Off Campus & Around Olympia
The Evergreen State College exists at a cultural crossroad. In one direction lies urban excitement. In another lies outdoor adventure. In yet another you’ll find home-grown comfort.
You’ll have easy access to oceans, mountains, rain forests, and some of America’s hippest cities. Whatever your style, you’ll find it in and around Olympia.
Local Fun in the City
The Olympia Film Society at the Capitol Theater is a volunteer group of film lovers. This theater shows indie movies, and also hosts a variety of festivals, live music, and other special events. You’ll get a student discount on your admission, but here you can also trade some volunteer time for free tickets!
Open year round, you can buy fresh organic produce, baked goods, meats, Olympia oysters, and more from local sources. You can also buy plants, arts, and crafts, or eat lunch at the market and enjoy family entertainment and events.
Local, organic foods are available from Olympia’s two food co-ops. Lifetime memberships are cheap, and their bulletin boards are the best for discovering new events, house shows, and opportunities around town.
Twice a year, local artists team up with local businesses downtown to show off their latest creations. Downtown streets are closed to traffic while art, street performances, music, and sales abound.
Procession of the Species
This essential annual event brings the Olympia community together to create beautiful, nature-inspired costumes, props, and floats. The work culminates in a huge Saturday afternoon parade. The newer illuminated procession lights everything up and takes place after the Arts Walk the night before.
The Music Scene
Olympia has a rich music scene with several professional venues and independent organizers.
- The Northern is a volunteer-run, all-ages venue downtown.
- Le Voyeur is a restaurant, bar, and host to small local and traveling acts.
- Washington Center for the Performing Arts hosts more refined, upscale events. Take advantage of their student discounts.
- The Olympia Film Society frequently hosts big shows, in addition to movies.
Don’t be stupid. Get some ear plugs.
Caffeine addicts rejoice. Both Olympia Coffee Roasting Company and Batdorf & Bronson roast up coffee locally (bonus: both businesses are staffed by ’Greener alumni!) and there are plenty of coffee houses, coffee bars, and coffee drive thrus to slake your thirst.
Local Parks and Outdoor Fun
Olympia has 35 parks and over 900 acres of park land dotted throughout the city, from small neighborhood nature trails up to large immersive forests and beaches. Below are just a few great examples to check out when you get here. For more information, check out the City of Olympia’s list of parks and trails.
Capitol Lake features a pleasant 2 mile walk around the lake at the edge of downtown Olympia has two parks, Heritage Park and Marathon Park, and views of the Capitol Building and the Olympics. From there, cut over to 4th Avenue—be sure to see the Heritage Park fountain on the way—for a one mile walk around the southernmost tip of Puget Sound, and views of Budd Inlet, Mt. Rainier, and lots of moored boats.
This short trail in the middle of town leads down through a ravine, goes over several bridges and comes out on West Bay Drive—check out West Bay Park while you’re there. The Garfield Nature Trail has a bubbling creek, tall trees, drooping moss, ferns, vines, and even a colony of mountain beavers. It’s a taste of what Olympia would look like if Olympia weren’t here.
One of Olympia’s biggest parks, here there are upper and lower nature trails and beach access.
This multi-faceted 40-acre park has trails, playgrounds, sports fields and an impressive skate park, which includes 3 feet quarter pipes, right next to a five star with a rail going down the middle. There are also stairs, a 5 foot bowl, and a snake run. sk8parklist.com said this fixture “has just about all its bases covered… Overall, locals and visitors are in for a pretty good time.”
Next to the now defunct Olympia brewery, these three beautiful falls are a great place for a picnic, or the last pick-up spot for tubers floating down the Deschutes river. Witness the migration of salmon returning to their birthplace to spawn.
For More Local Ideas
Check out the Olympia Visitor and Convention Bureau web site: www.visitolympia.com
Day Trip Ideas
Seattle & Portland
Get metropolitan. Seattle is just 60 miles up the Puget Sound and Portland is about 100 miles south on I-5.
These peculiar, dome-like natural mounds offer up to 4 mile hikes. How were they created? Visit the interpretive center to read about the different theories, like glacial deposits and giant prehistoric gophers! This geographical phenomenon is close to Millersylvania State Park.
Many roads lead to the Capitol Forest and its 90,000 acres of single track, logging roads, and trees. Two systems are open for hiking, horses, off-road vehicles and mountain biking. We suggest taking Hwy 101 south to the Rock Candy Mountain entrance to find our favorite mountain biking trails. Be sure to take a map with you!
This park is jammed full of attractions to the average outdoor enthusiast. There are over 175 species of birds, 20,000 ducks, otters, grasslands, mud flats, and fresh water ponds during spring.
Wolf Haven International— (Tenino, WA)
This organization is home to more than 170 animals. Learn about wolves and tour this 80-acre sanctuary to watch them frolic.
Check out the Pacific Coast
Go Skiing or Snowboarding
- Crystal Mountain is Washington's largest ski resort.
- The Summit at Snoqualmie is the largest night skiing operation in the U.S. (They are open in the daytime too.)
- White Pass Ski Area is one of Washington's least crowded ski areas.
Visit National Parks
Olympic National Park
There's nothing like it anywhere else in the world. 900,000 acres of temperate rainforest, rivers, rain shadows, alpine meadows, and glacier topped peaks.
Mount Rainier National Park
This huge attraction to western Washington spans over 235,625 acres, with 97% of that designated as permanent wilderness. You can hike, camp, snowshoe, climb, photography, or just admire the view.
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
Staircase and Lake Cushman State Park
Go north on Hwy 101 to marked exit, follow signs. There is a dirt road past the state park to Staircase where you will find old growth forest and waterfalls.