The Nutcracker Museum, located in the unlikely but very picturesque town of Leavenworth, Washington is the largest such museum in the United States and possibly the world as well. This museum, which was built to “foster and encourage interest in… the evolution of the Nutcracker” is the brainchild of Arlene Wagner. Mrs. Wagner, a former local ballet teacher, became enthralled by the classic wooden toy during her many years as a choreographer and producer of The Nutcracker ballet every Christmas. Collecting the dolls eventually became her life’s passion.
Over the years Mrs. Wagner and her husband traveled the world, acquiring Nutcracker dolls wherever they went. By the early 1990s they had accumulated several thousand Nutcrackers, including some very valuable and interesting antiques. They decided that the collection deserved a public display, and the Nutcracker Museum was born. In 1995 it opened its doors, and it has been a holiday favorite in Washington state ever since.
The Wagner’s collection, currently estimated at over four thousand pieces, is believed to be the largest privately owned Nutcracker collection in the world. It includes an almost complete collection of the Steinbach line, as well as thousands of other pieces from more than half a dozen other prominent manufacturers. There are also some very important historical pieces, including a bronze nutcracker of Roman origin that is somewhere between 1,800 and 2,200 years old, and several carved wooden figurines from 15th and 16th century Western Europe.
The Nutcracker Museum is located in a charming, half-timbered building in the tourist district of Leavenworth, a town close to the entrance of the Wenatchee National Forest approximately seventy five miles east of Seattle. It is open daily May through October and on weekends November through April from 2:00pm-5:00pm. The cost of admission is $2.50. Web: www.nutcrackermuseum.com (official website of the Nutcracker Museum)