Boardwalk leading visitors through Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge
Mount Rainier seen in the distance from Hope Island
Snowy landscape at Tumwater Falls
Lush, green forests in the Olympia Mountains
Sunset scene overlooking Capitol Lake from Capitol Hill
Viewing the historic Tumwater Brewery, abandoned long ago
Architectural detail of the State Capitol building
Lake sailing in the South Puget Sound area
Explore the outdoors, and more, in this Northwest Pacific state capital
History, Architecture and Museums
The stunning State Capitol building, the No. 1 tourist attraction in Olympia, provides a striking focal point to this small, vibrant town. Designed in 1911 as part of an architectural competition, it is open daily for free tours. Olympia also has an Old Capitol Building, which was built in 1892 from sandstone and is known as The Castle. Elsewhere in town are several well-preserved historic homes, including Bigelow House and Museum, Olympia’s oldest residence, and Crosby House Museum, one of the state’s oldest wood-frame houses. The city has an aviation museum and a floating maritime museum, set in a 100-year-old tugboat, but the top museum by far is Hands On Children’s Museum, a wild, wacky place for children, and adults, of all ages.
Nature and Wildlife
To get fresh air and exercise, try Priest Point Park. This peaceful waterfront retreat has wooded trails, a playground and a sandy beach. A little farther afield is Long Lake, where you can rent a boat and go fishing. About 16 kilometers outside of town is the lovely Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, where you can see more than 275 migratory bird species and watch salmon swim upstream during spawning season. To see conservation in action, head to Tenino, where Wolf Haven rescues wolves and coyotes and lets you see them up close and learn about them.
Wining and Dining
For 41 years, the Olympia Farmers Market has enticed visitors with its blend of locally grown produce, artisan crafts, baked goods, meats, restaurant fare and live music. Locally sourced food is a key ingredient at Olympia’s restaurants, which range from family-owned sandwich shops to brew pubs to the ubiquitous coffee houses. Take a self-guided tour on the 96-kilometer Thurston Bountiful Byway and leave plenty of time to stop at the many farms, distilleries and boutiques, where you’ll find all manner of fruits, beers and spirits. Likewise, plot a tour of a few of the local wineries and discover the fantastic wines of the Pacific Northwest.
Olympia’s water was originally supplied by nearly 100 artesian wells that brought underground spring water to the surface, but nearly all of them have been capped.