"A Capitol Experience Indeed" Top 5 Page for this destination Olympia by glabah

Olympia Travel Guide: 120 reviews and 452 photos

Along with being the capitol of Washington, the city has a number of smaller and lesser known activities.

Alas, one of the more interesting ones, even for those who don't like alcoholic beverages, has closed and moved to California: that's right, the famous Olympia Brewery is no longer active. Manufacture of that particular brand name beverage, and a number of others in Oregon and Washington, has been consolidated by one of the big international breweries in California. The building is for sale, and has been for a while, and so the once popular brewery tours that were featured in every tourist guidebook of Olympia no longer show tourists the extensive steps of making beer on a massive scale.

My favorite feature of the brewery, however, was the fountain that once was visible from Interstate 5. How I wish I had photos of that great fountain I could share with you here! Alas, it also has ceased operation now that the brewery is no longer in operation.

Then again, the facility known as the Olympia Brewery was actually in Tumwater anyway rather than Olympia, though the distance is so short you can walk between the two on the Tumwater - Olympia Trail and then take in Tumwater Falls.

In place of the brewery, however, there are a few museums and attractions related to Olympia being the capitol of the state, plus a number of parks. There is also an art gallery or two, plus the farmer's market here has a very good reputation and sells a number of local artworks as well as various food items.

The entire Capitol Building and Grounds includes some 17 exterior monuments and works of public art, plus the historic structures themselves, plus some very extensive works on the interior of the buildings. While the Capitol Building itself is open to tourists on weekdays and on the weekends, some of the other buildings are only open on weekdays. The governor's mansion only has limited tours available on Wednesdays. The very northwest corner of the capitol grounds overlooks Capitol Lake, which in the wintertime has a fair number of water birds from the cold North Pacific visit.

Olympia is a fairly nice small town with the basics of downtown mostly accessible by walking. There is a decent public transit system (for a small town anyway) that provides bus service inside Olympia and to several communities outside the city. Downtown Olympia lost its train station completely slowly over a series of years, as the main line railroad between Portland and Seattle became a more direct route southeast of town. There is an Olympia / Lacey train station, but it takes about 1/2 an hour to go between the station and downtown Olympia by public transit. The Greyhound intercity bus station, however, is located directly downtown.

The environment around Olympia is currently second growth forests (mostly fir plus scattered Pacific madrone plus other broad leafs). In most locations visible from downtown Olympia homeowners have allowed the tree cover to become extremely dense. This means that the area is still quite scenic even though there are many houses stuffed along the hillsides in many places. Osprey (in the summer) and bald eagles are reasonably common in these forests, and great blue heron are common along the edges of the water.

Because Olympia sits so far south in Puget Sound, its port facility has struggled in the face of the heavy consolidation that has hit many transportation facilities. Seattle is closer to a large population center and Tacoma is closer to heavy industry. Olympia ceased to have a main line railroad through it when the new Portland - Seattle line was built around 1910. The Port of Olympia does still provide international shipping, however, and they have a branch line railroad that connects them to the rest of North America.

Another problem that faces transportation in Olympia is the huge tidal swing. 18 feet (5.5 meters) is a fairly common tidal change from low tide to high tide, which plays havoc with ships and boats alike.

However, there is much wildlife that enjoys this huge tidal swing and the large tidal mud flats that are, in places, exposed during the low tides. Low tide is a good time to explore what may be in the tidal lands, but be very careful as the tidal mudflats can be very dangerous due to the soft mud in which people and animals can become stuck. Also, when the tide comes in it comes in fairly fast due to the nature of the way the ocean tides reflect and are amplified by the various inlets of Puget Sound between Olympia and the Ocean.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Lots of Smaller Attractions, Smaller City environment makes walking around easier. Some great parks, including natural preserves close to downtown.
  • Cons:Public transportation is somewhat limited in scope (though it is at least available). Area along busy Interstate 5 gives wrong impression of city due to horrible traffic through town and Concrete Trough type of environment..
  • In a nutshell:Definitely worth a look if you are going through here and have some time to spend.
  • Last visit to Olympia: Oct 2013
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (31)

Comments (1)

  • penumbra's Profile Photo
    Oct 4, 2011 at 4:38 PM

    I find that my picture taking increases around water, so the Port of Olympia looks like a good candidate.


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