Located at the south end of the Puget Sound, those moving to Olympia will discover elegant government buildings and gardens. Home to a flourishing population of around 43,000, this modest city has a setting and culture aimed at a balanced political sector and engaging attractions, such as festivals and waterparks. Conveniently located 60 miles south of Seattle and 110 miles north of Portland, Olympia moves into the new decade as an attractive place to live, grow and thrive.
In 1853, Washington Territory became separate from Oregon Territory, and Olympia was named its capital. Blessed with abundant natural resources, Olympia remained small but prospered. By 1872 Olympia seemed on its way to becoming Washington's great city; that year, however, a severe earthquake shook Olympia. The decade of the 1890s was marked by progress and disappointments. Telephone lines and electric light poles were erected, a street railway system was built and the Olympia Hotel was completed; however, an economic depression left citizens complaining, and the city's population fell to less than 4,000 residents by 1900. Olympia suffered a severe earthquake in 1949. By then Olympia ranked twelfth among Washington's cities in population. In the 1960s and 1970s, Olympia lost many of its downtown retail businesses to shopping malls in the rural towns of Lacey and Tumwater. Efforts to preserve the downtown emphasized people-friendly projects while discouraging skyscrapers. Olympia served as a West Coast port of entry and exit from which agricultural products and oysters were shipped. However, government had become the leading source of local employment and has a strong influence on most aspects of life in the city. The turn of the century brought several challenges to Olympia. Some, like a national recession and the terrorist attacks of 2001, affected the entire U.S. and beyond. A gradual yet significant loss of manufacturing jobs spurred the goal of diversification, particularly into technology.
The Olympia area's economic base ranges from forestry to healthcare. Federal, state and local government continues to play a vital role in the Region's economy. Healthcare is another leading industry in Olympia—four of the area's top employers are healthcare-related. As the capital of the state of Washington, Olympia relies on the state government to be a stabilizing factor for the local economy. In addition to the jobs it supports directly, state government also supports the economy by attracting tourists, as does the region's gambling industry. The annual sessions of the state legislature in the winter and spring mark the first tourist season of the year, with summertime recreation and attractions, including tours of state buildings, following. Compared to other regions in the state, Olympia and Thurston County are home to a relatively small number of technology companies. To attract such companies, economic development officials promote the area's telecommunication infrastructure, low property price and educated workforce.
Head over to the Olympic Flight Museum. This flight museum is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and flying of vintage aircraft. Next, the Hand's On Children's Museum is the ideal place to bring the family for fun and learning. And it's not just a clever name, the "hands-on" museum offers interactive exhibits designed to teach children through exhibits and activities. If you're feeling lucky, the Red Wind Casino is home to all of your favorites casino games, including slots and a variety of table games such as blackjack, roulette, Pai Gow Poker, Let It Ride and Keno. If you want to get outside, the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge is located on the Nisqually River Delta in Southern Puget Sound. This refuge consists of 3,000 acres of salt and freshwater marshes, grasslands and mixed forest habitats that provide a resting and nesting area for a wide variety of migratory birds. Or, head over to Priest Point Park. This 314-acre park offers hiking and wildlife viewing opportunities.