Whether you’re popping into the area for a visit or you’re a local looking for a busy weekend of family-friendly activities, the Olympia-Lacey-Tumwater Visitor and Convention Bureau and Thurston Talk have teamed up to offer you a delightful weekend itinerary chock full of fun.
If you’re coming from out of town, first check into your downtown Olympia hotel. The Phoenix Inn Suites has both the ideal location and the inviting digs to ably serve as your homey home base.
Just footsteps from Olympia’s waterfront and its famous Farmers Market, the Phoenix Inn Suites offers three types of rooms, each with a microwave, refrigerator, coffee maker, business desk, wireless Internet access, and more – everything you need to feel right at home.
Once you’ve dropped your bags and freshened up, head out for dinner at Ramblin Jack’s. A popular downtown Olympia eatery for 11 years, Ramblin Jack’s serves up a wide variety of Americana food, with many menu items prepared in their wood-fired oven and barbeque smoker. And their cocktails, this writer will happily attest, are fantastic.
After tucking into a memorable meal, it’s time to tuck into bed and rest up for a full Saturday of activities you’ll only find in Thurston County.
Wake up bright and early Saturday morning and stroll along the newly remodeled Percival Landing before making the short drive four miles south of Tumwater to Lattin’s Country Cider Mill and Farm, where you’ll enjoy scrumptious breakfast options and plenty of kid-friendly activities.
Lattin’s is a small, family-owned farm that’s been bringing year-round seasonal delights to Thurston County residents since 1976.
“We’ve been a farm here for 60 years,” says Carolyn Lattin, who owns Lattin’s Country Cider Mill and Farm with her daughters Debbie Lattin and Sherrie Kohlmann, “and we’ve been doing the farm stand for 37 years.
Children can play a variety of games, feed the farm animals, enjoy a train ride, and ride a tractor-drawn wagon to the pumpkin patch to select their favorite Halloween doorstep decoration.
“We have lots and lots of apples for sale and we grow our own vegetables, which I’m sure the children aren’t necessarily interested in, but the parents are,” Carolyn says with a laugh.
“It’s just a fun place to come,” she continues. “We’re working on the third generation of families who come visit: Grandma and Grandpa came with their children, the children came, and now the grandchildren are coming with their families.”
Hope you’re hungry when you arrive, because Lattin’s is well known throughout the region for its delectable fare. Last year they sold 40,350 apple fritters.
“It’s made right while they’re waiting there,” says Carolyn, describing the incredibly popular pastry. “It just tastes so much better when you eat something warm that was just made.”
Lattin’s cider, which has won five national awards, comes in several different flavors. “We just pulverize the fruit and put it in the cider so you’re drinking fresh fruit,” says Carolyn. “It’s all fruit juice.”
Lattin’s supplies 200 restaurants and supermarkets throughout the region with its phenomenal cider, including all of the Top Foods and Whole Foods stores in Washington and Oregon.
Once you’ve eaten your fill of apple-flavored goodies and maybe chosen a pumpkin or two, drive to Wolf Haven International, a sanctuary for rescued wolves, to learn about and see firsthand the different species and sub-species being cared for there.
Wolf Haven International’s mission is to rescue captive-born wolves and provide a lifetime home for them. It has taken in and cared for 160 of the wondrous wild animals over the past 29 years.
Visitors get a rare, close-up view of the magnificent wolves during a 50-minute guided tour. And if they’re fortunate, they may get to hear them howl.
“We have a total of 50 animals here,” explains Kim Young, Communications Director at Wolf Haven International. “Visitors see up to 18 of them in the public tour, and then a lot of them are behind the scenes.”
Nine enclosures, ranging from a third to a half an acre, hold the wolves. The majority of wolves on display are gray wolves, and visitors quickly realize that doesn’t mean just one shade of fur. “It shocks people,” Young says, with a laugh. “The wolves can be white, black, gray, silver. They can be a multitude of colors, but they’re still considered a gray wolf.”
Visitors can support Wolf Haven International by becoming members or symbolically adopting one of the animals.
And if you feel like a mid-morning stroll after the guided tour, follow a path that weaves through native prairie on Wolf Haven’s 82 acres. “Over 50 percent of our property is native prairie, which is very rare to find in Western Washington, as it’s all been developed,” says Young.
“Visitors can go on a self-guided stroll through the Mima Mound prairie, with beautiful interpretive signage along the trail that shows and describes the flora and fauna. We have birds, butterflies, and beautiful native prairie plants. It’s a magical place,” Young says.
She also recommends a visit to a 250-year old evergreen tree along the prairie path. “People can go right underneath its canopy,” she explains. “It may not look that impressive as you’re approaching it – I mean, it’s an extremely tall tree, and we have a lot of those in Washington – but I’ve never taken anyone under it when I haven’t heard them gasp.”
Saturday Lunch and a Stroll
You’ve walked off a bunch of those delicious breakfast calories, so now it’s time for lunch. Falls Terrace Restaurant offers fine dining overlooking the stunning Tumwater falls.
A family-owned restaurant, the Falls Terrace serves up carefully selected seasonal menus. Its lunch menu boasts an array of steak and seafood options, as well as sandwiches and salads.
After eating your fill, head down to Tumwater Falls Park for a scenically stunning walk along the falls and river. Further reward for the short walk is viewing the salmon fish ladders on the river’s edge.
Shopping and Dinner on the West Side
Spend what remains of the afternoon exploring Olympia’s west side, complete with a stop at the newly renovated Yauger Park, which has a water quality treatment wetland and 5,000-square foot rain garden. The kids will work off excess energy on the park’s brand new playground equipment, featuring a colorful 26-foot tall “Mega Tower,” with three levels and three giant tube slides.
If it’s raining, take the kids to SHANKZ Glow Golf, for a unique indoor miniature golf experience the whole family won’t soon forget – after all, when was the last time you golfed while wearing 3-D glasses?
Next, head to the nearby Westfield Capital Mall for a shopping fix.
For dinner, pop into I.talia Pizzeria for intriguing salads, authentic Italian-style pies, delicious pasta dishes, and oven-roasted sandwiches. Almost every menu item is entirely organic.
Another special treat at I.talia? Kids can make their own pizzas.
Take in the Arts
You’ve already enjoyed a touch of farm life, a bounty of nature, and some indoor retail therapy, so after dinner, why not try a bit of art?
The Washington Center has been bringing world-class arts performances to Olympia for over 20 years. Upcoming Saturday evening events include India.Arie and Idan Raichel on Saturday, October 8th at 8 p.m. and Momix on Saturday, November 5th at 7:30 p.m.
Harlequin Productions, a non-profit theater company founded in Olympia in 1991, stages year-round professional theater productions. This fall finds romantic comedy “The Love List,” on tap.
If the Washington Center or Harlequin Productions doesn’t have a scheduled event during your visit, catch a movie instead. The Olympia Film Society (OFS) always has something intriguing penciled in, with the added bonus of its grand 1924 theater ambience.
Dedicated to shining the spotlight on independent and underrepresented film, music, and allied arts to Olympia, OFS offers an off-the-beaten-path experience every time.
It’s time to head back to the hotel and rest up for the last day of your trip. Maybe you’ll want to download all the photos you’ve snapped or read a book – Orca Books is a worthwhile downtown stop, and within walking distance of the Phoenix Inn Suites.
Allow yourself some extra shuteye on Sunday morning – you deserve it after a busy Saturday. Grab brunch at nearby Mercato – they open at 10 a.m. – or, if you’re an early riser, stroll over to McMenamins Spar Café or up to Wagner’s European Bakery and Cafe, near the State Capitol Campus, which is your next stop.
Guided tours of the Washington State Legislative Building are given between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on weekends (and between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. on weekdays).
The free 60-minute tours begin at the top of every hour and gives visitors background information and gorgeous views of the 1928 building – from the Legislative Galleries and State Reception Room to its freestanding masonry dome, which is one of the tallest in the world, and the largest Tiffany Lighting Company chandelier ever made.
More Outstanding Outdoor Beauty
To cap off your whirlwind weekend, take in more of Thurston County’s wondrous natural beauty at the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge.
Established in 1974 to protect migratory birds, the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge comprises 3,000 acres of marshes, grasslands, and mixed forest habitats and provides nesting areas for all manner of migratory waterfowl, songbirds, raptors and wading birds.
Don’t miss walking along the Nisqually Estuary Boardwalk Trail, a one-mile elevated trail that spans the tidal estuary. You’ll get extraordinary glimpses of tidal activity’s affects on our landscape, as well as strong prospects of spying birds and other wildlife, such as bald eagles, egrets, and great blue herons.
The wooden structure snakes out into the Nisqually River Delta and features an observation tower, two covered viewing platforms, and several push-outs. It’s part of a loop that takes visitors along a scenic route that includes McAllister Creek, the Olympics, Mount Rainier, Anderson Island, and more.
Yes, it was a jam-packed weekend itinerary, but one that will leave you feeling recharged and inspired. And Thurston County has even more to offer. Come back again soon to enjoy an entirely different array of activities.