Date night. Before you think traffic would cause you more headaches than hitting the town, what about heading south? You don’t have to go far. Olympia is not only the state capital, but a great place to drink, dine, and be entertained.  If an evening away involves leaving your children at home, you have the opportunity for a real getaway—extend the evening with an overnight at a luxury hotel. The kids won’t even notice you are gone. They will be busy eating pizza on the couch and bribing the babysitter to let them stay up late watching Netflix.

visit-olympia-logoFor me, the promise of date night provides the perfect reason to buy a new outfit. After locating two matching earrings, I am ready to go. My husband, however, requires a little more work. He has to reach deep into the closet to find his dress pants and…a lint roller. Dog hair finds it way everywhere in our house.

Just 30 minutes south of Tacoma, Olympia offers a myriad of places to imbibe a sophisticated cocktail, dine on meal prepared by a chef, enjoy a professional theatre production, and even spend a night away from home, the kids and the dog.

Dillengers Bar Olympia
Dillingers Cocktails and Kitchen draws diners, theater goers, and couples out on a date night in Olympia. Photo credit: Lesley Klenk.

We started our evening in downtown Olympia at Dillinger’s Cocktails and Kitchen for pre-dinner cocktails. Happy hour starts 3:00 p.m. and ends at 6:00 p.m. We arrived at 4:00 p.m. on a Saturday night. It sounded like an appropriate time, but when we arrived, people were three deep next to the bar. I highly recommend reservations at this popular joint on the ground floor of the Security Building. Built in 1927, it is one of the oldest buildings remaining in Olympia.

One of the helpful wait staff saw us looking for a small table. She squeezed us in next to the window and our next task was deciding what to drink. The drink menu was extensive. The cocktail list included spirits and mixers that were shaken, stirred, served straight up or neat. I decided to go with one of their recommendations – the Ritz cocktail. My husband chose a whiskey sour neat.

We proceeded to dinner by walking a few blocks to the Peddler Bistro at 222 Market. The atmosphere couldn’t have been more different. There is a hush in the air at the Peddler Bistro. It is located behind the Bread Peddler at 222 North Capitol Way in Olympia, serving dinner Wednesday – Sunday.

Peddler Bistro
Table for two, please. The Peddler Bistro makes diners feel at home with its cozy ambiance. Photo credit: Lesley Klenk.

The Peddler Bistro is loved in Olympia for many reasons; for me it’s the bread. And the butter. The French bread is replaced frequently on the tables. It has a hearty crust while the inside is light and creamy. It is also wise to make a reservation at the Peddler Bistro due to its loyal following. In fact, the waiter pointed out a couple in the corner who comes every Saturday. I decided to trust their choices. “We’ll have what they’re having,” I said.

The Peddler Bistro menu changes seasonally to feature the produce and season-oriented sauces, meats and fish. That night, I had the Clams Provençale with peppers, fresh herbs, and Pernod while Paul dined on Oregon Rock Fish with braised greens, chanterelles, charred thyme with beurre blanc. I should have picked up the tab for those other diners. The entrees were amazing.

After our splendid dinner, we hurried down the street to the Harlequin Productions, an Olympia entertainment institution since 1991. Harlequin Productions produces plays and musicals attracting audiences from all over Thurston County.

Harlequin supports the community in a variety of ways. General performances are frequently sold out. However, Harlequin offers a few alternatives. Thirty minutes before the curtain goes up, discounted rush tickets are released. It is not a guarantee that viewers will sit together. Another option is Pay What You Can which is an option on Wednesday after the opening weekend. Tickets go on sale at 12:00 p.m. and can only be purchased at the box office. Tickets sell out quickly! Last of all, the Harlequin supports Ladies Night Out on the second Friday of the month. Champagne and chocolate truffles are provided by Olympia’s long time retail store, The Popinjay.

Harlequin Theater
Pick up tickets in advance to a Harlequin Production show. The downtown Olympia theater produces excellent live theater. Photo courtesy: Harlequin Productions.

After experiencing one of Harlequin’s enjoyable productions, we decided to splurge on a night at Olympia’s new luxury hotel. Formerly the Red Lion, the Hotel RL has assumed its location on the hill overlooking Tumwater Falls Park and Capitol Lake.

We walked through the door to the recently remodeled lodging, and we were thrilled to see the Hotel RL, the new upscale, lifestyle hotel brand by Red Lion. We put away our bag in our room and wandered down to the lounge. We were delighted to discover a three-piece jazz ensemble playing old and favorite tunes. The cocktail menu offered late evening drinks. Back in the room, we looked over all the amenities of the stunning hotel and discovered it even offered pet-friendly rooms.

I looked at my husband. The kids could stay home, but next time the dog could come on date night in Olympia.

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