Olympia has been the capital city of Washington State since 1853, though it retains a small-town feel, especially in the downtown core. As a port city, Olympia has some light industry but in recent years has been transformed to a more artist and artisan focused center. In addition to numerous small art galleries, there are also various jewelers, bookstores, and restaurants in easy walking distance of downtown hotels.
Olympia is home to The Evergreen State College, a small liberal-arts college on a wooded campus of 1000 acres. In addition to undergraduate studies, Evergreen also offers several Master’s level programs. Evergreen hosts a biennial meeting of Phage Biology professionals. The year 2009 will see the 18th Evergreen International Phage Biology Meeting.
The Olympia Farmer’s Market which is open Thursday through Sunday from 10 am to 3 pm, has numerous crafters and artists as well as fresh produce, small food vendors and plenty of local flavor.
The State Capitol building is open to the public most of the year, and is well worth a visit. The Temple of Justice across from the Capitol is also open to the public. Both are good examples of the Neoclassical architectural style of the early 1900s. The Capitol Campus was designed by Walter R. Wilder and Harry K. White. Information about the Capitol buildings and tours is available through General Administration’s Visitor Services website.
Just south of Olympia is Tumwater, the oldest continuous American settlement on Puget Sound. Settled in 1845 by member of the Michael T Simmons party, it was home to the Schmidt family’s famous Olympia Brewing Company, next to Tumwater Falls. The brewery went out of business in 2003, but in its place micro-breweries have established themselves. One that has been a favorite of many is the Fish Tale Brewery and Pub. Located in downtown Olympia, the food also receives high marks.
Transportation within Olympia is fairly simple. Intercity Transit has two buses that go between the Evergreen State College and downtown: Route 41 and Route 48. For travel outside the urban areas, a car is necessary. There are car rental agencies as well as taxi service.
The Olympia Chamber of Commerce maintains a list of additional attractions in the area at ThurstonChamber.com.
The Olympia Visitors’ Center also has information on lodging, dining and attractions.