See a film downtown at the Olympia Film Society

Whether it be a rainy day, or a date night, the Olympia Film Society presents films in a traditional single screen movie theater. This downtown icon on 5th avenue features predominantly art house movies. Their calendar stretches out for a month or two allowing you to pre-plan the perfect date night.

Grab dinner before or after at Darby’s across the road, or walk a block to Aqua Via for some finer dining. Or head the other way to the pub, that is the Fish Tale Pub, one of our favorites. Then wander Olympia with your sweetheart.

Do not forget their annual film festival, held in November it is always interesting and opening night is always a big party!

Gentle to Raging River | Tumwater Falls Park

On the border of Tumwater and Olympia, tucked between the I5 freeway and the old Olympia brewery complex is Tumwater Falls Park. It is run by the Olympia Tumwater Foundation, set up by the Schmidt family in 1950, and also runs the historic Schmidt House.

It only takes half an hour or so to slowly stroll down to the lower falls and back. At the lower falls you can see the old historic brewery tower through the trees. The signage and historic explanations have been improved int he last couple of years, revealing to new comers to the area that this was once next the historic brewery, where the inside passage ended, the end of the navigable part of the Puget Sound, the home of a hydro-electric plant, and a vital area to the development of the entire area with tram cars running to saw mills and the commerce of historic Tumwater.

In late August through September you can see the salmon run through the fish hatchery. On certain days you can see them being milked for their eggs and being shipped off to local food banks.

The long running Falls Terrace Restaurant, looks out over the  upper falls. They are even lighted at night but some giant flood lights that sit on the roof of the restaurant.


Vintage Aircraft and Annual Airshow

The Olympic Flight Museum is a small but extremely interesting aviation museum located at the Olympia Airport. Along with the various airplanes and helicopters it houses other memorabilia that will intrigue and educate both young and old visitors.

They host a number of smaller events during the year, such as the Paper Airplane Flight School, but the big event is the annual air show. During this event expect to see many more airplanes fly in to Olympia, making for an impressive days outing!

The museum’s opening hours change with the seasons so be sure to check their web site to avoid disappointment.

Got kids? Olympia has you covered!

One of the best ways to entertain and tire out your kids is to go for a walk or hike. Our friends over at Exotic Hikes have a great ebook for hikes with kids.

The Olympia Farmers’ Market is great and now open year round on Saturdays. Great for lunch after a walk on Percival Landing.

Give the kids a taste of history and grandeur and tour the Capital Campus.

No list of ideas would be complete without mentioning the amazing Hands On Children’s Museum or the WET Science Center.

Other Places to look for ideas.

Local blog Thurston Talk has a Thrifty Thurston writter who has a lot of similar and great suggestions for parents with kids. Check out their ideas!

Maryhill Museum of Art

To some the Maryhill Museum of Art will be much more than a Day Trip, however we have known people to travel further in a day and turn around and come back to Olympia. You could do this as part of a trip down to the Columbia River Gorge.

This museum has to be one of the best kept secrets of the northwest. It is hidden away on a beautiful stretch of the Columbia River near  Goldendale, WA.

The first time we visited we were blown away by the quality of the exhibits. Most of all by the amount of original work by master sculpture Rodin. The man famous for “the Thinker”. The collection is just incredible.

The story behind the founding of the museum and the building of the building is just too detailed for here. Plus it will be fun for you to discover for yourself. Just rest assured this trip will be worth ever mile of driving and and every penny of cost (albeit it is fairly cheap to join or visit the museum).

Run, walk or stroll at Capital Lake.

Capital Lake sits in the shadow of the state capital building. Actually the Deschutes River and dammed to form a prettier foreground to the majestic capital campus, than the tidal mud flats that preceded it. The dam sits as part of the 5th Avenue bridge and includes a fish ladder to aid the salmon run in September each year.

It does not seem to matter what time of year you visit the lake, there will be lots of people walking, running or strolling around the lake’s trail. Dogs being walked, couples on a first date, families burning off energy, even the occasional kite flyer.

There are restrooms at both Heritage Park and Marathon Park. The latter is named after Olympia hosted the inaugural trails for the women’s Olympic Marathon.

For those wanting a longer path you can head up towards Tumwater and see where the trail passes under I5 and links in to Tumwater Park. There is a great map to give you some perspective here.

Take a stroll along Percival Landing

Percival Landing is the waterside extension to Heritage Park. You pass through the fountain and then cross 4th Avenue near the Oyster House and you are at the “top” of the landing. It takes a slow strolling half hour to get to the other end where the viewing tower is. Along the way are a number of pavilions, public restrooms and large field of grass and play equipment for the kids. Continue Reading

Mount Ellinor

Mount Ellinor is an easy drive from Olympia, and one of the best hikes we have ever been on. We went in August and the wildflowers were better than the famed ones of Mount Rainier.

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Capital Lakefair


During the third weekend in July we have Capital Lakefair. The carnival rides move in to Heritage Park and surrounding streets are shut down for food vendors and the like.

Recognizing our youth and seniors and also giving local non-profits the opportunity to fund raise and be seen, Lakefair has over a 50 year history. From humble beginning before the park even existed to today’s week long event, capped off with a spectacular fireworks display.

Make sure you see the grand parade, the kit car races, or participate in the run.  There is so much to do and experience!

Visit Capital Lakefairs Web site, for itineraries, sponsors, all the activities, and historic information about Lakefair.

Arts Walk Olympia | Fall and Spring

One of our favorite semi-annual events has to be Olympia’s Arts Walk. It is when Olympia comes alive for a Friday and Saturday bubbling over with personalities, and visually astounding us with a variety of artists.

If you love art and you are anywhere near Olympia this really is a great place to be!

The City of Olympia’s information on this event can be found here

For fantastic details such as maps and vendor and artist information see the Arts Walk Web site.

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