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At the threshold of the mountainous Olympic Peninsula and the fringe of the cultural spectrum, Washington's state capital, Olympia, attracts both fresh-air fiends and hardcore hipsters. Perhaps it's the liberal influence of unconventional Evergreen College that offsets the staid atmosphere you might expect from a government center, but there's an unmistakable edge to the Olympia scene. The city picked up where Seattle left off as the post-grunge music center, spawning notable post-punk and riot grrrl music. The work of northwest artists, be it serious or lighthearted, is on display in theaters, galleries and public space throughout the city. ...

At the threshold of the mountainous Olympic Peninsula and the fringe of the cultural spectrum, Washington's state capital, Olympia, attracts both fresh-air fiends and hardcore hipsters. Perhaps it's the liberal influence of unconventional Evergreen College that offsets the staid atmosphere you might expect from a government center, but there's an unmistakable edge to the Olympia scene. The city picked up where Seattle left off as the post-grunge music center, spawning notable post-punk and riot grrrl music. The work of northwest artists, be it serious or lighthearted, is on display in theaters, galleries and public space throughout the city. And at the somewhat surreal Procession of the Species Celebration, held each Earth Day, people costumed as orcas, squirrels or what have you parade the streets, in defense of endangered and not-so-endangered critters. Amidst all the edginess, there's a state to run. With its handsomely landscaped grounds, spring cherry blossoms and delightful views of Puget Sound, Washington's state capitol campus is among the country's most attractive. Beyond politics and culture, Olympia has a glorious natural setting that pulls in outdoors enthusiasts. For a start, there's bird watching and kayaking at the 3,000 acre Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, as well as hiking and biking along two extensive "rail-to-trail" routes: the Chehalis Western Trail and the Yelm-Tenino Trail. And throughout the city and environs, many a landmark showcases local history.

Myra Ingmanson
About the Expert

Myra Ingmanson and Daniel C. Schechter worked together on various titles for Lonely Planet, particularly the Pacific Northwest and Mexico books. Together they coauthored chapters for Lonely Planet's Eastern Caribbean.

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Myra Ingmanson for Triporati

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  • Best Time to Visit:

    Late spring, summer, fall