Explore Olympia and Beyond
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.
Fun in the city
Olympia Film Society
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
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
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.
Arbutus Folk School
The Arbutus Folk School mission is to ‘Enrich lives and build community through joyful, hands-on learning with master artisans.”The school provides enlivening learning experiences through a wide-range of activities focused on fostering appreciation, knowledge and access to craft, music, community, celebrations and lore.
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.
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:
- Le Voyeur is a restaurant, bar, and host to small local and traveling acts.
- Cryptatropa hosts experimental DJs and hard rock acts.
- Washington Center for the Performing Arts hosts more refined, upscale events. Take advantage of the center’s student discounts.
- The Olympia Film Society frequently hosts big shows, in addition to movies.
- Traditions Cafe and World Folk Art, a fair trade emporium, cafe, and community gathering place, regularly holds concerts.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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. Visit the fast-moving cities of Cascadia and see what everybody’s talking about.
The Pacific Coast
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.
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!
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
This organization has rescued and provided homes to approximately 200 captive-born wolves. Learn about wolves during a scheduled guided visit of the sanctuary. Visit wolfhaven.org
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.
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.
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. Traverse Ape Cave, one of the continent’s longest lava tubes. Take the easy path and see the giant “meatball” rock formation or take the longer path and scramble over fields of boulders deep under the earth. Don’t forget your headlamp and keep your eyes open for 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!