If you’re traveling to the beautiful Evergreen State, Olympia is an absolute gem offering everything you could possibly want from a short getaway. Smaller than Seattle and located at the southernmost point of the Puget Sound, it would be easy to overlook — but that would be a mistake.
Olympia, Washington, is situated off the intersection of Interstate 5 and Highway 101. The city boasts over 40 public parks, ample art galleries, museums and plenty of local food and drink experiences. Influenced by the state government and the liberal arts college Evergreen State College, Olympia is decidedly different. Located near a variety of mountains and beaches, adventure awaits you all around. This city and its charming, caring community will show you the ultimate Pacific Northwest experience. Because of this, our Innsiders have compiled an expansive list of things to do in Olympia, Washington.
Museums and Historical Sites
Olympia, Washington’s, rich history shines throughout the city. There are several historical buildings, but the highlight is the Capitol building. Frequented by tourists and locals, this building is a focal point of the campus and features stunning neoclassical architecture which you can admire while you learn about the building’s historical significance. There are many interesting memorials and gardens spread across the campus, including the Governor’s Mansion which offers guided tours.
After you’ve explored the Capitol, if you’re still looking for places to visit there’s also the Olympic Flight Museum, Hands-On Children’s Museum and so much more. There’s something for everyone and all ages in this eclectic city!
Nature and Outdoors
With city, county and state parks of 1,300+ acres of land, Olympia offers ample space to walk, ride, play and explore the outdoors! You’ll never run out of things to do in this town. The wonderful amenities you see all over the city are a reflection of the hard work and dedication of its strong community.
Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge is an incredible wildlife preserve that provides a habitat for many threatened and endangered species and is a refuge for salmon, trout and hundreds of species of birds. It is considered the “last unspoiled major estuary in the Puget Sound.” Bring your binoculars (or borrow a pair from the interpretive center) and enjoy a walk on level paths and boardwalks while observing the local flora and fauna this beautiful and environmentally important piece of land offers.
Burfoot Park is a wonderful place to explore the diversity of beachfront terrain in Washington state. There are plenty of nature trails to stroll through as well as 1,100 feet of beach frontage on Budd Inlet. Take in stunning views of the Olympic Mountains while you enjoy the tranquility of this Pacific Northwest beach. Recent renovations introduced a playground and park restrooms to provide a more comfortable outing for your family.
A hidden gem overlooked by most is Woodard Bay. This used to be a log transfer site, but now is the home for a large heron rookery, commorants, seals and a substantial bat colony that nests in a remnant of an old trestle bridge and migrates to Capitol Lake in the evening to feed. It has a large open-air interpretive area as well as access to the water and three trails accessed from two trailheads.
Olympia, in addition to being known as the capital of Washington, is renowned for its eclecticness and relaxed atmosphere. You’ll find many restaurants that reflect the community-oriented vibe.
Gardner’s Restaurant has been family owned and run since 1983 and features local fresh ingredients in an intimate setting within a historic building near Percival Landing. Everything is made from scratch in-house, including a dessert tray you do not want to miss out on. The restaurant also features an extensive selection of wines from Olympia and the surrounding area, as well as cocktails.
Fans of seafood cannot miss out on Chelsea Farms Oyster Bar located within the 222 Market. With an extensive seafood menu (along with a few options for those who prefer turf instead of surf) the restaurant celebrates the region’s famed shellfish in the most delicious way.
Old School Pizzeria has been serving Olympia since 1995 with the best NY style pizza in the heart of downtown. This is an authentic Olympia experience where you may rub elbows with a politician or “Greener” – locally known as Evergreen State College students and alumni – while you pick up a slice or a pie to fuel your adventures.
From April through October, the Olympia Farmers Market is open Thursday through Sunday, but is open year-round on Saturdays. Among the many different types of vendors are local bakeries and artisan food stands, as well as local restaurants serving up a diverse selection of hot food.
The historic Capitol Theater is a favorite in downtown Olympia. Operated by the Olympia Film Society and volunteers, this local theater has offered movie screenings, concerts and art events since 1924. Learn more and plan your visit here.
For live theater performances, Harlequin Productions features a six-show season annually and is an unexpected treat for anyone who loves theater. It is located downtown in the historic State Theater.
If you’re interested in local and regional artists, Splash Gallery is a cooperative-run gallery featuring a wide variety of pieces from jewelry, pottery, glass sculptures, paintings, photography and much more. They feature several events year-round and there is always something new and exciting to discover.
This article features just a few of the many opportunities to immerse yourself in the beautiful city of Olympia, Washington. If you find yourself exploring the many offerings of the state capital, consider staying at one of our incredible inns.