For years, my only exposure to Olympia, Washington was to simply breeze through the middle of it on the I-5 up to Seattle from Portland. And for years, my only knowledge of Olympia was that, a) it is the capital of Washington State, and b) it is home to Olympia Beer. And I knew the latter only because of the prominent Olympia Brewing logo on a building right on the interstate. My husband grew up in this state, so he was able to entertain me with a couple of stories from his childhood about the infamous local libation. Olympia Brewing began brewing its beer in 1896 and only stopped at 2003. The building and its infamous logo remain.
Come to find out, Olympia is not only the state capital but a bustling port city. Few state capitals are as beautiful as Olympia, Washington. Situated on the southeastern tip of the Olympic Peninsula, the city encircles the southern tip of Puget Sound, called Budd Inlet, which (eventually) finds its way up north of Seattle and empties into the Pacific Ocean.
It’s magical to stroll down the boardwalk at Percival Landing at sunset. Sea breezes, floating seagulls, and passing container ships add to the romance of a setting, pink-orange sun. Turn from the water and you are in the heart of downtown, with its thriving businesses and artistic communities. It’s no surprise that Olympia is a popular destination for families, especially in the summertime, where there is no shortage of kid-inspired gatherings and celebrations.
I have put together a handy guide of the most popular attractions, places to eat, and places to stay. While vacationing in the Pacific Northwest, it is certainly worth carving out at least a day to explore this awesome capital city.
What To Do
Downtown Walking Tour Download the city’s walking map and discover trails, landmarks, and public art. Downtown Olympia is small enough that just about anyone can walk the entire length in about a half hour. That is if you don’t stop to see all of the cool stuff along the way!
WET Science Center THE place to take the kids! But hey, this if for grown-ups as well. As the name implies, this is a hands-on place to learn about the local environment, and admission is FREE. Various engaging programs and events are scheduled throughout the year.
Tour the Capitol Visiting a state capital without touring the actual capital would just be…I dunno….silly! Learn about Washington’s illustrious history and get a taste of what it would be like to be a part of the legislative body of this great state.
Capital History Museum Native American and Washington state’s history come alive in the form of exhibits, short movies and tour guides. Many Native American tribes still thrive here and continue to be a vital part of the area’s cultural and economic wellness.
Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge Only three things are required for this wonderful place: hiking shoes/boots, a set of binoculars, and a sense of adventure! Part of the hike entails a well-kept boardwalk stretching over a marshy area where all manner of wildlife abounds!
Mima Mounds A geological wonder like no other! There are many theories circulating as to how they were formed, and opinions widely differ, but everyone can agree that these mounds are not found anywhere else.
What To Eat
The Bread Peddler Go here for breakfast and/or lunch!
McMenamins Spar Café Being a McMenamins fan, of course, I had to recommend this! For lunch and/or dinner. Complete with pinball and shuffleboard table!
Fish Tale Brew Pub Combining fresh seafood and craft beer. Duh!
King Solomon’s Reef Breakfast, burgers, and sammiches, oh my!
Farmer’s Market This maybe should have gone on my “things to do” list, but even though it’s a must-see attraction, you can absolutely have a great lunch here, with live music!
Where to Stay
Doubletree by Hilton We really like how Hilton treats its members. Sign up for free and get treated like royalty.
The Inn at Mallard Cove A wonderful bed and breakfast, with emphasis on the breakfast!
Bayside Bungalow I too, am getting in on the tiny house craze. Because it’s just so awesome!