Saturday, 28 October 2017

Leavenworth Christmas Town & Snow Train



IT'S THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR.

No kidding.

I'm such a Christmas person and I want to play Christmas music right after Thanksgiving. All the Christmas decors that start popping up in stores and on the streets warms my soul like no other times of the year ! 

Well, if you are the same, you will LOVEEEEEEEE Leavenworth and the Snow Train.
It's basically a Christmas town, a winter wonderland, that you arrive via a North Pole Express train. Do I need to say more to get you excited ? 

Okay now I've got you all excited, I'll let you come down a bit. 

It's not REALLY a North Pole Express, it's actually just Amtrak. 

But it's not just any regular Amtrak. That Amtrak line does call itself the Winter Train, or the Snow Train ! 

Here's a description from the actual website :


Each Saturday in December, Alki Tours, operates the only day-trip train that goes from Seattle to the winter wonderland of Leavenworth to see the annual Tree Lighting Festival. On each departure, 800 passengers board the special chartered Amtrak train to enjoy a catered continental breakfast, on board entertainment including strolling musicians, magicians and of course Santa. Near the 4000 foot summit, the train will traverse Cascade Tunnel - the second longest in North America. At approximately 12:30 pm, the train will roll to a stop in Leavenworth.

There is no place like Leavenworth during the Christmas season. The town is dressed to the hilt for Christmas with chestnuts roasting on an open fire, carolers strolling the streets, food booths, sleigh rides, local crafts, outdoor entertainment and more. At dusk, everyone gathers to sing "Silent Night" and witness the lighting of the village as it is transformed into a magical sea of lights. Afterward, we'll reboard the train for a cozy trip home. A catered dinner is served on the return trip and the entertainment will continue.

You can also see Leavenworth's official site here.
Also more details HERE
I'm so helpful. You're welcome.

Sounds quite amazing isn't it ?

It is actually only a short distance from Vancouver and you can easily make a weekend trip out of it. What we did was we drove to Seattle from Vancouver, super early in the morning, on the day of the Leavenworth trip. Spent a day at the Christmas town, then drove back to Seattle and check into a hotel to spend the night and the next day in downtown before heading back to Vancouver.

We departed from King Street station in Seattle fairly early in the morning, to arrive at Leavenworth around noon. There's a small cafe in the station if you are hungry for breakfast, but the Snow Train do include a box breakfast/lunch :D

The station was so festive filled with Snow Train passengers waiting to board. There was so much excitement ! The holiday spirit from everyone was a great start leading to this amazing trip.
King Street Station 
The train itself was a little disappointing to be honest. There was very minimum decoration as you can see from the picture below. Man at left corner obviously looks displeased too, hahaha.


But that didn't dampen anything. We were so excited to get to the Winter Wonderland we can foresee all of these imperfection. There were performance during the ride, which was a nice touch, but probably not so much for those who just want a quite ride to catch up on sleep. 



We got this croissant sandwich box for breakfast. It wasn't overly impressive but not bad either. The portion size was enough; although the train also has a "cafe" section where you can purchase more food and drinks :)

We arrived at Leavenworth around noon, and we had around 5 hours to spend in the town - which was enough. A bus took us to the town center and was scheduled to take us back to Amtrak at the end of the night.

The main "attraction" area was suuuuuuchhhhhhh a cute and joyful little stretch of crowded shops and restaurants. It kinda reminded me of the Disney main street.


We went on a good (but chilly) sunny day. But I have read many reviews complaining about the snowy weather and bad road condition. It is hence better to take the Snow Train than to drive.

There were lots of souvenir shops, Christmas decor shops, of course, candy and chocolate stores, handcrafted goods, and MORE.

To my surprise, there were also MANY MANY MANY breweries, wineries, and cellars selling and sampling wine. The wine tasting were very reasonably priced and the wine was good ! (Well, to my standard). To be honest though, I have poor taste for wine #pununintended. Whenever I'm at a wine tasting, my favorite is usually the cheapest kind. And I dislike expensive wine because most of the time they are not too sweet.

But I liked the wine at Leavenworth, and the tasting really brought our spirit even higher ! We spent the afternoon just browsing through every shop. There weren't too many shops to see, but because of the people, some of the shops even require a line up to get in. If you don't like crowd you might not enjoy Leavenworth as much. But for us, the bustling crowd added to the holiday vibe.


Plan for your lunch early, because the line-ups to almost every restaurant are literally pouring out onto the streets. We picked the one with the longest line up because we just assumed longest line up = best food. Not sure if it turned out to be true, but we enjoyed the food and the experience.

We chose Sausage Garden to complete the Christmas town experience with German beer and traditional frankfurter. Okay, if not for this photo, I don't recall we bought THREE HOT DOGS for the two of us. WHY DID WE GET THREEEEEEE?


After a late lunch, it was just a short while before the Tree Lighting Ceremony starts. That was when allllll the decors around town, including a huge Christmas tree lights up. What's really a Christmas town without the magical lights ? One disappointment, especially for the IGers, was that because of the crowd, it was very difficult to snap a good photo. Here's one I shot from the balcony of a wine shop, look at the ground filled with little heads !


At the end of the night, we took the same bus back to the Amtrak station, and took the Snow Train back to Seattle. There were more performance on the train, and dinner, but dinner was quite bland and cold :( 

All in all, despite the little flaws here and there, I still highly recommend this trip if you are a hopeless Christmas fan. Go with friends, family, or a loved one, the company is what makes every trip worthwhile, and better !

TIPS :
  • DRESS WARM. Everything is outdoors and you will spend lots of time walking around outside.
  • DON'T DRIVE. With the amount of visitors, I can assure you parking will be a bitch unless you enjoy hunting for parking spots.
  • Check your dining options if you are vegan or vegetarian as I remember most of the food were sausage / meat heavy.
  • BOOK EARLY. The Snow Train tickets are very limited and sells out fast ! Unless you have other transportation options, book early via the website I provided above. 
  • FOCUS ON THE FUN. Just ignore the line ups, ignore how crowded it is, drink lots of wine, and you will have fun ! 


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