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Exploring the Back Roads of Washington State: Eclectic Olympia

Updated on October 29, 2013
Olympia, Washington
Olympia, Washington | Source

Welcome to “o Town”

Olympia, Washington, is the capital city of Washington State and the county seat of Thurston County in southwest Washington. It was incorporated in 1859, and as of the 2010 census it had a population of 46,478.

It is located at the southern tip of Puget Sound, a natural estuary that begins with the San Juan Islands to the north and stretches some 100 miles southward. Olympia is bordered by the cities of Tumwater to the south and Lacy to the north, and it is part of the I-5 Corridor that runs the width of Washington from Vancouver to the Canadian border.

Natural beauty abounds in this area with the Cascade Mountain Range rising majestically to the east and the Olympic Mountain Range to the west, and seemingly everywhere you look there are streams, rivers and lakes. The city itself has a total area of 18.5 square miles of which 16.7 square miles is land and 1.8 square miles is water.

Yes, it does snow here in Olympia
Yes, it does snow here in Olympia | Source

Weather in Olympia, Washington

Much has been made about the rainy Northwest, and make no mistake about it, there is rain in Olympia. The climate is considered Marine West Coast, and it is dominated by weather systems that form in the Pacific Ocean and the Aleutian Islands in Alaska. The Pacific Ocean serves as a moderating force, tending to keep temperatures warmer than most cities that sit at this latitude.

Olympia averages 50.8 inches of rain per year and has a 75% cloud cover average year-round. In fact, in the last thirty years Olympia had more rainy days per year than any other city in the lower 48 states. Snowfall averages 14.7 inches per year and happens mainly in December and January.

Having said all that, summers are absolutely lovely in Olympia with little or no rain after June, and temperatures are between 70-80 degrees most days.


The median income for households in Olympia is $40,846, and the main employer in the city is the government, both state and Federal.

The population breaks down like this:

Percentage of total population
African American
Native American
Tumwater Falls Park
Tumwater Falls Park | Source
Mt. Rainier is always present
Mt. Rainier is always present | Source
The marina and Boardwalk
The marina and Boardwalk | Source
The Farmer's Market
The Farmer's Market | Source

Things to Do in Olympia

Olympia and the Northwest in general truly is an outdoorsman paradise, and despite the cloud cover and occasion rain J most citizens take to the outdoors for a variety of activities.

The Farmers Market is open from April through December, and offers a wonderful location to sample locally grown produce and to shop for local handcrafted products. The Market offers live music and great eats, and is easily the number one location for friends to meet and greet.

Wherever you turn you will find well-maintained city parks, from Priest Point Park to Tumwater Falls Park, from the Capitol Forest to the Nisqually Nature Preserve. Bicycle paths are numerous throughout the city, and every neighborhood has their own park where neighbors can enjoy the sounds of nature and beautiful scenery.

The Boardwalk along Budd Inlet downtown is a great place for a stroll and to view the marina and incoming boats, and Capitol Lake, in the center of town, offers a walking path around the lake for those looking for exercise during their lunch break.

Do you like fishing and water sports? Olympia is minutes away from great trout, steelhead, and salmon fishing, and boating may well be the number one activity in this area.

Maybe sightseeing is your thing? Two hours away is the beautiful Pacific Ocean. One hour away is one of the great mountains in the United States, Mount Rainier. The Emerald City, Seattle, is an hour’s drive to the north, and our Canadian neighbors offer great hospitality to the north as well.

Olympic National Park is a half-hour away, as is Hood Canal and some great clam-digging. Name your pleasure and chances are it can be found in Olympia or the outlying area.

Capital Lake and Downtown Olympia
Capital Lake and Downtown Olympia | Source

How would you rate Olympia as a place to visit?

4.8 out of 5 stars from 10 ratings of Olympia, Washington

An Overview of Olympia

There is a reason why Washington is called The Evergreen State. This is an area that always seems to have color, from the budding greens of spring, the flowers and green of summer, the wondrous fall colors, and the ever-present green even during the winter months. Yes, we are blessed with rain, but that rain provides constant lush growth for which the citizens are always grateful.

Oh yes, the citizens! Olympia is comprised of an eclectic group of people. Artists abound here in Olympia, and twice a year there is a festival called ArtsWalk where citizens walk through the downtown area and enjoy a variety of paintings, sculptures and other creations. From college kids to aging hippies, government workers to descendants of pioneers, Olympia offers great people-watching opportunities.

There is an air of acceptance in Olympia. This is a Liberal city where free-thought is encouraged and embraced, and it has somehow managed to hold onto a small town flavor where neighbors greet each other warmly and there is always time for a mocha downtown or a barbecue in the backyard.

Is Olympia an idyllic setting? Certainly not, but it still retains many old-fashioned values and provides a wonderful place for families to live in relative peace and safety.

So the next time you are in the Pacific Northwest, pull off of I-5 and visit Olympia for awhile. You just might discover what so many residents already know, that the simple life is still available in this lovely city on Puget Sound.

2012 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)


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