Well, I went to school in Olympia-a-a-a-a….
I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of Olympia Washington without conjuring the Courtney Love song.
Being prominently featured in a Hole song may be reason enough for some people to visit this capital city. But it is also a cultural hub and a popular stop for people on their way to other destinations such as Seattle, Belleview and resort towns like Ocean Shores. It is also a great city unto itself featuring landmarks like Capitol State Forest, Priest Point Park and Percival Landing.
Olympia’s location and attractions make it a terrific place to spend the holidays. Here are some things you can look forward to doing when you visit.
Oly on Ice
Oly on Ice is Olympia’s seasonal ice-skating rink. It is located in Isthmus Park and it is open from late November to mid-January. It promises terrific holiday fun. Save a few bucks by showing up Tuesday night for the Cheap Skate special.
Downtown for the Holidays
Downtown Olympia lights up for the holiday season. Attractions include over a mile of garland decorating storefronts. You can take a self-guided tour of decorated window displays using an interactive map available online.
The Winter Wonderland display at 4th and Capitol is a can’t miss. Each year a different display is fabricated by a community youth group for public enjoyment.
Seattle doesn’t get very cold, but you can still enjoy a white Christmas by seeing the snow fall outside the Washington Center and Harlequin’s State Theater.
Social media enthusiasts will not want to miss out on taking a Nutcracker Themed Selfie. Washington Center will be decked out as a Land of Sweets while a Gingerbread House will be erected at 5th and Capitol. The Winter Wonderland at Legion & Capitol is also worth a visit.
Stop by the Batdorf & Bronson Coffeehouse & Dancing Goats Espresso Bar on select dates and get a free hot cocoa with your LoveOly Passport.
Shop the stores and then bring your gifts to the Washington Center & Harlequin’s State Theater for free gift wrapping with proof or purchase from a downtown merchant.
The downtown area also runs a LoveOly Holiday Edition Shop & Dine promotion. When you visit a participating shop or restaurant and make a purchase of $10 or more, you get a sticker on your LoveOly passport. Once you get five stickers, you can turn in your passport to a local shop to receive swag like beanies, masks, t-shirts and more.
But the biggest attraction of the Downtown Olympia event is the Jingle Bell Parade. Guests can bundle up to watch a procession that goes from Capitol Lake to Sylvester Park. Entertainment and activities include a performance by the Alleluia! Handbell Ensemble at Bartdorf & Bronson and visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus at Sylvester Park.
After the parade, enjoy an Apple Tree Productions performance as well as the famous Tree Lighting at Sylvester Park.
Governor’s Mansion Holiday Tours
The Governor’s Mansion is a site worth seeing. It sits on top of Capitol Point offering views of Capitol Lake and the surrounding mountains. It features exquisite Georgian style architecture.
The mansion is especially lovely to see at holiday time when its decked out in all its holiday splendor. 35-minute walking tours are available at this time of year. Tour groups are taken 25 guests at a time and spots go fast. Be sure to reserve your place well in advance.
Santa at Swantown
The Swantown Inn & Spa is a bed & breakfast with a day spa that makes for a relaxing getaway year-round. Parents can get their spa on while leaving their children in the reliable hands of Santa and his Elf Squad.
Children wait on line to see the big man himself while being entertained by the Elf Squad and enjoying hot chocolate and cookies. Each guest gets a free picture with Santa. Donations to the local food bank are encouraged.
See a Holiday Themed Show
Olympia is a performing arts hub and the venues in the area are sure to be featuring shows that will fill you with the holiday spirit.
The Ballet Northwest is known for performing the Nutcracker at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts. This is a dance performance that never gets old.
The ballet company makes their performance special by bringing in over 200 local dancers as well as guest artists from Dance Theater of Harlem (New York City) and Ballet West (Salt Lake City). Their exquisite sets and costuming add to the festivities.
Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Christmas Card is another play worth checking out. In this production, Sherlock Holmes reappears to greet three Christmas Eve visitors. It’s a take off on Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” with a mystery spin. It shows at Harlequin Productions.
Olympia’s Annual Toy Run
Every year, the city goes all out to help out children in need. Residents and visitors are encouraged to donate toys that can be dropped off at several locations throughout Olympia.
To raise awareness, the city hosts a Toy Run event that features vendors, live performances and a motorcycle parade that runs through town. Who says Santa rides a sleigh when he so clearly rides a motorcycle?
Stop By Lacey
Lacey is a city just ten minutes outside of Olympia and it has its share of holiday attractions. Here are some you’ll want to check out.
· 27th Annual Homemade for the Holidays Bazaar and Girlfriends Holiday Market: These both take place at the Thurston County Fairgrounds in Lacey and they are great for getting holiday shopping done.
· Lacey Parade of Lights: The Parade of Lights travels north on Sleater-Kinney to 7th Ave SE. It features grand floats and the Lacey Fire Department Santa mobile. After the parade, head over to Huntamer Park for a tree lighting ceremony.
· Relay for Life Santa Breakfast: This breakfast event takes place at a Lacey’s Applebee’s and is hosted by the Thurston County Relay for Life Team, the Cupcake Mafia. I’m not sure if there will be any cupcakes on hand, but there will be breakfast and pictures with Santa. All proceeds are donated to the American Cancer Society.
If you are hoping to spend an exciting Christmas holiday, Olympia is the place to do it. With so much going on, the city offers a great vibe that is conducive to celebratory fun. Which of these activities will you be adding to your to-do list?