Places to camp…and places to…glamp? Yes, to all of that! You’ll never be short on things to do in Olympia, since it’s surrounded by majestic forests and state parks.
Named for its view of the Olympic Mountains, this capitol city is known for being a cultural hot spot, political hub and popular tourist destination. Below, we bring you some of our favorite things to do in Olympia, Washington!
Quick View: 23 Best Things to do in Olympia:
- Great Wolf Lodge
- Wolf Haven International
- Hands-On Children’s Museum
- Columbus Park
- Percival Landing
- Olympia Farmers Market
- Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge
- Olympic Flight Museum
- Tumwater Falls Park
- Capitol State Forest
- WET Science Center
- The State Capitol Building
- Heritage Park
- Olympic National Forest
- The Mima Mounds
- Capital Mall
- Schilter Family Farm
- West Bay Park
- Washington Center for the Performing Arts
- Puget Sound Estuarium
- Priest Point Park
- Bigelow House Museum
- Evergreen Lavender Farm
Gather your family together as a pack under one cozy roof at Great Wolf Lodge! There are so many fun things to do for the kids on site, like Cub Club, (crafts and projects about nature and the Northwest),
Story Time (great help at bedtime), and The Great Clock Tower Show. Of course, the indoor waterpark is rain-proof, which can be critical when visiting the Pacific Northwest!.
Let’s start with…wolves? Yes! We are partial to them, after all. As is Wolf Haven International, a sanctuary for displaced and captive-born wolves. Their goal is to protect wolves while educating visitors.
Pro tip: This outing is best for kids over 6, and you need to make a reservation at this link. (Also fun, if a bit spooky: Listening to the recordings of wolves howling on their website.)
You can tell by the museum’s name that it’s a fun thing to do with kids — and perfect for your little ones who can’t keep their hands to themselves anyway! Need more info?
The Hands-On Children’s Museum of Olympia is screen free and has a special area for kids under 4 called Snug Harbor. There are a total of 10 galleries including the Outdoor Discovery Center.
If you’re planning on spending some of your summer in Olympia, Washington, then you’ve got to find a place to swim! If you don’t feel like making the hour drive to the ocean, think about checking out this local lake! Columbus Park contains a large swimming area, fishing piers, places to picnic, volleyball courts and more!
If you’re looking for things to do with toddlers while strolling around downtown Olympia, make a b-line for Percival Landing. This public park offers spectacular views of Olympia’s waterfront!
It’s located on the east side of Budd Bay, on the southernmost tip of Puget Sound. The place features a boat dock, a boardwalk, a playground and several pavilions. Get the camera ready!
Who doesn’t love a good farmers market? Open since 1975, the Olympia Farmers Market attracts over 100 vendors selling their home-grown goods. There are also crafts for sale and restaurants scattered around the property. Go hungry and leave satisfied!
Explore an amazing variety of flora and fauna at the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge.
Originally established to provide a habitat for migratory birds, the refuge has expanded to include coyote, deer, and a number of endangered species like the Peregrine Falcon. Situated on the Puget Sound, the wildlife center is also home to fish, amphibians and reptiles as well.
There are a number of recreational activities visitors can enjoy. Boat, hike, fish or photograph your way around the refuge!
Located in the Olympia airport, this museum features historic planes and helicopters, hosts the annual Olympic Air Show and offers community events with the goal of sharing the historical significance of aviation in both the military and civilian sectors.
Located along the Deshute River, Tumwater Falls Park stretches across a half-mile loop. The cascades will lead you to the famous Schmidt house, built for the founder of the Olympia Brewing company and his wife.
While Tumwater Falls is a great place to visit year-round, September and October are when the silvery salmon make their way upstream. Oh – and there’s a playground, too!
This is one of many beautiful recreation destinations just a short drive from Olympia. The 110,000-acre Capitol State Forest offers horseback riding at Mima Falls, salmon-spotting in McLane Creek, mountain biking at Rock Candy, hiking trails, and overnight camping spots, of course!
First off, this museum is free! Also, it’s fun and super educational. The whole family can learn all about water — and that includes conservation, wastewater treatment, reclaimed water use, clean water careers, and protecting Puget Sound. Plenty of hands-on learning, and a scavenger hunt, too!
You can’t leave Olympia without enjoying a tour of the State Capitol Building. Also known as the Legislative Building, this 287-foot tall masterpiece has become known as “a watershed in American capitol construction” among architects.
The building is so beautiful, people actually get married here! Sign up for a tour to learn more about its history and operation.
If you’ve already made it to the Capitol Building, you may as well stick around to explore Heritage Park. The 24-acre area lies adjacent to the State Capitol Campus in downtown Olympia.
The lawn amphitheater area typically hosts small performances, community activities and even athletic events. There are tons of places for the kids to run and a number of walking trails that wind around the park!
It’s always nice to punctuate your travels with a trip into nature. From lush rainforests and deep canyons to mountain ridges and ocean beachfront, the Olympic National Forest is a must-see. Waterfalls abound as well: Here you can learn about nine – yes nine! – different waterfalls all in the forest.
The Mima Mounds refer to a rather mysterious site located 20 miles south of Olympia. The grounds span over several hundred acres and are filled with bulging mounds, covered in grass. To this day, no one has gotten to the bottom of what caused these unique formations.
The early explorers first assumed it was a Native American burial site, though no skeletons were ever found. Some scientists suspect it’s the result of gophers in the area, though some remain suspicious that the mounds exceed the size typically created by such small creatures…
If you find yourself in need of a little retail therapy, head to Capital Mall! The shopping center contains over 100 specialty shops, including a 13 screen Century Theater.
There are plenty of places to eat throughout the complex as well. Capital Mall hosts a number of events throughout the year, from blood drives to art installations and more!
Enjoy 180 acres of farmland! Walk across the property and enjoy a slew of family-friend activities, from corn mazes to hay pyramids, duck races to tractor rides and more. Don’t forget to visit the farm animals, either!
It never hurts to tack another park onto the list. This shoreline park and trail spans over 17 acres on the west side of West Bay, if you like being on the water, take out a boat or enjoy a kayaking excursion.
If you’re more of an on-land person, enjoy the sprawling fields, picnic tables and play areas.
Located on the South Puget Sound, the Washington Center for Performing Arts provides Olympia with tons of local talent, live performances, comedy shows, film screenings and more. If you’re looking for a little culture, this is the place to be. Check out the events calendar to see what’s coming!
This is the perfect place to sneak in some hands-on learning for the kids! The marine life discovery center features saltwater aquariums, interactive learning activities and rotating exhibits. Get up close and personal with starfish, hermit crabs, sea anemones and more!
Get ready, because this place has got a lot of history behind it. Named for a small group of Catholic missionaries who came to the area back in 1848, Priest Point Park spans over 314 acres.
Indigenous peoples have been utilizing the area for generations, including the Squaxin, Nisqually, Quinault, Puyallup, Chehalis, Suquamish, and Duwamish.
Hailed as one of the most beautiful spots in the pacific northwest, the park contains tons of hiking trails, nearly two miles of saltwater shoreline, a playground, and picnic areas. Don’t forget to look up, either! The park is home to a unique variety of birds, from Screech Owls to Bald Eagles.
If you were hoping to inject a little more history into your trip, head over to the Bigelow House Museum. There, visitors can get a taste of what life was like in 1850’s Olympia.
The house is one of the few surviving examples of Carpenter Gothic style architecture. It even contains the original furnishing, documents and artifacts representing over 150 years of history.
According to the experts, lavender has a lot of healing properties. It can help reduce anxiety, for one. It’s said to help bring about sleep, inspiring calm and reducing feelings of restlessness.
And who wouldn’t want to spend time around something that can do all that? Enter Every green Valley Lavender Farm. The beautiful property produces 11 varieties of aromatic lavender, which are all available for purchase. The farm sells essential oils and aromatherapy items, as well!
Want to explore more things to do in Olympia, Washington? Visit the Olympia and Beyond website. There, you’ll find more things to do in town. If you’re planning a trip to the area, thinking about a stay at Great Wolf Lodge. We’re located just 20 minutes from downtown Olympia.
The resort offers tons of activities to enjoy, from water park adventures to the more leisurely activities scattered around the lodge. Be sure to sign up for our email list to learn about our best deals!