Explore Olympia and Beyond

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 many homegrown amenities.

As a student, you'll have easy access to oceans, mountains, rainforests, and some of America’s hippest cities. Whatever your style, you’ll find it in and around Olympia.

In Olympia

Fun in the City

The Capitol Theater in downtown Olympia

Olympia Film Society Location

The Olympia Film Society at the Capitol Theater is a volunteer group of film lovers. The theater shows indie movies and hosts festivals, live music, and other special events. You’ll get a student discount on your admission, but you can also trade volunteer time for free tickets!

Olympia Farmers Market Location

Open year round, the farmers market overflows with fresh organic produce, baked goods, meats, Olympia oysters, and more—all from local sources. You can eat lunch there and enjoy family entertainment, events, and people watching.

Olympia Food Co-op (West Side Location) (East Side Location)

Olympia's two food co-ops carry a wide variety of natural foods and products. Lifetime memberships are cheap, and their bulletin boards are great for discovering new events, house shows, and opportunities around town.

Arts Walk

Twice a year, local artists team up with local businesses downtown to exhibit their latest masterpieces. The streets are closed to traffic while art, street performances, music, and sales abound.

The Evergreen program Awakening the Dreamer, Pursuing the Dream danced as a group in Procession of the Species in 2013.

Procession of the Species

This essential annual event brings the Olympia community together to create amazing, nature-inspired costumes, props, and floats. The work culminates in a fantastic Saturday afternoon parade that draws spectators from far and wide. Leading up to the extravaganza is the Luminary Procession, which lights up the town the night before, after the spring Arts Walk.

The Music Scene

Olympia’s rich music scene can be appreciated at numerous venues, including:

Coffee Culture

Coffee Culture

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 coffeehouses, coffee bars, and coffee drive-thrus to slake your thirst.

Local Parks

Olympia boasts more than 900 acres of parkland—from small neighborhood nature trails to large, immersive forests and beaches. Below are just a few of the local gems to check out when you get here. For more information, see the City of Olympia’s list of parks and trails.

The Washington State Capitol and Capitol Lake

Capitol Lake and Percival Landing Location

A two-mile trail encircles Capitol Lake downtown, with views of the state capitol building and two parks nearby—Heritage and Marathon. From there, cut over to 4th Avenue—be sure to see the Heritage Park fountain on the way—for a stroll along the mile-long boardwalk around the southernmost tip of Puget Sound and views of Budd Bay and the Olympic Mountains.

Garfield Nature Trail Location

This short, forested trail on Olympia's West Side leads down through a 5-acre ravine, goes over several bridges, and comes out on West Bay Drive—check out the outstanding waterfront views from West Bay Park while you’re there. The trail has a bubbling creek, tall moss-covered trees and an abundance of giant ferns. It’s a taste of what Olympia would look like if Olympia wasn’t here.

Priest Point Park Location

One of Olympia’s biggest parks, Priest Point has upper and lower nature trails and access to a mile-long beach on the Puget Sound.

Yauger Park Location

This multifaceted 40-acre park offers trails, playgrounds, sports fields and an impressive skate park featuring three-feet quarter pipes and a five star with a rail going down the middle. sk8parklist.com says it “has just about all its bases covered… Overall, locals and visitors are in for a pretty good time.”

A student at Tumwater Falls Park

Tumwater Falls Park Location

Next to the now defunct Olympia brewery, this 15-acre park is a great place to picnic, hike, or witness migrating salmon returning to their birthplace to spawn. It's also the last pickup spot for tubers floating down the Deschutes River.

Still Bored?

Check out the local Visitor and Convention Bureau web site: VisitOlympia.com

Day Trip Ideas

Seattle and Portland

Get metropolitan. Seattle is just 60 miles up the Puget Sound and Portland is about 100 miles south on I-5.

Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve Location

Home to a peculiar landscape of natural mounds, the preserve features several trails to wander through a rare topography and see one of the area's last remaining prairies. How were the mounds created? Visit the interpretive center to learn about the different theories, which include glacial deposits and giant prehistoric gophers! This geological phenomenon is close to Millersylvania State Park.

Students at Capitol State Forest

Capitol State Forest Location

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 and She Bear, an enormous boulder to climb. Be sure to take a map with you (or get one for your smartphone) and don’t forget your Discover Pass!

Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge Location

Protecting the south Puget Sound's Nisqually River Delta, the refuge harbors lots of wildlife and is jammed full of attractions for nature enthusiasts. More than 200 species of birds have been documented at Nisqually’s grasslands, mudflats, salt marshes, and freshwater ponds.

Wolf Haven International Location

This organization is home to more than 170 animals. Learn about wolves and tour the 80-acre sanctuary to watch them frolic.

The Pacific OceanThe Pacific Coast

Go surfing at Westport, ride go-carts at Ocean Shores, or visit the scenic northern Washington coastline near Ruby Beach and La Push, and if you’re lucky, you’ll see migrating whales swim by.

Skiing and Snowboarding

  • Crystal Mountain, Washington’s largest ski resort, flanks the northeast corner of Mount Rainier National Park.
  • The Summit at Snoqualmie, with four unique base areas and a huge variety of runs, offers snowboarding and nighttime skiing (daytime, too!).
  • White Pass Ski Area is one of the state’s less crowded skiing and snowboarding destinations.

Regional Parks

Olympic National Park

There’s nothing like it anywhere else in the world. At more than 900,000 acres, the park covers much of the Olympic Peninsula and has temperate rainforest, free-flowing rivers, alpine meadows, and glacier-topped peaks—not to mention sandy beaches and rocky offshore islands.

At Staircase, the closest part of Olympic National Park to Olympia, you’ll find a cathedral of old-growth forest. Nearby Lake Cushman offers a wealth of recreational opportunities, including camping, boating, and hiking.

Students on Mount Rainier

Mount Rainier National Park

This huge attraction to western Washington embraces “The Mountain” (as locals call the giant of the Cascades) and 235,625 acres—97 percent of which is designated as permanent wilderness. You can hike, camp, snowshoe, climb, or just admire the awesome views.

Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument

See the stunning aftermath of North America’s largest recent volcanic eruption. Visit Ape Cave, one of the continent’s longest lava tubes, and keep your eyes open for a sasquatch!

This is just a small slice of the many things that you can do in and around Olympia. There are many more shops, restaurants, towns, cities, forests, and mountains to explore. You’re sure to find something to suit your taste or mood. Bring a friend along and have fun!