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Take a drive, discover Olympia

Northwest Guardian

Published: 12:00AM August 28th, 2014

Upcoming Events:

Olympia Harbor Days

Shop for arts & crafts, listen to live music, learn more about the area history and watch tugboats race at this annual event.


Percival Landing Boardwalk external link and Columbia Street


This Friday until Sept. 1

Fall Arts Walk

Admire, listen and enjoy local art or watch the Procession of the Species Parade, featuring floats and costumes celebrating all living things, from snails to elephants.


Throughout downtown Olympia


Oct. 3 - 4

For more information:


Just 30 miles away from the Joint Base Lewis-McChord Main Gate is the perfect day trip for singles and families, or a date night for couples. Take a stroll downtown, go for a hike in the woods, let the kids learn and play at several museums or enjoy waterfront views over a plate of fresh oysters in Olympia.

Kyla Cavanagh, marketing and sales director for the Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater Visitor and Convention Bureau, said this area is perfect for a day trip for the whole family.

“We have a lot of family and dog-friendly activities,” she said. “Every park is animal friendly. Some of the restaurants allow you to bring dogs and sit outside during nice weather.”

There are also things to do away from the kids.

“For a date night or more adult entertainment, we have three different live performance venues, the South Sound wine trail and really great ‘foodie’ restaurants that get supplies from the local farms – just to name a few,” she said.

There are also plenty of places to admire the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest.

Tumwater Falls, near the now-closed Olympia Brewery building, is a dog-friendly trail that loops around the large waterfall. Learn more about the history of the area by following signs littered throughout the trail, Cavanagh said.

The Nisqually Wildlife Refuge also features dog-friendly trails that give visitors a chance to view the many different types of birds found where the Nisqually River meets the Puget Sound.

“There is plenty to do around here during these last weeks of warm weather, and then activities like the coffee tastings, museums and live shows for when the weather isn’t so nice,” Cavanagh said.

Things to do for the whole family:

The Olympia Farmers Market

Shop for groceries, gifts and treat your kids to face painting or a balloon animal at this open-air market full of local merchants. From ostrich eggs to fresh spinach, find it here. There are also numerous local-food venues; including Mexican, Indian and Greek cuisine. On the weekends, listen to live music on the main stage, with tables to sit at and enjoy.

Open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday through Sunday

700 Capitol Way N.

Heritage Park Fountain

When the temperatures are hot and you need a break, let the kids spend some time at this water fountain. This free area is open to visitors looking to cool off. The flat service is pocketed with jets that shoot water up in patterns. Have a seat and enjoy the view of the Capitol Building over Capitol Lake.

Open every day but Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to noon, 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

330 Fifth Avenue SW.

Capitol Campus

Visit the Washington State Capitol Building to see where laws are made. Receive a tour of the historic building to learn more about the symbols; such as the state flower pattern in the House chamber carpet, and art throughout the campus.

There is also a guide for self-tours, with a brochure that points out some of the most impressive portions of the area. Learn more about the Capitol Rotunda, with the impressive dome at the top featuring the largest Tiffany chandelier ever built, and the state seal replica on the floor.

Visit the World War II memorial, featuring bronze blades with the names of every Soldier killed during the war; the Vietnam Memorial wall; the Winged Victory Monument, which is northeast of the Capitol Building in honor of World War I; and The Korean War memorial outside on the Capitol grounds.

Free guided public tours are offered 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and on weekends from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. There is also a new botanical tour, taking visitors through the historic trees and plants throughout the area, beginning at the flag circle on the north side of the Legislative Building at 11 a.m. Tuesdays through Fridays until Sept. 26.

Hands On Children’s Museum

Explore this two-story building full of different areas for children to learn and play in. Be a customer or merchant in the play farmer’s market, explore the qualities of water, learn more about the forest ecosystem, build something new with blocks and get a feeling for emergency responders’ jobs.

Military IDs get you in for $8.95, which is $2 off general admissions. Babies younger than a year are free.

Annual memberships, which give you unlimited admission, a newsletter, entrance into member-only hours and discounts, cost $95 for military families (two adults and dependent children) and $130 for general-admissions families.

Open 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Tuesdays - Saturdays and 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. Sundays through Mondays.

Water Education and Technology (WET) Center

Next to the Hands On Children’s Museum is a center devoted to teaching the old and young all about water. It covers the entire water cycle, from condensation, rivers and oceans, to the shower drain and everything in between. The interactive exhibits allow kids to play while learning.

Warehouse Rock Gym

Across from the Hands on Children’s Museum is a place to climb. Attend lessons for adults or kids to learn more about rock climbing. Group classes are catered to both novice and intermediate climbers. One-on-one classes are also by appointment. For more information, call 360-596-9255. Rent the space out for two hours to celebrate a birthday party or other special event. Rental costs between $130 for a party of up to 9 and $340 for a group of 30; include renting the space, safety equipment and on-hand instructors.

315 Jefferson St. NE.

Olympic Flight Museum

Spend hours checking out full planes, including a P-51D Mustang and a AT-6 Texan, aircraft models, playing with interactive displays, admiring scaled models and seeing other aviation artifacts. Tickets are $7 for two adults.

Open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Sunday.

7637-A Old Hwy 99 SE.


Find unique treasures at stores in historic downtown Olympia. Find specialty lotions and gifts at Archibald Sisters, find used and new music or movies at Rainy Day Records, go antiquing at the Courtyard Antique Mall, shop for books at Orca Books and find more throughout the downtown area.

For adults:

The South Sound Wine Trail’s Fall Wine and Chocolate Passport

Stretching from Olympia to Tenino, enjoy locally-made wine and treats with different events throughout the year. Next month, visit six wineries and sample their best vintages. Passports can be purchased in the coming weeks at any of these participating places: Madsen Family Cellars, Northwest Mountain Winery, Walter Dacon, Scatter Creek Winery, Medicine Creek Winery and Stottle Winery. Prices have not been announced. Visit to learn more.

Live Perfomances

Enjoy plays, musics and other live performances at downtown theaters including:

Harlequin Productions

See Middletown, a comedy about a tiny town, until Sept. 13 for $28 per ticket with a military ID. There is also an improv show Sept. 3 at 8 p.m. which is $15 for reserved seating.

Visit for more information or to purchase tickets.

202 Fourth Avenue East.

Olympia Little Theatre

Between Sept. 5 and 28 see “Blithe Spirit,” a play about a deceased first wife returns in a seance and doesn’t want to leave. Ticket prices vary between $10 to $14, with a $2 military discount, depending on how close the show is.

Visit for more information.

1925 Miller Ave NE.

Capitol Theater

See independent films and old favorites hosted by the Olympia Film Society. Tickets and times vary by day. Currently showing “Boyhood” Sunday through Friday evenings.

206 Fifth Avenue SE.

Batdorf & Bronson Coffee Tasting Room

Visit the tasting room of local coffee roasters Batdorf & Bronson to sample coffee grown in Africa, Indonesia and Latin America.

Open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.

200 Market St. NE.

Hiking destinations:

Nisqually Wildlife Refuge

Walk through the largest protected estuary in the Pacific Northwest where the freshwater of the Nisqually River meets the salty Puget Sound.

100 Brown Farm Rd NE.

Priest Point Park

More than 314 acres of Northwestern forest and beach is open to explore near downtown Olympia. The Ellis Cove Trail takes hikers through the middle of the park to better views of the sites nearby. There is more than one mile of beach access, with frequent sightings of shrimp, crab, fish and birds. Have a picnic at the numerous tables, let kids play at a playground or take a break at the restroom facility.

2600 East Bay Drive NE.

Watershed Park

Walk through the Moxlie Creek Springs Basin, full of tall rainforest trees, native plants and animals. Follow the trail to cross over bridges, boardwalks and up steep hills while exploring the rich history and ecosystem using supplied signs. Not handicap accessible; contains many hills.

Parking available at 2500 Henderson Blvd. SE with numerous pedestrian access points around.


The Oyster House

Recently reopened after a fire gutted the interior last year, the Oyster House gives great views of the harbor and is a perfect place for families or adults to stop. A variety of vegetarian, surf and turf, and sandwiches are on the menu to feed any craving.

Open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

320 4th Avenue W.

Old School Pizzeria

This small pizzeria has hometown roots with its owners stemming from Evergreen State College. Listen to music, the collection of pop-culture memorabilia lining the walls and a chance to watch them make pizza with an open-air kitchen set to one side. Toppings vary from the usual pepperoni and olives to broccoli, eggplant and sun dried tomatoes; depending on what’s in season and on hand. There is also an extensive selection of bottled brews and sodas for those who want more than a fountain drink. Limited seating is available in the building, but pizzas can be ordered in or to-go.

108 Franklin St.


Since 1986, bread baked fresh daily and countless choices for what goes in between the slices set this locally-owned restaurant apart from the rest. Order a six-inch to foot-long sub with basic turkey, Italian, tuna or spring for a hot sandwich filled with meatballs or sausage. Macaroni salad, potato salad, hot soup, chips and garden salads are a selection of the sides available. The downtown Olympia location is just one of four around Thurston County.

1018 Capitol Way S. Suite 101.

10 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday – Friday and 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday

The Spar Cafe

Visit a local favorite featuring hardy dining options – ranging from huge burgers covered in cheese to homemade clam chowder, with vegan and vegetarian options in between. Try their house-made beer, made from artisan well water in the basement of the restaurant. Check out their weekly specials; including fish tacos and desserts made with in-season fruit. Stop by between 3 to 6 p.m. or 10 p.m. to midnight for happy-hour specials including $2 french fries and beer on tap for between $3 to $6.

7 a.m. - midnight Sunday - Thursday and 7 a.m. - 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

Wagner’s European Bakery & Cafe:

Near Meconi’s and the Capitol Building grounds is a sweet-smelling refuge that’s been around since 1938. The bakery is full of fresh baked cookies, bread, cakes and pastries that are decorated in line with the current season. The breakfast menu includes a breakfast sandwich, a European sweet plate full of different pastries, juice or coffee and a warm plate of cinnamon toast. For lunch, enjoy sandwiches full of hand-sliced meats on fresh baked bread, a cup of the “soup of the day” or a German sausage for lunch. They also have a Pizza Annex, where you can order by the slice or take a whole pizza home to bake yourself or eat in the the annex.

7 a.m. - 6 p.m. Monday - Friday; 7:30 a.m. - 5 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. - 3 p.m. Sunday.