The city of Olympia, Washington, sits on the south end of Puget Sound. This vibrant capital city boasts an eclectic array of restaurants, a variety of accommodations, and lovely walkways and paths along the Sound. Visitors and locals appreciate the lively marinas, quiet neighborhoods, and the bountiful farmers’ market. Come along to experience some of the most splendid unexpected discoveries in Olympia, Washington and beyond.
Discover Downtown Olympia, Washington
The downtown Olympia Farmers’ Market is colorful and organized. Visitors can enjoy safe and pleasant weekend mornings shopping for jewelry, produce, art, meat, cheese, and other fun finds. The well-spaced stalls, and bold signage direct shoppers throughout the covered complex. Food stalls are open for to-go orders.
Vibrant murals can be found on buildings and alleyways along Capitol Hill Drive.
As you wander about downtown Olympia, you might find yourself craving a snack. Maybe even, a chocolate snack. Stop by Encore Teas + Encore Chocolate & Sweets to pick up some delectable chocolates.
Dining in Olympia, Washington
Even after some delicious chocolates, you are likely to build up an appetite exploring Olympia. Rest assured that there are many great restaurants to discover in Olympia.
Anthony’s Hearthfire Grill features delectable food and drink options. Their location at the marina allows diners to eat inside or outdoors on the deck with a spectacular view of Puget Sound. This lively restaurant specializes in fire-cooked steaks and Northwest seafood.
I enjoyed my dinner outside on the deck overlooking the water. My pomegranate martini made with citrus vodka, pomegranate juice, and Cointreau was bright and fruity.
The Caesar salad was tasty, and the rotisserie chicken with prosciutto macaroni and cheese was creamy, hot, and comforting. The dish, made with corkscrew pasta, was bathed in a white cheddar cheese sauce and adorned with crispy prosciutto, peas, and golden panko crumbs. I finished my meal with a peach slump, consisting of perfectly ripe baked peaches topped with a sweet crumbly biscuit.
Explore Beyond the City of Olympia
There is plenty to do downtown, but I recommend you take a drive on the Thurston Bountiful Byway. This byway boasts a plethora of different exciting stops, giving you a chance to explore the outdoor beauty of the area beyond Olympia, Washington.
Wander the Rutledge Corn Maze
Rutledge Corn Maze hosted its first sunflower festival in early September 2020. The corn maze with all its fall fun opens at the end of September each year and generally runs into the first week of November.
This is a great place to bring the entire family and get lost in either the Big Foot corn maze or the haunted maze. Finding your way out can be a challenge. Other exciting activities include riding on the cow train or playing a game of horseshoes or corn hole. Shooting the corn cannon or exploring the property on a wagon ride is entertaining for everyone in the family.
Explore Lael's Moon Garden Nursery
Larry Lael has labored for more than 40 years creating Lael’s Moon Garden Nursery. Visitors can wander the different sections of this magnificent garden and purchase plants are available for sale. The Eden-like garden is incredible, and I was fascinated that Larry managed to grow a banana tree that reached more than 10 feet tall.
See Wildlife at the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually Wildlife Refuge
The Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually Wildlife Refuge is a fabulous place to spend a few hours or even the entire day. If time is limited, the one-mile boardwalk through the grassy marsh area is a great preview of what the entire Refuge contains.
If time allows, venture out to the old barns and then take the long boardwalk over the wetland to the viewing point near the Sound. The birds are plentiful, and the scenery is peaceful.
Explore the Nearby Bike Trails
The Chehalis Western Trail and Yelm-Tenino Trail are perfect trails near Olympia for cycling. The Monarch Sculpture Park is right alongside the trail, and the sculptures are quite extravagant. I particularly enjoyed the enormous sculpture of a hand holding pickup sticks.
Stop for a Wine Tasting
Medicine Creek Winery produces delicious wines just beyond Olympia, Washington. This is a fabulous place to buy a delectable bottle of wine or enjoy a glass at one of their lovely outdoor picnic tables.
Finding Food Beyond Olympia, Washington
Although you are sure to find plenty of great food in Olympia, you might want to dine during your drive beyond the city.
Don Juan’s Mexican Kitchen offers excellent Cadillac margaritas, and their chili verde made with pork covered in tomatillo and serrano pepper sauce is fantastic. This tasty plate comes with beans, rice, and fresh tortillas. Don’s mom supervises and cooks in the kitchen, and the food tastes like what you would get in a great restaurant in Mexico.
Sleep in Olympia’s Bed & Breakfast Retreat
Although Olympia, Washington presents a wide selection of places to sleep ranging from fancy venues to chain hotels, I opted to stay in a peaceful neighborhood just a few blocks from downtown at the Swantown Inn & Spa.
Staying at Swantown Inn & Spa
Owners Nathan and Casey Allan have hosted guests from all over the world for more than 16 years. Swantown Inn, a Queen Anne/Eastlake Victorian mansion, is listed on the historical records for the state and the city. Although the Inn displays all the charm of a century-old mansion, it features the modern amenities a traveler needs: Wi-Fi, heat, air conditioning, and an electric car charging machine.
Rooms in the main house are decorated with well-appointed period furniture, feature private bathrooms, and are suitable for one or two guests. The Astoria Room has a king canopy bed, a Jacuzzi tub, and a shower.
The newly added addition that houses the Puget Suite is a two-bedroom unit with a private entrance, kitchenette, laundry, and lounge. Guests can book the suite for extended stays and have the option to cook their own meals or participate in the breakfast service in the main house with other guests.
Eating at Swantown Inn & Spa
The three-course breakfast at Swantown Inn is exceptional. Casey shoulders the culinary portion of the meal, and Nathan acts as the server and host. The menu changes back and forth each day with a featured entrée that is either sweet or savory.
Warm scones take the stage as a first course followed by a cold and refreshing sorbet. During my stay, I enjoyed raisin and banana scones and rosemary-peach and orange-strawberry sorbet.
On my first day, Casey served a savory entrée—her Italian Parmesan egg dish. This is made with a single egg, Canadian bacon, cream, basil, and Parmesan cheese. It is baked and served over potatoes.
The following day, Casey prepared one of her signature breakfasts—decadent French toast. The French toast, prepared with croissants filled with cream cheese and marionberry jam, are dipped in seasoned half and half, fried, and then served with a drizzle of syrup made from marionberry jam and orange juice. Magnifique!
When Casey and Nathan expanded the Inn, they included the new Puget Suite and The Grand Victorian Ballroom. This addition is an ideal setting for small weddings, reunions, retreats, and other social gatherings.
If You Go to Olympia, Washington
Olympia, Washington is on Interstate 5, about 30 miles south of Tacoma and 60 miles south of Seattle. There are a variety of things to do and see in Olympia. Book your next trip for a quick weekend away, or plan on a more extended visit and explore the city and beyond.
Be sure to check out Wander for more great things to do when you visit Washington.
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with accommodations, meals, tours, and other compensation for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.