Washington June 20, 2022
You Don’t Have To Be A Washington Local To Enjoy A Weekend Getaway In Olympia
Sometimes you visit a place and really start wondering what it would be like to live there. Usually, such musings occur when you explore a far-off exotic destination, but if you happen to love your life in Washington and the Pacific Northwest, it’s easy to let your mind wander when you visit one of our local gems.
Olympia is such a place, at least for those who prefer a small-town vibe with plenty of urban amenities. Washington’s capital city isn’t without its problems, of course. But between its picturesque waterfront location, charming downtown area, and unbelievably fantastic food scene, it isn’t hard to imagine waking up to views of Budd Inlet each morning and treating yourself to a Left Bank Pastry delight on Sundays.
If nothing else, you owe it to yourself to play tourist here for a weekend. My family does so a few times a year, and every time we leave saying, “We could probably live here…”
Olympia is the largest city in Thurston County, with a population of around 53,000.
Known for being an hour south of Seattle and two hours north of Portland, this little hub sits at the southern end of Puget Sound on Budd Inlet. The Deschutes River estuary was dammed in 1951 to create Capitol Lake, so most of this city is surrounded by water. Perhaps that's why it feels so peaceful.
Of course, this is the capital city of Washington, so it's no surprise that the State Capitol (or Legislative Building) is a popular place to visit.
Washington State Capitol Building, 416 Sid Snyder Ave SW, Olympia, WA 98504, USA
The city is home to a number of historical buildings, like the 1909 Governor’s Mansion and the Old Capitol Building, which was used from 1905 until 1928.
The current Legislative Building was finished in 1928, built in a neoclassical style.
The building is open daily for guests, both for guided tours and self-guided tours.
The free guided tours last for 30 minutes and will tell you everything you need to know about this magnificent structure.
It's also fun to wander around on your own, especially on the weekends when the government officials are away and the halls are mostly empty.
The Olympia Farmers Market is an absolute must-see if you visit between April and October.
Olympia Farmers Market Pavilion, 700 Capitol Way N, Olympia, WA 98501, USA
The market, which has more than 100 vendors, is open Thursday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Here, you'll find all kinds of tasty local produce, meat, eggs, and prepared foods — Olympia is in a prime location near some of Washington's best farms, so everything is as fresh as it gets.
Treat yourself to some local jewelry, freshly made soaps, or some salsas, sauces, and dips. And when you visit, come hungry — this place has one of the best food courts we've ever seen, offering everything from fresh noodles to paella.
When you're wandering through the city, it's impossible not to notice all the beautiful, intricate murals on the sides of many of the buildings.
Each piece of art tells a different story. Some have to do with local history, while others are simply meant to send a positive message.
Olympia is, at its core, an extremely family-friendly city. You can't go more than a few blocks without seeing a park or a playground.
And if you have little ones in your life, you'll definitely want to spend time at the Hands On Children's Museum on Jefferson Street.
Prepare yourself: the energy here is lively, full of young children who are excited to be out and about after two years of uncertain times.
That being said, their passion is contagious, and you can't help but crack a smile as you watch those little imaginations thrive. The museum stimulates their creativity with 150 exhibits, 10 beautiful galleries, and a large outdoor play area. Admission is a very affordable $15.95, which grants your little ones access to play all day.
Like many of Washington's top cities, Olympia is surrounded by breathtaking nature. After all, it is a gateway to Olympic National Park.
Brewery Park at Tumwater Falls (formerly Tumwater Falls Park), 110 Deschutes Way SW, Tumwater, WA 98501, USA
One of our favorite ways to spend an afternoon is to head a few miles south of town to Brewery Park at Tumwater Falls (note that while Olympia has plenty of exceptional breweries, you won't actually find one here). There are numerous walking paths by the waterfalls perfect for stretching your legs and clearing your head, and your kids will get a kick out of the on-site fish hatchery. This is the perfect place to come for a little break from the hustle and bustle of touring the city, especially if you need to work up an appetite.
Speaking of appetite: you will not believe how many tasty food options are packed into this one mid-sized city.
Left Bank Pastry, 1001 4th Ave E, Olympia, WA 98506, USA
Start your first morning by standing in line for the walk-up window at Left Bank Pastry. This French Patisserie will ruin you for all other bakeries. It's worth it.
From savory croissants and quiches to puff pastries, tarts, and macarons, you'll find what you're craving here.
Wash it down with some French Press coffee and you'll be ready to start the day.
The Olympia Oyster House is situated in the same building as one of the oldest businesses in town, The Olympia Oyster Company.
Olympia Oyster House, 320 4th Ave W, Olympia, WA 98501, USA
This historic location has been around since 1859. The building has burned down twice and been subject to all the typical pain points of the restaurant industry. But thanks to the hard work of some longtime local restauranteurs, it's better than ever. There's nothing better than sitting on this patio on a warm afternoon sipping one of their surprisingly strong cocktails and feasting on their classic fried oyster dinner. Your server will always be happy to explain the local oyster selection and share just how fresh they are.
The list of wonderful restaurants in Olympia is far too long to list. If you're a fan of seafood, pizza, or American pub fare, you'll never be hungry here.
222 Market, 222 Capitol Way N, Olympia, WA 98501, USA
We always make it a point to stop by the 222 Market, a fairly new artisanal market located at 222 Capitol Way North. Home to a Chelsea Farms Oyster Bar, The Bread Peddler, and the irresistible Sofie's Scoops Gelato, this market is perfectly PNW with a European twist.
Whether you're a foodie, a nature lover, or simply someone who appreciates savoring a good meal by the water, Olympia will have what you're looking for.
Truth be told, this little city is criminally underrated. Washington has so many idyllic weekend getaway towns, but here, it's still possible to have an affordable, uncrowded, beautiful family vacation or a romantic weekend away.
Ready to experience Olympia for yourself? Design your dream trip with the help of the
Experience Olympia site and their trusted team of local experts. Address: Olympia, WA, USA Address: Washington State Capitol Building, 416 Sid Snyder Ave SW, Olympia, WA 98504, USA Address: Left Bank Pastry, 1001 4th Ave E, Olympia, WA 98506, USA Address: Olympia Farmers Market Pavilion, 700 Capitol Way N, Olympia, WA 98501, USA Address: Brewery Park at Tumwater Falls (formerly Tumwater Falls Park), 110 Deschutes Way SW, Tumwater, WA 98501, USA Address: Olympia Oyster House, 320 4th Ave W, Olympia, WA 98501, USA Address: 222 Market, 222 Capitol Way N, Olympia, WA 98501, USA