I'm often asked by friends where to go in my hometown of Olympia, Washington. So I decided to craft the perfect day in Olympia - from shopping to dining to sightseeing. It's the capital of Washington state but to me it's so much more than that. It's my hometown and it will always have a special place in my heart, even though I haven't lived their for over 20 years.
Downtown Olympia is small and everything I'm recommending is within walking distance. So park your car for the day and let's go for a walk!
My first stop when I get to town is usually Drees or Red Door Interiors in downtown Olympia. (Take the State Capitol/City Center Exit off of I-5.) For the purposes of this post, we're popping into Drees first.
This exquisite shop has been in downtown Olympia for 85 years. My first job in high school was at Drees, 25 years ago. Before that I grew up visiting Drees with my mom to see the Nutcrackers at Christmas, buy cards and gifts and to eat yummy lemon bars - those are my early memories! I registered for my wedding here - my favorite gifts are always from Drees.
Stop in Drees for the perfect gifts, home accessories, fine stationery and the highest quality home furnishings. Every product is lovingly selected with great care. This recent story on a local blog characterizes Drees perfectly.
My friend, client and mentor, Ruthann Goularte (pictured below), owns Drees. She's an amazing buyer, merchant and businesswoman. Truly one-of-kind.
"We take great care to select high-quality items that will stand the test of time," Ruthann says. "I have always wanted people to love and keep the things they buy at Drees for a long time, like friends." Read more about her story here.
Drees is beautiful all year long but it really shines during the holidays, offering elegant décor and exquisite gifts. If you can get to Olympia before Christmas, I highly recommend it. Drees' after Christmas sale is a hit too!
Take your time in Drees. Every display is like an art installation. Drees has been compared to Gump's San Francisco - the Gump's of Olympia! I can't think of a higher compliment.
Red Door Interiors
When you've soaked it all in at Drees, head down the street to Red Door Interiors - just one block north of Drees on South Washington Street. Red Door is owned by my best friend since 1st grade, Lara Anderson, and her mom. They are a creative and innovative duo. In addition to giving new life to used furniture and offering unique gifts, this mother-daughter team has invented a wonderful home décor line of interchangeable lampshades and coordinating accessories with the goal of helping their customers create beautiful spaces.
Compass Rose, on Capitol Way, is my favorite destination for colorful, unique gifts. It's filled with a tantalizing mix of candles, cards, journals, kitchen gadgets, beautiful jewelry including Jaime Joseph rings, and much more!
A few doors down the block on Capitol Way is an Olympia institution - Archibald Sisters. They offer more than 150 fragrances that can be blended in lotions, bath gels, massage oils and more. Archibalds (as the locals call it!) is also a destination for whacky and eclectic gifts and "I LOVE OLY" gear.
This new toy store, on the corner of South Washington Street and 5th Avenue, is quite possibly the best toy and children's shop I've ever seen. Not only is the product selection fantastic, it's merchandised like a "real" store, not a toy store. Not a surprise since it's run by the cool cats from Compass Rose. Whether kids are on your list or not, Captain Little is worth a visit.
After all that shopping, now it's time for lunch. My favorite spot in downtown Olympia is Acqua Via, offering Mediterranean-inspired cuisine in a beautiful, hip, light-filled environment. Enjoy a selection from their seasonal menu and a glass of bubbly in the heart of downtown Olympia on the corner of 5th Avenue and Capitol Way.
Photo: Acqua Via
If you're still in town for dinner, I suggest heading over to Acqua Via's sister restaurant, Waterstreet Café and Bar across from Capitol Lake. Waterstreet is one of the few restaurants between Seattle and Portland that has been awarded the prestigious Wine Spectator Award multiple times.
Two of my favorite spots are Capitol Lake and the Capitol Campus. You can run or stroll around the lake and enjoy view of the Capitol above.
I'm just sorry the sun wasn't shining the day I took these pictures. Then you would really be able to see the beauty of this place.
The Percival Landing boardwalk is also another great way to experience the Puget Sound side of Olympia.
Just a few blocks from Percival Landing is the Olympia Farmers Market, which is fabulous and should definitely be part of your day. Check their website for seasonal schedules.
Photo: The Farmers Market of Olympia
Finally, if you have kids in tow, the new Hands On Children's Museum is fantastic! And during the summer the Heritage Park Fountain is a blast!
Just 60 miles south of Seattle, Olympia is a great day-trip and a small-town destination to escape the hustle and bustle of the big city.
I always leave Oly feeling happy, relaxed and excited to come back! I hope you get a chance to visit soon!