in town, Leavenworth decided to give itself a complete makeover. Today nearly every commercial building in town, from the gas station to the Safeway, looks as if it were built by Bavarian gnomes. What may come as a surprise is that they did a good job! Stroll around town and you'll convince yourself that you've just had the world's cheapest trip to the Alps. People here even speak German.

Anytime of year, the town's most popular tourist activity seems to be shopping for genuine Bavarian souvenirs in the many gift shops -- you'll find cuckoo clocks, Hummel figurines, imported lace, and nutcrackers. In fact, if nutcrackers are your passion, don't miss the Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum, 735 Front St. (tel. 800/892-3989 or 509/548-4573; www.nutcrackermuseum.com), which has more than 5,000 nutcrackers of all shapes and sizes. May through October, the museum is open daily from 2 to 5pm; November through April, it's open on weekends only. Admission is $2.50 for adults and $1 for children ages 6 to 17. The Upper Valley Museum, 347 Division St. (tel. 509/548-0728), in a beautiful historic home, is a work in progress. When finally completed, it will showcase the history of the valley. Currently, the grounds are open to the public, and some small exhibits are in the old house. The museum is open Friday through Sunday from 11am to 5pm.

Classical music fans should be sure to see what's happening at the Icicle Creek Music Center (tel. 877/265-6026 or 509/548-6347; www.icicle.org), which is at the Sleeping Lady resort and has programs throughout the year. There are also many musical performances and festivals in the small Front Street Park in downtown Leavenworth, where a large gazebo serves as a bandstand.

Although Leavenworth itself is not in a wine grape-growing region, the town does have numerous tasting rooms for wineries that are located both within the Wenatchee Valley and in other parts of the state. You can now wander from one tasting room to the next and sample wines from all over the state. At the tasting room of Kestrel Vintners, 843B Front St. (tel. 509/548-7348; www.kestrelwines.com), you can sample from one of my favorite Yakima Valley wineries. It's open Sunday to Thursday from 11am to 5pm and Friday and Saturday from 11am to 8pm. At 939 Front St., you can taste the wines of three different wineries. On the first floor, Echo Cellars, 939 Front St. (tel. 509/548-7638; www.echocellars.com), is one of the newest wineries in Leavenworth and produces some good red wines and some pricey whites. The tasting room is open Sunday to Thursday from 11am to 5pm and Friday and Saturday from 11am to 6 or 7pm. Up on the second floor, you can taste wines from Willow Crest Winery (tel. 509/548-5166; www.willowcrestwinery.com) -- another of my favorite Washington wineries -- as well as the wines of Pasek Cellars (tel. 509/548-5166; www.pasekcellars.com), which is known for its fruit wines. This tasting room is open Sunday to Thursday from 11am to 6pm and Friday and Saturday from 11am to 8pm. Across the street from these three, you'll find Ryan Patrick Vineyards, 900 Front St., Suite C (tel. 509/888-2236; www.ryanpatrickvineyards.com), which when I last visited had some of the best wines in town and some of the best prices. The tasting room is open daily from 12:30 to 5:30pm. Silver Lake Winery, 715 Front St. (tel. 509/548-5788; www.silverlakewinery.com), also has a tasting room in Leavenworth where you can sample a wide range of wines. It's open daily 11am to 6pm (Jan-May closed Tues-Wed). Bavarian Cellars/Maison de Padgett Winery, 208 Ninth St. (tel. 509/548-7717), is open Wednesday to Monday from noon to 6pm and boasts the most unusual wine labels in the state. A few blocks west of downtown, you'll find Okanogan Estate & Vineyards, 285 U.S. 2 (tel. 509/548-9883; www.okanoganwine.com), which has its winery in the Oroville near the Canadian border. This tasting room is open daily from 10:30am to 5:30pm.

Exploring the Lower Wenatchee Valley

As you drive east down the Wenatchee Valley from Leavenworth, you begin to see the valley's many apple and pear orchards. In summer and fall, you can taste the fruits of the valley at farmstands along U.S. 2. Smallwood's Harvest (tel. 509/548-4196; www.smallwoodsharvest.com), and Prey's Fruit Barn (tel. 509/548-5771; www.preysfruitbarn.com) are the biggest and best farmstands along this stretch of road. Because apple prices have been so low in recent years, some orchards have planted vineyards, and wineries are proliferating in the area.

Eagle Creek Winery & Cottage, 10037 Eagle Creek Rd. (tel. 509/548-7668; www.eaglecreekwinery.com), is one of the closest wineries to Leavenworth, located off Chumstick Highway about 5 miles from town. May through October, the tasting room is open Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4pm; other months it's open by appointment. Heading farther down the valley, you'll come to Icicle Ridge Winery, 8977 North Rd., Peshastin (tel. 509/548-7019; www.icicleridgewinery.com), with tasting rooms in a log cabin surrounded by a pear orchard (daily from noon to 5pm), and also in downtown Leavenworth at 821 Front St. (Sun-Thurs 11am-5pm and Fri-Sat 11am-6pm). In summer, the winery hosts jazz concerts. In Peshastin, you'll find Wedge Mountain Winery, 9534 Saunders Rd., Peshastin (tel. 509/548-7068; www.wedgemountainwinery.com), which specializes in Bordeaux varietals. The tasting room is open Thursday to Monday from 10am to 6pm. For more information on area wineries, contact Columbia Cascade Wine and Wineries (tel. 509/782-0708; www.columbiacascadewines.com).

Cashmere: An Early American Town

Just west of Wenatchee, you'll find the town of Cashmere, which has adopted an Early American theme. The town's main attraction is the Aplets & Cotlets Candy Factory and Country Store, 117 Mission Ave. (tel. 800/231-3242 or 509/782-2191; www.libertyorchards.com), where you can tour the kitchens that produce these unusual fruit-and-nut confections. Between April and December, the factory and store are open Monday to Friday from 8am to 5:30pm and Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 4pm; between January and March, they're open Monday to Friday from 8:30am to 4:30pm.

For a different sort of sweet treat, don't miss Anjou Bakery, 3898 Old Monitor Rd. (tel. 509/782-4360; www.anjoubakery.com), just off U.S. 2 in the middle of a pear orchard on the outskirts of Cashmere. The ovens here produce great pastries and rustic breads. The bakery is open daily from 7am to 5pm.

Also worth a visit in Cashmere is the Chelan County Historical Society Pioneer Village and Museum, 600 Cotlets Way (tel. 509/782-3230). Nearly 20 old log buildings have been assembled here and are filled with period antiques. Inside the main museum building, you'll find exhibits on the early Native American cultures of the region, pioneer history, and natural history. March through October, the museum is open daily from 9:30am to 4:30pm; November through December 21, it's open Friday through Sunday from 11am to 3pm. Admission is $4.50 for adults, $3.50 for seniors and students ages 13 to 18, and $2.50 for children ages 5 to 12.

Wenatchee

Apple-industry displays are part of the focus of the Wenatchee Valley Museum & Cultural Center, 127 S. Mission St. (tel. 509/664-3340; www.wvmcc.org), but there are also interesting exhibits on local Native American cultures and the first transpacific flight. Model-railroading buffs will enjoy the HO-scale Great Northern Railway. The museum also hosts traveling exhibitions and occasional concerts on the museum's 1919 Wurlitzer organ. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10am to 4pm. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, and $2 for children ages 6 to 12.

Though it's only a dozen or so miles from the lush forests of the Cascades, Wenatchee is on the edge of central Washington's arid shrub-steppe region. To bring a bit of the mountains' greenery into this high desert, Herman Ohme and his family spent 60 years creating Ohme Gardens, 3327 Ohme Rd., Wenatchee (tel. 509/662-5785), a lush alpine garden covering 9 cliff-top acres north of Wenatchee. The gardens wind along the top of a rocky outcropping that overlooks the Wenatchee Valley, Columbia River, and Cascade peaks. Rock gardens, meadows, fern grottoes, and waterfalls lend a naturalistic feel similar to that of a Japanese garden. The gardens are open from April 15 to October 15, daily from 9am to 6pm (until 7pm in summer). Admission is $7 for adults and $3.50 for children ages 6 to 17.

North of Wenatchee on the north side of the town of Entiat, watch for the Columbia Breaks Fire Interpretive Center (tel. 509/662-3035; www.wildfirecenter.org), which has two old fire lookouts and the .5-mile Trail of Fire and Forest that explains the role of fires in western forests.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.