7.1 out of 10


47.0390047029014 -122.891072478856
Great for
  • Internet Access
  • Eating Out
  • Parks & Recreation
  • Clean & Green
  • Public Transport
Not great for
  • No ratings yet
Who lives here?
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
  • Professionals
  • Retirees
  • Tourists


4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 4/5
  • Nightlife 3/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 4/5
  • Parking 4/5
  • Cost of Living 3/5
  • Public Transport 3/5
Dec 05, 2015

"A Classic and Lovely Pacific Northwest City"

It’s been awhile since I’ve lived in Olympia, but it is still as lovely and as funky as I remember it. I earned my B.S. at The Evergreen State College and lived there for about three years. It is a clean, mid-sized capital city with a distinctive character and a groovy, small-town Pacific Northwest feel. Since I lived there, the city has undergone a lot of revitalization, especially downtown, and it has grown considerably.

If you are new to the pacific northwest, the amount of rain will be a bit jarring. It’s true that the annual amount of rain in Western Washington isn’t that impressive compared to some place in the U.S., but the character of the rain here is different. Many places with high precipitation experience occasional or frequent heavy downpours. We get that too, but for the most part, the rain falls slowly and for long periods of time. It can, and does, rain for weeks. The winter months are mostly cloudy and gray. Temperatures are generally mild all year round though thanks to the marine air. It gets dark early in the winter (Olympia is at 47 degrees north latitude), so prepare for wet and dark conditions all winter long.

Traffic and Parking
Traffic in and around Olympia isn’t too bad compared to Seattle, but there are a lot of cars. Getting north of Olympia is a big challenge. There is a huge choke point on I-5 through Joint Base Lewis-McChord and no way around it. This is not a good place to live if you work on base or need to commute to Tacoma.
Parking is metered downtown, but surprisingly cheap and easy to find. Parking on campus can be a challenge and passes are costly, but TESC parking services also help students with lockouts and jumpstarts. They even manage a commute trip reduction program to help folks find alternatives to driving.

Olympia is the state’s capital, but it’s not as large as Tacoma or Seattle. There are a few good shopping malls, all the usual big box stores, and several great shops downtown. For high-end boutiques and designers, you’ll need to travel to Seattle or Bellevue.

Olympia “Oly” has a small town feel with a distinctive character. It is an intersection of three radically different sub-cultures: northwest hippy/artist, underground music scenesters, and politicians/state workers.
It is definitely a liberal city and there is a sizeable hippy population.

You won't have any problem finding vegan choices in the local restaurants and clothing boutiques. There is a ton of local, organic food everywhere. It has been a major center for independent and underground music and since the 80’s. It is home to many record labels including K Records (Beck, Modest Mouse, The Microphones), and Kill Rock Stars (Mid 90’s center for riot grrrl bands, Sleater-Kinney, Elliott Smith). Since it’s the state capital, policy makers, state workers and politicians are peppered into the mix.

Things to Do
During the day, there's plenty to do downtown. There are lots of great local restaurants, independent stores, historical markers, and monuments. The public artesian well was recently converted into a small city park. There are tons of public murals and art, and an open-air farmer's market. Most shops downtown keep small-town hours and close at 5 or 7 PM.

Housing Cost
Housing is noticeably cheaper in Olympia than it is in Seattle, but like many Western Washington towns, its comparatively more expensive to other cities in the U.S..  For instance, housing is about 20% lower in Olympia than in Seattle, but about 20% higher in Olympia than in Denver. If you are moving here from another region, your cash probably won’t stretch as far. Prices do drop a short way outside of Olympia in Tumwater and Lacey so a lot of folks commute.
  • Fun and Funky
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Tourists
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Hipsters
  • Students
  • Trendy & Stylish
DrewM My only real knowledge of the city is the intersection of I-5 and 101/8 toward the ocean beaches. I stop there for gas almost every time I drive down to my dad's house in Ocean Park.
Dec 08, 2015
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"The Hippy Capitol of the World"
47.044081365688 -122.899713041152

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