Learn Something New in Thurston County: Arts, History and Kid-Friendly Fun
Thurston County is home to a vibrant performing arts and culture scene, with a live musical or theatre performance, puppet theatre and more around every corner. Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater, Yelm, Rainier, Tenino, Grand Mound, Rochester and Bucoda welcomes history buffs, arts enthusiasts and families to enjoy one of the many enriching and inspiring experiences available this fall. Take a class, learn a new skill, explore a local museum, adventure into the region’s natural wonders and more — all found in Olympia and its surrounding small communities.
Explore the artist in you.
Thurston County captures a rich arts culture where visitors can stretch their creative muscle or peruse art galleries supplied with local artisans’ creations.
- Creative learning opportunities
- InGenius! Local Artisan Gallery & Boutique | A gallery full of fine art of all kinds offering kid friendly arts classes as well as “create and sips” for adult guests.
- Radiance Herbs & Massage | A herbs and supplements store offering classes on naturopathic remedies and skin care.
- Tenino Stone Carvers | Visit this collective of craftsmen and artists and learn how to carve stone from the best.
- The Arbutus Folk School | Learn from Pacific Northwest artists working through wood, ceramic, metal, fiber mediums as well as music and living arts.
- Tumwater Craft District | Rooted in Tumwater’s brewing history, Craft District blends a brewing and distilling educational experience with the region’s passion for all things crafted, from beer, wine and spirits to restaurants, boutiques and meetup and startup spaces.
- Local art galleries
- Childhood’s End Gallery | Features contemporary Pacific Northwest fine art and fine American craft with work by regional and national artists available for viewing and for purchase.
- Gallery Boom | Gallery and retail store where artists of all ages and abilities from Western Washington State showcase all mediums.
- Splash Gallery of Olympia | A contemporary fine arts gallery dedicated to exhibiting up and coming artists in South Puget Sound and giving back to the community.
- The Artists’ Gallery | A co-op that specializes in outstanding fine arts and crafts by Washington artists with over twenty participating visionary artists.
- Active learning
- Airbound Arts | This aerial studio offers training classes, open gyms, aerial workshops and live variety shows for patrons to enjoy.
- Johansen Olympia Dance Center | Dance studio offering classes for all ages and levels through parent/child creative dances, ballet, tap, jazz, hip-hop, contemporary and more.
- OlyDance | Fun and approachable dance classes including Social Swing and Equal Latins partnering classes.
- OlyWaves | A community-centric organization offerings classes on meditation practices to ease the body and mind.
- Sail Olympia | This sailing school strives to share a love for water and adventure through technical skills, partnering and communication.
- True Self Yoga | Offers heated and unheated yoga classes in the heart of westside Olympia.
Investigate the rich history of Thurston County.
Get to know the stories of Thurston County founders and early settlers through touring local museums and historically designated spots.
- Brewery Park at Tumwater Falls | A 1951 historic park built around the Crosby House, a place where Bing Crosby’s grandparents once lived, where the Deschutes River flows into Capitol Lake offering visitors trails and a view of riverine plants and rich habitat.
- Capitol Tour at Washington State Capitol Campus | A guided tour of the Legislative Building for Washington State where you can look through memorials, such as the famous World War II Memorial built by artist Simon Kogan, gardens and Capitol Campus while learning more about its historical significance.
- Downtown Olympia | Explore Olympia’s downtown shops, restaurants and attractions through this downtown guide.
- Lacey Museum | This museum tells vibrant stories of Lacey and the South Sound’s past through exhibits, guided tours and walks, history talks, programs and more.
- Olympic Flight Museum | Uncover a splendor of aviation heritage from WWII trainers to jet interceptors, the museum’s collection is meticulously maintained and flown on a seasonal basis.
- Port of Olympia | In 1922, the Port of Olympia was formed, dominated heavily by the lumber trade. It modernized and diversified in the 1960s and 70s, expanding into air transportation and new business tenants. Today, the Port currently owns and operates an international shipping terminal, Swantown Marina and boatworks, a regional airport, and a real estate division.
- Schmidt House | This historic house was built in 1904 for Leopold F. Schmidt, founder of the Olympia Brewing Company, offering visitors picturesque grounds with native gardens, bronze statues and a reflective pool.
- Tenino Depot Museum | The sandstone building housing the museum was built in 1914 as a Northern Pacific depot where, as a main line between Seattle and Portland, trains stopped daily at the height of train travel.
- Yelm Historical Museum | Displays include artifacts from early pioneer settlements and from the creation of Mount Rainier National Park due to Yelm’s historical gateway to the mountain before modern roads were made to access the park.
Performing Arts, Music and other live entertainment
Immerse yourself in the world of the arts, live entertainment, and immersive cultural touchpoints throughout Olympia and beyond. Whether it’s a concert, theater production, dance performance, or comedy show, there’s plenty of opportunities to embrace the arts in Olympia and Beyond.
- Capitol Theater | Capitol Theater by Olympia Film Society is a historic gem of downtown Olympia since 1924. Catch a movie, concert or discover local art in this grand ol’ movie palace. If you visit in November, be sure to attend the Annual Film Festival!
- Olympia Symphony Orchestra | The Olympia Symphony Orchestra is made up of talented and dedicated musicians playing together led by Music Director and Conductor, Alexandra Arreiche. Plan to attend the just announced 2023-2024 True Colors season starting October 15th!
- State Theater | State Theater by Harlequin Productions is in downtown Olympia, where they produce a seven-show season. Their 33rd season begins on September 8th with the show, The Revolutionists.
- The Washington Center for Performing Arts |South Puget Sound’s beloved performing arts facility, committed to providing a wide variety of entertainment and cultural activities. Learn more about the new 2023-24 season.
Experiential learning abounds through museums, live entertainment and environmental stewardship.
Bring the whole family to learn through one of the many kid-friendly options available in Thurston County.
· Hands On Children’s Museum | Contains eight themed galleries to create a sense of wonder for children through science, technology, engineering, art and math in 150+ hands-on exhibits.
· Olympia Family Theater | Engages audiences of all ages in performances and offers theatrical programs that entertain and educate.
· Puget Sound Museum | A marine discovery center featuring aquariums and interpretive exhibits connecting people of all ages to Thurston County’s vibrant estuarine ecosystem.
· WET Science Center (LOTT) | Part of the LOTT Clean Water Alliance, a nonprofit corporation providing wastewater management services, this learning center offers interactive exhibits, special events, wastewater treatment plant tours and more hands-on opportunities to learn about water.
Fall & Winter Happenings in Thurston County
Stop in Thurston County to explore special learning opportunities and stay for select events happening in the area, sure to entertain all ages.
Tenino Movies in the Park (August 25, September 11) – Join us at the Tenino City Park for a FREE movie in the park presented by The Tenino Music Festival, Tenino Eagles and Tenino Lions. Concessions will be available.
Olympia Harbor Days Festival (September 1-3) – Olympia’s largest, free waterfront 3-day event featuring maritime heritage, family friendly activities, food and shopping vendors and more, celebrating its 50th year.
Olympia Harbor Days Festival Drone Show (September 1) – In celebration of the 50th annual event, a special drone light show is being planned at 9:00 p.m., with 80 drones hovering over the inlet, projecting maritime images.
Tenino Arts Creative Market (September 9-10) – This fine art, fine craft street fair gathers artisans skilled in wood, glass, metal, leather, paint and sundry of other unique and original creations available for visitors.
Oly Lyt (September 15-16) – A burgeoning literary festival in downtown Olympia featuring author talks and other activities in and around downtown Olympia attracting hundreds of local and out-of town guests.
Tenino Railroad Day (September 16) – A celebration of when the Northern Pacific Railroad drove in the final spike in the sleepy Scattercreek Valley and named the Depot “Tenino.” Come for food, music, history & of course, trains!
Sundays in the Park – Lacey Food Truck Depot (September 24, October 22) – This family friendly and pet friendly event features live music, food trucks, activities and local small business owners from around the Pacific Northwest. Enjoy shopping with over 40 vendors, balloon art, face painting, games and more.
Lula Fest (September 23) – Join in on this annual community celebration of Arts and Culture. This event takes place during Hispanic Heritage Month.
2023 Reach the Beach (September 30) – This unique and challenging signature event of the American Lung Association welcomes bike riders from across the PNW to enjoy a fast and flat century ride while supporting the mission to prevent lung disease and help millions of people who are affected by lung disease in the U.S.
Tumwater Falls Fest (September 30) – Join us for a day of celebrating the transformative effect of water as a place of healing and community. Take a stroll through the luminous park grounds and soak in the fall color as music plays on the main stage. The event will also feature local artists, makers, food vendors, and a Stream Team scavenger hunt.
Boo-Coda Spook-Tacular (October – all month long) – BOO-CODA Spook-Tacular takes place in Bucoda Washington the entire month of October. The World’s Tiniest Town with the Biggest Halloween Spirit. BOO-CODA is, by Town Council Proclamation, what the Town of Bucoda, WA is called all throughout the month of October! A spooky little town located three miles outside of Tenino, BOO-CODA comes alive during the month of October to host one of the best Haunted Houses in Washington State every Friday and Saturday night, as well as many other family fun events all throughout the month.
Fall Arts Walk (October 6-7) – Olympia Arts Walk is a semi-annual community event celebrating the arts. Since 1990, thousands gather in downtown Olympia in both the Spring and Fall for a festive arts experience that uses creativity to connect and engage.
2023 Tumwater Marching Band Festival (October 14) – An annual competition for marching bands from around the Pacific Northwest that welcomes viewers to enjoy the music.
Forest Grove Cemetery Tour (October 21) – Learn Tenino and Bucoda History by touring the Cemetery where you will encounter living history vignettes. Come early for a daylight tour or come late for a Luminary Tour.
Monster Mash (October 28) – A spooky event hosted at J&S Barn and Farmhouse offering kid-friendly activities like indoor trick or treating, pumpkin painting contest, costume contest and more during the day while offering adult themed activities like a dance party with food and drinks during the night.
*Winter Holiday Preview*
Olympia and its surrounding communities are filled with festive happenings to celebrate the winter season. Below is a sampling of activities and events to add to your holiday calendar. More events and festive celebrations will be announced in the months to come.
Winter Fest – Sip, Savor, Shop (November 4) – Support local artisans and small businesses at this market featuring crafts, tastings, music and shopping during this holiday season.
Kris Kringle Market Festival (November 17-18) – This is a family friendly event modeled after the European Christmas markets honoring the timeless traditions of craftsmanship and holiday spirit.
Oly on Ice (November 17- January 15) – Get ready for the 5th Annual Oly on Ice event. This annual event brings together people of all ages and skill levels for a memorable winter experience.