Olympia Travel Guide 2021

2021 Olympia Visitors Guide

The area which would become known as Olympia, Washington, has been inhabited for thousands of years. Its original inhabitants were the Lushootseed people, a Native American tribe that lived in the Puget Sound area. The first Europeans to the area appeared with the arrival of the Hudson’s Bay Company in the mid-nineteenth century. Hudson’s is the oldest company in North America and is still trading today. Originally specializing in the fur trade, often with First Nations tribes, it now focuses its commercial attention on the traditional retail trade.

The Puget Sound area was discovered in 1792 when the British Columbia expedition party landed there. The party was quickly followed by an American excursion, led by Lt. Charles Wilkes. The area that is now Olympia was initially the property of two men, Edmund Sylvester and Levi Smith. Hailing from Maine, Sylvester attempted to create New England town in the heart of the Pacific Northwest, designing the town to have a Masonic town hall and tree-lined streets.


Americans began settling in the Puget Sound area soon after, lured by the beautiful scenery, abundant wildlife and by the commercial potential of what is now known as Tumwater Falls. In the 1840s, the Catholic Church set up missions in the area, which also helped to populate the region, and one of the first Catholic schools was founded in the Pacific North West. Olympia had its own Customs House by 1851, and within two years, there were almost one thousand residents living in the fledgling town. The town also became the county seat for Thurston County in 1852. The area continued to grow until it was sidetracked by the railroad. The small village was forced to finance its own railway, to remain connected to the outside world.


Olympia experienced a rebirth when it was named the state capital when Washington received statehood in 1889. Its new prosperity was reflected in its new opera house, sewer system, and streetcar line. The capital continued to grow and during the First World War, it established itself as a logging capital and the city grew to build new waterfront properties and developing its residential areas.

Sadly, an earthquake in 1949 damaged many of the city’s downtown buildings, and Olympia was forced to rebuild. Many of the original buildings were re-designed using Victorian-style facades to complement the remaining historical buildings. Since then, the city has continued to expand, and in 1967, Evergreen State College was chartered.

Olympia Attractions

The City of Olympia and the surrounding area hosts a wide variety of attractions. There are numerous nearby state and national parks for the whole family to enjoy, and the city’s close proximity to the Puget Sound makes water activities accessible to all.

Olympia Recreation

The state of Washington is an outdoor lover’s dream. There are many things for visitors and residents to do, such as hunting, fishing, and camping. The Olympic area is a must-see for visitors; tourists and residents can explore tidal pools and whale watching.

Puget Sound is a birder’s paradise. It is home to an astounding array of different birds, like loons, turkey buzzards, sandhill cranes, and even puffins. The Olympic Peninsula sponsors both educational and entertaining birding events, including an annual Christmas Bird Count and weekly bird walks.

Residents can also take in the majestic Olympic scenery by lama, an activity that is quickly growing in popularity with the locals. Like the ancient Incas, nature lovers can explore forests and the winding trails of the Olympic mountains on the back of a lama. Whale watching is also another popular pastime. The waters of the Pacific Northwest are home to several species of whales, including gray whales and orcas. There are annual events that celebrate their annual migration north to their feeding grounds.

Olympia is also a rafter’s dream and a fisherman’s heaven. The area is dotted with tributaries that feed the Pacific waters and anglers can hope to land both halibut and the Beardslee trout.

Olympia also offers a wide variety of other activities, if you’re not the outdoors type. For example, visitors and residents can spend a relaxing afternoon enjoying a wine tasting tour across the Tacoma Narrows. You can also enjoy a weekend antiquing or even take in a round of golf. If you’re looking for something more exciting, however, there are many activities to suit your mood. There are many casinos in the city, that offers almost every game of chance imaginable. Blackjack, poker, casino, even live entertainment- there’s something for everyone to enjoy. The city also hosts a farmer’s market, where shoppers can find locally grown fruits and vegetables, handicrafts designed by local artisans, and fresh seafood and shellfish.

If you are searching for a more leisurely way to spend an afternoon, that the city of Olympia has just what you’re looking for.

Olympia Arts

Like larger cities, Olympia is proud of its artistic heritage. Residents can explore local art galleries, or take in a play. The city is the residence of seventeen different theatrical and musical organizations, so there is something to suit everyone’s taste.

Olympia Dining

There are many great restaurants for the connoisseur to enjoy. The Fish Brewery Company is a popular choice for tourists and residents alike. Unlike the traditional seafood restaurant, it is also a brewery, which prides itself in its line of traditionally brewed German and British-style lagers and ales. If you are looking for an ethnic treat, then the Thai Garden restaurant is the perfect choice for traditional Thai fare, including Spicy Lemon Grass Chicken and Pork in a Clay Pot.

Communities in Olympia WA

Olympia is home to a wide variety of neighborhoods, each with its own distinctive flavor and architectural style.

Downtown Olympia is the heart of the City. Residents can enjoy the best of metropolitan living: Browsing the local art galleries, taking in a play or simply enjoying an evening stroll through Heritage Park.

Olympia’s Eastside, however, is a great example of the city’s historical past. You can see grand, vintage homes, a Japanese garden, the Budd shore inlet, and a marina. The neighborhood also has magnificent views of the capitol building, Puget Sound and the Black Hills. The area was first settled in the mid-nineteenth century and many of the buildings reflect the various architectural styles that have evolved since then.

The Lacey area is within commuting distance to Olympia is another great residential choice. It is within a short distance of the Olympic National Park, North Cascades National Park, and Mount Rainier National Park, so there is plenty to do and to enjoy.