Washington state is a marvel when it comes to its natural beauty. The state’s capital city of Olympia lives up to the state’s reputation for natural beauty. It has lush evergreen environments, lakes, and serene inlet coastlines on the southern end of Puget Sound. It also boasts of being in a prime location, right between Olympic National Park to the northwest and Mount Rainier National Park – both of which I have previously mentioned. Here are the things to do in Olympia, WA.
Old Capitol Building
The Old Capitol Building is located on Washington Street Southeast in downtown Olympia. It is renowned for its castle-like appearance. In fact, it is locally known as The Castle. It was built in the early 1890’s. At first, it was used for the Thurston County Courthouse. But, its most notable use was for the state capitol. It operated as the seat of Washington state government from 1905 until 1928.
The building currently operates as the office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction for Washington state. But, it is still open to the public to visit at no charge. The Old Capitol Building is designed in the Romanesque architectural style. The building was built using Chuckanut stone from Whatcom County. It features two conical towers.
There were once twelve conical towers, however, ten of them were destroyed by a large earthquake that struck the area in 1949. When the building was first built in the late 19th century, it was a testament to the architecture of the Pacific Northwest region. It stood tall as a beacon of hope, democracy, and Washington state pride.
Former US President Theodore Roosevelt visited the building in 1903 and gave an address to around ten thousand people who gathered around the building. When you visit the building, you will find hallways filled to the brim with paintings, photographs depicting the history of the building, and pictures drawn by both local students and people from Olympia’s sister cities around the world.
Also, across the street from the Old Capitol Building is a small, lovely park called Sylvester Park. It houses a statue of John Rankin Rogers who served as the third governor of Washington state from 1897 until 1901.
Washington State Capitol
The Washington State Capitol is located on Sid Snyder Avenue Southwest south of downtown Olympia. It currently serves as the seat of state government in Washington state. It contains four floors and houses the office of Washington state’s governor, Jay Inslee, and chambers of the state legislature. It is designed in the American Neoclassical architectural style.
The beautiful state capitol is constructed of limestone sourced from the tiny Washington state village of Wilkeson. The state capitol features a 287-foot masonry dome. That makes this the tallest self-supported masonry dome in the United States and the fifth tallest in the world. The building’s north entrance features a portico with eight Corinthian columns.
The north entrance is reached by walking up 42 granite steps. This number of steps represents the number of states admitted into the United States up to and including Washington state. The state capitol is known for its gorgeous lamps and Roman fire pots in the building’s rotunda that were made by Louis Comfort Tiffany, the founder of Tiffany and Company.
The state capitol also features a gorgeous 10,000-pound chandelier above the rotunda featuring life-size faces, human figures, and a whopping 202 lights. There is also a large brass bust of first US president, George Washington, inside the state capitol. That makes perfect sense as Washington state is named after him. There is a free guided tour of the building available for you. It lasts for fifty minutes or so.
The state capitol’s grounds are just as beautiful as the building itself. So, you will want to spend some time exploring the grounds. It features many gardens and memorials.
Parks and Open Spaces
In order to help showcase its natural beauty, Olympia features many parks and open spaces for you to enjoy during your time there. I have already mentioned one such park so far in this post – Sylvester Park. Another park that you will want to check out is Heritage Park. It is only a short walk west of the Old Capitol Building and north of the Washington state capitol.
This lovely park travels along a long, narrow path along scenic Capitol Lake. It passes in front of downtown Olympia from the state capitol grounds up to Budd Inlet. On the southern end of the park, a trail winds its way down from the state capitol grounds at the top to Capitol Lake at the bottom in a twisty fashion.
Within Heritage Park, there is a continuous walking path along the lake. Located at the northern end of the park where Capitol Lake almost meets Budd Inlet, is a nice fountain. Also, if you look south from this part of the park, you will get a gorgeous view of the state capitol dome which features prominently in the horizon.
If you are a wildlife watcher, you may want to consider traveling a little bit north of downtown Olympia. By doing so, you will reach Woodard Bay National Resources Conservation Area which runs along Henderson Inlet. This peaceful open space is renowned for being a sanctuary for a variety of birds, harbor seals, river otters, bald eagles, and a colony of bats. So, it is well worth checking out.
These are the things to do in Olympia, WA. Those of you wanting to marvel at the majesty of the old and new state capitol buildings and soak in the natural beauty by visiting parks and open spaces will find great pleasure with being in Washington state’s serene capital city.
Olympia, Washington Hotels
Should you need a place to stay overnight at during your time in Olympia, I have got your back. Here are the two hotels I would suggest for you.
Hampton Inn & Suites Olympia Lacey
This hotel is located on Martin Way East just northeast of the interchange of Interstate 5 and Sleater Kinney Road in Lacey – a suburb just east of Olympia. The hotel offers complimentary breakfast. If you get hungry, a few nearby dining options include Ricardo’s Restaurant, Dirty Dave’s Gay Nineties, and Brewery City Pizza CO. There is an indoor heated swimming pool and hot tub at the hotel.
There is also a fitness center available for you to use during your time at the hotel. All of the hotel’s rooms and suites come with WiFi, microwaves, and mini refrigerators. The average rate for a standard room range from $105 to $167. You can head here to explore your booking options and/or check out some photos.
Ramada by Wyndham Olympia
This hotel is located on Martin Way East just west of its interchange with Interstate 5 in Lacey. There is free breakfast available at the hotel. Should you get hungry, a few restaurants nearby include Casa Mia, Brewery City Pizza CO, and Ricardo’s Restaurant. The hotel houses an indoor heated swimming pool and hot tub. For those looking for a place to workout, the hotel offers a fitness center.
All of the hotel’s rooms come with WiFi, microwaves, and mini refrigerators. The average rate for a standard room range from $101 to $105. You can go here to browse your booking options and/or view some photos.
What are your thoughts? Have you ever visited Olympia before? Feel free to drop a comment below.