Vacation to Washington state
November 18, 2008 11:19 AM   Subscribe

10 days in and around Olympia, WA. What to do?

So, I live in Chicago and am going to visit my brother and his family in Olympia in the beginning of Dec. I am not planning on spending the entire time with them, will have a car, and plenty of outdoor gear for hiking, climbing, boarding etc.

I would LOVE to hear any and all suggestions on decent hikes in and around the area and maybe heading out to the ocean. I know it's kind of an odd time of year, but I really don't care, I am thrilled to be out of the city for a bit.
posted by abee to Travel & Transportation around Olympia, WA (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Go to the Olympic National Park. Much of it is hike-in backcountry, and it's the wrong time of year, but just driving around the perimeter and in to some of the trailheads is really beautiful.

For maximum enjoyment, I'd suggest someplace on the ocean like Hole-in-the-wall or LaPush. Absolutely gorgeous. And it's the Pacific Ocean, which is a little difficult to see from Chi-town. You could look at the Hoh rain forest, but it's the rainy season now and I don't know how enjoyable the trail would be even for a day hike right now. Wear your gaiters.
posted by Netzapper at 11:31 AM on November 18, 2008

Olympia is one of my favorite places on the face of the planet. It's a gorgeous area, so wherever you go, you'll be thrilled with what you fine. I'd suggest that you check out (in order of personal amazingness):

1 - Hurricane Ridge (not the right season for this, strictly speaking, so you may run into trouble - here's a good resource:

2 - The city parks. I know this sounds ridiculously simple, but the parks in Olympia are excessively gorgeous. I would plan to spend a bit of time at least at Priest Point, which has a lovely view of the undeveloped part of the bay (though most remains undeveloped).

3 - Obv. if you haven't seen Mt. St. Helens that makes a lovely day trip.

4 - Hoh National Rainforest, is the only temperate rainforest in America, and is really thrilling to hike around.

5 - If you are new to the Pacific Northwest (you didn't mention how much experience you have in the area), the ferry from Seattle to Victoria is one of the best visual rides you can get. Just be careful about documentation, since passport travel is necessary now.

I'm not much of a hiker/climber, so sorry that I don't have more info on that. But it's a spectacular area and you've made me really jealous that you'll be enjoying it and I wont!
posted by greekphilosophy at 11:34 AM on November 18, 2008

The Olympia Brewery tour is fun.
posted by Class Goat at 11:39 AM on November 18, 2008

I summered up with my grandfather back in the 80s in Centralia and the best time we had was the Olympic National Park. Beautiful place, kicks Maui and Big Sur's asses that's for sure.
posted by troy at 12:22 PM on November 18, 2008

Assuming you mean the city of Olympia, WA, and not the Olympic Peninsula.

The Washington State Legislative building is a very attractive building and worth 15-30 minutes just to look around inside. Really, the whole state capital campus is nice, and it's right up the hill from the old downtown.

Olympia is an old blue collar city and there are a lot of diners/bars with character. Go eat breakfast somewhere not named Denny's or Silver Diner and see a real diner. It also is home to one of the most liberal campuses in the country in Evergreen State University, so there are some counterculture/hipster/vegetarian hangouts, some with good food if you're into that sort of thing. If you're in town on the weekend look for places with lines out the door. That's where the best cheap food is. Sorry, only been there once (to visit my brother) so I can't recall names.

Seconding a trip to the Peninsula. The beaches are fantastic, and a visit to Cape Flattery was worth the drive. We hung out there for more than an hour, just watching waves crash into the cliffs and caves.
posted by kgbrion at 12:36 PM on November 18, 2008

Its like, an hour and a half down to Portland. Portland is very cool in its own right.

Also, while in Olympia, I might check out any music around The Evergreen State College. Lotsa great bands were born there.

Olympic National Park, yes, and just driving north along Hood Canal is very pretty. Port Townsend is one of those boutique towns, but also really nice to visit.
posted by Danf at 1:07 PM on November 18, 2008

The Olympia Brewery tour *was* fun. Several years ago, Olympia Beer sold out to Miller, who eventually sold out to I-cannot-recall-who, who closed the brewery. It's big, it's empty, and there's no tour.

But, all is not lost, in Olympia.

See a play:
See a movie, at the Olympia Film Society:
There'll be holiday events, round about December. Check out The Olympian, for details.
Tour the Capitol, if you're into such things; it's a beautiful campus.
'You into window shopping? Take a stroll through downtown. It's pretty, round about the holidays. Start on Capitol Way and head 1 or 2 blocks west and 3 or 4 blocks east.
Oly's got a terrific farmer's market (open seasonaly).
'Visiting in December, you say? There ought to be skiing on Crystal Mountain (about 90 min away).
Sunday brunch at the Budd Bay Cafe is a winner. may have some ideas, too.
'Hope you have a great time.
posted by Messinger at 1:09 PM on November 18, 2008

It’s about a two-hour straight drive north from Olympia to Port Angeles (or PA as the locals call it) on Highway 101. A good portion of the highway snakes along the shores of the Hood Canal, an inlet of the Puget Sound, and there are many scenic places to explore. From PA you have easy access to the Olympic National Park. I hate navigating their website, so here are the pages I've found to be useful:
-Day Hikes in the Park
-Backcountry and Wilderness Permit Info
-Trail Conditions (usefull to see what's open this time of year).
-Snowboarding and Skiing on Hurricane Ridge (how many National Park's have a ski lift?)
posted by Staggering Jack at 1:29 PM on November 18, 2008

Its like, an hour and a half down to Portland.

And even closer to Seattle. Amtrak is cheap and easy in either direction.
posted by ottereroticist at 2:18 PM on November 18, 2008

While in Oly, you really should visit the San Francisco Street Bakery. I worked there all through my years at Evergreen and it is a great place - great food, great people. Really a community treasure. It's tucked away in an Eastside residential neighborhood but it's worth the short drive or longish walk from downtown.
posted by gyusan at 4:16 PM on November 18, 2008

I grew up in Olympia, and still think its a great town despite having been a teenager there. Here's a list of some of my favorite spots. I focused on places close to Oly, as others have the region well covered. It's been awhile since I was there regularly, so take these with a grain of salt.

* Old school pizza
* The Spar - though I haven't been there since McMenamin's bought it.
* Dancing goats espresso
* Blue heron bakery - if you are on your way back from the Olympics
* San Francisco street bakery - gotta agree with gyusan

* The Eastside - used to have cheap pitchers of Oly Dark and while there's a good reason you never heard of Oly Dark, don't let that stop you from hitting the Eastside.
* 4th Ave Tav.
* Fish tale ale

Around town:
* Farmer's market
* State capitol grounds
* Evergreen state college - beautiful college campus

Walks around town:
* Percival Landing (PDF)
* Capitol lake loop
* Tumwater Falls
* McLane Creek Nature Trail
* Priest Point Park - seconding greekphilosophy - it's beautiful.

Local Hikes:
* Nisqually Wildlife Refuge
* Capitol Forest
* Mima Mounds

Hiking and Scrambling: I'd recommend the SE portion of Olympic National Park. Lots of forested hikes up river valleys - Skokomish, Hamma Hamma, Duckabush and Dosewallips are all close. For scrambles, Mt Ellinor and Mt Washington are the closest and are fun day trips. Mt Washington is a bit more committing. The Ellinor - Washington traverse is also quite fun, but I didn't do it in early winter.

Boarding: Crystal Mountain is the closest and has a lot of good, steep terrain. They just installed a controversial lift this year bringing lift access to the Northway backcountry.
posted by rube goldberg at 5:48 PM on November 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

« Older How can a shy guy improve his cold calling in...   |   Beyond Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.