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The 20 Best Things to Do in Olympia, WA for First Timers

Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge

Olympia is the state capital of Washington, so it is one of the most popular destinations in the state. It sits at the southern end of Puget Sound. The city is of historical significance, so it has some of the best landmarks in the state. It also has various fun and interesting attractions to visit to suit a diverse range of interests. If you are visiting Olympia, you should plan your itinerary to make the most of your time in this location. Here are the 20 best things to do in Olympia, WA, for first-timers.

Capitol Lake

20. Enjoy Capitol Lake

Capitol Lake is a manmade reservoir situated at the Deschutes River's mouth, and it is one of the most distinctive features of Olympia. People visit the lake to enjoy the scenic views, which are best appreciated while walking the 3.5-mile trail around the lake. Runners and cyclists also enjoy this trail. On the northeast bank of the lake is Heritage Park, which boasts 24-acres of landscaped greenery that connects to the Capitol Campus. Head to the opposite bank, and you will find the smaller Marathon Park, which is just 2.5-acres.

Evergreen Valley Lavender Farm

19. Visit Evergreen Valley Lavender Farm

A serene and beautiful place to visit during your stay in Olympia is the Evergreen Valley Lavender Farm. You can stroll around the grounds of the four-acre farm and sit on one of the many benches to relax. The boutique farm specializes in growing lavender and producing goods made using this plant. The farm shop sells products including hydrosols, bath products, essential oils, and lavender-inspired arts and crafts. Visitors also have the opportunity to see the on-site distillation of oil and to learn about the 11 varieties of lavender grown on the farm.

Cider at Lattin's Country Cider Mill & Farm

18. Try the Cider at Lattin's Country Cider Mill & Farm

Lattin's Country Cider Mill & Farm is a family-run operation that was founded in 1956. This farm works alongside other farms in the local areas to bring fresh produce to the residents of Olympia. They are also famous for their cider production, which they make using a combination of apples grown on the farm and apples sourced from other local farms. During apple season, the farm produces an estimated four thousand gallons of cider every week. Their cider is sold locally, and it is also distributed to stores across the West Coast. In addition to the cider, the farm produces a wide range of apple-based products, such as doughnuts and fritters. Visitors to the farm can see the cider production facilities, visit the orchards, and learn about the workings of the farm. They can also meet and feed the animals living on the farm, which is an activity that particularly appeals to younger children.

Environment at East Bay Public Plaza

17. Learn About the Environment at East Bay Public Plaza

If you are interested in the environment, then a great attraction to visit is the East Bay Public Plaza. It is located on Marine Drive, and it is unusual as it celebrates the ways that water sustains the planet and the human race. There are many educational exhibits that have a water theme. These include artwork, a wetland pond, interpretive elements, sustainable features, and a stream.

Medicine Creek Winery

16. Taste the Wines at Medicine Creek Winery

Something a little different to enjoy in Olympia is a visit to the Medicine Creek Winery, and this is an activity that will particularly appeal to wine enthusiasts. It is a boutique winery located in the Nisqually Valley. It has a tasting room that is set in a barn that boasts a restored 1865 Wells Fargo type stagecoach. There are tours of the winery and its facilities every weekend, and this includes the opportunity to taste the wines in the tasting room.

Millersylvania State Park

15. Explore Millersylvania State Park

There are multiple activities you can enjoy at Millersylvania State Park, which is just a few miles south of Olympia. The park boasts more than 800-acres of forested land and a 3,330-feet shoreline along the Deep Lake. It was donated to the state by the Miller family in 1921. There are multiple trails for hiking, running, and cycling. Another popular activity is boating on the lake. It is possible to stay within this state park, as there are both campgrounds and cabins.

South Sound Estuarium

14. Go to the South Sound Estuarium

An interesting attraction that combines education with fun is the South Sound Estuarium. It is a unique facility that aims to educate people about marine life and conservation. There are two aquariums featuring marine life from the South Puget Sound, various interactive activities, fascinating exhibits, and a video room that shows films covering various marine-related topics. Throughout the year, there are various events and activities hosted at this venue that aim to educate people about local marine life.

Washington Center for the Performing Arts

13. See a Performance at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts

If you wish to see a performance during your visit to Olympia, then one of the best places to do so is at Washington Center for the Performing Arts, which first opened in 1985. This venue hosts various cultural and entertainment activities throughout the year, and it has a jam-packed schedule of performances to suit all tastes. It is best to check the schedule in advance. If you see something that appeals to you, then book your tickets prior to visiting the city.

Percival Landing Park

12. Stroll Along Percival Landing Park

A leisurely activity to enjoy in Olympia is taking a stroll along Percival Landing Park. It is a waterfront park that runs along Budd Bay, which is situated on the tip of Puget Sound. The waterfront park covers 3.38-acres, and it includes a boardwalk, a giant carved Orca, boat moorage, and a children's playground. There are often events and festivals taking place within this park.

WET Science Center

11. See the Exhibits at the WET Science Center

Located in downtown Olympia, the WET Science Center is a hands-on attraction that has something to interest people of all ages. The center's focus is water, and visitors can learn about this essential resource through a range of fun and interactive activities. These interactive activities vary from fun games for children to interesting exhibits for adults. In addition to the exhibits, there are informative tours of water facilities and educational presentations about water and the environment.

Bigelow House Museum

10. Visit the Bigelow House Museum

If you are interested in historical attractions, then one of the top places to visit in Olympia is the Bigelow House Museum. It was built in the late 1850s for the Bigelow family, and it is the oldest house in Olympia. It is now a house museum that contains a large furniture collection from the 1800s. There is a 45-minute guided tour of the property, and visitors can learn about both the history of the city and the legacy of the Bigelow family.

Olympic National Park

9. Enjoy Outdoor Pursuits at Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park boasts diverse landscapes, including a rugged coastline, lush rain forests, and alpine peaks. Therefore, there are multiple outdoor pursuits you can enjoy within the park. It is the perfect playground for activities, including kayaking, hiking, climbing, and mountain biking. There are also campgrounds within the park if you wish to spend the night. Some of the most stunning points to visit in the Olympic National Park include Hurricane Ridge, Sol Duc Hot Springs, Hoh Rain Forest, Shi Shi Beach, Quinault Rain Forest, and Ruby Beach.

Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve

8. See the Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve

The Mima Mounds are one of the most unusual natural features of Washington State, so the Mima Mounds Natural Preserve Area is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Olympia. The reason why these bubble-like mounds formed is unknown, so the landscape is something of a mystery. Earthquakes, gophers, and even extra-terrestrials have all been offered as explanations for these unusual formations. Hiking around the preserve is the best way to see these unique mounds, and you should take along a camera to capture some photographs. This National Natural Landmark also has rolling hills and wildflowers.

Historic Capitol Theater

7. Enjoy the Arts at the Historic Capitol Theater

The historic Capitol theater is located on 5th Avenue Southeast, and it has provided the public with entertainment since 1924. There is a rotating schedule of performances at this theater, including live music and independent films. It also has an open gallery space for local artists to exhibit their work. The theater also hosts the annual Olympia Film Festival.

Mount Rainier National Park

6. Mount Rainier National Park

While you are visiting Olympia, you should head outside the city to fully appreciate the surrounding area's beauty. One of the best places to appreciate Washington's natural beauty is at Mount Rainier National Park. It is centered around Mount Rainier, which is a volcano in the Cascades chain, and the national park is one of the most popular in the United States. There are multiple hiking trails, many of which take you through meadows, over rivers, and past glaciers and waterfalls. You can also spend the night in the park because there are campgrounds.

Olympia Farmers Market

5. Sample the Goods at Olympia Farmers Market

Planetware recommends visiting the Olympia Farmers Market. To get to the market, you will stroll along the Percival Landing boardwalk. It is an eclectic farmers market with local vendors selling a diverse range of goods, including handcrafted cheese, baked pastries, and locally produced fruit and vegetables. There is often live music to enjoy to peruse the stalls.

Hands On Children's Museum

4. Take the Kids to the Hands On Children's Museum

If you are visiting Olympia with children, then one of the top family-friendly attractions in the city is the Hands On Children's Museum. It is an attraction aimed at children up to the age of 11, and the activities within the museum offer interactive opportunities for learning and creativity. The museum is divided into sections, and it covers topics including healthy life, the Puget Sound, science, the arts, and nature. It also has an Outdoor Discovery Center.

Olympic Flight Museum

3. Visit the Olympic Flight Museum

Although there are many museums to visit in Olympia, one of the top museums to visit in the city is the Olympic Flight Museum. The focus of the museum is aviation, and there is something for people of all ages to enjoy. ON display in this museum are 20 vintage helicopters and planes, including aircraft that flew in Korea and Vietnam, and others that were used during World War II. In addition to the fascinating exhibitions, the museum also hosts the annual Olympic Air Show.

Washington State Capitol Building

2. Go to the Washington State Capitol Building

One of the most notable landmarks in Olympia is the Washington State Capitol Building, so it is an attraction to include on your vacation itinerary. The building was completed in 1928 ate a cost of over seven million dollars. From the outside, the white dome is an impressive sight. Equally impressive is the lavish interior, which you can see if you take one of the free guided tours that take place daily. The tour will educate you about the building's history, and also about the history of the city.

Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge

1. Explore the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge

According to Vacation Idea, the best thing to do in Olympia, WA, for first-timers is to explore the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. Established in 1974, the wildlife refuge protects wildlife at the Nisqually River Delta. The 762 acres of the wildlife refuge was later connected to the tides of the Puget Sound. The Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge is known for its biodiversity and for the role it plays in the recovery of Puget Sound. There are walkways taking you around the refuge so you can enjoy the beautiful surroundings from various vantage points. Within this park, there are forest and both fresh and saltwater marshes. There are more than 200 species of birds, some of which are migratory.

Liz Flynn

Written by Liz Flynn

Liz Flynn has worked as a full-time writer since 2010 after leaving a career in education. She finds almost all topics she writes about interesting, but her favorite subjects are travel and food. Liz loves the process of researching information, learning new things, and putting into words what others who share her interests might like to read. Although she spends most of her time writing, she also enjoys spending time with her husband and four children, watching films, cooking, dining out, reading, motorsports, gaming, and walking along the beach next to her house with her dog.

Read more posts by Liz Flynn

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