Splendid Discoveries in Olympia, Washington and Beyond

Written by Tracy Ellen Beard

September 28, 2020
Home >> Travel >> Road Trips >> Splendid Discoveries in Olympia, Washington and Beyond

Olympia, Washington, is a vibrant capital city with an eclectic array of restaurants, lovely walkways, and paths along Puget Sound.

Olympia, Washington, sits on the south end of Puget Sound. This vibrant capital city boasts an eclectic array of restaurants, various accommodations, and lovely walkways and paths along the Sound. Visitors and locals appreciate the lively marinas, quiet neighborhoods, and bountiful farmers’ markets. Come along to experience some of the most splendid, unexpected discoveries in Olympia, Washington, and beyond.

discoveries in Olympia, Washington

Olympia Marina. Photo by Tracy Ellen Beard

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.

discoveries in Olympia, Washington

Olympia Farmers’ Market. Photo by Tracy Ellen Beard

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Vibrant murals can be found on buildings and alleyways along Capitol Hill Drive.

discoveries in Olympia, Washington

Downtown mural. Photo by Tracy Ellen Beard

As you wander about downtown Olympia, you might crave a snack. Maybe even a chocolate snack. Stop by Encore Teas + Encore Chocolate & Sweets to pick up some delectable chocolates.

discoveries in Olympia, Washington

Encore Teas and Encore Chocolate + Sweets. Photo by Tracy Ellen Beard

Dining in Olympia, Washington

Even after some delicious chocolates, you will likely 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.

discoveries in Olympia, Washington

Pomegranate martini at Anthony’s Hearthfire Grill. Photo by Tracy Ellen Beard

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 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 drive on the Thurston Bountiful Byway. This byway boasts many exciting stops, allowing you 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.

discoveries in Olympia, Washington

Rutledge Corn Maze Sunflower Festival. Photo by Tracy Ellen Beard

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 cornhole. Shooting the corn cannon or exploring the property on a wagon ride is entertaining for everyone in the family.

discoveries in Olympia, Washington

Haunted Maze. Photo by Tracy Ellen Beard

Explore Lael’s Moon Garden Nursery

Larry Lael has labored for over 40 years, creating Lael’s Moon Garden Nursery. Visitors can wander the different sections of this magnificent garden and purchase plants that 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.

discoveries in Olympia, Washington

Banana tree at Lael’s Moon Garden Nursery. Photo by Tracy Ellen Beard

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 take the long boardwalk over the wetland to the viewing point near the Sound. The birds are plentiful, and the scenery is peaceful.

discoveries in Olympia, Washington

Wildlife at the Refuge. Photo courtesy of Ingrid Barrentine

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.

discoveries in Olympia, Washington

Monarch Sculpture Park. Photo by Tracy Ellen Beard

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.

discoveries in Olympia, Washington

Medicine Creek Winery. Photo by Tracy Ellen Beard

Finding Food Beyond Olympia, Washington

Although you will 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.

discoveries in Olympia, Washington

Chili Verde at Don Juan’s Mexican Kitchen. Photo by Tracy Ellen Beard

Sleep in Olympia’s Bed & Breakfast Retreat

Although Olympia, Washington, presents a wide selection of places to sleep, 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.

discoveries in Olympia, Washington

Swantown Inn & Spa. Photo courtesy of Swantown Inn & Spa

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 can 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 as well as 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.

discoveries in Olympia, Washington

Parmesan egg at Swantown Inn & Spa. Photo by Tracy Ellen Beard

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, is dipped in seasoned half and half, fried, and then served with a drizzle of syrup made from marionberry jam and orange juice. Magnifique!

discoveries in Olympia, Washington

French toast at Swantown Inn & Spa. Photo by Tracy Ellen Beard

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.

Book your stay at Swantown Inn & Spa now!

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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 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.

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.


Written by Tracy Ellen Beard

Tracy Ellen Beard, Wander With Wonder Senior Editor, is a freelance writer, editor, and photographer based in Longview, Washington. She is an avid traveler, wine connoisseur, foodie, hiker, cyclist, and kayaker. Tracy is the “Out and About” columnist for the Columbia River Reader and writes monthly for Upscale Living Magazine. She also contributes regularly to LuxeGetaways, Northwest Travel & Life, Country, Country Extra, and several other magazines. Her stories focus on luxury and adventure travel, fine dining, wine, libations, road trips, and recipes. Tracy shares a unique perspective on the world from her personal journeys and the excursions she took as the founder and past president of an international children’s nonprofit. Her twenty years of experience writing in various genres, and her culinary training in San Francisco, California, have added to her knowledge and expertise.

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