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Weekend Getaway in Olympia, Washington

The capital city welcomes winter with peak seafood and walks along Puget Sound.

The strand at Burfoot County Park.

DANIEL W. SLOCUM / SHUTTERSTOCK;

Sights and Events

The Hands On Children’s Museum is the perfect place to pique kids’ natural curiosity with ongoing exhibits and special events. In January, look for Ice Adventures, an annual celebration of all things frozen. During the pandemic, the museum has been limiting entry and sanitizing equipment between groups.

Locals love the Olympia Farmers Market even in winter. Open Saturdays and Sundays, and featuring a covered booth area and heaters in the aisles to warm shoppers, this isn’t just your run-of-the-mill produce market. Take away piping-hot paella, plump loaves of freshly baked bread, or hand-designed art cards for the folks back home.

Bivalves from Chelsea Farms.

POPPI PHOTOGRAPHY

Eats

Winter is the best season for regional shellfish, and Chelsea Farms Oyster Bar offers some of the finest in town. Opt for a half dozen Chelsea Gems or native Olympias on the half shell, or pair a tartare made from geoduck clams with a glass of Greek roditis wine. Most of the shellfish comes from Chelsea’s nearby farm on the sound. (At press time, the restaurant was offering outside seating and take-out.)

Olympia takes its coffee very, very seriously, but Revival Motors and Coffee Co. puts a new spin on things with motorcycle repair in the back and espresso plus breakfast goodies in the front. Patrons can browse displays of art, leather goods, and vintage bikes while they wait for their custom blends.

Well 80 Brewhouse occupies the same site as the old Olympia Brewing Company and takes pride in sourcing its water from the same artesian well. Enjoy a crispy fried-chicken sandwich or a plate of Japanese-inspired soy-and-butter potato puffs, then mask up and check out the brewery operation and historic photos lining the walls of this spacious, comfortable watering hole.

Outside the Hands On Children’s Museum.

BILLY HUSTACE PHOTOGRAPHY

Outdoors

Among the many lovely waterfront parks near downtown, Burfoot County Park is a gem. Its 50 acres are laced with two miles of nature trails and feature a 1,100-foot stretch of gravelly beach on Budd Inlet—home to native oysters, butter clams, and crabs. After descending to the water’s edge through a forest of old-growth conifers, hikers are rewarded with views of both the dome of the state capitol (currently closed to visitors) and, on clear days, the Olympic Mountains.

Was it glaciers? Giant pre-historic gophers? Whatever formed the unusual land humps dotting Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve, these grasslands south of town are an unexpected quirk in the Puget Sound landscape. The half-mile interpretive trail with observation platforms and the two-mile rustic loop trail both afford glimpses of northern harrier hawks out hunting.

Shops

At Archibald Sisters, a cute downtown gift shop, you can mix your own signature scents from more than 150 base fragrances to create lotions and body washes. Blend in a little Washington Apple, Oly Girl, or Rain and you’ll smell like a regular.

Orca Books, the go-to nook for area readers for over 30 years, recently moved to a bright new space and reincorporated as a worker-run cooperative. Pick up a volume of local poetry or a mystery for a cozy night in, and don’t miss the community mural on the parking lot wall outside. Curbside pickup is available.