Olympia (Washington)

Travel Guide North America USA Western United States Washington Olympia

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Introduction

Olympia is in the South Sound region of Washington. Olympia is the capital of Washington State, and the Thurston County seat. The city reflects a diverse economic base and culture. It has a population of 46,478 (2010 Census) and is also home to The Evergreen State College, one of six public four-year schools in Washington. Olympia's art and music scene is unusually large and active for a town of its size, and its identity as a city remains distinct despite strong influences from Seattle, Tacoma and Everett to the north and from Portland/Vancouver to the south. Olympia is somewhat of a breeding ground for Pacific Northwest alternative culture having spawned or influenced many of the region's better-known personalities. The city's downtown core has been designated as a National Historic District. The natural beauty of Olympia is of particular note. From downtown, one can see the Olympic Mountains to the northwest set behind Puget Sound's Budd Bay - and towering Mt. Rainier to the southeast set next to the state capitol building and Capitol Lake.

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Sights and Activities

  • Bigelow House Museum, 918 Glass Ave NE, ☎ +1 360-753-1215. Summer Sa-Su 1-4PM. Olympia's oldest surviving home, built in 1850s when Washington was a territory. Oregon Trail Pioneers Daniel and Ann Elizabeth Bigelow were early advocates of women's voting rights, public education and the rule of law. Home to the same family until 2005, it contains original furnishings, photos and documents dating back 150+ years. Donation.
  • The Evergreen State College. Public baccalaureate liberal arts college, known for alumni such as Kathleen Hanna, Carre Brownstein and Matt Groeing. Beautiful forested campus with miles of secluded hiking trails and beach access.
  • Olympia Marina
  • Oympia has a thriving music community, with frequent local performances by rock, jazz, blues, folk, and other bands. Local noncommercial community radio station KAOS at 89.3 FM (which also streams live at ) features tremendous variety of independent artists, often live in their performance studio. The station is on the campus of The Evergreen State College.
  • Washington State Capitol Building, 416 Sid Snyder Ave, ☎ +1 360 902-8880, e-mail: tours@des.wa.gov. One of the largest free standing masonry domes in the world. Hourly tours free.

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Events and Festivals

Holidays

  • New Year’s Eve - The US celebrates the outgoing of the old year and incoming of the New Year quite dramatically. Every state boasts its own parties to ring in the New Year, but none is more extravagant than New York’s Time Square, which sees people overflowing into the neighboring restaurants, bars, parks, beaches, and neighborhoods.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day (officially Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. and sometimes referred to as MLK Day) is an American federal holiday marking the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. It is observed on the third Monday of January each year, which is around King's birthday, January 15. The holiday is similar to holidays set under the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. The earliest Monday for this holiday is January 15 and the latest is January 21. King was the chief spokesperson for nonviolent activism in the Civil Rights Movement, which successfully protested racial discrimination in federal and state law.
  • St Patrick’s Day - March 17 celebrates the US’s large Irish population. Many cities around the country boast boisterous parades and Irish-themed parties, especially New York and Chicago, where the river is dyed green. Be wary of the drunkenness that dominates as this is definitely a party-day.
  • Memorial Day - Memorial Day is an important holiday throughout the United States, but not for crazy festivities. Parades commemorating wartime heroes are often held and the day is also the ‘unofficial’ start of summer. Most visitors follow the crowds to parks and beaches, which are capped off with informal BBQs.
  • Independence Day - Also known as the Fourth of July, Independence Day celebrates the US’s break from the British during the 18th century. Barbecues, street parties, beach trips, and weekend getaways are commonplace to appreciate freedom.
  • Labor Day is a public holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September. It honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, laws, and well-being of the country. It is the Monday of the long weekend known as Labor Day Weekend. It is recognized as a federal holiday. Beginning in the late 19th century, as the trade union and labor movements grew, trade unionists proposed that a day be set aside to celebrate labor.
  • Halloween - Halloween is a fun holiday on October 31 for all generations to dress up in costumes and relive their youth. Children walk around the neighborhood trick-or-treating for candy, while adults attend parties. Other seasonal events include haunted houses, pumpkin farms and carving, and corn mazes.
  • Thanksgiving - On the fourth Thursday in November, Thanksgiving is held in almost every home in the US. Tourists will have a hard time finding anything to do as the country essentially shuts down in observation. A typical Thanksgiving meal consists of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie commemorating the original Pilgrim’s feast at Plymouth Rock.
  • Christmas - On December 25, Christians celebrate Christmas as the pinnacle of their calendar by attending church and opening gifts from Santa Claus. Almost everything shuts down to promote family togetherness. The northern regions hope to experience a “white Christmas,” with trees and festive lights blanketed by snow.

Sport

  • Super Bowl Sunday - the world’s most watched sporting event and one of the highest grossing TV days of the year, Superbowl Sunday is a spectacular extravaganza. Held the first Sunday in February, the Superbowl is the final playoff game between the NFL’s top two teams. The venue rotates every year around America, yet the local parties seem to remain. Pubs, bars and restaurants are great places to enjoy the Superbowl or locals throw their own parties with different variations of betting.
  • The World Series is the annual championship series of Major League Baseball (MLB) in North America, contested since 1903 between the American League (AL) champion team and the National League (NL) champion team. The winner of the World Series championship is determined through a best-of-seven playoff, and the winning team is awarded the Commissioner's Trophy. As the series is played during the fall season in North America, it is sometimes referred to as the Fall Classic.

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Weather

The region surrounding Olympia has a warm-summer Mediterranean climate (Köppen Csb), whereas the local microclimate has dry summers and cool July and August overnight lows. Most of western Washington's weather is brought in by weather systems that form near the Aleutian Islands in Alaska. It contains cold moist air, which brings western Washington cold rain, cloudiness, and fog. November through January are Olympia's rainiest months. City streets, creeks, and rivers can flood during the months of November through February. The normal monthly mean temperature ranges from 3.6 °C in December to 17.8 °C in August. Seasonal snowfall for 1981–2010 averaged 27.4 cm but has historically ranged from trace amounts in 1991–92 to 207 cm in 1968–69.

Olympia averages 1,270 mm of precipitation annually and has a year-round average of 75% cloud cover. Annual precipitation has ranged from 760 mm in 1952 to 1,694 mm in 1950; for water year (October 1 – September 30) precipitation, the range is 831 mm in 2000–01 to 72.57 in 1,843 mm in 1998–99. With a period of record dating back to 1948, extreme temperatures have ranged from -22 °C on January 1, 1979, up to 40 °C, most recently on July 29, 2009; the record cold daily maximum is -8 °C on January 31, 1950, while, conversely, the record warm daily minimum is 21 °C on July 22, 2006.[13] On average, there are 6.3 days annually with temperatures reaching 32 °C, 1.8 days where the temperature stays at or below freezing all day, and 78 nights where the low reaches the freezing mark. The average window for freezing temperatures is October 8 through May 3, allowing a growing season of 157 days, nearly 100 days shorter than in nearby Seattle.

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Getting There

By Plane

Olympia has an airport, but no commercial flights. Check the Seattle airport for options instead.

By Train

Two Amtrak trains stop in Lacey - Olympia:

By Car

Olympia is located along Interstate 5 (I-5), approximately 65 mi south of Seattle (65 min), 100 mi (2 hr) north of Portland and 60mi east from Grays Harbor.

  • From Interstate 5 (I-5) Olympia is accessed from exits #99 ("93rd Ave SW") through #109 ("Martin Way E") along I-5. Downtown can be accessed from Exit #105 ("State Capitol City Center/Port of Olympia") from both directions. The off ramp comes into town as 14th Ave SE towards the state capitol. From the northbound lanes the off ramp from Exit #105 further splits to #105A which goes into 14th Ave SE or #105B which goes into Plum Ave SE on the east side of the downtown core. Or exit off at Pacific Ave at Exit #107 which comes into downtown as State Ave NE.
  • US Hwy 101/SR-8 From I-5 US-Hwy 101 is at Exit #103. If going west, the same highway becomes SR-8 after going past the US-Hwy 101 turnoff towards Shelton and Port Angeles.
  • From Kitsap Peninsula Go south on Hwy 3 and follow signs for "Hwy 3 South Belfair" Continue south along WA-3 through Belfair and Shelton where it ends into US-Hwy 101 south of Shelton. Merges into a freeway continuing east into Olympia as US-Hwy 101 or west to Aberdeen as SR 8.

By Bus

  • ]Greyhound[/b], (depot) 107 7th Ave SE (7th Ave SE & Capitol Way S, south of Sylvester Park), ☎ +1 360 357-5541, toll-free: +1-800-231-2222. Travels primarily on Interstate 5 (Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia, Centralia, Kelso/Longview and Portland.)
  • ]Grays Harbor Transit Rt #40[/b], Greyhound station at 107 7th Ave SE, ☎ +1 360 532-2770. Olympia Greyhound depot, downtown Olympia Transit Center, Elma, McCleary, Montesano & Aberdeen/Hoquiam in Grays Harbor County.
  • ]Mason Transit Rt #6[/b], Intercity Transit Olympia Transit Center @ 222 State Ave NE (stop at NW corner of the transit center at Washington St NE & Olympia Ave.), ☎ +1 360-427-5033, toll-free: +1-800-374-3747. Olympia to/from Shelton.
  • Intercity Transit, (downtown transit center) 222 State Ave NE (An entire city block along State Avenue between Franklin and Washington Streets in downtown Olympia.), ☎ +1 360 786-1881, toll-free: +1-800-287-6348. Operates local buses in and around Olympia, Lacey and Tumwater as well as express buses from downtown Olympia & Lacey to Lakewood and Tacoma. The following are bus routes connecting downtown Olympia to Lakewood, and/or Tacoma

* 64 local route from Bay 'G' to the Amtrak Station in Lacey via College St. Makes multiple stops to pick up and drop off people on request.
* 603, 605, 612 Express buses from Bay 'M' (NE corner @ Olympia Ave & Franklin) to downtown Tacoma & Tacoma Dome via Lacey & Lakewood. Look at schedules closely as they do not make all the same stops between Olympia and downtown Tacoma and not all routes continue from 10th & Commerce in downtown Tacoma to the Tacoma Dome Station either. Transfer to Pierce Transit Buses in downtown Tacoma, Tacoma Mall or Lakewood and Sound Transit buses in downtown Tacoma or the Lakewood Park & Ride.
* 609 Express buses from Tumwater to downtown Tacoma via downtown Olympia, Lacey and Lakewood. Bus does NOT serve the downtown transit center but a limited number of stops on 11th with the nearest at Capitol & 11th.
* 620 Weekend express bus from downtown Olympia to Tacoma Mall via Lacey & Lakewood. No service to downtown Tacoma or Tacoma Dome.

  • Sound Transit, ☎ +1-888-889-6368. ST no longer serves Olympia however you can transfer from a Intercity Express Bus (603,612, 620) in Lakewood to:

* 574 Lakewood, Tacoma Dome Station, Federal Way, 272nd-I-5, Kent Des Moines Highway (SR-516), Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
* 594 Lakewood, Downtown Tacoma/UW Tacoma, Tacoma Dome Station, Downtown Seattle
* South Sounder Tacoma, Puyallup, Kent and Seattle transfer at Lakewood Station or Tacoma Dome Station

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Getting Around

Olympia's numbered streets run East-West, and the city is broken into four quadrants with the center point in downtown. Northwest, Northeast, Southwest and Southeast. These indicators come after any address.
Capitol Way is the main north - south street in the downtown area. Fourth Avenue is the main connector that runs through downtown east - west.
The city's downtown district lies in the middle of what residents refer to as the Westside and the Eastside. Most residents of the city will claim these two areas are distinctively different.

By Car

Many international rental companies have a wide selection of rental cars and these include Hertz, Avis, Dollar, Thrifty, Enterprise, Budget and Alamo/National. Most companies will require you are at least 25 years of age, although younger people might be able to rent cars at slightly higher rates and with some insurance differences as well. A national driver's license is usually enough, but an additional international one is recommended. Also note that it usually costs more to include lots of other extra things. For example extra drivers, GPS, the first full tank, SLI (Supplemental Liability Insurance), PAI (Personal Accident Insurance, usually covered already at home), road assistance/service plan, and drop-off costs for one-way rentals.
If you want to book a car, it is recommended that you book your car before arriving in the USA. This is almost always (much) cheaper compared to just showing up. Also, try and book with a so-called 'broker', which usually works together with a few or many car rental companies and can offer the best deal. Some examples include Holidayautos, Holidaycars and Sunny Cars. Some of the cheapest deals to book from Europe, includes Drive-USA, which also has a German version.

For more information and tips about renting cars and campers, additional costs, insurance, traffic rules, scenic routes and getting maps and fuel it is advised to check the USA Getting Around section.

By Public Transport

Intercity Transit operates the bus system. $1.25 per trip or $2.50 for a day pass.

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Eat

  • Cebu Restaurant, 9408 Martin Way East, ☎ +1 360 455-9128. Serves Filipino food in a friendly atmosphere. It's a little bit hard to find - it's in a strip mall next to a gas station. If you're heading east on Martin Way, it's not too far past Marvin Road.
  • Norma's Burgers, 7210 Martin Way East, ☎ +1-360 456-6547. A local chain. Norma's won the Best Burger in Washington State for the year 2007, probably for their John Wayne Burger. Also serves breakfast, sandwiches, and seafood. $10/entree.
  • Norma's at I-5, 10322 Martin Way East (Nisqually Exit 114), ☎ +1-360 412-0333. A second location for this local chain.
  • O'Blarneys, 4411 Martin Way E (Near I-5 exit 109.), ☎ +1-360 459-8084, fax: +1-360 456-0674. If you like chicken, try the "Breasts and Jos".
  • Eastside Big Tom Drive Inn:, 2023 4th Ave E, ☎ +1 360 357-4852. A Big Tom with the works. Milkshakes and crinkle fries are also excellent. Bring cash and a hearty appetite.
  • Anthony's Homeport, 704 Columbia Street NW, ☎ +1 360 357-9700. On Olympia waterfront. Upper scale fine dining.
  • Lemon Grass Restaurant, 212 4th Ave. W, ☎ +1 360 705-1832. If you love Thai food, this is the place.
  • McMenamin's Spar Cafe (The Spar), 114 4th Ave. E., ☎ +1 360 357-6444. 7AM - midnight (1AM F Sa). The oldest restaurant/bar in town, dating back to the 1930s. Great atmosphere, food and libations.
  • Vic's Pizzeria, 233 Division St Nw, ☎ +1 360 943-8044. One of the most popular restaurants in Olympia with excellent and often unusual flavors of pizza. All of them are delicious.
  • Old School Pizzeria, 108 Franklin St, ☎ +1 360 786-9640. Olympia, WA. Very similar to Vic's. Movie posters line the walls of this restaurant.
  • Brewery City Pizza. 3 locations in Olympia. Another very popular pizzeria.
  • King Solomon's Reef (The Reef), 212 4th Ave E, ☎ +1 360 742-3199. 8AM-3AM, Lounge 10am-2am. A Olympia staple in the heart of downtown; a fun, off-beat but classic dinner. Has everything from burgers and shakes to sesame tofu. Plus there's the bar.

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Drink

  • The lounge at King Solomon's Reef, 212 4th Ave E, 360-357-5552. is the quintessential Olympia dive-bar. Dark, tobacco-stained, with well drinks that bite back and bar food to match, The Reef is where the locals go after shows or just to hang out late at night. A good place to go absorb some drinks while avoiding Oly's meat-market scene.
  • Jake's on 4th, 311 4th Ave E. 12pm-2am. A dance nightclub with dj dancing Th-Su. Features hot dog stand with walk-up window as Olympia Hot Dog Company cover varies usually $5.
  • The Mark, 407 Columbia Street SW, ☎ +1 360 754-4414. The Mark is the only certified organic restaurant in Washington. Local ingredients are used when possible. Banquet facilities available. Hours are Th-Sa, 5PM – 1AM and M-W by private hire. Reservations recommended.
  • Fish Tale Brew Pub, 515 Jefferson Street SE, ☎ +1 360-943-3650.
  • Madsen Family Cellars, 2825 Marvin Rd NE Ste D, ☎ +1 360 438-1286. 11-5PM. A small boutique winery that uses grapes sourced from Eastern Washington. The tasting room has dry whites, off-dry and sweet whites, a pink, Sangiovese plus the bordeaux reds - Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Verdot and a Bordeaux Blend called Othello.
  • McCoy's Tavern (McCoy's), 418 4th Ave E, ☎ +1 360 352-0696. 9AM-2am. The best dive bar in Olympia. Loud music, graffiti, cheap strong drinks and a sweet outdoor patio. "Like hanging out with the roadies after an awesome show".
  • Le Voyuer, 404 4th Ave E, Olympia, WA 98501, ☎ +1 360-943-5710. 11:30 am-2 am. Arty dive restraunt, lounge and performance venue with a vegan heavy menu, particularly well fried garlic fries. Large diverse international and domestic bottle beer fridge and local/domestics on tap. All-age performance venue till 10, well known for its punk shows.

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Sleep

  • DoubleTree by Hilton, 415 Capitol Way N, ☎ +1 360 570-0555, toll-free: +1-360-570-1200.
  • Swantown Inn Bed & Breakfast, 1431 11th Ave SE, ☎ +1 360 753-9123. Check-in: 4PM, check-out: 11AM. A 1887 Queen Anne/Eastlake Victorian Mansion listed on both the city and state historical registers. Located in a quiet neighborhood. $119 - $179.

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Keep Connected

Internet

There is a very small internet bar/cafe culture in the USA. Even then most of the internet bars/cafes tend be located in major urban centers. Accessible WiFi networks, however, are common. The most generally useful WiFi spots are in coffee shops, fast-food chains, and bookshops, but also restaurants and hotels more and more have a network to connect on. Some of them might require you to buy something and you might need a password too, especially in hotels.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The general emergency phone number is 911. The USA has a great landline phone system that is easy to use. The country code for the U.S. is +1. The rest of the telephone number consists of 10 digits: a 3-digit area code, and a 7-digit number. Any small grocery store or pharmacy has pre paid domestic or international phone cards. These phone cards are very cheap and offer good rates. The once ubiquitous pay phone is now much harder to find. Likely locations include in or near stores and restaurants, and near bus stops. The cellphone network in the states is slowly getting better but is still not as good when compared to other western countries. Cell phones tend to operate using different frequencies (850 MHz and 1900 MHz) from those used elsewhere in the world (2100 MHz). This used to prevent most foreign phones from working in America. Phones must be tri- or quad-band to work in the U.S. Fortunately, technology has meant that most phones should now be able to pick up one of the U.S. networks. Prepaid phones and top-up cards can be purchased at mobile phone boutiques and at many discount, electronics, office supply and convenience stores. A very basic handset with some credit can be had for under $40.

Post

The US Postal Service is a very good and well priced mail system. There are post offices in every small and large town for sending packages internationally or domestically. Although some might keep longer hours, most are open at least between 9:00am and 5:00pm. If wanting to send a letter or postcard it is best just to leave it in a blue mail box with the proper postage. First-class international airmail postcards and letters (up 28.5 grams) cost $1.10. There are also private postal services like FedEx, UPS, TNT and DHL, which might be better value sometimes and are generally very quick and reliable too.

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This is version 10. Last edited at 9:46 on Jun 14, 19 by Utrecht. 2 articles link to this page.

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