Seattle may be the biggest city in Washington, but Olympia has its own fair share of unique attractions, local restaurants, and relaxing parks to offer. The city’s population is just under 50,000, but somehow it still maintains a vibrant small-town feel. It’s only about 30 miles south of Tacoma – and a short drive away from Mount Rainier National Park and Olympic National Park – but you don’t even need to leave the city to find trails to hike and places to camp. These eight spots are some of our favorites to explore around our quirky state capital.
1. Mima Mounds
2. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge
There are a few paths you can take in this refuge, but one of the most impressive is the Nisqually Estuary Boardwalk Trail. The four-mile boardwalk spans over the Nisqually River delta on the southern end of Puget Sound, with a variety of wildlife to see, like: several bird species, frogs, otters, and seals (just to name a few!)
3. Washington State Capitol
Of course, while you’re in the capital city, a trip to the Capitol Building is an absolute must. The design is absolutely stunning both inside and out. For an even closer look at the historic legislative building, they also provide daily guided tours that are free and last about 50 minutes.
4. Millersylvania State Park
About ten miles south of Olympia, Millersylvania State Park is a huge, 842-acre park with lots of great opportunities for camping, hiking, boating, and fishing. It encompasses 3,300-feet of freshwater shoreline along Deep Lake, and miles of scenic trails through old-growth cedar forest.
5. Olympia Farmer’s Market
Olympia’s market is held rain-or-shine in a large covered pavilion. The vendors sell a great variety of fresh organic produce, locally made gifts, baked goods, meat, seafood, dairy and more. Even if you aren’t planning on spending anything, it’s still a fun venue to walk around, enjoy live music, and score some free samples. They’re open on Saturdays and Sundays in December, on Saturdays only from January-March, and once April rolls around, they’re up and going every Thursday-Sunday. (Read more on their website here.)
6. Priest Point Park
7. Rainy Day Records
Even in a day and age with music on our phones, Olympia’s downtown record store offers a fun place to browse for old school vinyls, turntables, cassette tapes, and CDs. They’ve been a local favorite since 1973, with a wide selection of different genres varying from rock to reggae.
8. Watershed Park
Even if you can’t make it out to the Hoh Rainforest on the Olympic Peninsula, you can still experience a vibrant green wetland right here in our state’s capital. Watershed Park encompasses about 153 acres of Olympia, and is well known for its old private wells that used to supply most of the city’s water in the late 1800s. It now serves as just a quiet, peaceful place to go for a nature walk, especially if you’re bringing your four-legged friend.
If you like ghost towns, Olympia has one that’s uninhabited and completely overgrown now.
Have you been to Olympia before? Where are some of your favorite places to visit around our capital city?