- Olympia is the capital of the State of Washington and the county seat of Thurston County. It was incorporated on January 28, 1859. The population was documented as 46,478 in the 2010 census. The city borders Lacey, to the East, and Tumwater to the South. Olympia is a major cultural center of the Puget Sound region.
Olympia has a wide array of public parks and nature conservation areas. The Woodard Bay Natural Resources Conservation Area is a 600-acre (2.4 km2) parcel that preserves more than 5 miles (8.0 km) of Puget Sound waterfront along the Woodard and Chapman bays of the Henderson Inlet. Percival Landing Park includes 0.9 miles (1.4 km) of boardwalk along Budd Inlet, as well as a playground, picnic areas and a large open space. Percival Landing closed in 2010 for an extensive remodel after saltwater degradation and opened again to the public in the summer of 2011. The Watershed Park is the site of the former waterworks for the city, and today features a loop trail with a large second-growth forest. Other parks include Priest Point Park, Burfoot Park, Sunrise Park and Yauger Park, which is home to one of Olympia's public skate parks including Friendly Grove which is nestled in a small Eastside Community, and Trillium Park, which was created by the efforts of adjoining neighborhood associations with the easement of private property. The Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge is located just outside of Olympia, as is the Capitol State Forest.
As of the census of 2010, there were 46,478 people, 20,761 households, and 10,672 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,608.2 inhabitants per square mile (1,007.0/km2). There were 22,086 housing units at an average density of 1,239.4 per square mile (478.5/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 83.7% White, 2.0% African American, 1.1% Native American, 6.0% Asian, 0.4% Pacific Islander, 1.8% from other races, and 5.0% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 6.3% of the population.
There were 20,761 households of which 25.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 36.2% were married couples living together, 11.3% had a female householder with no husband present, 3.9% had a male householder with no wife present, and 48.6% were non-families. 36.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.18 and the average family size was 2.83.
The median age in the city was 38 years. 19.5% of residents were under the age of 18; 11.2% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 28.5% were from 25 to 44; 26.7% were from 45 to 64; and 13.9% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 47.3% male and 52.7% female.
Olympia's main public school district is the Olympia School District. Olympia School District enrolled 9,231 students in K-12, based on the 2005-06 school year enrollment report. The school district has a total of 18 schools: 11 elementary schools, 4 middle schools and 3 high schools. Its high schools are Olympia High School (originally known as William Winlock Miller High School), Capital High School, and Avanti High School.
In the 2007-2008 school year, Olympia began the new Parent Partnership Program, which provides more opportunities to homeschooling families. Olympia's online high school, Olympia Regional Learning Academy (ORLA), is also part of the same program. Private elementary schools include Olympia Waldorf School, Olympia Community School, St. Michael School, Holy Family, and Evergreen Christian. Private middle schools include Olympia Waldorf School and NOVA School.
In addition to primary & secondary schools, Olympia has a number of institutions of higher learning, including The Evergreen State College, South Puget Sound Community College, and Saint Martin's University. The Evergreen State College (TESC) offers bachelor's degrees in Liberal Arts and/or Science, and master's degrees in Environmental Studies, Public Administration, Masters of Education, and Masters in Teaching. The South Puget Sound Community College (SPSCC) offers associate degrees in Arts, Science, Biology, Elementary Education, Pre-Nursing, Applied Science, General Studies, and Business. Saint Martin's University (SMU) offers bachelor's degrees for 25 majors spanning liberal arts, business, education, nursing and engineering as well as graduate programs including Master of Business Administration, Master in Teaching, Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology, Master of Civil Engineering, Master of Mechanical Engineering, and Master of Engineering Management.
In 1984, Olympia hosted the U.S. Olympic women's marathon trial. The winner of the event was Joan Benoit who would later win a gold medal at the first women's Olympic marathon at the 1984 Summer Olympic games in Los Angeles.
Olympia is the home of the Oly Rollers, the local women's flat track roller derby league whose travel team (the Cosa Nostra Donnas) became the 2009 national champions of the Women's Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) by winning the national "Declaration of Derby" tournament in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on November 15, 2009.
Olympia is a regional center for fine arts. A number of theatrical experiences are available with companies such as Capital Playhouse, Animal Fire Theater, Olympia Family Theater, Theater Artists Olympia (TAO), Olympia Little Theater, and Harlequin Productions at the historic State Theater. The Olympia Symphony Orchestra performs five regular season concerts at The Washington Center and two pop concerts.
Visual art venues include some of the local coffeehouses, Olympia Coffee Roasting Co., Batdorf & Bronson, and Caffe Vita in downtown. A gallery called Art House Designs presents works of sculpture, painting, and printmaking and hosts a jazz performance space. Murals and public art installations of sculpture are prevalent in Olympia, and are especially featured on the State Capitol Campus and along Percival Landing on the urban waterfront. The Washington Center for the Performing Arts also presents visual art exhibitions throughout the season in the spacious lobby areas.
Notable art venues near Olympia include Art In Ecology, housed in Washington Department of Ecology's 322,000 square foot, three story building on the campus of Saint Martin's University. Art In Ecology is a long-established art-in-the-workplace venue that features works by numerous northwest artists. Permanent installations by Alfredo Arreguin, commissioned by the Washington State Arts Commission, are accompanied by changing solo and group exhibitions throughout the year. Just off I-5. Appointments to view the works are needed; tours take about an hour.
The South Puget Sound Community College has a gallery in its Minnaert Center with rotating exhibitions. The Evergreen State College, northwest of Olympia, has a professionally curated gallery with rotating shows in the Dan Evans Library building. To the south of Olympia, Monarch Contemporary Art Center and Sculpture Park offers an 80-acre sculpture garden and art gallery.
Each year the Olympia Film Society (OFS) produces a film festival and fosters film and video education in Olympia. It also shows independent, classic and international films year-round at the art-deco Capitol Theater. A mostly volunteer-powered organization, OFS supports and presents a variety of culture events, including All Freakin' Night, an all-night horror film screening with a cult following.
On the fourth Saturday in April, in honor of Earth Day, Olympia is host to one of the region's largest community celebrations - the Procession of the Species celebration. Held in conjunction with the city's biannual Arts Walk, the Procession is organized by the community-based non-profit organization, Earthbound Productions. Structured around an annual Community Art Studio that is free and open to the public, organizers provide art, music and dance workshops during the preceding seven weeks leading up to the Procession weekend. In its July 2009 Best of America feature, Reader's Digest magazine honored the Procession of the Species with the top spot in its “can't resist" parades and processions list. Open to all, the Procession of the Species attracts up to 30,000 viewers, while its costumed participants of all ages frequently number nearly 3,000. On the Friday evening before the Procession of Species, a Luminary Procession is held.