A destination covered with lush forests and state parks, a vibrant art scene, historic landmarks and fun outdoor activities, Olympia in Washington is one of the most interesting places in the world for family, friends or couples to visit.
Whether you are a local seeking adventures or a traveler exploring the Pacific, we’ve got you covered with today’s 20 unforgettable experiences and things to do in Olympia.
This blog post is well researched and acts as your ticket to an extraordinary Olympia experience. We help you navigate the immersive wildlife, lush greens and the cultural landmarks of this charming city located in the heart of Washington.
Let’s dive in!
Table of Contents
5 Most Popular Things to do in Olympia
Washington State Capitol Building
One of the most popular and beautiful architectural gems in Washington, the Washington State Capitol Building is a wonderful place to start your journey into Olympia.
With a guided tour one can learn more about the Washington’s political history and gain insights into the state’s legislative process.
This popular building in Olympia is a fascinating example of the Neoclassical Architecture, possessing majestic white dome, Corinthian columns and intricate designs.
The Capitol building, ever since it was designed by Walter Wilder & Henry White in 1928, has witnessed decades of legislative decisions which ended up shaping and creating the state of Washington as we know today.
More than a working government building, the Capitol also is a living museum – with halls and chambers stuffed with historical artifacts, murals & portraits that tell the story of Washington’s past.
Squaxin Park (formerly Priest Point Park)
One of the most popular free things to do in Olympia is to visit the Squaxin Park. This expansive park offers stunning trails for hiking enthusiasts, mesmerizing views of Puget Sound and some interesting chance to spot the local wildlife.
A perfect place for family picnic, this 314-acre park is a perfect blend of lush green forests, tranquil waterfront & a variety of outdoor activities.
This park boasts well-maintained trails that wind through dense forests and are made in a fascinating way to attract both avid hikers and a leisurely stroll seeker as well.
This place is especially crowded during the summer months as it provides a colorful backdrop and the forested paths provide a cool, shaded escape from the heat.
Another captivating feature of this place is its shoreline along Puget Sound, which treats you with breathtaking views of the waterfront, with the majestic Olympic Mountains as a backdrop.
Stroll the Boardwalk at Percival Landing
Another very popular among the things to do in Olympia is to stroll around the Boardwalk at Percival Landing Park.
It is basically a scenic waterfront area offering picturesque views of the bay, wonderous art installations and incredible birdwatching opportunities.
The Percival Landing’s boardwalk is the most popular element in the area and it is surrounded by lush greenery, making it a serene escape from the city hustle-bustle.
People love to spend some time here while listening to the calming sound of gently lapping waves and the salty breeze of the sea.
For the art enthusiast inside you, the artworks or art pieces installed along the boardwalk provides you with a really vibrant cultural scene of Olympia. Spend some time to appreciate the fascinating skills and imaginative prowess of the local artists as you immerse yourself into the tranquil atmosphere of the waterfront.
Olympia Farmers Market
Looking for the best things to do in Olympia for immersing yourself into the local culture and flavors of the city? Try heading to the Olympia Farmer’s Market.
Find the most authentic and fresh locally sourced produce, handmade crafts & the best artisanal products.
The Olympian Farmers Market is like a celebration of all things local and there is no better place than this to immerse oneself into the local flavors and delights of the city.
Explore the Pacific Northwest’s agricultural bounty, experience the community’s local culture and shop for fresh and locally sources produce.
The market remains open from April to October and provides a platform to the local farmers, artisans, craftsmen and food producers to showcase their skills and products out in front of the world that’s come here to see them.
There is an incredible variety of fresh fruits, vegetable, herbs, flowers and artisanal crafts as well for one to explore or even buy for taking back to the hotel room or home.
Shop and Dine in the Downtown Historic District
The Downtown Historic District of Olympia is a charming mix of luxurious art galleries, fantastic restaurant and numerous boutique shops. One of the best things to do in Olympia at night is to visit this marvelous and lavish quarter in town for a delightful shopping experience and a delicious food-vista.
Shopping in the Downtown Historic District:
- Compass Rose: A boutique known for its eclectic collection of gifting items, home décor, and jewelry.
- Archibald Sisters: Offering an array of unique cosmetics, skincare products, candles and quirky novelties, this shop is a fun place to explore the essence of Olympia.
- Browsers Bookshop: A book lover’s paradise, this store has an extensive collection of new and old books, making it a haven for literary enthusiasts.
Dining in the Downtown Historic District:
- Basilico Ristorante: If you want the taste of Italian delicacies in Olympia, WA, you must visit this cozy restaurant in the city. It offers pasta dishes, wood-fired pizzas & fine wines.
- Hearthfire Grill: If you crave steak or delicious seafood while exploring the best things to do in Olympia, this place is the best choice to visit for savoring the most authentic Pacific Northwestern taste, that too in a stylish ambiance.
- Well 80 Brewhouse: Talking about craft beers, this brewhouse not only offers a diverse selection of wonderful craft beers brewed on-site, but also serves a menu filled with tasty burgers and tacos.
10 Things to do in Olympia for Adults with Kids
Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge
One of the most exciting, kid-friendly things to do in Olympia for adults or a family is to visit the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge.
Just at a distance of a short drive from downtown, this wildlife refuge is a haven for nature and wildlife enthusiasts. Named in honor of the legendary Nisqually tribe leader and environmental activist Billy Frank Jr, this place offers a marvelous escape into the heart of the Pacific Northwestern natural beauty.
One of the primary features of the wildlife refuge is that it covers approximately 3000 acres of diverse habitats: which include saltwater estuaries, freshwater wetlands, tidal mudflats & lush forests as well.
It makes for a dynamic ecosystem which creates a thriving ambiance for a wide variety of wildlife.
Many people get attracted to this wildlife wonderland as it provides the opportunity to observe native wildlife in their natural habitat.
With over 200 species of birds, including the incredible bald eagle, peregrine falcons & the great blue herons and fascinating surroundings for amazing wildlife viewing and photography, this place needs to be up there on your list of the best things to do in Olympia.
Hands on Children’s Museum
When we are talking about the best places to take your kids in Olympia, the Hands on Children’s Museum needs to be up there at the top.
With interactive exhibits, a fun treehouse and several educational activities to take part in, this place is a wonderful experience for kids of all ages.
The Hands On Children’s Museum lives up to its name by offering a hands-on learning experience to for your kids. With the exciting 150 interactive exhibits, the museum encourages kids to engage their minds and savor their curiosity.
These exhibits have something to captivate each child’s interest while fostering them to learn and enjoy at the same time. These exhibits include:
- Math (STEM)
- & more
Another standout feature of this one on today’s list of best things to do in Olympia is the impressive two-story treehouse. Kids love this spot the most as it lets them climb, explore and let their imaginations soar high as they traverse the structure. It is an adventure for the little ones, and a sight to behold as a thing they saw in their television boxes comes alive.
Olympic Flight Museum
Is your kid an aviation enthusiast? Or likes to watch large warplanes, take a ride and explore its insides? Do you yourself love to explore and get up close and personal with one of the best vintage aircrafts from the past? Well, the Olympic Flight Museum is one of the most exciting things to do in Olympia for you.
The museum’s impressive collection of vintage warplanes and aircrafts has to be the centerpiece or the showstopper for this marvelous place.
Most of these planes have been wonderfully restored and maintained just as they were before. You find yourself surrounded by these magnificent flying machines – each carrying its own unique story from the past.
One of the most popular aircraft on display at the Olympic Flight Museum is the Douglas A-1 Skyraider – a rugged and versatile plane which served in various conflicts like: the Vietnam wars and the Korean wars.
The Skyraider is fully restored, airworthy example that can still fly high into the skies, providing the visitors a chance to witness the history come alive during flight demonstrations or one of the events that the museum hosts every year to showcase the best flights to the enthusiasts.
WET Science Center
Make learning fun at the WET (Water, Education & Technology) Science Center in Olympia, where kids can explore the world of water, ecosystems and environmental sustainability through hands-on exhibits & several activities.
What makes the WET Science Center one of the best things to do in Olympia for adults with kids is how it is designed to make learning about water and its vital role in the lives of humans, animals and the entire planet – fun.
As one steps inside, you are greeted by a world of engaging exhibits, hands-on activities & multiple multimedia displays.
You will absolutely love this place no matter if you are a child or an adult. This place captivates you in the most scientific of ways.
The major highlight of the center is of course the Water, the Watery Wonders to be more accurate. This exhibit lets you dive deeper into the world of water through various experiments & displays.
Tumwater Falls Park
Enjoy a picturesque hike to Tumwater Falls, a beautiful waterfall surrounded by lush greenery. It’s a great place for a family picnic or a serene walk in nature.
This picturesque waterfall is located gracefully along the Deschutes River and offers a serene atmosphere along with the most stunning landscape views in Olympia.
What makes it one of the most amazing things to do in Olympia is that it has something for all members of a family. From the breathtaking waterfall vibes, the peaceful sounds of the water gushing down, the well-maintained paths and wooden bridges for the adventure venturers and several vantage points for the ones wanting to test out their photography skills.
The Tumwater Falls is an ideal picnic spot for family or a romantic lunch for a couple as well. You can find proper picnic setting all around the park with many amazing spots to have your lunch while witnessing one of the greatest falls in America.
Also, if you enjoy watching or taking pictures of the most exotic birdies out there in the world, this place is a haven for your birdwatching dreams.
The scenic trails wind through the woods and allows you to explore the area’s natural beauty as per your own pace. These trails are suitable for hiking enthusiasts of all levels – this makes it a great destination to visit.
Puget Sound Estuarium
One of the most interesting things to do in Olympia, the Puget Sound Estuarium is a hidden gem made for marine lovers and nature enthusiasts.
As you step inside, the Estuarium greets you with a world of marine wonders. This marvelous experience takes you into the intricate ecosystems of Puget Sound & the Salish Sea.
The major focus here is on the estuarine habitat, one where freshwater from rivers meets the saltwater of the sea.
This unique place is home to a rich diversity of marine life and this unique habitat offers a chance to get up close with the most fascinating water creatures: from curious crabs to elusive star fishes and more.
Another great highlight of this place is that it offers hands-on exhibits. Which means the visitors can touch, feel and interact with the marine world in a manner like no other aquarium in the world mostly offers.
This interactive approach entertains as well as educates you about the creatures, the plants and artifacts from the world down below and the importance of preserving these delicate ecosystems.
Wolf Haven International
Who doesn’t like wolves, right? Are you afraid of these creatures? Well, I guess we all should be. But have you seen The Jungle Book? I mean these are the most exciting creatures in the wild for me. Not tigers. Not lions. But the Wolves.
The Wolf Haven International, is another one among the most amazing things to do in Olympia for wildlife lovers and kids.
The guided tour in the area helps you witness these incredible animals up close while also learning about their lifestyle, natural habitats, ways of hunting, rules and about their conservation as well.
The knowledgeable guides lead you through this sanctuary, sharing insights into the wolf behavior, biology, conservation efforts and more.
As you walk along the shaded paths in this marvelous forest, you have the chance to observe several different species of wolves, including gray wolves and Mexican gray wolves.
The Wolf Haven is a non-profit organization dedicated to wolf conservation and awareness, when you visit here you not only get an opportunity to learn about these enigmatic creatures but also have an option to be a part of the conservation efforts made by donations.
Bigelow House Museum
The Bigelow House Museum is a place to explore the historic home and learn more about the Olympian early history. It is an educational as well as an immersive experience for the entire family.
Built in the year 1850, the Bigelow House is one of the oldest residences in the state of Washington. As you step through its doors, you will be transported centuries into the past.
The museum, named after its original owners, pioneers Daniel R. Bigelow & Ann Elizabeth White Bigelow is one of the most historic things to do in Olympia and is loved by knowledge seekers, history buffs and curious wanderers wanting to learn more about the town’s existence.
The interiors of Bigelow House Museum is like a treasure trove of antique furnishings, period clothing & artifacts all the way from the mid-19th century.
With the fascinating guided tours, you get to witness many phases of the House, how it came to be, how life used to look like back then, what challenges the family faced during their pioneer days and more. The whole tour is an insightful experience into the struggles and triumphs of the early settlers.
Capitol State Forest
Another wonderous wildlife spot and one of the most favorite picnic spots for families in Olympia, the Capitol State Forest provides some of the best hike paths, bike tracks, or horse-riding experiences around the scenic landscapes in the state.
With a set of extensive trails for hiking catering to all levels, the Capitol State Forest provides easy, family-friendly and little challenging backcountry hiking routes for the adventurous souls.
One of the most popular things to do in Olympia for hiking experts is to experience the Margaret McKenny Campground Loop – a moderate 4.5-mile trail which winds through lush forests and leads to the picturesque views of the campground of the same name.
If you want more challenging track, you can also get set and go for the 5.5-mile Capitol Peak trek. This one offers outstanding panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes from the summit. Be prepared for a workout as you ascend through the rugged terrain.
If you are not into those heavy treks and hikes, you can just enjoy home cooked or packed food with your friends or family in the forest area. You will find many designated picnic areas across the forest, perfect for setting for a meal surrounded by mesmerizing sights and sounds of the nature.
As for the wildlife in the area, one can find many varieties of birds, some deer, elk, etc. while roaming around in the forest depths.
After exploring so many parks, forest lands, historic landmarks and whatnot in the city, one must get very, very hungry, right?
Well, at TravelSole, we understand that and the 222 Market is listed here as your stop for trying out the most delicious food in the diverse selection of eateries and unique shops.
Located in downtown Olympia, this market is a must-visit among the best things to do in Olympia serving the enthusiastic food lovers, art aficionados and people looking to soak in the local culture.
- Basilico Ristorante: Savor the most authentic, Italian cuisine: from homemade pasta to wood-fired pizzas.
- Chelsea Farms Oyster Bar: A rejoice spot for seafood-lovers in town, the Chelsea Farms serves some of the most authentic and tasty fresh oysters & other seafood dishes.
- Captain Little: A delightful toy store where you find handpicked toys, games and kid-books.
- Drees: A boutique store offering carefully curated selection of clothing, accessories and home goods.
5 Things to do in Olympia for Couples
Catch a Show at the Capitol Theater
Olympia, with its magical landscapes, serene forest lands and unique cultural aspects, is one of the most interesting places for couples to visit in the country.
And the number one thing to do in here with your other half is to catch a show at the Capitol Theater. There is no such thing as amazing as witnessing the concerts, plays or other live performances happening in front of you as you sit back, relax and hold you partner’s hand through it all.
One of the best things to do in Olympia at night, the Capitol theater experience will be a cherished moment for both of you on this trip.
Originally built somewhere around the 1920s, this excellent art haven has a timeless charm that goes perfectly with the unique lavish architecture and classic marquee.
As you approach the landmark, you automatically feel the vibe of this place to be setting stage for an incredible date night.
From live musical performances, comedy shows and film screenings as well, there’s just so much to experience in this spot. You can also check the event calendar for the city in advance for your days of travel.
Weekend Adventure to Mount Rainier National Park
Mountains have a way about them which tends to give out feelings of whatever you are seeking at the time. If you want adventures, it provides you with the most stunning hikes and nature trails amidst the breathtaking landscapes.
And if you seek a romantic vibe, it offers you the best sunrises, sunsets, fascinating sceneries at the backdrop, fun experiences and a relaxing ambiance.
The Mount Rainer National Park has so many experiences to offer you that it just becomes an essential part of our best things to do in Olympia listicle.
Mount Rainer is an active stratovolcano and it dominates the park’s skyline while providing a magical backdrop for your lovely time with your partner.
You can both marvel at the wonderous Myrtle falls or Christine Falls, both outstandingly fascinating waterfalls in the national park. Or you can go ahead and indulge in popular hikes like the Skyline Trail at Paradise, Wonderland Trail around the mountain or the Comet Falls Trail for catching those beautiful cascading falls.
Other than that, since it is a national park after all, you will find a very diverse wildlife to look at while spending time in their. These include: black bears, deer, mountain goats, marmots, and numerous species of birds.
Walk around Capitol Lake
Third on our list of the best things to do in Olympia for couples is just a normal stroll around or near the Capitol Lake.
There is a serene walkable path which encircles the entire lake and this spot is one of the most loved spots among the locals as well as most tourists.
You must have seen many movies where they show a large area within a park with a lake nearby, people jogging in their best joggers, families enjoying the outdoors, children running just about anywhere they feel like. The Capitol Lake is basically that – but it’s all happening for real.
One of the major highlights of this place is the stunning vistas that you can witness and look at, while sitting hand-in-hand with the love of your life. From the Washington State Capitol Building on one side to the magnificent landscape offering a mix of wetlands and forests.
As many other places that we have mentioned on the blog, this one also has an opportunity for nature and wildlife lovers to encounter the local wildlife during their walk around the lake. You can find many waterfowls gliding near the lake, namely: ducks, geese, swans.
Other that those, birds are everywhere around the city of Olympia, especially these parks and garden areas with serene environment, so always carry your binoculars and cameras to capture some rare species.
Hope Island Marine State Park
Ever wondered why most of the honeymoon destinations in the world, always have to be somewhere near the ocean? Well, I guess it’s something to do with the depth of the unknown waters, the magical landscape of the serene beaches, the aroma of coconut and seafood and just the mere vibe of these islands.
So, for the couples wanting an island vibe on their vacation in Olympia, we have got this marvelous Hope Island Marine State Park for you.
One of the best things to do in Olympia for couples, the Hope Island is accessible by a boat, but most love to have a kayaking experience for making it even more romantic.
Often referred by tourists as the most romantic place in Olympia, Hope Island Marine State Park offers a peaceful day for you to explore the lush forest trails, have a romantic picnic, walk around the soft grass and enjoy life with your other half.
Here are some of the best activities to indulge in when visiting Hope Island:
- Hiking Trails: The island’s most popular feature is the well-maintained hiking trails winding you through the dense forests of fir and cedar trees.
- Beachcombing: Stroll through the pebble-strewn beaches and search for unique seashells, colorful stones and experience the ocean bliss at this romantic spot.
- Picnic Opportunity: With tables and grills spread all over the island, you can find several spots for a romantic picnic in the island. Pack a basket with your favorite snacks and enjoy the meal with the most fascinating sights.
- Wildlife Watching: While relaxing or strolling through the island, you might spot eagles soaring overhead, harbor seals basking over the rocks and numerous seabirds that call this island their home.
- Kayaking: One of the most popular things to do in Olympia‘s romantic island is to paddle your way through the shiny waters around the island by a kayak.
Arepa Latin Street Food and Food Truck Plaza
After a romantic experience across and beyond the city limits of Olympia, WA, now you must visit the Arepa Latin Street Food & Food Truck Plaza for a delicious evening meal.
To have a city’s street food is to actually get a taste of what the city is all about – from the inside. Don’t you think?
The bustling plaza is a must-visit and one of the most loved things to do in Olympia for all food lovers and anyone interested in trying out the best, mouthwatering Latin American delicacies in the most authentic of ways.
The major highlight of the Arepa Food Plaza is well, the Arepas. These are basically a delicious, gluten-free cornmeal patty, griddled to perfection and stuffed with a variety of fillings.
At the Plaza, you can savor these Venezuelan delights in all their glory. Whatever suits you the best, be it a filling of savory meats, cheese or the vegetarian counterparts, you are in for a treat as every bit has a burst of flavor and authenticity.
Other than the Arepas, the food plaza also offers a diverse range of other Latin American dishes and street food classics from empanadas to the Mexican tacos.
Also, do not forget to indulge in one of the many food trucks experience at the plaza. Each food truck on the lineup offers a special and unique aspect of the Latin cuisine.
Is it worth visiting Olympia Washington?
It is absolutely worth it to visit Olympia in Washington as the place has a wide range of attractions, activities and things to do that cater to diverse interests. That is what makes this destination a worthwhile place to visit for all types of travelers.
From fascinating architectural gems, historic museums, numerous parks and wildlife spots and picturesque hiking trails, Olympia is one of the most interesting places to visit in America. Some of the reasons why that is, along with the best things to do in Olympia for what you seek:
- Rich Cultural Scene: The Downtown Historic District is brimming with masterful art galleries, theaters and cultural events.
- Historical Significance: The Washington State Capitol Building & the Bigelow House Museum offers great insights into the history and architecture of the region.
- Natural Beauty: The city’s proximity to Puget Sound, the Capitol State Forest, Mount Rainier, etc. provides a fascinating opportunity for nature lovers to immerse themselves in the outdoors.
- Family-friendly Destination: Olympia caters to families with attractions like the Hands on Children’s Museum, Wildlife Refuge, Tumwater Falls Park and more.
- Culinary Delights: The Olympia Farmers Market and other fascinating dining and wine-ing options in the downtown area allows visitors to savor the local flavors and try out the incredible craft beers in the city.
Olympia in Washington is a hidden gem in the Pacific Northwest and that means all that it offers is yours for the taking. With a diverse range of experiences for all types of travelers: from rich historic experiences, magical natural beauty to a peaceful wildlife venture.
From exploring the iconic Washington Capitol Building to family-friendly attractions like the Hands-on Children’s Museum and the outdoor activities in the Capitol State Forest to the romantic getaways like Mount Rainer and Hope Island, there are just so many amazing things to do in Olympia that you can never be disappointed.
Be sure to share this blog with fellow adventurers, family, or friends to inspire them to explore this charming and vibrant land of Olympia.
That’s all folks!