We went to Leavenworth’s Autumn Leaf Festival this past weekend for my grandmother’s 85th birthday. We first took her there three years ago and inadvertently stumbled on the festival. They shut down the main road from cars and have one of the biggest parades in Washington with high school marching bands from around the state. After unintentionally going that first year, we’ve made it a tradition to go because it’s such a fun weekend and an easy trip to central Washington without needing to take extra days off work. (PS – it SNOWED in the pass on the way over Friday. Wild for the end of September).

Last year we took the dogs and ended up in a cute little A frame in Peshastin, about a twenty minute drive away. This year, we decided we wanted to be closer to the center of town and went back to renting a condo about a mile from the center of downtown. It’s a bit more expensive than renting a place farther out – and prices in the area have just gone up a lot over the years – but it’s worth it to be close.

For her birthday, we are more than happy to splurge to make the trip even better. After all, there are few things more worthwhile than adventures with family.


This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more info.

Friday’s Frugal Five

1. The place we booked through Airbnb is clustered with a bunch of condos and hotels at the western edge of town, and there happens to be a bus stop just down the road that heads into Leavenworth. There’s a bus that runs all the way to Wenatchee, the next “big” town over, but I’m not sure how long it’s stopped in Leavenworth. They also run a shuttle now that runs from first thing in the morning until 9pm during the week and 7:30pm on Saturdays.

Since we weren’t sure if the weather was going to hold or how much walking we’d do on Saturday, we ended up taking the bus into Leavenworth. Even better, it’s free as long as you are getting off downtown. Considering how constrained they are with parking, it makes total sense, but I sure do appreciate the option. The shuttle runs every fifteen minutes or so throughout the day, so it’s a really easy way to get downtown and have a car free trip once you’re in town.

Walking into town

2. We did end up eating Friday and Saturday dinner as well as Saturday lunch out at restaurants in Leavenworth, and my grandmother insisted on paying for all of them this year. This was definitely not our intention, but when your grandmother insists enough times, you let her pay.

We were able to pay for a late brunch on our way out on Sunday, but the rest of our food was covered by her, which made the trip less expensive than expected. Thanks Grama, we really do appreciate it.

3. We did stop at Dan’s Food Market, the local grocery store on Friday when we arrived and picked up food for breakfast and snacks through the trip. Since we almost always book an Airbnb with a decent kitchen set up, having some meals there really helps to keep the cost of food down.

Beyond just being able to wake up slowly and eat breakfast before heading into town, not needing to get food right away means we can have some down time before going all day. With a four year old in tow, having some room to spread out and hang out for a bit is a big deal.

While the Airbnb was more expensive than the last time we stayed in the same complex a few years before, it was still quite a bit cheaper than renting two rooms at a hotel, which is what we would have needed for this trip.

Beyond that, I particularly appreciated this Airbnb host because they were mindful about sustainability in a way that most are not, which makes it so much easier to tread lightly while traveling. For starters, they had an actual coffee maker instead of a Keurig as well as a large glass canister of coffee grounds.

They also had large shampoo/conditioner/soap dispensers on the wall in the shower, plenty of cloth rags for cleaning up messes in the kitchen, Pyrex containers for leftovers, AND two bikes with helmets to borrow if you wanted to head downtown that way. Perhaps not cheaper for us directly, but way better for the planet (and cheaper for the host who is restocking those items).

Helping make breakfast

If you haven’t stayed in an Airbnb before, I would highly recommend it. We love the flexibility it gives us while traveling as a family – full kitchen, laundry, and extra bathrooms, and it’s usually considerably cheaper than a hotel, especially when you travel as a group. If you’re new to Airbnb, here’s a link for $40 off your first stay.

4. Since we didn’t want to head back to the condo midday to attempt nap time for the kiddo (he doesn’t nap more than half the time now anyway), we hunted for a spot in downtown Leavenworth to find a place to give him some downtime instead. That place ended up being a winery with a large seating area where he could watch a show while we tasted some wine. Not quite a nap, but he rested and recharged for the rest of the day. And we got to sit and drink some wine indoors (the weather was quite cold and rained off and on for the weekend).

We decided to buy a bottle after the wine tasting, which waved one of our tasting fees. I also asked about their military discount – making it clear that our IDs were well expired – and we got an extra 10% off. We’ve found that Leavenworth is particularly friendly to all military, including 4-year veterans like my husband, and we definitely appreciate it.

Must have, still warm kettle corn purchase

5. Leavenworth is also really kid friendly, which is another reason why we keep coming back these days. Since the weather was raining off and on, we split our time between walking around outside and getting warm inside.

There is a really great toy store, Würlygigz, on an upper level of the main drag through town that has a castle with a slide, a mini merry go round, and a whole bunch of unboxed toys that kids are allowed to play with. There’s no expectation that you need to buy anything, but I’m certain they do really good business by selling all the toys the kids get to play with.

Once the afternoon dried out, we took off for the Waterfront Park, which recently got a playground upgrade. The kiddo has been there enough times now pre remodel that he was able to head off and lead us down the trails directly to the play structure. We played for a little while, walked down the trails, and then headed for dinner to cap off our night before taking the shuttle back to the Airbnb.

Exercise Update

Friday was a walk into town after we got into Leavenworth, stopping for dinner before making our way to The Danish Bakery, a required stop for my grandmother on each of these trips. Saturday was more walking around downtown and at the park down by the river. Sunday we took a detour into Skykomish on the way home and rode the free mini train that runs May – October, walked around their little downtown, and stopped at the historical museum there.

Train ride!

Monday was a pretty typical run outside and then lift and stretch at the gym. The kiddo was home sick on Tuesday, so I missed my normal walk into work and ended the day at just 7,000 steps. Wednesday was a morning run down by the water to kick off the work day. Thursday I squeezed in a short run with our young(er) dog, and most work days I’m attempting to fit in some squats or burpees into my day. I figure every little bit matters, and it’s the routine that’s important.

Have you ever been to Leavenworth, Washington? Have I convinced you yet?

32 thoughts on “Friday’s Frugal Five (Leavenworth Weekend Edition)

  1. I’ve never been, and I’m in! 😁

    Later though. We really need to find a much more affordable dogsitting option if we want to do a bit more adventuring, but it’ll also need to wait a bit because we seem to be in Seamus’s declining years and we don’t want to go many places without him before he’s gone.

    Is Leavenworth dog friendly??

    1. SUPER dog friendly! Though the place we stayed this last time had a no pet rule. But tons of people bring their dogs.

    1. Yeah, likely more of a 3+ day trip for you. Still, absolutely worth a visit.

  2. that looks like a pretty cool town. we go to this goofy little danish town in cali. called solvang that reminds me of leavenworth. it’s where that wine movie “sideways” was set so keep it in mind if you end up driving to the fin-con in long beach. you’ll go right past. i read a bunch of interesting fitness articles last week centered around vo2 max and longevity. you got any whirligigs in your garden? all the mermaid ones mrs. smidlap got over the years are now rusty and don’t really “whirl” any longer. doh!

    1. I’ve been told about that California town a couple of times now, and I’m intrigued.

    1. It looks like such a fun trip! And it’s really cool that you take your grandmother on these getaways. What a neat experience for all of you together.

      I’m dying to try Airbnb finally (and just go on a weekend trip), so I hope we can swing it in the next few months! Soooo preferable to have a full kitchen when traveling as a family!

      1. Full kitchen + extra space is such a preferable way to travel for us.

  3. That place looks and sounds fabulous. Your Grandma looks pretty spry for 85! I have a hard time leaving my home base in the fall but one of these times (locals’ summer around here), maybe I’ll go where it’s colder. 🙂

  4. What an adorable town and fun family trip! (Also props to G-ma!) AirBnB is our go-to now if we can, because it always helps us feel more like locals. The only downside I’ve come across is that on shorter trips, sometimes the cleaning fees can be just as much as the cost for the room for a night, which doesn’t seem right. Happy Friday!

    1. I’ve found that the cleaning fees can vary so wildly that sometimes it takes looking through a few places to get a reasonable one.

  5. That sounds like a great town for a family trip. We actually went to a town that’s kind of similar to Leavenworth called Solvang. It’s in Southern Cali that’s Danish themed and it’s great for the family with the windmills and great bakeries. We may comeback there in the next few years.

  6. I have been to Leavenworth with my in laws, but before we had kids. We’re overdue for another trip back sometime. Looks like a fun trip and your grandmother sounds like a lovely person. Great that you had a reason to celebrate while you were there!

    1. It’s a beautiful spot. And surrounded by some totally awesome natural spots.

  7. Thanks for sharing your recent trip for grandma’s 85th! Glad you all had a lovely time! Few things are better than having some quality time with family in an interesting place 🙂

  8. I’m interested in Airbnb but where do they post the extra charge ie cleaning fees?
    Is it just a one time charge after you leave ,or is there more hidden fees?

    1. They show it up front when you click to pay. No hidden fees 🙂 But cleaning fees can vary, so important to pay attention to what’s being charged.

Leave a Reply