Main Streets 2016: Washington
The Pacific Northwest is world-renowned for its spectacular outdoor settings. And the city of Olympia, Washington, on the southernmost tip of Puget Sound with sweeping views of the Olympic Mountains from the waterfront, embraces all the region’s assets, from its outdoor attractions to its deep commitment to music and the arts.
You can soak it all in along Columbia Street Northwest, which leads from the waterfront, with its marinas full of sailboats, to the heart of this capital city’s downtown. Exploring the street starts with its western end at Percival Landing Park, a 3.38-acre park named after the old commercial steamship wharf built here in 1860. A boardwalk extends along the eastern shoreline, where the lawn is a huge draw for families and couples who gather for picnics, and where the community comes for special events.
Percival Landing links Olympia’s maritime roots to its more recent commitment to public art. Olympia describes itself as one of the best small cities for the arts, and it promotes a walking tour of public art throughout town. The park is a major draw on that tour — it’s home to the Percival Plinth Project, which has installed stands, or plinths, for sculptures along the waterfront. Each year a new selection of sculptures is loaned by local and regional artists for display. The community votes on a favorite, which is purchased and put on permanent display elsewhere in Olympia.
There are shops, restaurants, and plenty more to see and do along Columbia Street and its nearby neighborhoods. The city’s Parks, Arts & Recreation Department is up the street at The Olympia Center, which also hosts private and community events. Olympia’s community and cultural life is enlivened by several local institutions of higher learning, including the Evergreen State College and South Puget Sound Community College.
Within a few blocks of Columbia Street are more attractions — including the Washington Center for The Performing Arts, the Olympia Downtown Association and the Old Capitol Building, a beautiful structure that dates to Olympia’s earliest days as the state capital.
Street photo courtesy of Washington Center for the Performing Arts
Percival Landing photo courtesy of ThurstonTalk.com