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Why Olympia, WA is One of America’s Best Places to Live

A thriving arts scene and excellent schools helped Washington's capital land on our 100 Best Places to Live list.

By Jessica Walker Boehm on July 30, 2016

Port of Olympia

If you’ve ever dreamed of living in the Pacific Northwest, there’s a good chance Olympia, Wash., is the perfect place for you. With a prime location on the southern tip of the Puget Sound, the state’s capital city is ideal for those who enjoy water recreation (boating and fishing, anyone?) as well as hiking, biking and other outdoor adventures. In addition, Olympia has a thriving arts scene and excellent schools, which helped the city score a spot on our 100 Best Places to Live list in both 2015 and 2016.

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“Olympia has an exceptional quality of life without an outrageous price tag,” says Shauna Stewart, executive director of the Olympia-Lacey-Tumwater Visitor & Convention Bureau. “We have scenic beauty seemingly around every corner and a very walkable waterfront, and we have an education hub with Washington State University, The Evergreen State College and South Puget Sound Community College.”

Olympia Offers Affordability in the PNW

Unlike other cities in the Pacific Northwest, Olympia is fairly budget-friendly. We recently named the city one of The 5 Most Affordable Cities in Washington, thanks in part to its median home price of $240,800, which is lower than the state average. Combine that with Olympia’s median household income of $52,834, and it’s easy to see how the city’s residents afford to live the good life.

“Olympia has a really relaxed vibe, and part of that is because people aren’t stressed about affording a decent quality of life,” Stewart says. “Everything is pretty attainable here.”

Outdoor Activities Galore

Port of Olympia

While the Puget Sound provides plenty of opportunities for water-based activities, places like the Capitol Lake Trails, Heritage Park and Marathon Park are ideal for on-foot expeditions. Plus, the famous Mount Rainier National Park is just over an hour’s drive away. Reaching 14,410 feet above sea level, Mount Rainier draws adventure lovers with its camping, climbing, hiking and cycling opportunities, and anglers can try their luck in the park’s many lakes and streams. In the wintertime, Mount Rainier is a favorite spot for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

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“It’s so easy to experience the natural beauty in and around Olympia,” Stewart says. “The water is really magical here, and you truly can access or see it from anywhere in the community. Basically, anyone who loves the outdoors would love living in Olympia.”

Festivals, Events and Artsy Attractions Keep Olympia Residents Entertained

Need a break from adventuring? No problem. The community hosts several festivals and events throughout the year, such as the Olympia Music Festival, Downtown for the Holidays, Music in the Park summer concerts, Olympia Brew Fest and Olympia Harbor Days Tugboat Races & Festival.

“There’s always something to do in Olympia,” Stewart says. “People who live here love inviting friends and family to come visit because every weekend the calendar is just packed with festivals, events and activities for the whole family to enjoy.”

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Those who love the arts are also in luck as Olympia is home to Harlequin Productions, a theater company that puts on more than 130 live performances annually, as well as the Olympia Little Theatre and the Washington Center for the Performing Arts. In addition, Olympia has a broad selection of museums, such as the Hands On Children’s Museum and the Water Education and Technology (WET) Science Center.

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