Looking for an easy weekend trip from Seattle? How about visiting Olympia, WA, the capital of Washington State?
This visiting Olympia, WA post was written by family travel expert Marcie Cheung and contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.
Despite living in Washington State my entire life, I realized that I haven’t spent much time visiting Olympia, WA.
I remember going to visit the Capitol Building in third grade on a field trip. We learned about different Native American tribes and where the lived around the state.
Then, when I worked for non-profits, we’d head there to advocate for our causes.
But, I don’t even think I had even eaten at a restaurant there or stepped foot outside the Capitol.
Visiting Olympia WA: Top 10 Fun Things to Do with Kids
1. Hands On Children’s Museum
I’ve been hearing about the Olympia children’s museum since I became a mom. I’m a HUGE fan of children’s museums and I kept hearing how the Hands On Children’s Museum is the best one in Washington.
I’m happy to report that the Hands On Children’s Museum in Olympia was a HIT!
I was worried that my 5 year old was starting to age out of children’s museums, but this Olympia children’s museum has stuff for kids of all ages.
His favorite part was the extensive arts and crafts area. It was like the Tacoma Children’s Museum where they had lots of recycled supplies and tools to let their imaginations run wild.
They even had an entire room for older kids to create things out of tape!
We were there the week they were installing the new outdoor area, so we didn’t get a chance to check it out. But, it looked super fun!
2. WET Science Center
If you are going to the Hands On Children’s Museum, you simply have to walk across the street to the WET Science Center.
First of all, it’s one of the coolest free things to do in Olympia.
Secondly, it’s all about water. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we know a thing or two about water!
The WET Science Center has interactive exhibits and games for kids of all ages. They focus on water conservation, wastewater treatment, reclaimed water use, and protecting Puget Sound.
My kids always learn best when they can touch stuff, so I appreciate that the WET Science Center has activities like building a reclaimed water pipeline.
They also have events throughout the year with additional hands-on activities.
The WET Science Center is owned and operated by the nonprofit LOTT Clean Water Alliance, who provide wastewater management services for Lacey, Olympia and Tumwater.
3. East Bay Public Plaza
If you are already doing the Hands On Children’s Museum and the WET Science Center, spend a little longer playing at the East Bay Public Plaza.
It’s also owned and operated by the LOTT Clean Water Alliance and it’s also free to play in!
The East Bay Public Plaza features a demonstration wetland, green features, and water-themed art.
But, the real draw is the wading stream. It uses reclaimed water (which has been used, cleaned, disinfected, and then reused.)
However, your kids are just really going to care about the cute little bridge and the flat rocks in the stream that they can hop on.
There’s lots of seating in the Plaza, so it’s a nice place to eat lunch or run around a bit.
Insider tip: Either bring a swimsuit or extra clothing. Your children will get wet!
4. DEFY (formerly Boomshaka)
In complete frankness, I’m not usually a fan of trampoline places. But, my 5 year old is, so we tend to visit them locally and when we travel.
Usually, they feel a bit chaotic and I’m counting the minutes until we leave.
However, DEFY was the first time I felt more relaxed and was surprised how quickly the time flew by.
We bought 60 minute flight tickets and my son only had time to experience about half of the stuff there. His favorite area was where you cross over foam blocks holding onto swinging punching bags.
They also have inflatable balls where kids can get inside and bounce around on the trampolines! I hadn’t seen that before and it looked both fun for kids and terrifying for parents!
DEFY is a great place to stop on a road trip from Portland to Seattle to let kids get the wiggles out!
Note: Flying Circus in Tukwila is also transitioning to DEFY.
5. Visit the Capitol Building
Even though the Capitol Building is the most iconic sight in Olympia, I wasn’t planning on spending much time there.
But, the Olympia tourism office is right there, so I figured we’d take a quick peek inside.
They have free tours you can take that last an hour. The cool thing about them is they understand if you need to pop out early. When traveling with kids, this is especially helpful!
The Capitol Building is home to the largest Tiffany chandelier in the world! We decided to go on several levels to get different perspectives. It’s really gorgeous!
We decided to leave the tour early and explore on our own. We stopped at the bust of George Washington and my son asked me if that was our current president.
That’s when I realized that he had no clue who George Washington was nor the fact that our state was named after him!
So, it was a fantastic opportunity to start the conversation about George Washington (and I got to throw in the cool fact that our ancestors sold horses to George Washington during the Revolutionary War!)
History aside, my son’s favorite part of exploring the Washington State Capitol Building was getting a free coloring/activity book all about Washington State.
They different ones for each grade level, which is really amazing!
My favorite part was actually taking photos of my son outside. The grounds are really pretty and the architecture is stunning!
6. See the Street Art
One of the coolest free things to do in Olympia is check out all the street art!
I was impressed with the cool statues near the waterfront. My son found some of them “freaky” but I thought they were really detailed and interesting.
However, my favorite art in Olympia is the vast array of murals!
There’s even a handy website that shows you exactly where to go to find each Olympia Instagram wall.
While there are tons of variety in the artistic themes, my son was primarily interested in the Star Wars Instagram walls and the superhero one.
My favorite was the big Olympia mural.
7. Tenino Quarry Pool
I’m including the Tenino Quarry Pool on this list of fun things to do in Olympia even though it was closed the day we went (Monday) because it’s just so unique!
It’s about 25 minutes south of Olympia and totally worth the drive.
The Quarry Pool was originally a working sandstone quarry in the late 1800’s and is now a low-cost, family recreation spot.
Kids will geek out that there are real tools and machinery at the bottom of the quarry. See, the quarry workers back in the day struck a spring and had to abandon their equipment as the area flooded.
It’s really affordable to visit. It’s just $3.00/person for people living inside the Tenino School District and $5.00/person for everyone else.
The pool is open Wednesday through Sunday, from noon until 6:00 p.m.
There’s even a playground right next door that has concrete tunnels! Those brought back a lot of memories because we had them at our elementary school growing up and I haven’t seen them anywhere since!
8. Tumwater Falls Park
I don’t hide the fact that I’m not an outdoorsy person. You won’t find me mountain biking or whitewater rafting on the weekends.
However, I do enjoy nature. Especially, when it’s easy to explore with minimal effort.
When the guide at the tourism office suggested my son and I explore the trails at Tumwater Falls Park, I almost stopped it. But, I’m so glad I didn’t!
Tumwater Falls Park is practically in the city, but the moment you step on the trail, you’ll feel like you are much further from city life.
It’s one of the easiest ways to see waterfalls. I think we saw all 3 waterfalls in about 30 minutes.
Kids of all ages can do it. There’s even a couple of bridges to cross.
My 5 year old is a slow walker and he only complained when I made him do the whole walk again to take video.
If you are early risers, it’s an easy thing to do in Olympia before the children’s museum opens.
I really enjoy shopping, especially checking out little boutiques where ever we go.
Indie toy stores are my jam and I was stoked to stumble across Captain Little right in downtown Olympia.
As soon as you walk in, you’re greeted by a giant robot! And it just gets better from there.
They have an array of children’s books and baby products.
Some of my favorite products were the blocks in different languages (including braille,) the travel games be eeBoo, and the collection of Mouse in a Box items.
My son enjoyed checking out the train table with Brio trains as well as playing with the fabulous Plus Plus tiles and the musical instruments.
They even have a photo booth inside, which my son insisted we do!
10. Olympic Flight Museum
We are huge fans of flight museums (my husband and I even got married at the Museum of Flight in Seattle.)
So, when I drove past the Olympic Flight Museum, I knew we had to stop.
It’s a pretty small museum, but the staff are really friendly and knowledgeable.
The coolest part is you can climb inside 3 aircraft! Yes, even adults! Oh, and you can push the buttons and pull the levers!
It wasn’t very crowded when we went (although a huge group came in right as we were leaving.) So, my son got to spend a lot of time hanging out in the helicopter outside.
I think we were in and out in less than an hour, but it was definitely worth the price of admission. Adults are $7 and kids 6 and younger are free.
Where to Eat in Olympia, WA
I think my new favorite pizza place is I.talia Pizzeria because it’s so kid-friendly.
When you walk in, kids can immediately pick up a wooden pizza play set and head to a table. That was cool enough for me…until I saw that kids can make their own pizzas!
We ordered the make your own cheese pizza and my son got a freshly made raw pizza dough, some sauce, and cheese and he got to put just the right amount of sauce and cheese on it.
Then, we watched them put his pizza in the oven. And the best part? It tasted AMAZING!
It’s very reasonably priced and they also have yummy gelato.
When I saw that Tugboat Annie’s was a kayak rental place that also had a restaurant, I wasn’t sure what to make of it.
But, I’m so glad we went there for dinner!
It’s right on the water, so there are stunning views of the boats.
After getting the waitresses recommendation, I ordered the fish and chips. They were so tasty I almost ate the entire plate (which is very rare for me.)
My son got the grilled cheese and we split a hot fudge sundae.
The coolest part about Tugboat Annie’s is probably the decor. My son geeked out when he noticed 3 airplanes hanging from the ceiling.
There’s so much cool stuff that it almost feels like you are in a seek and find book, in the best way possible!
Almost everyone I talked to in Olympia took one look at my son and asked if we’d stopped by Sofie’s Scoops yet for gelato.
So, we made a point to go on a sunny afternoon and it was SO good!
She offers samples, but after talking to people in line, it seemed like every flavor would be amazing. So, I went with their take on London Fog and a scoop of lemon lavender bar (YUM!)
My son got the fresh mint and chocolate chip cone and he was in heaven!
I was also impressed that she offers more than one dairy-free/vegan sorbet option! There’s lot of seating inside or your can take your ice cream to go!
Where to Stay in Olympia, WA
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS
We stayed at the Holiday Inn just outside of Olympia in Lacey, WA and it was really comfortable! They have a nice happy hour with items for both adults and kids.
Plus, there was plenty of parking and it was an easy drive to everything on our itinerary.
We got upgraded to a suite and we had lots of room to spread out. Plus, I was able to fit an entire pizza box in the fridge!
HOTEL RL OLYMPIA BY RED LION
If you want to be right in Downtown Olympia, the Hotel RL Olympia by Red Lion is a great choice. It’s easy to walk to tons of restaurants, shops, and activities.
It’s recently been upgraded and renovated. They have tripled sheeted beds and they are even pet-friendly!
GREAT WOLF LODGE
Even though this is technically in Grand Mound, about 30 minutes away, I’m adding Great Wolf Lodge to the list because it would be a fun place to stay after spending a day exploring Olympia, WA.
I hope this post encourages you to consider visiting Olympia, WA for an easy staycation near Seattle!
Thanks Experience Olympia for hosting our trip to Olympia. All opinions are my own.