Travel Guide: How to Spend 36 Hours in Olympia, WA


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View of the Marina Plaza Park water views in Olympia, WA.

We all know that Olympia is the capital of Washington state, but how many of us have really ever been there? I hadn’t until last month. My boyfriend and I wanted to take a quick weekend trip, but we needed it to be 36 hours or less so we’d have time do some life things that weekend, too.

Enter Olympia. Our state capital is about a 1.5 hour drive from Seattle, which makes it a great day or one-night trip. And there’s a whole lot more to do than just visit the capitol building. In fact, it’s a tight-knit community that shares a lot of my values: celebrate local farms, make good beer, and get outside.

Have a day or two to spare? Here are 8 ideas for how to spend 36 hours in Olympia, WA.

Start at the Farmer’s Market

If you leave Seattle around 8:30 am, you’ll make it to the Olympia Farmer’s Market for when it opens at 10 am. But first, head to Batdorf & Bronson next door and sample some coffee before taking a cup to go.

The Olympia Farmers Market in Olympia WA.

The Olympia Farmers Market in Olympia WA is indoors year round, though with limited hours.

The Olympia WA farmers market is a great place to connect with local farmers and makers.

Batdorf and Bronson is a local roaster in Olympia WA that serves coffee tastings near the farmers market.

At the farmer’s market you’ll be able to browse more than 50 stalls selling local produce and handmade goods. There’s also food vendors and entertainment on site.

The market is open year round from 10 am – 3 pm. It’s Saturdays only January through March, Thursday – Sunday April through October, and Saturday and Sunday November and December. Note, pets are not allowed.

Take a Beer and Bike Tour

Bike and Beer Tour in Olympia WA

One of our favorite activities was taking the Olympia Beer & Bike Tour with South Sound Adventures. For $40 per person ($30 if you bring your own bike), you’ll get a mellow, 3.5 hour, 11-mile bike ride through Olympia with stops at three local breweries. Owner, Robin, is an “Oly” local (as they say) and knows all the best bike routes to make sure you get a good sense of the Washington state capital.

For example, you’ll start your ride on a paved trail that takes you along Capitol Lake. Then you’ll bike up to the Capitol Campus where you’ll take views of the lake you just rode along and of course the capitol building.

View of Capitol Lake in Olympia WA

Smoke salmon dip at Three Magnets Brewing, part of the Bike and Beer Tour in Olympia WA.

The Olympia WA capitol building is an impressive architectural feat!

The Capitol Building in Olympia WA is a great place to visit to get beautiful photos.

Visit Capitol Campus in Olympia WA to visit the Olympia WA Capitol Building.

Fish Brewing Company in Olympia WA

Fish Brewing Company in Olympia WA has beautiful street art murals along all of its walls.

Oly Taproom is one of the breweries you visit in Olympia WA on the Bike and Beer Tour of Olympia from South Sound Adventures.

Three Magnets Brewing in Olympia WA serving up local craft beers

View of the Marina Plaza Park water views in Olympia, WA.

View of Capitol Lake from Capitol Campus in Olympia, WA

Next you’ll head into the downtown area as you start visiting breweries, noting which shops you might want to stop in later. And you’ll also take a meander to Port Plaza Park, where you’ll get gorgeous views of the marina.

Olympia is a big biking town, so this is a great way to experience the city. Plus, did we say beer? Our favorite was Three Magnets Brewing!

Get Dinner at 222 Market

222 Market is a food hall in Olympia WA serving a bunch of cheap eats.

Olympia recently got its own food hall similar to Home Remedy in Seattle or Pine Street Market in Portland. It’s called 222 Market and it houses 9 restaurants and shops. Stop at The Bread Peddler to pickup some bread or try a sandwich. Head to Chelsea Farm Oyster Bar for some, er, oysters. And if you have a way to store it, pick up some broth at the Broth Bar.

If you have time ahead of your trip, check out the Pantry’s class schedule!

Oysters from Chelsea Farm Oysters in Olympia WA. Get them at 222 Market!

Get a Drink at Dillinger’s Cocktail Bar

Dillingers in Olympia WA is an old 1927 building that they recreated into a craft cocktail bar.

Dillingers is a great place to get Prohibition style craft cocktails in Olympia WA.

Dillinger’s is the refurbished, 1927-era Security Building that serves up some tasty Prohibition-themed cocktails. They take reservations, so plan ahead to make sure you get in.

Visit Olympia’s Wineries

If there’s a winery, I’m going to find it. Luckily, the Olympia area has 5 of them: Madsen Family Cellars, Medicine Creek Winery, Scatter Creek Winery, Stottle Winery, and Walter Dacon Wines.

They’re part of the South Sound Wine Trail that weaves through Olympia, Lacey, Tenino, and Shelton. This trail is part of the larger Thurston Bountiful Byway, which maps out local farms, artisans, breweries, wineries, and bike trails. All of these make some great pit stops as you meander your way back home!

Take a Mini Golf Break

Mini golf in Olympia WA

Next door to Madsen Family Cellars is the Marvin Road Mini Golf course, range, and batting cages. What’s better than some friendly competition between sips of wine?

Visit the Evergreen Valley Lavender Farm

View of the lavender in full bloom at Evergreen Valley Lavender Farm in Olympia WA.

If you’re traveling in June-August, check out the 4-acre Evergreen Valley Lavender Farm. It’s owned by retired couple Thane and Peggy Bryenton, who decided to start a lavender farm after visiting the lavender farms in Sequim, WA.

They organically grow 11 different varieties of lavender, largely of the English variety because they are more aromatic. They sell them whole for decorating and cooking or as part of their homemade lavender products, such as soap and lavender oils.

This is a great place to sit, relax with a book, and take a ton of photos (you can see I did!). Be sure to check their hours, as they change with the seasons.

Close up of the lavender at Evergreen Valley Lavender Farm in Olympia WA.

Head to Evergreen Valley Lavender Farm if you are in Olympia WA from June to August to see the lavender in full bloom.

Evergreen Valley Lavender Farm in Olympia WA when in full bloom

Lavender at the Evergreen Valley Lavender Farm in Olympia WA.

Found of The Emerald Palate among the lavender at Evergreen Lavender Farm in Olympia WA.

Hike at the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge

Trail in the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually Park

About 15 minutes outside of Olympia is the Billy Frank Wildlife Refuge. It’s a protected estuary that houses a ton of different wildlife. That’s because it sits at the Nisqually River Delta where fresh water from the river combines with the salt water of the Puget Sound.

It’s open daily and costs $3 per adult to get in. Once there, you can walk the 5-miles of trails (most are plank boardwalks) that take you through the reserve, where you can spot different bird species, deer, beavers, amphibians, and more.

Barn at Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually Wildlife Refuge.

Views of the barns at Billy Jr. Frank Nis qually Refuge in Olympia, WA.

Peaceful hiking trail near Olympia WA: Billy Frank Jr Nisqually Wildlife Refuge

Billy Frank Jr Nisqually Wildlife Reserve near Olympia WA has a ton of boardwalk hikes perfect for the whole family

We had such a great trip to Olympia and can’t wait to come back. Have you been to Olympia? What are some of your favorite things to do in our state capital?

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8 ideas for traveling to Olympia WA. It is more than just the Washington state capital. It is a biker friendly city that loves beer, hiking, and local farms.

Disclaimer: I was provided one-night’s accommodations and complimentary tickets to the beer and bike tour from Experience Olympia & Beyond in exchange for my honest review of Olympia. All opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that help make The Emerald Palate possible!

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8 Comments on Travel Guide: How to Spend 36 Hours in Olympia, WA

  1. Adria Saracino
    August 23, 2017 at 11:10 pm (6 months ago)

    Thank you, it really was! I spent way too much time in those lavender fields. I think the owners thought I was a bit of a psycho when I started sitting down, ha!

  2. Rachel Teodoro
    August 23, 2017 at 11:35 pm (6 months ago)

    Great recommendations! I lived far too close for far too long to not visit!

  3. Adria Saracino
    August 24, 2017 at 6:24 am (6 months ago)

    Thank you! Olympia is a gem if you know where to look. I always thought it was a bit ho-hum until I realized the beer and local farm scene there. Highly recommended!

  4. Stephanie
    August 24, 2017 at 6:06 pm (6 months ago)

    As a born & raised Olympian, I think you found some good spots! I also love the 29 antique stores in our area –
    Disclaimer: I am a vendor in one of them. I can’t tell you how many Seattle/Portland/BC customers we get as the prices are better.

    I also think Priest Point Park, Burfoot Park, & Tumwater Falls park are great.

    Another fave thing to do is eat out. Cooper Pt. Public House, Dirty Daves pizza (order the gay ’90s with pineapple – it already has cashews!), Hearthfire restaurant for Happy Hour & enjoy the amazing floor to ceiling waterfront views. If you like burgers or corn dogs, you MUST go to Van’s On Yelm Hwy. I cannot eat enough of the strawberry tarts at Wagner’s Bakery on Capitol Boukevard. There are many great Italian spots in town: Casa Mia, Pellegrino’s, Mercato’s, Basilico. You can buy pizza by the slice at Old School Pizza in Olympia- that has vintage ’80s memorabilia on the walls & pinball machines! A fun bar is the Brotherhood Tavern, that’s decorated with bullfighters & kitsch galore. So many cute shops downtown, too. Hot Toddy has such cute clothing in vintage dress styles that are new. Psychic Sister is not only what the name suggests, but also offers thrifting of vintage fabulousness. The Capitol Theatre is home to The Olympia Film Society, as well as lots of live music. There’s many theatre companies in the area if you want to catch a show. TAO (Theatre Artists Olympia) does more unique, cutting edge pieces in the cozy Midnight Sun theatre downtown. Is right in the heart of downtown and has a full season of shows. Hope you enjoy your return visit!

  5. Thane Bryenton
    August 25, 2017 at 3:50 am (6 months ago)

    Greetings Adria.
    Thank you for the wonderful write-up about our lavender farm. We really enjoyed having you out there and showing you around. Please feel free to come visit us anytime in season. And thank you for sharing what to do in Olympia in just 36 hours.

  6. Adria Saracino
    August 26, 2017 at 12:33 am (6 months ago)

    Of course, thank you for having such a beautiful farm and inviting people to enjoy its beauty! I will definitely be back when I come to Olympia!

  7. Adria Saracino
    August 26, 2017 at 12:35 am (6 months ago)

    Wow, these are SUCH good tips thank you! And I’m bummed I didn’t get a chance to go to the antique shops while I was there. I absolutely love antiquing. Definitely going to refer to these suggestions for next time.