Field Trip: Explore Washington’s Capital City

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Quick! Name our state’s capital city! Would it help if we told you that it’s also the name of a local beer? That’s right! Olympia! A straight shot south of Seattle on I-5, and less than two-hours away (more like 90-minutes, if you hit a good day, traffic-wise), Olympia is a fun weekday (hello, spring break!) or weekend day-trip for families. We promise that a trip to Olympia will be filled with smiles and adventure, not banging gavels and political rallies…unless those are your family’s thing! Check out these five activities in the Olympia area — your kids will happily pass these through both the Senate and the House without any objections! Do we hear a second for that motion?

Governor’s Mansion


It’s like visiting the White House…but in Washington State, not Washington, DC. Details, details! And, just like the President, the Governor and his family do, in fact, live here! Maybe you’ll even run into them on their way to breakfast! Built in 1908 for a whopping $35,000, the mansion is now preserved by a foundation, who also lead the cool tours. Your kids might not be interested in the china and silverware, but they will think it’s pretty cool to check out where the leader of our state kicks up his feet at the end of the day! To set up a tour, email

Find it: Travel towards the Governor’s Mansion just like you were going to visit the Capitol Building itself. You can park at the Visitor’s Center, with exact directions on the Mansion’s website.

Hands On Children’s Museum


Head from a place where “look, but don’t touch” is the general theme to a place where “touch everything” is not just acceptable, but required! The Hands On Children’s Museum in Olympia is Western Washington’s newest place for families to explore the worlds of science, art and nature together. The best part of the museum, in our eyes, is that every kiddo in your family will find something they love — from your toddler to your teenager, the museum is engaging and sparks curiosity — it’s worth a trip to Olympia all on its own, in our opinion!

Find it:
Hands On Children’s Museum
414 Jefferson Street Northeast
Olympia, Wa 98501

Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge


Throw a pair of galoshes in the car and add a stop at the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge on to your trip to Olympia! Home to dozens of species of animals — from whales to turtles to birds — your little naturalists will be thrilled to wander the trails of the refuge. Grab them a cheap disposable camera (or that old digital camera you have in the back of your desk drawer!) and a pair of binoculars to hang around their neck and you’re set! There is an entire area designated for kids ages two to eight to explore at the refuge — the hollow tree trunks are a particular fave!

Find it:
Nisqually Wildlife Refuge
100 Brown Farm Road Northeast
Olympia, Wa 98327
Visit their website for additional details

Olympic Flight Museum


A mansion tour? A children’s museum? A wildlife refuge? What could possibly be next in Olympia? A flight museum, of course! Check out the Olympic Flight Museum — a small, but perfectly delightful flight museum located at the Olympia Regional Airport. Have an airplane nut in your family? Be sure to add the Olympic Airshow to your calendar, which the museum hosts — July 13-14, 2013.

Find it:
Olympic Flight Museum
Olympia Airport
7637 Old Highway 99 Southeast
Olympia, Wa 98501

Washington State Capitol Campus


And now, mini-ladies and gents, we have the reason why you came to our state’s capital city in the first place…the capitol building! A campus filled with plush green lawns, fountains, monuments and more, you could easily spend all day here with your kids. Start with a tour of the capitol building itself — tours begin every hour, on the hour, or you can schedule a personalized tour on their website. Be sure to pack a picnic blanket and a lunch on dry days — there’s nothing better than sitting on the lawn of the campus, with the capitol building tower overhead.

Find it:
Washington State Capitol Building
416 14th Avenue Southeast
Olympia, Wa 98504

Good to know: Follow the signs from the freeway to get to the Visitor Center Parking Lot. Read details about the tours and more online.

Other cool Olympia spots that families love: Percival Landing and Priest Point Park — both are city parks that are a hit with kids!

Have you been to Olympia as a family recently? Give us the inside scoop in the comments below about what your kids loved!

— Katie Kavulla

Photos via HBarrison on Flickr, the Facebook page of the Hands on Children’s Museum, the Facebook page of the USFWS Pacific Region, Blu3_Sky777 on Flickr, the Facebook page of the Washington State Capitol Campus Visitor Center