Take the Kids to Tour the State Capitol!

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What better time than President’s Day weekend to plan a visit to the seat of our state government? If you haven’t toured the capitol in Olympia since a 5th grade field trip, you really should. I think you’ll be surprised at how much there is to interest both kids and grown-ups, and it’s all free (well, I suppose your taxes are paying for it, but let’s not quibble…..).

We went last year for the oldest’s Washington State report (We were just thrilled to have something easier than his science fair project), and we were pleasantly surprised to hear both boys say, “Wow!” at several points.

Be sure to notice the details on the massive doors to the legislative building. Just inside, a friendly greeter in the foyer will tell you about your tour options and load the kiddos up with informational brochures just for them.

First, the capitol actually refers to the whole campus, but what most of us are probably picturing is the domed legislative building. It’s the largest building of its kind in North America, and if you do nothing else while you’re here, do go inside and look up! Public tours start in the foyer (be sure to notice the beautiful detail on the doors as you go in) beginning at 10AM and running until 3. If your kids have the patience, you’ll learn a Ton on these tours that you won’t get on your own. Neither Henry nor my husband were up for this, so we got the brochure and did the self guided tour instead.

What you’re allowed to check out depends a bit on whether you go while the legislature is in session. If it is, you’ll be able to sit in the galleries of both the house and senate chambers as your representatives debate (Don’t try this with kids who can’t be quiet!). If you’re taking a pack of Girl Scouts or a similar gaggle, call ahead and see if one of your state reps or your state senator can take a minute to say, “Hi.” They’re usually glad to meet future voters! Otherwise, you can check out the rotunda, peek into the Governor’s offices and conference rooms and admire the architecture both inside and out. The folks greeting you in the foyer are always nice as can be, and they’ll load your kids up with coloring pages and activity books.

Be sure to read about the chandelier. It had to travel by train! I’m pretty sure this would be a cool picture if someone with more skill had taken it. Sigh…

You might be surprised at all the rooms you’re allowed to check out-or at least peek in.

If you get your fill of architecture and history, the gardens outside are also lovely, and if your kids are interested, you can check out the Temple of Justice, where the court meets, as well as the many statues on campus. Tours of the Governor’s Mansion are also available, but only on Wednesdays, and these aren’t do-it-yourself style.

You can get information on guided and self guided tours, plus preview what you’ll see here. Yes, there are open hours this weekend, even on Monday!

This is an outing probably best for school age kiddos. If you have some younger ones, you might want to check out the new Hands-on Children’s Museum. Have you read our reader mom review yet? It’s a good one!


  1. Moira says

    When she was young I took my daughter on a tour of the State Capitol. Lovely place. I can’t remember the name of the governor at that time (he later died from some illness.) We got a signed photo from him and I have some nice photos of my daughter in some of the rooms.

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