Walking Tours of Olympia, Washington


Why Tour Olympia?
Olympia, along with Tumwater, is the oldest settlement in Western Washington, giving it an eclectic mix of historic and modern buildings. Rich in history, it also has an appealing array of specialty shops, theaters, coffee houses, antique shops, and galleries in its compact historical district. At the lower end of Puget Sound, it has a boardwalk perfect for a scenic stroll and ending at an observation tower and one of the best Farmer's Markets in the state.

A block from the docks of Budd inlet, the man-made Capitol Lake reflects the capital dome and provides a nature filled 1.5 mile lake walk. Above the lake, the spectacular Capitol Building is surrounded by grounds filled with gardens, memorials, a fountain, and the best view in town. The Eastern inlet is being redeveloped with a science museum, children’s museum, and a public plaza.  All is connected with the free shuttle bus, making this an easy and fun city to visit for a few hours or a few days!

Tour Options:

Waterfront:  From the Farmer’s Market, walk to the Port Plaza observation tower to view the port operations and Budd inlet.  Then follow the 9/10 mile boardwalk past marinas, public art, wildlife, and historic sites along Percival Landing.  The tour ends at Heritage Fountain or Capital Lake, with talk of oysters, canoes, bridges, Chinese and monoliths.  From there connect to Downtown for a tour of the historic district or continue around the lake.  1.5 hours 

Downtown:  Starting either at the waterfront or the historic Sylvester Park, your guided ½ mile walk brings the streets, buildings and alleys of old Olympia to life as you walk what was once a forest trail, a major highway, an industrial zone, and a political hot spot. Discover hidden artwork and architectural features while appreciating the variety of local enterprises giving character to our town.  Hop the DASH free bus to connect with the Farmer’s Market or the Capitol Grounds.  1.5 hours 

Capitol Grounds:  Overlooking Capital Lake and gracing our spectacular Capitol  building, these grounds are scattered with monuments and special trees and plantings, all with their own stories to tell.  After touring the grounds, take the shuttle or a brisk walk into downtown, or take the switchback trail to connect with the waterfront.  This tour can also connect with a tour of the Capitol building provided by the state (11-3, daily).

East Bay Waterfront Walk:  Added to celebrate the opening of the new Lott WET center and the upcoming public plaza and Hand's On Children's museum, this tour introduces you to the changing scene where sawmills and mudflats once predominated.  Learn how the waterfront has moved, the east hill residential area developed, and the real story of the Swan of Swantown. Enjoy the flora and fauna while walking the well developed Eastbay trail.  See how our Boatworks works and our Port is turning this area into a people friendly urban waterfront.  Meets at WET.  1.25 hours

Capital Lake Walk:  For hardier walkers, this scenic walk provides natural interpretation of the man made lake and its rivers, wildlife, and environmental issues.  Bring binoculars in case of seals, eagles, or swans!  The trip takes us past the old Tumwater brewery, conjuring up stories of the earliest Western Washington settlement.  This tour connects with any of the above tours.  4.4 miles total--approximately 2 hours

Specialty Downtown Tours:
Haunted Olympia Tours:  These tours reveal the spookier side of our old city: the deaths and murders that shaped our city and the ghosts that are still with us.  Much better at night!  Dress for cold and darkness.  No lights needed as we walk in the heart of the old town.   1.25 hours

Ladies of Olympia Tour:  Take a different spin on downtown, as the narration changes to highlight the hardy women who shaped Olympia and gave it its character!  From the problem of petticoats in the mud to the issue of women’s voting, the town is alive with women’s stories.  Great for Girl Scouts, Mother’s day, and Girls’ day out.  1.5 hours

Ode to an Oyster Literary Tour:  Your tour will be narrated with a collection of silly, inspiring, or historical poems, oratories, songs, historical accounts and the like.  With luck we will take stops for readings at our local book vendors.  Help in the performing if you like!  1.5 hours

I’ll Drink to That Drinking Tours:  Combine your wine tasting or happy hour with  tales of drinking and drunkards, beer and booze, prohibition and the seedy side of town!  Fun for a night out with friends!  1.5 hours.

Alley Art and Architecture Tour:  Weave through the alleys to find some artistic treasures, as well as taking time to appreciate the more obvious architectural and artistic gems abundant in our downtown.  The stories and discovery bring the art to life! 1.5 hours

Taste of Olympia Tour:  Take our regular route through downtown Olympia with stops at some of our more interesting eating and drinking establishments to refuel while you are entertained with culture and culinary tales of Olympia.  2 hours and add $5 per person.

Treasure Hunts:
Get your group of kids or adults together for this 1.5 hour treasure hunt of the big and small features and creatures in our downtown and waterfront.  Great for birthday parties  for kids or adult groups.  A terrific way to get to know our town while burning off energy!  Can accommodate large or small groups.  Kids under 13 must team up with an adult.  Bring a camera to score extra points!  Scheduled periodically through City of Olympia or call to schedule your own!

Northwest Forest Tour:

For out of town-ers who want to experience the amazing Pacific Northwest forests on an easy scenic trail, this 1.5 hour tour will lead you over boardwalks around a beaver pond, past a salmon spawning creek,  an old logging zone, and through a classic old growth forest.  Your guide will orient you to northwest plants and forest history.

School Tours and Tours for Home-Schoolers:
Walking Tours make a great field trip for school groups and can be customized to different age groups and focus areas.  Tell us what you are studying and what emphasis you would like on the tours.  Study questions provided for in-classroom review after trip.

East Bay tour combines well with a trip to the LOTT WET Science Center.

Literary Tour combines literature, oratory, theatre, poetry, and song lyrics with the history of Olympia.

Downtown Tour can focus on Olympia and Washington State history.

Art and Architecture Tour gives background and stories regarding our downtown artwork & artists, plus a turn on the free wall!

Capitol Grounds Tour combines well with tour of Capitol building and brings monuments and plantings on the grounds to life.

Forest Tour includes plant finding activities, wildlife viewing, and forestry information, with wild food samples if desired!

Driving Tours of Olympia
For those wanting to see the area by private car or tour bus, your step-on guide can take you past a selection of the following interest areas, customized your time and interests.  $75 per hour, 1 hour minimum

  1. Crosby House in Tumwater (grandparents of Bing Crosby)

  2. Tumwater Falls Park (and salmon viewing, in season)

  3. Olympia Brewery, old and older!

  4. Tumwater Historical Park

  5. Capital Lake, a lovely lake drive with lots of water fowl, in season

  6. Olympia Yashiro Friendship Bridge

  7. Heritage Fountain and Oyster House

  8. Percival landing and marinas

  9. Port Plaza Park with view of Olympic Mountains, port operations, marinas

  10. Budd Inlet vista point

  11. Port of Olympia log yards

  12. New Water Education Center and reclaimed water plaza

  13. New Children’s Museum northwest Outdoor Learning Center

  14. Olympia Farmer’s Market and Batdorf and Bronson Coffee Roasters

  15. Historic downtown loop

  16. Old Capital Building

  17. Artesian Well

  18. Olympia Rafah Solidarity Mural

  19. Capitol Grounds plantings, vista, and monuments

  20. WestBay Park and view of the city

Custom Tours and Treasure Hunts: 

Families with Small Children            Wedding Parties            Reunion Groups                Fundraisers
Foreign groups visiting town                Birthday Parties                Special Occasions        Business groups visiting town.



Capitol Grounds

Budd Inlet