The Beauty of Olympia, WA
Article and Photos By: Lauren Royer
Even though I have left Olympia mentally a thousand times, I will always be part of the city. It’s my hometown, my stomping grounds, and a chapter in my past. Here’s what is *really* good about Oly- the capital of the Washington State.
Surrounded by Budd Bay and only a short drive to the Olympic National Forest, Olympia has nature on nature on nature. Even within the city’s limits one can disappear into a lush, green forest just walking through their neighborhood. There is camping in every direction and trails in every direction. It’s also within dangerously close proximity to the jaw-dropping Mt. Rainier, an active volcano which will likely be responsible for triggering “the big one”. Back within the city, there are a number of parks and restaurants along the bay and inlet- if breathing in seawater is your cup of tea. The city often hosts visitors via historical ships throughout the year and if you look hard enough, you can see blue herons and seals in the water. Orcas have been known to make their way into the harbor. They’re likely chasing seals, which, are after salmon headed ‘home’ up Tumwater Falls to the hatchery.
Olympia has barely survived a number of earthquakes, so many historical buildings were demolished. One does not usually associate fine architecture with Olympia but I can say first hand, that the collections of historical homes and Capitol Campus offer an interesting visit into Olympia’s town history. Most notable is the Legislative building, of which boasts ornate interiors, towering pillars, and an iconic dome. The structure can be seen from miles away at various points in the city. The grounds of the Capitol Campus have some of the most stunning collections of flower gardens I have ever seen. Next to the Legislative building, is a sweeping view of downtown Olympia, Budd Bay, and mountain ranges beyond the bay. This is a great place to see sunsets and the “Mistake by the Lake”- an old government building previously abandoned and quite ugly. It’s currently being renovated into condominiums. Finally, an old bank turned speakeasy/hair salon/apartments is also noteworthy. Drop into the mock speakeasy, Dillinger’s, for prohibition cocktails and dine in the actual bank vault! If you’re looking for something more upscale, check out my personal favorite: Chelsea Farms Oyster Bar. Beyond some of the most mouthwatering fresh oysters ever, they have an wonderfully crafted menu that will never disappoint and the atmosphere is beautifully designed.
The arts scene in Olympia has always been underground, local, and community based. Most galleries are found within colleges, universities or downtown. An up and coming art studio called RANGA is changing how we think about art and creating. This is where tattoo artist Nickhole Arcade brings together the community to foster growth in the arts and provide any art related services you may need. Olympia is a small checkmark on the list for most bands but there are usually opportunities for live concerts, in the form of semi-local jazz, rap, acoustic, and experimental. Culturally there is a mix of Evergreen college students, hippies, yuppies, and military families. Twice a year the city hosts Arts Walk and if you’re lucky enough to attend during the Spring, you can witness the Precession of the Species- a parade that brings out the entire community marching the streets dressed as animals in their homemade costumes. The Arts Walk always features a local artist on the cover of the program and the streets/businesses come alive with art galleries and music. The Capitol Theater is home to the Olympia Film Society where many foreign, indie, and classic films are played. Performance art is alive and strong at the Washington Center for Performing arts as well. The city has inspired artists of all mediums with its natural beauty and laid back vibe. It is where Pure Expression was launched and I will never forget the streets, the people, or the beauty of Olympia.