7 Best Neighborhoods in Olympia, Washington
How’s your knowledge of state capitals? One of the easier ones to remember is the capital of Washington, which of course is Olympia. But what else do you know about Olympia? If the answer is “not much”, one thing you should know is that Olympia is one of the nicest cities to live in the state.
Let’s start with its location. Olympia sits on the very southern tip of Puget Sound, the gorgeous, meandering estuarine system of waterways that encompasses a great deal of northwest Washington. With this location, plentiful outdoor pursuits await including hiking, fishing, boating, and beaches including Burfoot Park and Tolmie State Park.
While the job market isn’t super hot right now, the unemployment rate of 4.5% is still below the state average (4.7%). The state government accounts for a large share (roughly 17%), but other industries contribute including healthcare & social assistance, retail, agriculture, forestry, fishing, and arts/entertainment/recreation.
Another reason that Olympia is attractive has to do with its lower cost of living compared to Seattle. The median home value is $457,357 which, compared to Seattle’s median value of $863,058 is an extreme bargain. Figures from BestPlaces.net show that Olympia’s cost of living is 79.1% less expensive than Seattle. All this adds up to Olympia being the 23rd fastest-growing area of the country according to U.S. Census figures from 2016.
If all this has got you thinking about moving to “Oly”, then you’ll want to know what parts of the city are the best. Here are the best neighborhoods in Olympia, Washington to live in.
South Capitol Neighborhood
Situated just a few blocks south of downtown Olympia and the state capitol building, the South Capitol Neighborhood is in a great location. The neighborhood is well-established with old-growth trees and historic homes. While encompassing only 172 acres (roughly 10 blocks long), the neighborhood has some nice amenities including Stevens Field, featuring two synthetic turf ball fields, tennis courts, picnic area, and basketball court. The park is right next to the neighborhood’s only school – Lincoln Options Elementary, the oldest school in Olympia (built in 1922). Homes here currently have a median home price of $577,000 as of July 2021. AreaVibes.com ranks South Capitol as the number one most livable neighborhood in Olympia.
The South Capitol Neighborhood is framed by the state capitol to the north, Jefferson Street SE to the east, Hwy I-5 to the south, and Capitol Lake to the west.
As you may have guessed it, Eastside Neighborhood is east of downtown Olympia. It’s bordered by I-5 to the south, Boulevard RD SE to the east (as well as Chamber St SE), 4th Ave E to the north, and Eastside St SE to the West. The neighborhood has a long history dating back to the mid-1800s and was known then as Swantown, named after John Swan, a Scottish settler.
The neighborhood is primarily residential in nature but does have a fair amount of commercial businesses along Eastside St and along 4th Ave. Homes here are mostly modest in size with many dating back to the first few decades of the last century. The median price as of July 2021 is $394,310, which is actually a 23% jump over the prior year.
In addition to its close proximity to downtown, Eastside neighborhood has another thing going for it—a very active neighborhood association. The Eastside Neighborhood Association meets monthly and has been responsible for many projects in the neighborhood including the Annual Summer Picnic has been held at Lion’s Park.
Cain Road Area Neighborhood
If you’re looking for newer, upscale homes that are still close to the downtown area, Cain Road Area Neighborhood could be for you. The neighborhood is located southeast of downtown and is bordered on the north by 22nd Avenue SE, Henderson Blvd SE on the west, North St SE on the south, and Boulevard Rd SE on the east. Cain Road Area Neighborhood has 835 homes, two parks (Watershed Park & McGrath Woods Park), one school (Washington Middle School), three churches, and a fire station. CRANA (Cain Road Area Neighborhood Association) is also very active in supporting the area.
According to Zillow, the median home price is $527,703 (July 2021), which is a 24% increase over a year ago. There are homes that can get up to as much as $930,000.
Governor Stevens Neighborhood
Another close-in neighborhood would be that of the Governor Stevens Neighborhood.
The neighborhood is just south of Wildwood Neighborhood in SE Olympia, about a 5-minute drive from Olympia’s Historic District. The neighborhood gets its name from Isaac Ingalls Stevens, the first Governor of Washington Territory. Governor Stephens was also a general in the Army during the Civil War and he served as a United States Congressman.
The neighborhood is very small, only extending 5 blocks east-west and 3 blocks north-south. It’s bordered on the west by Capitol Blvd SE, Carolyn Ave SE on the south, with its east border an imaginary line running through nearby Trillium Park, a 4.5-acre park with some nice trails that wander through lush forest.
Homes here are priced reasonably, with the average home value at $470,028 (July 2021).
East Bay Drive Neighborhood
If you want to wake up every morning to a view of East Bay (part of Budd Inlet), then you’ll want to consider living in East Bay Drive Neighborhood. This very narrow neighborhood runs along East Bay from Glass Avenue NE to the south up to the entrance of Priest Point Park, one of the original parks in the area, established in 1905.
Homes here can be expensive, going for as much as $1.2 million. Zillow.com says the average home value as of July 2021 is $664,405, which is an 18.7% increase over last year.
The East Bay Drive Neighborhood Association here plants oyster seeds each year in the mudflats of Budd Inlet during low tide with the goal of cleaning up the inlet.
Northwest Olympia Neighborhood
There are many appealing aspects of living in the Northwest Olympia neighborhood. With its close-in location, getting to the capitol or downtown Olympia is an easy bike or walk (given you don’t mind a few hills.) The neighborhood is bordered on the west by Division St NW, on the south by Harrison Ave NW, on the east by Harborview Drive NW, and has a northern border near 24th Ave NW.
Homes in this neighborhood were built prior to 1950 with many being single-level homes under 1,700 sq. ft. According to Zillow, the median home value is currently $416,998 (July 2021), and this has gone up 22.3% over the last year.
The neighborhood is quaint and quiet, just the place for new families that want to be close in but also live in an affordable, low-crime area. Standout businesses include BITS Café on Rogers St NW and Olympia Food Co-op.
The neighborhood also has two very nice parks. Garfield Nature Trail Park meanders along a five-acre ravine that eventually connects to West Bay Park. The trail is well-kept and crisscrosses a stream that runs through a verdant forest. Woodruff Park is a 2.38-acre park at the south end of the neighborhood featuring tennis courts, sand volleyball court, picnic tables, and basketball court.
Southwest of the city of Olympia on the other side of Hwy 101 is a gem of a neighborhood named Lakemoor. The main focus of this neighborhood is Ken Lake, which the neighborhood surrounds. The area was originally an urban forest area and is now a small community with a few hundred homes. The neighborhood is tight-knit and has several events throughout the year, such as their annual Fishing Derby as well as their 4th of July parade and picnic.
Lakemoor offers four recreation areas including a newly repaved tennis court, basketball court, two areas with lake access, and one park just for the little ones. The Community Gardens at the Tot Lot offers 12 plots for residents to grow their own vegetables. The neighborhood also has its own security guard.
Homes here were mostly built in the 1970s and are a mix of architectural styles. Homes have sold recently between $250,000 -$950,000 with most homes in in the $400-$550k range.
If you’re thinking of moving to Olympia, Washington, consider getting the book Explore Olympia, Tumwater, and Lacey. It’s got a ton of information on Olympia parks, nature trails, playgrounds, beaches, museums, historic homes, public gardens, and more!
About the Author: Derek Hines
Internet Marketing Specialist
Derek is originally from the great state of Wisconsin (go Badgers), but is slowly becoming a Pacific Northwesterner. As part of the Internet Marketing team, he writes extensively on storage, moving and life for West Coast Self-Storage, based in Everett, Washington.