Snow fun!
Take the cabin fever cure in Leavenworth and Wenatchee

January through March can be tough months for families in the Puget Sound region, who can start feeling cooped-up after weeks of rain. Luckily, Leavenworth and Wenatchee -- located just a few hours from the Puget Sound region by car -- offer unique winter activities and lodging options for almost any family's budget. Get away from the rain for a weekend and enjoy the snow that makes this area seem so magical in the wintertime.

Leavenworth is a Bavarian-themed village nestled on the eastern side of the Cascades, accessible via I-90 or Highway 2. Either route should take no more than a few hours if the weather is cooperating and the passes are open.

Leavenworth boasts many family lodging options, including the Natapoc Lodging complex located a few miles outside of downtown on the banks of the Wenatchee River. Natapoc offers several beautiful cabins, each with washer and dryer and full kitchens. My family's favorite cabin is the Stuchin, which features a hot tub outside, pull-out bed for the kids on the ground floor and a romantic river-view bedroom upstairs.

If you have teens, check out the Best Western Icicle Inn. It is located in downtown Leavenworth, adjacent to the Icicle Junction family entertainment center, which includes a teen-pleasing indoor arcade and a movie theater.

While in Leavenworth, stroll the charming downtown filled with shops and restaurants. Try Visconti's if you are in the mood for a delicious Italian meal or Sandy's Waffle and Dinner House for breakfast all day. Café Mozart, located across from the city park, offers traditional German and Austrian cuisine.

Ready to burn off all those calories? Then hit the slopes at nearby Mission Ridge in Wenatchee or Stevens Pass, or cross-country ski the trails near downtown Leavenworth. For deals on Mission Ridge skiing, look for the two-for-one deal for a mid-week lift ticket in the Chinook Book, available at Whole Foods and PCC.

If you want to make a magical memory with your family, consider taking a sleigh ride. Icicle Outfitters, located just outside of Leavenworth, offers a 30-minute ride followed by a post-ride warm-up of hot chocolate, spiced cider or coffee. Rides are available December through February, and a portion of the fee (kids half price) goes to benefit Friends of the Northwest Hatcheries. Make reservations by calling 800-497-3912.

If all of this sounds fabulous but you are still paying off holiday bills, consider Wenatchee. Located just a few miles from Leavenworth, Wenatchee offers access to all the area's fun activities, but with less spendy lodging and restaurant options. For less than $90, a family of four can stay at the Coast Wenatchee Center Hotel, which has an indoor pool and is located one block from the beautiful Apple Capital Loop Trail. Nearby La Quinta Inn and Suites and the Holiday Inn Express both feature indoor pools, complimentary continental breakfasts and rates that go easy on the budget.

Wenatchee itself is a wonderful destination for families who want affordable winter fun and educational activities for their children. History comes alive at the Wenatchee Valley Museum in downtown Wenatchee on South Mission Street. Children are captivated by the apple industry display, featuring a vintage apple-packing line that still works -- which museum staff are happy to demonstrate upon request. Kids also enjoy Coyote's Corner, an interactive exhibit and play area, which teaches children about the three distinct ecosystems in the Wenatchee Valley. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Adult admission is $5, children under 6 are free and ages 6-12 are just $2.

Just a few miles outside of town, off Highway 97A, the Rocky Reach Hydro project offers a wonderful free tour of the dam and fish ladder and an attached museum and visitor's center. If you have a budding biologist or engineer in your family, he or she will especially enjoy visiting the dam. The visitor center is open year-round, while the museum closes in November and re-opens in mid-March.

When you are ready for a meal, you'll find several unique and family-friendly options in Wenatchee. The Owl Soda Fountain dates back to 1926 and provides families with an old-fashioned soda fountain experience. And if you long for a beer with your meal, head for McGlinn's Public House on Orondo Avenue. Children are welcome at this pub, which features burgers, pizzas baked in wood ovens and a variety of regional microbrews.

Kathleen F. Miller is a Sammamish-based freelance writer and mother of two.


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