Thrifty Thurston Hits Olympia Roads For Perfect Holiday Light Displays



By Kate Scriven

It’s that time of year again when ladders come out and lights go up.  And in many neighborhoods, bigger and better is the name of the game.  It’s likely we all know someone who we lovingly refer to as “Clark W. Griswold” due to their excessive use of Christmas lights, and although we make fun, admit it…you love to see those over-the-top displays.

You may only have to stroll down your street with a cup of hot cocoa to see a terrific display, but for many in Thurston County, a night time drive to hunt down the biggest and the best is a holiday tradition.  Make an event of viewing the lights one night (or more!) during this season.  Pack up a thermos of cocoa, pop some popcorn, and grab some cookies.  Put the kiddos in their jammies and let them stay up just a little later than usual.  As you hop in the family car, be prepared for the “ooohs and ahhhs” from the backseat because there are some amazing lights in our little corner of Washington for you to see.

Puget Sound EnergyOlympia Yacht Club’s Lighted Boat Parade

December 5th and December 8th

Begins and Ends at Percival Landing

Boats depart at 6pm and return around 9pm

An Olympia Tradition, the Lighted Boats Parade is not to be missed.  Decorated boats, some with choreographed musical light shows, leave Percival Landing on Wednesday and Saturday night, traveling around the bay in a counter-clockwise direction.  Mike Contris, Commodore at OYC, suggests watching from the Percival Landing Boardwalk in front of Anthony’s.  To chilly for you?  Contris says, “Watching the boats from a table at Hearthfire is hard to beat.”  And, for great ideas on keeping everyone full, read this article from food writer, Katie Hurley.

Lighted Boat Show

Nightly shows now through December 26th

Light display at Ken Lake

Jerry Budelman decorates his boat, the “Kiss Intel II”, each holiday season for an amazing display on the docks of Percival Landing.   The boat boasts over 15,000 lights that are hand hung by this retired Electrical Engineer.  The show lasts 15 minutes and is beautifully choreographed to music which is played over speakers as well as transmitted via FM radio.  Best viewing of Kiss Intel II is on the Percival Landing Boardwalk just south of the park.

Ken Lake Neighborhood

Located off Black Lake Blvd. on Olympia’s West Side

This neighborhood never lets us down.  Spectacular displays, house after house, will keep your car-full entertained for quite some time.  Typically at least one home will have  a musical show.  Rumor has it that the Griswolds actually live here.

Countrywoods and Castle Rock Neighborhoods

Located in SE Olympia, between Fir Tree  and Rainier Rd.

Two neighborhoods for the price of one!  Countrywoods and Castle Rock neighborhoods sort of run together and the spirit of the holidays is alive and well in both.  Great displays and easy driving (not a lot of turns to miss here!) make this a terrific stop.

Oly Lightstravaganza

Wow – this Olympia Eastside neighborhood features 30,000 lights on well over 300 strings, in at least 60 types, sizes, and colors and powered by 20 extension cords.  Swing by from December 1 – 31 between 4:45 pm – 10:30 pm.  The neighbors even offer free cookies and hot beverages between 6:00 – 8:00 pm on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday nights from December 8 – 23.  Even more info is located on their website and Facebook page.  Donations are accepted for the Thurston County Food Bank and the Olympia School District Welcome Room that supporst students who are at-risk for or experiencing homelessness.  For a complete article on this house, click here.

Nut Tree Loop and Burnaby Park Neighborhoods

Nut Tree is located off 22nd Ave SE and Burnaby Park is just around the corner off Cain Rd SE

If you are located in the Washington Middle School area and are looking for a quick drive around, these two neighborhoods provide solid viewing year after year.  Not too many Griswolds here, but lovely displays throughout.

The Cove Neighborhood

Located off Henderson Blvd. between North Rd and Yelm Highway

This fantastic neighborhood consists of two loops, Sulenes Loop SE and Lake Cove Loop SE and never fails to impress.  Mature trees and a wide variety of house styles helps create some unique displays here and is an easy stop for many even just on the way home from work or swimming lessons at the Briggs Y.

The Farm Neighborhood

Located off of Yelm Highway near Briggs Y.

A great stop to combine with The Cove.  This neighborhood is full of intersecting streets and meandering  cul d’sacs.  Might want to have your mapping app open for this stop, but it is well worth it.

Living in “unincorporated Thurston County” as I do, there are not too many displays to view on my daily drives to and from home, so this handy list will be printed and stashed in the trusty mini-van for spontaneous viewings this season.

Or, we may plan a special night and surprise the kids with a late night sugar and lights fest.  Either way, choices abound for great places to view displays, both classy and understated or tacky and over-the-top.  My vote goes to over-the-top every time.  Maybe we’ll watch “Christmas Vacation” when we get home just to complete the night.   Hopefully you’ll find a night to venture out without list and explore the brilliance of Thurston County’s fabulous lights with your family.

Thrifty Thurston highlights inexpensive family fun in Thurston County.  The weekly series focuses on family-friendly activities throughout our community.  If you have a suggestion for a post, send us a note at  For more events and to learn what’s happening in Olympia and the surrounding area, click here.

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