Olympia Things to Do

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Best Rated Things to Do in Olympia

  • Procession of the Species

    by olyrunner Updated Dec 31, 2003

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    Olympia has its own Procession of the Species parade each April as part of Arts Walk (which also takes place in October). It's a great community event and a lot of fun to watch, especially while sipping a cup of java from nearby Batdorf & Bronson.

    Photo from The Olympian
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  • Olympia Farmer's Market

    by olyrunner Written Dec 31, 2003

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    The Olympia Farmer's Market is a great place to get your fresh produce, plants and flowers as well as other crafts, clothing and food items all while supporting local vendors. During the summer, it's a popular place to spend your Friday lunch hour with a wide variety of fresh food and great music performances. Check their website to get seasonal hours.

    Photo by Planet Percussion

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  • Capitol Lake Loop

    by olyrunner Written Feb 12, 2004

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    Despite an earthquake that sent Deschutes Parkway sliding toward Capitol Lake, the loop is back open for all to enjoy. Whether you're a walker or runner, this is a great loop with fantastic views of the capitol, the mountains and of course the lake.

    Fog on the lake
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    Washington State Capitol

    by Astrobuck Updated Oct 2, 2004

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    This is the only good picture I could find of the Washington State Capitol building in Olympia. Due to the grounds being kind of small, I was unable to get a really good picture of it, so I had to improvise with the dome and front of the building.

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  • Mount Rainier

    by olyrunner Written Feb 12, 2004

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    Whether you're enjoying the view from afar or making the drive and enjoying it first-hand, Mount Rainier is a beautiful sight. In the winter you can enjoy skiing and snowboarding, and the summer provides ample opportunity for great hikes.

    View of Mount Rainier from Capitol Lake
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    The purple azaleas at the Capitol

    by joiwatani Written Oct 27, 2011

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    During the Spring time, the Capitol is like painted in pink and purple. There are the Cherry blossoms in pink and the petals would fall and color the ground pink! The tiny shrubs of purple azaleas are giving contrast to the gray and dull cement structures and pavements overlooking the Heritage Park.

    The purple azaleals are beautiful and if they are planted in groups make an outstanding color of the landscape of the Capitol grounds!

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    The Legislative Building

    by joiwatani Updated Oct 27, 2011

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    This is where the laws of the State of Washington are presented for approval by the State Representatives.

    In the State of Washington, there are two Senators representing the state: (2011) Senator Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell.

    The House has 8 representatives .

    There are tours here and you can sign up for it. You can tour the State Capitol, Legislative Building, Governor's Mansion and listen to history of the building.

    Here's a glimpse from the website of the Washington Capitol website tour:

    The Legislative Building is the crowning piece of the Washington State Capitol Campus and is home to the Washington State Legislature and the offices of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, and State Treasurer. Completed in 1928, it boasts one of the tallest free standing masonry domes in the world and houses the largest chandelier ever made by the Tiffany Lighting Company. The tour of the Legislative Building includes the North Foyer, Rotunda, State Reception Room, and Legislative Galleries. This tour is targeted to all groups and last approximately one hour.

    Governor’s Mansion Tour

    The oldest standing building on the Capitol Campus, the red-brick Georgian style Executive Mansion has been home to Washington’s Governors since 1910. Fully restored and furnished with many antiques from the American Federal period, the mansion is open for public tours on most Wednesdays by reservation. Morning and afternoon tours are available, but group size is limited to 25. This tour is available for 4th grade and up.

    Please note: School group tours of the mansion are limited to a 15 minute walk-thru if part of a Civic Education or Legislative Process Tour.

    Civic Education Tour, available to groups of 10 or more (Available from September-June only)

    This tour will focus on the three branches of government and includes information on the Legislative Building’s function, operation, symbolism and history. Also included in this tour is a visit to the Temple of Justice where your class will participate in a mock court hearing. This tour may include visits to the offices of the elected officials, Capitol Rotunda, State Reception Room, and Legislative Galleries of the House and Senate. The Civic Education Tour is three hours (including a lunch period) and is targeted to Elementary and Middle School Students.

    Legislative Process Tour, available to groups of 10 or more (Available from September-June only)

    This tour is an in-depth look at the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branch of Washington State Government. This tour can be customized in many ways, but the standard process tour includes a one hour class on the legislative process, hosted by the Legislative Information Center, and tour visits to legislative process locations. Additionally, your group may wish to participate in a mock court hearing in the Temple of Justice. This tour is three hours (includes a lunch period) and is specifically targeted to High School and Adult Groups

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    The Wing Victory

    by joiwatani Written Oct 27, 2011

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    Location:You can see this Wing Victory Statue once you got in to the grounds of the State Capitol. It is on the circular drive around before you can go to the Capitol Building and/or the Legislative Building. This was created by artist Alonzo Victor Lewis who was born in 1886 and died in 1946. This statue was made because of the joint cooperation of the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars although this was funded by the public through the sale of lands and federal grants. The material is bronze on granite base.

    Inscriptions:

    East face: WA State Seal, "To the memory of the citizens of the State of Washington who lost their lives in the service of the United States during the World War 1917 – 1918",

    North face: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend"

    West face: "Their sacrifice was to vindicate the principles of peace and justice in the life of the world"

    South face: "They fought to safeguard and transmit to posterity the principles of justice, freedom, and democracy."

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    The Heritage Park

    by joiwatani Written Oct 27, 2011

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    Heritage Park is a 24-acre state-owned park adjacent to the State Capitol Campus, Capitol Lake and downtown Olympia. It is the northern extension of the historic West Capitol Campus. For more information, see:
    Walk/run the park
    Plan an event at the park
    Tour the park
    Learn about park history



    Park hours:
    Dawn to dusk. Security provided by the Washington State Patrol.

    Parking:
    Metered city parking can be found on Water Street, and free parking is available in the lot within the park, at 5th Avenue and Yashiro Street.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------



    Walk/run the park

    The park features walking/running paths that encircle the entire perimeter of the park and Capitol Lake, and connect to other pedestrian paths. The Heritage Park Trail, a switchback trail at the south end of the park, winds its way up to the historic Capitol Campus on the bluff above.

    For more information, see Capitol Lake trails.

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    The view of the Heritage Park

    by joiwatani Written Oct 27, 2011

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    Once you are at the Capitol, you can go to the side of the hill and see the view of the Heritage Park.

    During the Spring time, there are many rhododendron here with different colors. When we came here, the flowers were so beautiful.

    Sometimes, you also see people lying down an elongated cemented chair. They come here to see the view or just lie down and take a nap.

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    The beautiful Cherry Blossoms at the Capitol

    by joiwatani Written Oct 27, 2011

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    My sisters said the Cherry Blossoms in Japan are beautiful and I told them that we also have Cherry blossoms in Washington State. These were imported by the Americans, if not most of the cherry blossom trees were donated by the Japanese government a long time ago. I had seen rows and rows of cherry blossoms at the University of Washington Campus in Seattle, and the walkways of an college in Vancouver, Washington.

    Then when I visited the capitol, I saw once again rows of beautiful Cherry blossoms. They were stunningly beautiful!

    My sisters were with me and we were taking a lot of pictures of us with the Cherry blossoms.

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    Middle Tumwater Falls

    by GuthrieColin Written Oct 14, 2008

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    At just about 15 feet (5 meters) this waterfall may be more of a rapid than a fall. It is however very accessible and makes for a nice outing. Within the Tumwater Falls park area, this may not be the most impressive but it is certainly worth a look.
    The falls is partially depleted by the fish ladder that exists just to the side of them but in times of higher water it may be likely that the ladder becomes obscured.

    Middle Tumwater Falls Middle Tumwater Falls
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  • More Capitol Lake

    by olyrunner Written Feb 12, 2004

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    Grab a cup of coffee downtown and walk a few blocks over to enjoy the beautiful scenery of Capitol Lake. During the summer, the lakeside path is packed with walkers, runners and people just enjoying one of Olympia's treasures.

    An early morning on the lake
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    Visiting the Capitol and its Grounds

    by glabah Updated May 27, 2013

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    In the very early 1900s, there was a movement to create artificial and massive classical public works as part of the "City Beautiful" efforts. This era reached its pinnacle in such structures as the 1911 designed (and not completed until the late 1920s) Capitol Building in Olympia. The plan called for the capitol campus to overlook a freshwater lake created from a former tidal marsh (completed in 1951 and now called Capitol Lake) and many other features inspired by mixing American culture with European inspired classical architecture.

    100 years after it was designed, the Capitol building still dominates the skyline of Olympia. The top of the capitol dome is visible from Interstate 5 in both directions as the freeway comes down the hill towards downtown Olympia, but remarkably the freeway and its noise has been mostly hidden from the capitol grounds. The dominating effect of the building has much to do with its position on a small hill overlooking the city and surrounding area, making the building seem much taller than it actually is.

    The grounds are fairly extensive, especially when you include the surrounding park lands such as Capitol Lake, and there are a number of monuments on the grounds as well. This includes the World War I and World War II monuments.

    Naturally the main attraction here is the huge Capitol Building itself. There are self-guided and guided tours of this structure. Tours of this structure operate on weekdays and weekends, but not on major holidays. For those interested in architectural details, the huge chandelier, which is about the size and weight of a large automobile, should be visited. The closest you can get to it is from the upper level balconies, but this is close enough to get an idea of the sheer size and huge amount of ornamental details on this light. (See photo 2).

    However, many of the other public buildings on the campus of the capitol are also open for touring on your own, but they are only open on weekdays. Thus, my suggestion to visit the capitol campus on a week day if possible due to the possibility of visiting these other buildings if you are interested in them.

    Unfortunately, one of the great landmarks of the Capitol Campus was removed in 2010: The Chief William Shelton Story Pole had decayed beyond safe limits and therefore had to be taken down, after serving as a reminder and monument to First Nations and settlers peaceful relations. It was dedicated in 1940.

    There are over 17 different smaller artworks and memorial sites scattered through the Capitol grounds, and in my opinion the state has put a much better and extensive effort into documenting this for its tourists than the State of Oregon capitol building and its campus.

    The web site below requires some exploration to find everything, but it is the best source of information about what you will find here.

    The Capitol Building and its Grounds Huge Chandelier hangs from Dome of Capitol
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    Washington State Capitol

    by Johnscarroll Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    The Capitol (legislative) building just reopened after a post-earthquake retrofit. It looks better than ever. The capitol dome is one of the largest masonary domes in the world. It's entirely constructed of stone without metal support.

    Guided tours are offered for free seven days a week between 10am and 3pm. The tour guides range from exciting and thorough to boring and droning. No matter what kind you get, the narration will be full of facts and trivia about Washington State and its government. Asking questions can help perk up a boring tour. There is symbology throughout the building, from the carpets to the crown molding.

    Park in the visitor parking lot along Capitol Way. While there, drop into the visitor's center and pick up a map of the memorials and art displays that are scattered around the capitol campus. The main fountain on campus is a replica of the Tivoli Gardens fountain in Denmark.

    You can also view the Temple of Justice building if the state supreme court is not in session. The library and courtroom are really quite beautiful. Other buildings are for public business only.

    The legislative session is brief: generally running from February to May or June depending on the year. You can view sessions of the house and senate during floor debates.

    Washington's State Capitol
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Olympia Things to Do

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