25 Best Things to Do in Olympia, WA
The capital of Washington State, Olympia is a mid-sized charming Pacific Northwest city with an attractive small-town feel and incredible natural beauty throughout the surrounding area. With Olympic and Mount Rainier National Parks on one side and the Washington coast on the other, opportunities for outdoor recreation are endless. Here are the best things to do in Olympia, WA. Photo: Zack Frank/Fotolia
»Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge
Nisqually River Delta is one of the few major estuaries in Washington that has been protected for wildlife. It was established in 1974 as the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge with the goal of protecting the delta, its wildlife habitats, and its fish diversity. The restoration of Nisqually estuary started in 2009 with the removal of all the dikes.
After, it was necessary to reconnect the estuary’s 762 acres with the Puget Sound and its tides. This is an important first step in the recovery of the entire Puget Sound. The Nisqually River Delta is located at the southernmost end of Puget Sound. It is a biologically diverse area that supports a range of habitats. The freshwater of the Nisqually River mixes with the saltwater off Puget Sound, forming an environment that is very rich in nutrients and organic matter and feeds a rich web of sea life.
Address: 100 Brown Farm Rd NE, Olympia, WA 98516, Phone: 360-753-9467 Photo: Zack Frank/Fotolia
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»Olympic Flight Museum
The Olympic Flight Museum is a museum the kids will love. An aviation museum located at the airport in Olympia, Washington, this fascinating place has over 20 vintage helicopters and planes on rotating display, from WWII aircraft to those that flew in Vietnam and Korea . Most of the aircraft are meticulously maintained and are in excellent flying condition.
The display includes a P-51 Mustang fighter plane, FG-1D Corsair, UH-1 Huey, H-43 Huskie helicopter, and many others. The museum hosts the annual Olympic Air Show, a popular event that attracts lots of attention. Besides featuring the museum historic aircraft, the show welcomes a world-class selection of well-maintained heritage aircraft from all over the world.
Address: Building A, Olympia Regional Airport, 7637 Old Hwy 99 SE, Tumwater, WA 98501, Phone: 360-705-3925 Photo: Olympic Flight Museum
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»Hands On Children's Museum
The Hands On Children's Museum was established in 1987 in order to stimulate kids’ curiosity, boost their creativity, and encourage learning through interactive, fun programs and exhibits. The exhibits and activities are designed for kids ages 0-11. They have a range of galleries that focus on nature, science, arts and much more. There are eight galleries, including Good For You! , About healthy life and nutrition, Our Puget Sound, Emergency!, Our Fabulous Forest, and Snug Harbor.
There is an Outdoor Discovery Center that offers a new and innovative way to connect kids with nature. It includes a Beach, Mud Pie Pit, Driftwood Forts, a Stickworks sculpture called Raccoon Run, and a Fire Pit – a Storytelling Ring. There is always something new and exciting going on, and the place is fun for kids and their parents.
Address: 414 Jefferson St NE, Olympia, WA 98501, Phone: 360-956-0818 Photo: Hands On Children's Museum
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»Olympia Farmers Market
Olympia Farmers Market is a popular community gathering place that promotes healthy eating, locally grown foods, small farmers and producers, and sustainable local agriculture. It is a great place for consumers to meet those who make their food, to exchange ideas and to get to know each other.
The Olympia Farmers Market has been around for 41 years. It is centrally located, making it easy for Olympia residents and visitors to enjoy local produce, baked goods, fresh fruit, crafts, meat and dairy and to spend a day with friends and neighbors listening to the live music and having a meal in one of seven restaurants.
Address: 700 Capitol Way N, Olympia, WA 98501, Phone: 360-352-9096 Photo: Olympia Farmers Market
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»WET Science Center, Olympia, Washington
The WET Science Center, located in downtown Olympia, is an interactive, hands-on place that provides information about water, a precious resource, through fun and games. The center features interactive exhibits, weekend activities for the families, tours of water facilities, and environmental presentations on water issues.
WET has a range of activities and games for kids of all ages, but most are designed for children older than ten and adults. Exhibits and video games cover a range of topics: the water cycle, water use, and conservation, wastewater treatment, why some things should not be flushed down the drain, reclaimed water, and the Puget Sound and its stewardship.
Address: 500 Adams Street Northeast, Olympia, WA 98501, Phone: 360-664-2333 Photo: WET Science Center
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»Percival Landing Park
Located in the heart of the city, on the Budd Bay on the tip of Puget Sound, Percival Landing is Olympia’s most popular waterfront park. It stretches over 3.38 acres of space and includes a playground, boat moorage, picnic areas, giant carved Orca, and a 0.9-mile boardwalk.
The park opened its doors in 1978 at the site of the historic old commercial steamship wharf, a well-known West Coast maritime landmark. There is always something going on in the park, and some of the most popular annual events are Sand in the City, Harbor Days, and Wooden Boat Festival.
Address: 217 Thurston Ave NW, Olympia, WA 98501, Phone: 360-753-8380
Photo: City of Olympia/Facebook
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»Washington Center for the Performing Arts
The Washington Center for the Performing Arts is the biggest performing arts facility in South Puget Sound's. Located in the heart of Olympia, the center is focused on providing a venue for unique regional performing arts and a variety of cultural and entertainment activities.
While the center presents its own season of international and national artists, its main goal is to support local performing art groups. The center opened its doors in 1985 as a successor of the old 1924 Liberty Theater, retaining much of the historic building’s architecture. The center’s lobby serves as a gallery space for the local artists.
Address: 512 Washington St SE, Olympia, WA 98501, Phone: 360-753-8585 Photo: Washington Center for the Performing Arts
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»South Sound Estuarium, Olympia, WA
Marine life enthusiasts visiting the Olympia area will not want to miss a visit to the South Sound Estuarium. This unique facility is a marine education center featuring South Puget Sound marine creatures in two aquariums, interpretive exhibits, interactive activities, and a video room with a variety of marine related topics. The Estuariam is open to the public on weekends from 10am to 3pm.
The association for the South Sound Estuary also offers numerous activities to educate visitors about the area, including the “Pier Peer” program, which includes night-time underwater viewing of marine life in south Puget Sound. Photo: South Sound Estuarium
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»Washington Attractions: Bigelow House Museum
The Bigelow House Museum is the oldest private residence in Olympia, Washington and is among the earliest buildings in the Pacific Northwest that are still standing. Built in 1850 for lawyer and legislator Daniel R. Bigelow and his wife, the house is a great example of the Carpenter Gothic style, which was popular in rural America in the mid-1800s.
The house is surrounded by over an acre of the original family’s land. Daniel Bigelow and his wife Ann Elizabeth, who was a schoolteacher, were important public figures in Washington, especially in the fight for women’s rights and education. The home is today a museum of early Olympia and Washington Territory history and contains displays of original furnishings, documents, and artifacts.
Address: 918 Glass Ave NE, Olympia, WA 98506 Photo: Bigelow House Museum
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»Evergreen Valley Lavender Farm
The Evergreen Valley Lavender Farm in Olympia is a serene, beautiful four-acre farm in the scenic Evergreen Valley. This small boutique facility specializes in lavender and its products: fresh and dried flowers, essential oils, hydrosols, bath products, and various lavender-inspired arts and crafts.
The farm is also a popular venue for local meetings and classes, and an inviting place to read a book, as there are many benches and seating areas found around the lavender fields. The farm grows and sells eleven varieties of lavenders, and visitors are invited to see the on-site distillation of oil.
Address: 9733 Evergreen Valley Rd SE, Olympia, WA 98513, Phone: 360-754-2002 Photo: Evergreen Valley Lavender Farm
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»Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve
Established in 1976 to protect Mima mound landforms and Puget prairie grasslands, The Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve invites visitors to explore the 637 acres of grassland covered Mima mounds and forest land. As just one of 17 National Natural Landmarks in Washington, the Mima Mounds is a unique place to learn about geology, Mima mound hypotheses, prairie ecology, fire, and Native American historical usage of the mounds.
A ½ mile paved loop and two gravel paths are perfect for guests wishing to see and learn more about this beautiful and rare ecological system. Striking vistas of Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens are sometimes visible from this location.
Photo: Zack Frank/Fotolia
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»Millersylvania State Park, Olympia, WA
Whether camping, boating, hiking, or staying in a cabin, Millersylvania State Park, located just a few miles south of Olympia, provides a wonderfully wooded respite. This 800+acre park has 3,300 feet of freshwater shoreline along the Deep Lake. The park is filled with trails that meander through old-growth cedar and fir trees and is both lovely and historic.
Its origins date back to 1921 when the Miller family gave the property to the state. The Civilian Conservation Corps constructed the buildings in the park almost entirely by hand in 1935. Camping cabins and campground for tents, trailers, and RVs are available.
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»Medicine Creek Winery
For a weekend treat, guests to Olympia should consider a visit to Medicine Creek Winery on the Old Pacific highway. A visit to this winery exposes visitors to both great wine and a bit of history.
A boutique winery located on a farm in the Nisqually Valley, Medicine Creek has a tasting room that is open Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5pm and is nestled in the barn featuring a fully restored 1865 “Wells Fargo” type stage coach. The tasting room is adjacent to the wine processing area, barrel room, and dance floor.
Photo: Medicine Creek Winery
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»East Bay Public Plaza
Visitors to the Olympia area who are particularly interested in environmental issues will enjoy a trip to the East Bay Public Plaza. Located at 325 Marine Drive, the plaza is open every day from dawn and celebrates the many ways that water sustains people and the planet.
The plaza features many water-themed educational elements and sustainable features, artwork, interpretive elements, a wetland pond, and a flowing stream. Both the stream and the wetland pond are fed by reclaimed water, making them excellent places for visitors to cool off with a nice dip. Photo: East Bay Public Plaza
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»Lattin's Country Cider Mill & Farm
Lattin’s Country Cider Mill and Farm is a small, family run operation that has been around since 1956. They work with other farmers from Washington to bring fresh fruits such as apples, berries, peaches, plums, and pears to Olympia customers. They make high quality cider from crisp, fresh apples, their own and from other local farms. In season, they make about 4000 gallons of cider a week and distribute it to stores all over West Coast.
They also make delicious goodies – their apple fritters and doughnuts are famous in the area. Another fun reason to visit this family place is the chance chance to play their baby animals. It seems that there are babies there all the time – baby goats, chicks, cows, bunnies, and other small creatures. Kids get a bag of babies’ favorite food to hand feed them. The best time to come to the farm is the last week of September and any weekend in October for the apple festival. You can pick your own apples, pick a pumpkin, or just enjoy their apple crisp, apple pie, caramel apples, hot and cold cider, cider donuts, berry cider, apple cake, and much more.
Address: 9402 Rich Rd SE, Olympia, WA 98501, Phone: 360-491-7328 Photo: Lattin's Country Cider Mill & Farm
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»Washington Attractions: Priest Point Park
Combining Washington State’s environmental beauty with its rich history, the 300+ acres of Priest Point Park provide visitors with a lovely spot for a picnic or hike. There is recorded history of the park as far back as 1848, and it is known that the land played an important part in trading and relationships with the numerous indigenous tribes of the area.
The entire area was donated to the city of Olympia in 1905. Guests will enjoy walks among the parks ravines, cliffs, and streams. The park features areas for picnics, including tables and shelters, a number of nature trails, and a playground that includes a basketball court.
Nestled inside the 300+acre park of Priest Point is one mile of saltwater shore and the Ellis Cove Trail. This trail takes hikers through the well preserved original forests of the area and offers beautiful views of downtown Olympia and State Capitol buildings.
Visitors can descend into a deep ravine and enjoy the rocky beach, as well as the century-old forests of vibrant green and carpeted with mosses and ferns. Shorebirds, including great blue herons, frequent this area, and on clear days the Olympic Mountains rise up beyond the opposite shore to the west. Photo: wanchai/Fotolia
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»Tolmie State Park, Olympia, WA
For adventurous nature lovers as well as those who are not so adventurous, Tolmie State Park is a delight. This is a 100+acre marine day-use park with close to 2000 feet of shoreline on Puget Sound. The park is forested and sits just on Nisqually Beach only a few miles from Olympia. Beachside, the park offers picnicking, sunbathing, and other low-key land based activities.
It has two kitchen shelters with electricity, sinks, and grills. There are both sheltered and unsheltered picnic tables. For the more adventurous and underwater inclined, there is a park built by scuba divers that features sunken barges and a reef constructed of tires. The park is open 8am to dusk. Photo: ivan kmit - Fotolia
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»Woodard Bay Conservation Area
Hikers and animal lovers alike will find a great deal of appeal in a visit to Woodard Bay Conservation Area. This 870-acre site just minutes outside of Olympia features three hiking trails of varying lengths, difficulty, and environs. One trail is a paved road, one is a forested loop-trail, and the last is described as a barrier-free trail that overlooks Woodard Bay.
For birders and other nature enthusiasts, Woodard Bay provides a habitat for shorebirds and songbirds, harbor seals, river otters, bald eagles, a large maternity colony of bats, and one of the most significant heron rookeries in the state. Photo: Friedberg/Fotolia
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Named for the historic hosting of the 1984 US Olympic time trails that took place on the site, Marathon Park is a 2.25-acre waterfront park built in 1970. Within easy walking distance of the main Capitol Campus and downtown Olympia, the park is located at the junction of two lakeside trails.
Walkers, runners, and birdwatchers will enjoy the views of the Capitol Building and Puget Sound and the one-mile path around Capitol Lake. Sunbathers, picnickers, and visitors looking for a nice place to walk their dogs will all enjoy this popular spot. Photo: ZaZa studio/Fotolia
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»Capitol State Forest
Located right outside Olympia, Capitol State Forest provides visitors with a myriad of outdoor activities from which to choose. The 100,000-acre Capitol State Forest is both a timber-producing forest and a popular recreation destination. Visitors can go horseback riding at Mima Falls, off-road-vehicle riding at Rock Candy, mountain biking along an extensive trail system, or hiking along the forested trails.
Of course they can also simply enjoy the various day-use areas and campgrounds. Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve is located just near the Capitol State Forest and also offers a nature walk. Photo: MegaIng79/Fotolia
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»McLane Creek Nature Trail
Within the Capitol State Forest is an easy, beautiful trail known as McLane Creek Nature Trail. The well-appointed trail is a boardwalk that provides visitors with a chance to quietly commune with the fauna of the area.
This trail will be of particular interest to bird enthusiasts and those who enjoy underwater, freshwater nature watching. In a little over a mile loop, visitors can walk next to a beaver pond, admire ferns and moss-draped trees, and cross over a creek filled with salmon. Several improvements have been made to the trail, making it an excellent option for guests looking for an outdoor adventure with small children who are either walking or in strollers. Photo: Creaturart/Fotolia
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»West Bay Park, Olympia, Washington
One of Olympia’s newest parks, West Bay Park is a shoreline park and trail. This spectacular site now provides visitors with outstanding views of the State Capitol, ship canal, and Olympic peaks. This small park was built on the site of reclaimed abandoned warehouses and defunct lumber mill on the west shore of Budd Inlet and has been developed and maintained almost exclusively by volunteers.
This beautifully located park provides a quiet place to enjoy the shoreline, watch seals and ship traffic in the bay, and walk your dog if you are so inclined. Portable toilets are available in the parking lot. Photo: Christopher Boswell/Fotolia
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Developed in 1982, this modern community park contains 40 acres of recreationally diverse activities. Boasting a modern skate park, four baseball fields/ soccer fields, an extensive playground, and horseshoe pits, sports oriented visitor will not want for options.
The park’s 40 acres also offer jogging paths, community gardens, an educational facility, and opportunities for viewing nature. An interesting and unusual feature of the park is the entirely manmade wetland. This wetland serves as a storm water retention pond during heavy rains, and when not filled to capacity, the wetland provides a habitat that attracts a variety of waterfowl to this urban area. Photo: City of Olympia
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»Heritage Park Fountain
Visitors to downtown Olympia in the summer months will not want to miss the Heritage Park Fountain. Known casually as "Olympia's swimming pool," the Heritage Park Fountains provide free entertainment on hot summer days.
Situated between Percival Landing and Capitol Lake Park, this park is in the heart of downtown Olympia and sits just across from the Oyster House. The fountain is active until 9pm and features lights near the water jets so guests can also enjoy an illuminated water show. Located just around the corner from the famous ice cream spots of Traditions or Grandpa's, this fountain provides numerous opportunities to cool down! Photo: Heritage Park Fountain
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»Medal of Honor Memorial
Visitors interested in military history will not want to miss The Medal of Honor Monument located on the eastern part of Capitol Campus.
Included among numerous other war and military monuments, the Medal of Honor Memorial is a full scale replica of the national Medal of Honor monument located in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, and it honors those Washington citizens who have received the nation's highest military decoration, the Congressional Medal of Honor. Photo: Medal of Honor Memorial
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25 Best Things to Do in Olympia, WA
- Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, Photo: Courtesy of Zack Frank - Fotolia.com
- Olympic Flight Museum, Photo: Olympic Flight Museum
- Hands On Children's Museum, Photo: Hands On Children's Museum
- Olympia Farmers Market, Photo: Olympia Farmers Market
- WET Science Center, Olympia, Washington, Photo: WET Science Center
- Percival Landing Park, Photo: City of Olympia/Facebook
- Washington Center for the Performing Arts, Photo: Washington Center for the Performing Arts
- South Sound Estuarium, Olympia, WA, Photo: South Sound Estuarium
- Washington Attractions: Bigelow House Museum, Photo: Bigelow House Museum
- Evergreen Valley Lavender Farm, Photo: Evergreen Valley Lavender Farm
- Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve, Photo: Courtesy of Zack Frank - Fotolia.com
- Millersylvania State Park, Olympia, WA, Photo: Courtesy of schankz - Fotolia.com
- Medicine Creek Winery, Photo: Medicine Creek Winery
- East Bay Public Plaza, Photo: East Bay Public Plaza
- Lattin's Country Cider Mill & Farm, Photo: Lattin's Country Cider Mill & Farm
- Washington Attractions: Priest Point Park, Photo: Courtesy of wanchai - Fotolia.com
- Tolmie State Park, Olympia, WA, Photo: Courtesy of ivan kmit - Fotolia
- Woodard Bay Conservation Area, Photo: Courtesy of Friedberg - Fotolia.com
- Marathon Park, Photo: Courtesy of ZaZa studio - Fotolia.com
- Capitol State Forest, Photo: Courtesy of MegaIng79 - Fotolia.com
- McLane Creek Nature Trail, Photo: Courtesy of Creaturart - Fotolia.com
- West Bay Park, Olympia, Washington, Photo: Courtesy of Christopher Boswell - Fotolia.com
- Yauger Park, Photo: City of Olympia
- Heritage Park Fountain, Photo: Heritage Park Fountain
- Medal of Honor Memorial, Photo: Medal of Honor Memorial
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Zack Frank - Fotolia.com
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