As summer quickly faded to fall, it felt like it was time for another weekend road trip to Olympia. You might recall last October when we drove the Thurston Bountiful Byway. This year, we spent more time in Olympia proper and even got to tour what the city is most well-known for: the Washington State Capitol buildings. Scroll down for our itinerary, along with photos and videos of our weekend trip!
Drive to Olympia
Located 70 miles south of downtown Seattle, the best way to get to Olympia is via a car. If you happen to be car-less, consider using a car rental company such as Silvercar by Audi. It’s a snap to make an appointment using their app, and you can choose from Audi’s top models such as the A5 and Q5. This particular trip was not sponsored by Silvercar (unlike our Skagit Valley and Palm Springs trips) but we enjoy the service so much that we still recommend it as a way to enhance any road trip.
Lunch at The River’s Edge
We departed Seattle in the late morning and arrived in Olympia feeling quite hungry.. Thankfully, we had lunch plans at The River’s Edge. Located at the Tumwater Valley Golf Course, this is a great spot not only for the famished, but also for golfers with its 20 holes of championship-level golf.
With that said, The River’s Edge definitely has a casual, sports bar atmosphere. About half of the diners we saw were golfers fueling up before tee time; the other half were sports enthusiast cheering on the football game on TV.
Food-wise, you’ll find a pretty traditional breakfast menu and a rather large and eclectic lunch/dinner menu. Appetizers range from steamer clams and crunchy fried green beans to mac ‘n cheese bites and the “Best [Chicken] Wings in Town.” Main courses include a nice selection of entree salads, burgers, wraps, seafood, and in-house cut steaks. After much deliberation, we settled on sharing the Dungeness Crab Cakes and a 10oz Delmonico steak with a giant blackberry-granola crisp for dessert.
State Capitol Tour
Olympia is best known as the capital of Washington State. And yet, in the 10+ years that we’ve lived in Washington, neither Martin or I had ever visited the capitol building campus. This road trip was the perfect time to cross it off our bucket list.
Free public tours of the Washington State Legislature Building are held on the hour between 11am-3pm, seven days a week. The guided tour lasts about 50 minutes long and it takes you through the massive capitol building. Some fun facts: the Legislative Building dome is the tallest self-supporting masonry dome in the United States, and the fifth tallest in the world. The building is also home to the largest collection of Tiffany bronze in the world, and the largest Tiffany chandelier.
Also located just blocks from the capitol building is the Experience Olympia visitor’s center. This is a great place to get your bearings and plan the rest of your trip to the region.
Dinner at Mercato Ristorante
Our last trip to Olympia gave us a peak at the budding foodie scene that is taking shape in the city. This time, we were further impressed with the dining options in Olympia as we took on Italian cuisine at Mercato Ristorante. This rather modern, upscale restaurant specializes in food that is fresh and made from scratch.
The antipasto of cured meats and artisan cheese was delicious, but it was the pasta that really made our heads spin. Think gnocchi with smoked duck, caramelized onion, mushrooms, and a fried egg. Don’t forget the fat spaghetti puttanesca with sun-dried tomato, capers, olives, anchovy, and pecorino. The food was truly as good as what we’d dined on during our destination wedding in Tuscany.
Catch a Performance at Olympia Dance Center
We were a few weeks too early to catch the seasonal performance of The Nutcracker at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts. However, we got an arguably better deal as Ballet Northwest invited us to spend the evening watching ballet dancers practice for their upcoming Nutcracker performances.
This was our first time seeing ballet so up close. Even though these were just practice runs, it was a real treat to watch the coaching and see how such an iconic performance comes together.
Spend the Night at the Hilton Garden Inn
After a long day exploring Olympia, we headed to our hotel for the night: the Hilton Garden Inn. This hotel is a short drive away from the capitol buildings and downtown core. We made a beeline for the indoor heated pool and hot tub immediately after checking in; it was the perfect way to unwind and get ready for bed! On the way back to our room, we marveled at how lively the on-site restaurant and bar was with guests socializing near the TV area. It turns out the hotel is the place to be late at night!
Morning Walk at Tumwater Falls
The next morning, we woke up just after sunrise and made our way to Tumwater Falls. We visited this park last year when it was chock full of migrating salmon. This time, we were a couple of weeks too late, although we caught glimpses of some stragglers. Salmon or not, this is still one of our favorite parks to visit as it has an easy walking loop with lots of waterfalls.
Brunch at The Magnet
Next, we made our way back to the downtown core for brunch at The Magnet. Part of the Three Magnets Brewing Company, The Magnet is the dining establishment of the brewery. It’s all located in the same building, but is partitioned into its own entities. Breakfast is available all day, with lunch options (mostly sandwiches and burgers) available after 11am. Much of the food is locally sourced including the cage free eggs from Stiebrs Farm in Yelm, Washington.
It was a tough choice, but we ended up with the gravlax (salmon) benedict, cheese curd beignets, and a smoked salmon salad. Other contenders we’d go back to try: the pimento tofu scramble, beer cheese soup, and carnitas hash!
Coffee Cupping at Batdorf & Bronson
After breakfast, we ambled over to one of the region’s premier coffee roasters, Batdorf & Bronson, for a coffee tasting session. Also known as coffee cupping, this is the art of observing and tasting the aromas and flavors of brewed coffee. It’s a longer process than you might think, but it will leave your palate unable to drink cheap coffee again (at least, that was our takeaway!).
If you’ve never heard of Batdorf & Bronson, not to worry. They’re a niche coffee brand, currently with coffeeshops only in Olympia and Atlanta. But their high grade blended and single-origin coffees are second to none. Our particular coffee cupping session was held at the Batdorf & Bronson Tasting Room, also where the company’s roastery is located. We recommend calling or emailing ahead to schedule your own cupping adventure!
Explore Schilter Family Farms
Our journey came to a close at Schilter Family Farms. This 180-acre farm in the Nisqually Valley of Olympia is the perfect fall and winter destination. Visit the farm in the fall to choose your favorite Halloween pumpkin from the U-Pick Pumpkin Patch, or tackle the 5-acre corn maze. Then, from the day after Thanksgiving into the first half of December, visit the farm to choose and cut a fresh Christmas tree.
Head Back to Seattle!
And then, our Olympia journey came to an end. We took off in the late afternoon and made it back to Seattle in time for sunset.
Whether you’re a Washington resident or not, we highly recommend a trip to Olympia, whether you have a day or several to spare.
P.S. The Tech Specs
As photographers and budding videographers, it’s hard for us not to talk about our camera gear. Last year, we went to Olympia armed with my trusty Samsung Galaxy S8 and put together photos and video using just the cell phone. Since then, we’ve been putting as much spare time as possible into learning videography, and hopefully that comes across in our videos. This time, we used our Fujifilm mirrorless cameras and captured so much content we made MORE than the one video we planned on.
OUR OLYMPIA VIDEOS (also embedded above)
- Batdorf & Bronson Coffee Tasting: http://bit.ly/batdorfbronson
- WA State Capitol Building Tour: http://bit.ly/olympiacapitol
- Tumwater Falls: http://bit.ly/tumwaterfallspark
- OUR 2018 OLYMPIA ADVENTURE: http://bit.ly/olympiawa
- OUR 2017 OLYMPIA ADVENTURE: http://bit.ly/2ORiNLh
Photo Gallery - More Photos Here
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