Think State capitols aren’t kid-friendly? Towns plagued by boring subcommittee meetings, too-fancy restaurants and dull plazas, right?
Olympia, Washington, may take you by surprise.
When to go: Saturday, so you can check out the Olympia Farmers Market, the people-smorgasbord that is Olympia. You’ll see patchouli students from the nearby Evergreen State College, farmers in overalls, embroidered-denim grandmas, toddlers riding on dad’s shoulders. The market’s a nice mix of locally made items: soaps, herbs, baked goods and of course, tie-dye shirts.
Where to eat: At the market, order honkin’ huge sandwiches from Heyday! Cafe and listen to live music on the market stage. As an alternative, go to Meconi’s Italian Subs for the best subs this side of the Mississippi.
Little kids will love: The Hands On Children’s Museum, where the museum’s town allows kids to grow apples on a farm, deliver them with a truck, sell them the store, turn them into apple fritters in the bakery – and then visit the dentist for a tooth cleaning afterward. At the other end of the museum’s U-shaped layout, a kids can don lifejackets and pretend to drive a ceiling-height container ship (with a working crane!). The $7.95 per-person entry fee pays off with at least two hours of fun; one of the best children’s museum’s I’ve visited in the Northwest.
Big kids will love: Discussing how government works in the hushed marble halls of Olympia’s Legislative Building, which sports the fourth-tallest, self-supported masonry dome in the world. Tours are offered between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on weekends, but it’s probably best for you to drop cool history facts on your way through the building’s three floors. Look for the giant brass bust of George Washington — and don’t forget your camera.
Where to shop: Wind Up Here keeps little hands busy with dolls, wooden toys and other playthings. Perfect for a sticker book or two to keep the kids busy in the car.
What to take home: Don’t leave town without picking up treats from the Olympia Farmers Market — dinosaur cookies from San Francisco Street Bakery’s stall or a blend of nuts from Jawa Gourmet Nut Roastery. Recommended: lavender walnuts with orange and mocha hazelnuts.
Find more hotels, attractions and restaurants at Visit Olympia.