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The windy drive to Tenino

Exploring Tenino, Washington State’s “Stone City”

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Part of the charm off traveling through Washington State lies in the drive. We're talking about a classic drive through small, sleepy towns hidden along brush-covered back roads; the kind of drive where trees rise like giants on the edge of the pavement and the sun peeks down at you through the canopy. At the end of roads like this, you'll find the likes of the city of Tenino.

Located just south of Olympia along Washington State's Old Highway 99, Tenino is a historic city that flourished after settlers established a sandstone quarry there in the late 19th century. Today, the community is still quite small (with a teensy population of approximately 1,800) but its local attractions are packed with charm.

Take Sandstone Quarry Swimming Pool, for example, which is a quirky outdoor attraction for residents and travelers both. The natural swimming pool came to be after a sandstone quarry flooded when quarrymen struck a natural spring at the turn of the 19th century. The quarry filled up with water so quickly that quarrymen couldn't remove the quarry machinery from the site before it flooded. The machines are still at the bottom of the swimming pool.

Tenino's proximity to the Scatter Creek Wildlife Area and Skookumchuck Wildlife Areaalso make it a popular day-trip destination. Both wildlife areas offer over 900 acres of pristine land for exploration. Scatter Creek is primarily made up of Puget Sound lowlands, while Skookumchuck includes forest, grassland, meadow, orchard and wetland. Popular activities for visitors of the wildlife areas include hiking, fishing, hunting and wildlife viewing.

When it comes to food and drink, Tenino promises not to disappoint, either. Sandstone Distillery offers thirsty travelers handcrafted spirits made from locally-grown grains. The family-owned and operated distillery is known for producing high-quality gin, vodka and whiskey right in Tenino. For a bite to eat, pop into Sandstone Café, a family-friendly restaurant with plenty of homemade entrées. Sandstone Café serves American traditional-style breakfast and lunch at reasonable prices.

After a full day of travel, you'll want to lay your head down somewhere quiet, so head to Offut Lake Resort for a laid back, campy experience. The campground is a one-stop-shop with cabins, RV and tent camping sites, dock fishing, boat rentals and a lake front restaurant. For a more grand experience, visit Great Wolf Lodge Resort, where you'll find an indoor water park, hands-on activities for kids, casual and formal dining, and hotel suites for the weary.

Like other off-the-beaten-path towns in Washington State, Tenino draws plenty of visitors to its streets each year by pairing historical charm with quirky attractions and a firm dedication to the natural environment. Those willing to hop into the car and take a windy drive will be rewarded, each time, with the surprising likes of Tenino.

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