Olympia in the southern Puget Sound region is the official state capital of Washington state and one of the Evergreen State’s oldest cities, founded in 1846. Olympia balances its legislative and political significance with one of the Pacific Northwest’s most vibrant arts and outdoor scenes to create a travel destination with historical, cultural and natural attractions.
From the unmissable peak of nearby Mount Rainier and scenic shores of the Budd Inlet to the striking Washington State Capitol and cultured Olympia Downtown Historic District, Olympia captures visitors with its natural beauty and charm.
- Olympia, Washington
- 20 Things To Do In Olympia
- 1- Visit The Washington State Capitol
- 2- Explore The Downtown Historic District
- 3- Take The Kids To The Hands on Children’s Museum
- 4- Visit Percival Landing
- 5- Explore Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve
- 6- Enjoy Nature At Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge
- 7- See Vintage Aircraft At The Olympic Flight Museum
- 8- Watch A Show At The Historic Capitol Theater
- 9- Olympia Farmers Market
- 10- See A Musical At Washington Center for the Performing Arts
- 11- Explore Heritage Park
- 12- Gaze At The Medal Of Honor Memorial
- 13- Learn Something New At WET Science Center
- 14- Go Hiking In Millersylvania State Park
- 15- Buy A Fragrance At Evergreen Valley Lavender Farm
- 16- Picnic At Yauger Park
- 17- Enjoy The Scenery In Brewery Park At Tumwater Falls
- 18- Learn About The Environment At Puget Sound Estuarium
- 19- Step Back Into History At Bigelow House Museum
- 20- Mount Rainier
- 20 Things To Do In Olympia
20 Things To Do In Olympia
1- Visit The Washington State Capitol
The stateliest attraction in Olympia is, without a doubt, the Washington State Capitol.
The legislative hub of the Evergreen State has been a mainstay attraction in Olympia ever since its grand opening in 1928.
Designed by prominent architectural firm Walter Wilder and Harry White, the sprawling capitol complex includes the Temple of Justice, the Insurance Building and the Legislative Building, all built in the American Neoclassical style.
Open to the public for tours throughout the year, the capitol remains among the most visited landmarks in Olympia.
It offers a fascinating glimpse of the opulent halls and grandiose rooms where important meetings occur.
The Washington State Capitol is at 416 Sid Snyder Ave SW, Olympia, WA 98504.
2- Explore The Downtown Historic District
Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2004, the Olympia Downtown Historic District is a 17-block stretch of central Olympia that houses 51 historically-significant buildings and structures.
The district features many structures built between 1911 and 1930, several years after Olympia became the state’s capital.
Many buildings within the district were designed by local architect Joseph Wohleb.
Although some buildings were damaged during the earthquakes of 1949, 1965 and 2001, the district remains a perfect window into Olympia’s past, making it a fantastic attraction worth visiting if you’re a history buff or an avid urban explorer.
Some of downtown Olympia’s most visited attractions fall within the historic district’s boundaries, including the Capitol Theater and the Old Capitol Building, making it a top spot to spend time.
3- Take The Kids To The Hands on Children’s Museum
A mainstay on Olympia’s long list of great family-friendly attractions ever since the venue opened its doors to the public in 1987, the Hands-on Children’s Museum is an iconic Olympia attraction receiving more than 300,000 visitors annually.
The facility encompasses more than 28,000 square feet (2,601 m2) of indoor exhibition space.
It treats kids and adults alike to 8 uniquely themed galleries designed to inspire creativity in a fun and relaxed manner.
The museum offers several social events and promotional programs throughout the year, including its popular Free Friday Nights special and complimentary monthly parenting classes, making it incredibly fun and affordable to visit.
The Hands on Children’s Museum is at 414 Jefferson St NE, Olympia, WA 98501.
4- Visit Percival Landing
One of three waterfront parks in Olympia, the 3-acre (1.2 ha) Percival Landing Park is among the most popular public parks in the city and features a wide breadth of interesting attractions within its borders.
The park is in the heart of downtown Olympia and was first opened in 1978, and is named after the city’s historic steamship quay, which was built by Sam Percival back in 1860.
The park has plenty of sights and landmarks to delight visitors of all ages and interests, with the most popular being the park’s 0.9-mile-long (1.4 km) boardwalk.
Percival Landing also hosts many community gatherings and festivals throughout the year, making it an outdoor attraction to return to time and time again.
Percival Landing is at 217 Thurston Ave NW, Olympia, WA 98501.
5- Explore Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve
Established in 1976 to protect and preserve the area’s mima mound formations and beautiful Puget prairie grasslands, the 637-acre (258 ha) Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve is a truly fascinating landmark to visit if you’re an outdoor enthusiast.
No one knows exactly who or what created the preserve’s mounds nor their true purpose, further adding to the National Natural Landmark’s mystique and popularity amongst travellers to the Evergreen State’s capital.
Situated just 16 miles (25 km) southwest of downtown Olympia, the mounds and the preserve is among the finest natural landmarks in the region and features everything from endangered butterfly species to stunning hiking trails to keep visitors entertained.
The Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve is at 12315 Waddell Creek Rd SW, Olympia, WA 98512.
6- Enjoy Nature At Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge
Although it might lack ancient and mysterious earthen mounds, the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge is an interesting outdoor landmark, with more than 4,529 acres (1,833 ha) of untouched nature on display.
The refuge was established in 1974 to safeguard the many migratory fish, birds and marine mammal species who rely upon the reserve’s many marshes, mudflats, woodland and grasslands to survive.
Renamed in 2015 by President Barack Obama in honour of Billy Frank, the leader of the native Nisqually people, the refuge is among Washington’s most visited natural attractions.
It is located just 9 miles (14 km) from downtown Olympia.
Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge is at 100 Brown Farm Rd NE, Olympia, WA 98516.
7- See Vintage Aircraft At The Olympic Flight Museum
Established in 1998 with the mission of educating and helping visitors interact with vintage flying machines, the non-profit Olympic Flight Museum is an excellent attraction to visit if you’re interested in learning more about the history of aviation.
The museum is housed inside a small hangar at the Olympia Regional Airport.
It features a modest collection of roughly 10 vintage aircraft and helicopters, all on display to the public.
Many of the museum’s priceless exhibits can still be seen fluttering through the skies above Olympia during the Olympic Air Show, an annual event hosted by the museum where several classic military and commercial aircraft take to the skies.
The Olympic Flight Museum is at 7637 Old Hwy 99 SE, Tumwater, WA 98501.
8- Watch A Show At The Historic Capitol Theater
Designed by renowned local architect Joseph Wohleb and opened to the public for the first time in 1924, the historic Capitol Theater in downtown Olympia has been a cornerstone of the city’s arts and culture scene for almost a century.
The theatre features a seating capacity of about 1,500 patrons and has been extensively restored following damage sustained during the 2001 earthquake, with the theatre situated in the Olympia Downtown Historic District.
All but the theatre’s original marquee remains in place for visitors to gawk at inside this important Olympia landmark, which has been host to several music festivals.
The Capitol Theater is at 206 5th Ave SE, Olympia, WA 98501.
9- Olympia Farmers Market
Featuring some 100+ vendors attracting over 400,000 visitors annually, the Olympia Farmers Market is the second-largest of its kind in the Evergreen State.
The market started in 1975 and is one of Washington’s only farmers’ markets still owned and operated by its vendors.
Vendors sell everything from fresh fish and produce to cured meats and wine.
This 150-day-a-year market is always interesting and colourful.
Olympia Farmers Market is at 700 Capitol Way N, Olympia, WA 98501.
10- See A Musical At Washington Center for the Performing Arts
Situated right in the heart of Olympia’s historic downtown district, the world-class Washington Center for the Performing Arts is among the finest performing arts venues in the South Puget Sound region.
The venue opened its doors to the public in 1985 and today serves as the musical and theatrical gathering point for residents across five separate Washington counties.
Roughly two million visitors have passed through the centre’s doors since its grand opening, with some 20 different local performance groups entertaining patrons in the centre’s large halls regularly throughout the calendar year.
The Washington Center for the Performing Arts is at 512 Washington St SE, Olympia, WA 98501.
11- Explore Heritage Park
The 24-acre (9.7 ha) Heritage Park near downtown Olympia is an urban outdoor recreational space among locals and visitors thanks to its scenic walking paths, iconic fountain and a large freshwater lake.
Heritage Park was established in 1986 following the completion of Capitol Lake and features many interesting attractions within its spacious borders for visitors to explore.
Some of the park’s star attractions include the Heritage Park Trail, the Heritage Park Fountain, the man-made Capitol Lake, and the park’s signature vantage points of the grandiose Washington State Capitol, all completely free to enjoy.
Heritage Park is at 5th Ave SW & Water St SW, Olympia, WA 98501.
12- Gaze At The Medal Of Honor Memorial
Perched on the Washington State Capitol Campus grounds, the 11.5-foot tall (3.5 m) Medal of Honor Memorial is a towering monument to all the men and women who have received the United States’ highest military decoration.
The granite obelisk memorial was erected in 1976 and is enshrined with the Seal of the State of Washington and all the names of Washington’s Congressional Medal of Honor recipients.
This eye-catching yet low-key tribute to America’s heroes is a fan-favourite among visitors to Washington’s capitol complex and is one of the city’s many top-notch landmarks, which visitors can experience free of charge.
The Medal of Honor Memorial is on the grounds of the Washington State Capitol Building and Campus at 416 Sid Snyder Ave SW, Olympia, WA 98504.
13- Learn Something New At WET Science Center
The fully hands-on WET Science Center is one of Olympia’s most popular attractions among families travelling with kids, teaching children and adults alike everything there is to know about water.
First opened in 2010, the venue forms part of the LOTT Clean Water Alliance, a non-profit agency dedicated to wastewater management in nearby urban areas.
Completely free to visit, this state-of-the-art facility aims to teach visitors about important water usage topics in a fun and explorative manner that’s unrivalled anywhere else in Olympia.
The WET Science Center is at 500 Adams St NE, Olympia, WA 98501.
14- Go Hiking In Millersylvania State Park
Roughly halfway between Olympia and Centralia, the 903-acre (365 ha) Millersylvania State Park is as much a stunning outdoor attraction as a historically significant one.
The park opened in 1921 and is situated on land first homesteaded in 1855 by Squire Lathum, selling it to John Miller and his family, who donated it to Washington State in 1921 to be turned into a protected natural area.
Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2009 in recognition of its Civilian Conservation Corps ties, it remains one of the most popular state parks near Olympia and has several scenic hiking trails and camping grounds.
Millersylvania State Park is at 12245 Tilley Rd SW, Olympia, WA 98512.
15- Buy A Fragrance At Evergreen Valley Lavender Farm
Created in 2008 by Thane and Peggy Bryenton, the Evergreen Valley Lavender Farm is a boutique organic lavender farm cultivating a range of fresh and dried lavender varieties for various uses.
The farm is a popular tourist attraction in the Olympia region.
It has a gift shop where the farm’s locally produced lavender products, such as fragrances and essential oils, are sold alongside handmade crafts made by the local artisan community.
Situated just 12 miles (19 km) from downtown Olympia, the farm attracts visitors seeking the highest quality lavender products produced right here in the capital of Washington’s backyard.
The Evergreen Valley Lavender Farm is at 9733 Evergreen Valley Rd SE, Olympia, WA 98513.
16- Picnic At Yauger Park
The family-favourite Yauger Park, situated just 2.6 miles (4 km) west of downtown Olympia, is an all-encompassing 40-acre (16 ha) outdoor recreational wonderland filled with virtually every outdoor attraction and activity.
First opened to the public in 1982, the park has been improved several times and now features an 11,500 square feet (1,068 m2) skating park, four baseball fields, three soccer pitches and several picnic and BBQ areas.
Named after US Army Colonel Yauger, the brainchild behind the park’s creation, Yauger Park serves as Olympia’s unofficial outdoor gathering space and is among the best places to mingle with the locals.
Yauger Park is at 3100 Capital Mall Dr SW, Olympia, WA 98502.
17- Enjoy The Scenery In Brewery Park At Tumwater Falls
Brewery Park at Tumwater Falls, situated in the nearby city of Tumwater just 2.8 miles (4.5 km) south of downtown Olympia, is a scenic 15-acre (6 ha) outdoor retreat best known for its main attraction, the magnificent Tumwater Falls.
The park was established in 1962 and serves as a popular hiking spot, with the park’s 0.5-mile long (800 m) loop trail passing by the park’s famous cascading waterfall and the old Olympic Brewery, dating back to 1906.
Packed full of history and the stunning natural beauty of Washington State, the park is always a worthy addition to any Olympia itinerary if you’re a keen outdoor enthusiast seeking a well-deserved break from urbanity.
Brewery Park at Tumwater Falls is at 110 Deschutes Way SW, Tumwater, WA 98501.
18- Learn About The Environment At Puget Sound Estuarium
The beloved Puget Sound Estuarium was established by the South Sound Estuary Association back in 2007 as an educative space to teach visitors about marine life and plants in their natural habitats.
The non-profit facility organises many volunteer activities and community projects along Olympia’s coastline.
It features a series of aquariums and exhibits within its humble halls where visitors can learn all about the region’s native fauna and flora.
Situated just a stone’s throw outside downtown Olympia, the estuarium is among the unique tourist attractions in Washington’s capital and plays a vital role in conserving the region’s various freshwater and saltwater lifeforms.
The Puget Sound Estuarium is at 309 State Ave NE, Olympia, WA 98501.
19- Step Back Into History At Bigelow House Museum
Set up to preserve the history of Olympia and the Washington Territory for future generations, the Bigelow House Museum is a treasure trove of information for history buffs.
The museum is housed inside the Gothic Revival-style home of the Bigelow family, who built the house in 1854, which makes it the oldest home in Olympia and one of the oldest still standing in the Pacific Northwest.
Added to the National Register of Historic Places back in 1979, the house is preserved much the way it was when the Bigelows called it home, providing visitors with an unprecedented view into what life looked like during Washington’s initial settlement.
Bigelow House Museum is at 918 Glass Ave NE, Olympia, WA 98506.
20- Mount Rainier
Within the Mount Rainier National Park, just 71 miles (114 km) from downtown Olympia, Mount Rainier is the tallest volcanic peak in the contiguous United States and Washington’s most iconic natural landmark.
Known simply as “Rainier” and “The Mountain”, Mount Rainier is visible from practically anywhere in Olympia on a clear day and is popular among experienced mountaineers seeking to summit one of the US’s most captivating peaks.
You don’t need to hike “The Mountain” to bask in its majesty, as the mountain is completely accessible via car up to 5,400 feet (1,646 m), making it the ultimate must-visit attraction when travelling through Olympia.