Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do In Olympia

  • Published 2021/07/16

Olympia is the capital of the US state of Washington.

It is the largest city in Thurston county, also currently ranked the 22nd largest city in Washington state.

Olympia is home to a diverse culture, with a vibrant art and music scene.

The Evergreen State College is located in Olympia, which earns it the “The Evergreen State” tag.

Also lovingly nicknamed “Oly”, the city is known for its beauty, with the backdrop of the Olympic Mountains visible to the northwest side.

If you have been lucky enough to vacation for a few days in this historic city, consider yourself lucky.

Below, we have listed 18 things to do while in Olympia. Read on to find ideas for an unforgettable trip.

Capitol Lake

Capitol Lake

VDB Photos /

Capitol Lake is a 3 kilometers long artificial lake located at the mouth of the Deschutes River.

Teeming with historical value, the north pool of Capitol Lake is also a perfect site for birding.

It is incredibly scenic, with a plethora of both native and migratory birds occupying the space.

Mallards, American wigeons, and buffleheads are generally seen during a session of winter birding.

You might also be able to spot ring-necked ducks, pied-billed grebes, and even great blue herons. Further, taking a walk along the gravelly banks of the lake will flood your senses with scenic beauty.

Olympic Flight Museum

Olympic Flight Museum

Articseahorse, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Established in 1998, the Olympic Flight Museum is an aviation museum at the Regional Airport of Olympia.

It is dedicated to preserving and flying vintage aircrafts and boasts of the most extensive vintage aircraft collection in South Puget Sound.

The museum has over 20 models both on display and otherwise and is the perfect destination for kids and curious souls alike.

L-29 Delfin, P-51D Mustang, and L-39ZO Albatros are some of the models on display.

The aircrafts in the museum were used by the US Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps in significant wars like World War II and the Vietnam war.

The museum also hosts an Olympic Air Show in June, which showcases several aerobatic performers and vintage aircrafts.

Hands On Children’s Museum

If you have kids, this is the perfect place for them! Hands On Children’s Museum is a science and education museum that has gradually evolved from its founding in 1987.

Ideal for children above the age of 4, it stimulates learning in young children through exhibitions and programs curated especially for them.

The museum boasts of an Arts and Parts studio, among many other exhibit galleries, where your child can choose from a wide assortment of recycled art supplies and create artworks of their own.

In the Emergency exhibit gallery, they can also play out fantasies of being community heroes like the police and firefighters.

Yashiro Japanese Garden

Yashiro Japanese Garden

Joe Mabel, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This garden, designed by Robert Murase, symbolizes an eternal link between Olympia and its sister city Yashiro in Japan.

The Yashiro Japanese Garden was jointly created by the combined efforts of the city of Olympia and the Olympia-Yashiro Sister City Association.

Located near the Olympia City Hall, it spans over an area of 74 acres.

The garden has a collection of pagodas, stone lanterns, reflecting pools, and stone ornaments that are gifts from the city of Yashiro.

The society of Olympia Parks, Arts, and Recreation maintains the garden.

Olympia Farmers Market

Located in downtown Olympia, the Farmer’s Market is a bustling hub of activity.

It aims to empower local businesses and small-scale producers and give consumers access to fresh and quality goods.

The market is open all year round, starting from one day per week during off-seasons like January to four days per week during peak seasons.

It is entirely run and managed by the vendors, the only market in Washington State to do so.

Apart from a wide assortment of goods, the Farmer’s Market is also home to a number of restaurants and food trucks.

Here, you can enjoy a relaxed morning of food prepared with fresh produce.

Puget Sound Estuarium

The Puget Sound Estuarium houses exhibits, specimens, and live estuary animals.

It was established in 2007 to encourage the community to explore flora and fauna in their communities.

It is a facility specializing in marine education, and it is home to several marine creatures as well.

The Estuarium offers several programs like Meet the Beach, Summer Camp, and Pier Peer, all of which are designed to explore and educate those interested in marine life.

Pier Peer, for example, is a program where participants locate and study evasive estuary creatures at the Boston Harbour Marina.

Percival Landing Park

The Percival Landing Park is the largest among Olympia’s three waterfront parks.

Although located in the middle of the busy, bustling city, the area is famous for its scenic beauty.

It is built over a 3.38 acre area and is home to numerous sea boats.

In addition, the park enjoys historical status, being a famous maritime landmark of the Northwest Pacific.

You can enjoy a marvelous sunset from the docks with the breeze blowing through your hair and a majestic sight of the Olympic Mountains.

If you are lucky enough, you might catch glimpses of the harbor seals in the waters.

Washington State Capitol

Washington State Capitol

Jeffrey M. Frank /

The most prominent landmark in the city of Olympia, the Washington State Capitol, houses the government of Washington State.

The Capitol Campus offers several guided tours across the campus.

You can walk around the Governor’s Mansion, visit several monuments and memorial sites, and examine the several botanical species found in the area.

Among the monuments and memorials, The State Capitol is home to several prominent ones like the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Korean War Memorial, and the George Bush monument.

The Bigelow House Museum

Located at the oldest residence in Olympia, the Bigelow House Museum is a facility built to preserve the local history of the place.

The place is sure to enthrall you with its vast array of carefully collected and preserved materials to reconstruct its regional history.

The house was built in the 1850s by the Bigelow family, who were notable figures in Washington history and the women’s rights struggle.

The home has been maintained by subsequent generations of the Bigelow family and is an excellent example of the Carpenter Gothic Style of architecture.

Millersylvania State Park

Footbridge in Millersylvania State Park

E. M. Lara /

The Millersylvania State Park is spread over a staggering 903 acres. It is a camping park with Deep Lake’s freshwater shoreline spanning over 3000 feet.

It is an absolute camper’s heaven with two serene beaches, several biking and hiking trails, and fishing docks.

You can also rent non-motorized vehicles like pedal boats and kayaks.

The park also offers picnic facilities with four kitchen shelters, complete with an electric supply.

You can take a fulfilling dip in the waters of Deep Lake and spend a pampered time in the wilderness to make your vacation in Olympia worthwhile.

The Washington Centre for Performing Arts

Washington Centre for Performing Arts

Joe Mabel, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

A cultural hub, the city of Olympia is also home to The Washington Center for Performing Arts, which enriches the vibrancy of their community through live performances.

The Centre is an offspring of the Liberty Theatre, which was established in 1924.

It has hosted thousands of events and aims to provide visibility to local and regional performing arts.

The Centre is the hub of cultural events in the city.

You can spend an evening appreciating the local artists and the visual arts with your family and loved ones.

Lavender Farm in Evergreen Valley

The Lavender farm in Evergreen Valley is famous for its organic-grown lavender.

The owners, Peggy and Thane Bryenton, take care to keep their carbon footprint at a minimum.

The farm grows 13 varies of lavender, complete with an on-site distillation and gift shop.

It also produces top-quality essential oils and sprays, and the gift shop has handmade gifts from local artisans and small businesses.

You will also find dried flowers and buds, bath and body products, and hydrosols on the farm.

It is a beautiful and serene 4 acres area, separated from the bustle of the main town by large farms.

So while vacationing in Olympia, you can enjoy a leisurely stroll along the lavender plantations as the fulfilling scent lulls your senses.

Mima Falls

Mima Falls

John T Callery /

The Mima Falls is a hiking trail that leads hikers through a forest of lush greens, waterfalls, and silent marshes.

It is located in the Capitol State Forest and is merely 30 minutes from Olympia.

It is the perfect site to examine and study forest practices up-close, including planting techniques and silviculture.

You can hike up to Mima Falls and enjoy a perfect picnic with your loved ones.

There is also a viewpoint at the bottom of the falls that offers spectacular views to the traveler.

The trail is home to diverse kinds of ferns, and it is advisable to carry a map to navigate your way through the trail.

Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge

Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge

Claudia G Cooper /

Home to a diverse ecosystem, the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge offers its visitors numerous recreational activities like hiking, boating, wildlife observation, and educational programs.

In addition, you can take a guided tour around the conservation park and experience excellent wildlife viewing opportunities.

If you are passionate about birds, the wildlife refuge also provides occasions for birding.

Believe it or not, you can even whale-watch on its premises.

Apart from its volunteers, the sanctuary utilizes the help of brochures, printed and online articles to educate its visitors on the wildlife residing there.

WET Science Centre

The WET Science Centre was established to educate its visitors about the most vital element in the world- water.

It features various interactive activities, exhibitions, and presentations.

Visitors can immerse themselves in an educational experience about water conservation, marine and water animals, waste-water treatment, and reclaimed water.

You can walk in and attend an online lecture or an interactive program that will leave you more aware of how crucial water is.

Other than that, you can also participate in activities like painting with a sunscreen, experimenting with bubbles, or building a stick maze.

Wolf Haven International

The Wolf Haven International is a national protected sanctuary for rescued, captive-born and displaced wolves.

Their mission is to protect and nurture the wolf population of America in its natural habitat.

Over the years, it has been home to over 300 wolves, and the authorities take exceptional care through nourishing food and medical treatments.

In addition, Wolf Haven International serves as the captive breeding grounds and pre-release breeding facilities for the Mexican Gray Wolf and the Red Wolf, both extremely endangered species.

The sanctuary offers 50-minute guided tours where the visitors can view the wolves from very close proximity.

Lattin’s Country Cider Mill and Farm

Lattin’s Country Cider Mill and Farm is a family-run farm in Olympia producing high-quality and home-grown fruits and vegetables along with products made from natural ingredients.

Famous for its apple cider, the farm also produces fruit syrup, dried fruit, smoked salmon, cheese products, and crisp apples.

While on the farm, you can try their fresh baked cookies and donuts that will leave you wanting more.

The farm has several events spaced throughout the year.

Their Easter Egg Hunt and Apple Festival are extremely famous, while Winter Wonderland during December transforms the farm into a spectacle with thousands of lights.

The gardens are open to visitors, and you can wander around their vegetable patches and fruit orchards with your kids and be assured they will have a gala time.

You can even feed the animals on the farm!

Priest Point Park

Priest Point Park

E. M. Lara /

One of the many natural parks in Olympia, Washington State, the Priest Point Park is ideal for hiking and weekend picnics.

You can explore its nature trails while bird-watching and wildlife spotting.

A steep trail from this park leads to the beach, which provides spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean.

Another trail along the side of the park will lead you to Ellis Cove that is perfect for spotting great blue herons.

In addition, the park provides views of lush forests, ferns and on clear days, you can see the Capitol Building from here.

Further, if you are lucky enough, you can also see the majestic Olympic mountains rising on the opposite shore.

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