We've been wanting to take a trip to Olympia for over a year now. The city was always so close, yet a bit too far away. It didn't make sense to drive out and back for the day since there were other nearby activities to stack up with it, so we began to look for an opportunity to get away for the weekend.
We finally landed on the third week of July, in the middle of a summer heat wave. The heat was so intense we couldn't open the black-out curtains at our hotel room except at dawn and dusk. It made the room unbearably hot, and for some reason the hotel had the HEAT ON as well. In the middle of summer. During a heat wave. Seriously. We complained, got a fan, and went along our merry way. We stayed at The Governor, and the walking distance to the capitol campus, Capitol Lake, and downtown activities was excellent. Free breakfast, free parking, and free wifi in-room. No pool.
Day 1: Tenino, WA
• Breakfast at the Sandstone Cafe. Delicious, but a bit of a wait for a table on a Saturday morning. Immediately outside of the cafe was an extremely small farmers' market as well.
• After breakfast, we traveled to Walf Haven International to see 80+ rescued wolves. Isabella has been talking about this for a while and we thought it would be the highlight of our trip. I hate to say it was quite disappointing– almost all of the wolves were "off display" which makes perfect sense to their safety and rehabilitation. We only saw four wolves and got rushed by a coyote enclosure at the end. We did a lot of standing in the sun while our guide talked about the wolves, which would have worked better as interpretive displays or a walking map handout. Adults tickets run $13, youth $7.50. All in an about an hour of time, and not worth the extra effort.
• Next up the Tenino Sandstone Quarry Pool. Admission to this natural freshwater pool is only $5pp and we expected to stick around for much of the afternoon. I hate to say this was a disappointment as well– the water was murky and full of algae and leaves, and even though we knew it would be cold, it was VERY cold. Admittedly, Isabella is pretty dainty, so other kids may tough it out better, but we ended up leaving after about an hour. Parking is VERY limited as well. The season runs from the end of June to the first week in September.
• The end of our day in Tenino was at Nelson Ranch, a six-generation cattle ranch established in 1861. We were graciously guided around the grounds by Karen, a chef based in Seattle who grew up on the ranch. She shared many family history stories, such as her grandfather's interest in dynamite and the shack he built (away from the main house, of course) to experiment with it! Tours are available, and they host an annual open house and dinner.
Day 2: Olympia, WA
• We started off early and walked down to the Olympia Farmers' Market, a lovely permanent building at the end of the mini-peninsula of downtown. We're used to the markets in Seattle, so this one was smaller than I expected, but we were highly entertained by a street busker playing an accordion while wearing a raccoon head.
• Next up on the walk back into town was the Olympia Flea Market. We LOVE a good flea market, and this 8,000 square foot gem didn't disappoint. It is located in an industrial
area and I should point out we were harassed and followed a couple of times by bums yelling obscenities. But we arrived safely and spent about an hour wandering the aisles. Didn't buy anything though, until we got to the Goodwill Blue Boutique a few blocks away. I found a cute wooden stand-up decorative canoe and a couple of tiny lighthouses to sit on its shelves.
• At this point we were ready for our 1pm tour of the Washington State Capitol. This free public tour is about an hour long and winds through the Legislative Building on campus. We started off with about six other people, but as the tour moved along others joined us and we eventually had a few dozens stragglers taking photos and making it difficult to hear the guide. We usually stand at the front of the group to make sure we don't miss anything, so (pro tip!) stay close! Congress is only in session at the beginning of the year so there wasn't a lot of activity, but we still got to see both the House and Senate Chambers. We have personally met several Washington State representatives and senators, so this event felt personal to us. Isabella also enjoyed an opportunity to stage an "I'm just a bill, sittin' here on Capitol Hill" photo.
• A few other noteworthy items: Capitol Lake was right outside our hotel and hosted many species of waterfowl and plenty of joggers. An excellent splash park right by the lake is the Heritage Park Fountain. We enjoyed a couple of meals at Percival Landing Park and saw seals playing in the water at the marina. An excellent ice cream stop is Grandpa's Soda Fountain. And lastly, we visited Capitol Mall to see a movie at Cinemark Century Olympia.