24 Hours in Olympia: Washington’s Diverse and Edgy Capital
While Seattle may take most of the credit for being home to coffee and grunge, don’t be fooled. Just 60 miles out of the Emerald City lays Olympia, a diverse city with a bit of an edge and plenty of alternative vibes. I was thrilled to start my 10 days in Washington last month with a weekend in the state’s capitol. I had envisioned Olympia as a little rough around the edges. What I discovered instead is a beautiful city by the bay with a bounty of bars, shops, theater and might I dare say, some of the best food coming out of the area.
24 Hours in Olympia
While I am kind of lying: I was in town for more like 48 hours, this first in a series of posts will highlight an ideal one day itinerary should you plan a trip to Washington’s state capital.
Where to Stay
The Doubletree of Olympia is in the heart of Downtown and lays on the marina. I’ve enjoyed several one room suites on my past Doubletree stays but this visit found me with a larger suite. Along with my comfy bed, there was a room divider and I was treated to a couch and ample desk space. Thank goodness for my gorgeous view of the marina I awoke to each morning. Without that motivation, I may have wanted to stay in my cozy room!
While it was difficult, I still had work to get done during my trip. Since I was in town on Cinco de Mayo, I decided to set up shop down at their bar while sipping a margarita. My bartender could not have been more accommodating; helping me find a table with a power outlet and making a fabulous drink. The laid-back vibes are ideal if you’re in need of enjoying some R&R; even if you need to get work done. While they have TV’s surrounding the restaurant for watching the game, it was not a ruckus atmosphere at all.
The Doubletree was such a quiet hotel, and ideal if you will be visiting without a car or just prefer to walk the city.
Where to Get Breakfast
From the outside, Our Table is a very un-assuming cafe. When you enter, it’s your ultimate 50’s style diner. While the norm would be a menu of burgers and shakes, Our Table surprises you with an eclectic farm to table spin on the common diner dishes.
Our Table’s funky building dates back to the 1950’s. It’s been everything from a florist to a pizza parlor. In June of 2015, college buddies Mike Holbein and Brad Thompson decided to bring their culinary dreams to fruition by opening Our Table. With $18,000 in mattress money to launch, Our Table has since become the greasy spoon darling of Olympia-but, hold the grease.
I grabbed a seat at the bar, and was immediately impressed at how ideal their menu is for brunch. From hazelnut pancakes to the East side burger, I’m sure the locals love Our Table for those mornings after a late night at the bars.
With plenty of fresh veggies available, I ordered the vegetarian omelette with gluten-free bread and a side order of polenta. While my scramble had generous helpings of spring greens, mushrooms, and cheese, it was the polenta that blew me away. Sliced like a pizza, this corn-y dish was bursting with flavor and had an assortment of local veggies like asparagus and onions paired with an apricot relish.
This felt like such a hearty breakfast, yet everything I enjoyed was much healthier than your usual diner breakfast. I was fueled for my day ahead.
Where to Enjoy a Cup of Coffee
As I said earlier, Olympia is no stranger to a great cup of Joe. Just about 5 minutes from the Doubletree, you’ll find Batdorf and Bronson’s tasting room. Batdorf and Bronson is a town favorite and also operates the Dancing Goats Coffee Bar, just across from Olympia’s Farmers Market. If you’re like me and find yourself lost and confused at the coffee bar, just continue down Market Street and you will see the tasting room on your left.
Batdorf and Bronson is a cozy location and the aroma when you walk in is heavenly. A small space in front occupies an assortment of coffee beans available by the pound, as well as some fun trinkets and coffee mugs for sale. While I’ve done my share of wine tastings, I was a bit of a stranger to a coffee tasting and was anxious to see what was in store.
We went through a fascinating process that found us trying a various of different roasts from various regions. Their Guji was light and tart, while the Guatemala was earthy and had a hint of pepper-like spice. My favorite was definitely their full-bodied Sumatra. This made sense as Sumatra is a coffee best enjoyed black; just how I like it.
Tastings are available throughout the week and include your choice of a pound of coffee, a Clever Driper or a V-60 Hario with filters. This is such a fabulous time even for the coffee connoisseur.
Where to Shop Like a Local (and Grab Lunch)
Summertime is definitely the time to visit Olympia and take advantage of their Farmers Market. While open year-round, you can tell how much everyone is enjoying those lighter days, sunshine and maybe an ice cream.
Along with the usual pickings of local produce, Olympia’s Farmers Market offers some of the best food trucks and treats from town in one central location. After cruising the aisles to get the lay of the land, I made a bee line for Blue Heron Bakery. Not only did they have a hearty selection of gluten free pastries and cookies, but the long line showed me they must be good. I started out with their apple coffee cake and one of their famous BeeBee’s. A Paleo-friendly energy ball concoction with, you guessed it, honey. It hit the spot as I discovered more great booths like Crossed Paws Bakery.
It’s become a tradition that I buy something for my pups when I am traveling. Despite dogs are not allowed at the market, you can make their day with a treat from Crossed Paws. I decided on the apple cheddar bacon bites and Hammy and Nova ate ’em right up.
If you want to do some more human-friendly shopping, don’t miss the chocolates at Blissful Wunders. An ongoing trend I found in Olympia was the amount of vegan offerings everywhere I went. Blissful Wunders was no exception. I decided to build my own bag of truffles and their lavender mint as well as the blueberry were my highlights. And, both vegan.
Where to Get Dinner and Drinks
I stumbled into Dillinger’s and immediately fell in-love with the lively atmosphere. Housed in the Security Building, one of Olympia’s oldest buildings, Dillinger’s is a prohibition themed craft bar with eclectic cocktails to sip and delicious food to enjoy. Whether you’re in the mood for a drink and light bites, or dinner before your night on the town, you will feel at home at Dillinger’s.
Something I appreciated was the fact that I didn’t feel like that person alone at the bar. While I adore traveling on my own, I am aware that I may stand out sometimes; a gal by herself, scribbling notes like a banshee while drinking a libation or 2. I was immediately welcomed by Jason, one of Dillinger’s star bartenders. Despite their menu is on the compact side, I struggled at what to try out. While I gave that some thought, Jason whipped me up my first drink: the Juschu.
Sweet, bitter and strong (thanks to the generous helping of tequila), the Juschu was an Instagram-worthy drink that hit the spot. As I decided on the savory and delicious vegan/gluten-free gumbo for my entree, I knew I had to experience one more Dillinger’s cocktail creation. For my next round? The La Paloma. A 180 from the bitter notes of the Juschu, the La Paloma was more tequila with light notes of grapefruit. When Jason asked if I’d chosen a favorite, it really came down to apples and oranges. Both drinks were equally great, but unique each in their own right.
Where to See a Live Play
Just steps from Dillenger’s, Harlequin Productions has been producing exceptional live theatre in Olympia since 1991. I was thrilled to catch opening night of their production of Three Days of Rain. An intriguing story from Richard Greenberg, Three Days of Rain begins in 1995. We’re quickly introduced to Ned Janeway’s kids, Nan and Walker. Walker, who has been AWOL for several years, returns upon the death of his father. When the estranged siblings learn that their dad’s inheritance is going to his late business partners son, many questions arise. As we enter Act 2, we’re taken back to the 1960s and meet a young Ned and get a deeper look into the family turmoil that was later created.
An intimate setting and shows year-round, Three Days of Rain was a compelling performance that certainly showed what a gem of a local theatre Harlequin is. Their current production is Magical Mystery Midsummer Musical. A jukebox show featuring music from Harlequin’s very own Musical Director, Bruce Whitney, this is a show everyone in Olympia can enjoy. Other up-coming shows include Ruthless and A Steady Rain.
Plan Your Getaway to Olympia
I could keep talking about Olympia. Which is why there will be more posts. In the meantime, learn more about Olympia and Beyond HERE to start planning your own getaway to this wonderful city by the bay!
(*Disclosure: I received a wonderful media visit to Olympia on behalf of this article. All opinions are my own.)