We didn’t really have any plans between Yellowstone and Vancouver. It was mostly going to be a couple of days of just driving and stopping wherever we fancied.
One place dropped onto my radar though, thanks to my friend Anirudh over at Beyond Our Horizons – the adorable little town of Leavenworth, not far outside of Seattle!
So after a jaunt through increasingly incredible scenery in Montana, to a terrifying snow storm on a mountain road into Idaho, to finding that the Walmart in Couer d’Alene wouldn’t allow us to sleep in the car park and having to shell out on a hotel in Spokane, we took a smaller road through little towns instead of the highway across Washington state.
It made for a much nicer drive, though there wasn’t much excitement to report. I will wind it back to a couple of Montana stops before I venture into our Leavenworth adventure, though.
I’ve said in a couple of posts before that Bozeman really took us by surprise, but haven’t actually followed it up to tell you why. I’m not sure why we stayed there, especially on our first night when it was pretty far out of our way. But we did, and we stayed in a little hostel that felt like a family and was full (FULL) of memes. It wasn’t the best hostel or anything, but it was bloody great!
Memes, memes everywhere!
The hostel was positioned right on the main street of Bozeman, which meant we could take a wander in the heart of the city, and that’s when we stumbled across a buzzing student town with absolutely tons of mouth-watering eateries and great looking pubs.
We were planning to be up early the next day to make the most of Yellowstone, so we didn’t partake in any drinking establishments (even though it was a Saturday night!), but we did choose a pizza place that had about a 20 minute wait. I hadn’t even taken my camera out – for the first time on the trip, I hadn’t expected any photo-worthy moments here, and of course I regretted it!
We’d been drawn in by the menu at Mackenzie River Pizza. It has some of the most interesting pizza toppings I’ve ever seen! Think pineapple is weird on pizza? How about oranges, sauerkraut or peanuts?! There are Thai, German and Caribbean themed pizzas. I wanted to try about ten of them, but what we did choose was delicious! (I had the Polynesian, which I kid you not, is bacon, pineapple and orange; Ash had the Rancher, which is good ol’ meat feast-y. And yes, four months on, we STILL remember what we had!!)
I apologise for the absolutely CRAP photos produced by my dinosaur-aged phone (I’m sure you’ll be glad to know I’ve upgraded. I now own a phone that’s only three years old!).
Food was partly why we decided to stay in Bozeman again the following night. Although we were off the main street this time, we had read about a fantastic fried chicken place (of all things – we’d hardly had any fast food on this trip, to be fair! Which is… impressive for the USA, right?).
Roost fully lived up to the hype! Even the standard fast food-style sides were really good!
The following day, we set off across Montana and stopped by Helena, where we somehow managed to get lost while trying to park, and stumbled across these fantastic pirates. I had one more place on my list in Montana, though: a ghost town.
I’d found some really cool ghost towns dotted around Montana, and after our disastrous experience at Calico in California I was keen to see a non-commercialised ghost town, but they were all a bit far out of our way. The easiest one to get to on our route was Elkhorn.
What we didn’t realise was that Elkhorn is down a dirt track.
A TEN MILE dirt track.
Ash was immediately put off, but I pushed on.
Then it started to snow. And then we got to the town, and just as I was getting excited (while the snow was getting worse and Ash was panicking that we were going to get stuck)… a dog ran out and started barking at us.
We had just driven down a dirt track without passing a single soul, and here was a DOG. Barking. What the–
We looked up at the buildings, and some of them looked lived in. And that’s when we saw a guy, chopping wood.
Which is exactly what you want to see when you’re miles out in literally the middle of nowhere, in the snow, in a GHOST TOWN WHERE PEOPLE SEEM TO BE LIVING.
It was like something out of a horror movie. Ordinarily, I would have been fascinated, and might have stopped to ask the guy about the place. Here, in back country America, where said guy looked like a classic redneck? We felt like we were either going to be shot, or worse, kidnapped to live out a psycho fantasy of a horror film brought to life.
Nope, we were outta there faster than you can say House Of 1,000 Corpses (after taking exactly three photos).
So, which was worse? An overly commercialised ghost town in the desert plastered in tacky Halloween decorations? Or a ghost town that is pretty much literally a ghost town, complete with a scary man and an axe? It’s hard to choose!
And so onto Leavenworth. I am well aware that I’m 800 words into a post about Leavenworth, and we haven’t even left Montana yet. In fact, we were quite sad to leave Montana behind, because even though the weather wasn’t great, you could tell that it’s a GORGEOUS state.
I’m afraid we had no experience of Idaho, other than the very scary snow storm where I was actually convinced we were going to crash on the mountain road. I was pretty shaken up by the time we rolled into Couer d’Alene, and think I may have cried when Walmart was plastered in “no overnight parking” signs. Thanks for nothing, Idaho. Damn you and your potatoes.
After a night in Spokane, we turned off the I-90 and followed the 2 towards Seattle, finally hitting Leavenworth.
So, Leavenworth. You guys. LEAVENWORTH.
CUTEST TOWN EVER OR WHAT?!
I knew before we even got out of the car that I was going to love it.
Weirdly, Leavenworth wasn’t born out of a German family or tradition in the area. The theme was purely a business idea to revitalise the town after the logging industry and railroads moved elsewhere. It seems a bit of a shame, but it doesn’t stop the town oozing authenticity. It doesn’t feel like a German Disneyland – it just feels like a Bavarian town!
And with buildings like these, it’s easy to forgive the town for just trying to survive.
Unlike Kimberley in BC, Canada, which has also adopted a very Bavarian theme that’s mostly contained in the very centre of town, this entire town has been transformed!
Ironically, we decided to have lunch in a DANISH bakery, but there were bagels hanging from the ceiling and everything looked too delicious to pass up.
Though it was hard to choose when there were places like this that were just adorable!
I narrowed down my photos to 36. Which is ridiculous for a relatively short wander around a single small town. No less than 6 of them have a bit “willkommen” sign, though I have resisted posting them all!!
However, what I loved was even the commercial signs were themed!
We also found a whole load of shops we loved – from stores selling really quirky homeware, to weird Disney things, and even a big comic book store with a Deadpool! I actually think I loved everything about this town.
Oh, and just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, a horse and carriage appeared just to complete the Leavenworth look!
Can you tell that I adored this little town? I’m so glad we made sure to include it on our itinerary, and it was a perfect end-of-road-trip stop before being reunited with Seattle!
Further north in Washington is a town called Winthrop, which has followed the success of the theme in Leavenworth by adopting an old Western theme! It looks really cool, and it’s not far from North Cascades National Park, which I also want to check out some time, so perhaps I’ll make it there one day!
Plus, since posting about this on Twitter, several people have commented to say it reminds them of various other Bavarian towns in the USA! My absolute favourite one so far is Helen in Georgia which looks ABSOLUTELY ADORABLE!! (Seriously, google it!)
Anyway, I will end this on yet another Willkommen sign… because of course!
Danke schon und bis zum nachsten Mal, Leavenworth!
What do you think of themed towns? Do you think they’re gimmicky or cute?!
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