Thrifty Thurston Cures the Rainy Day Blues

olympia family activities


By Kate Scriven

Alley Oop LogoWinter is here and while we’ve had a relatively dry start, it’s clear the rain has settled in.  And with it, inevitably the wind and damp that seeps into your bones.  Despite the fact that we are Western Washingtonians and recreate in even the most inclement weather, there are days when even the fluffiest down parka (it’s embarrassing how much I love wearing mine) or the most robust waterproof raincoat are no match for the weather.

On those days, you can sink into the sofa with a good book and hot tea.  For 5 minutes.  And then the kids are there with pent up energy and cabin fever.  No parks to visit, no beaches from which to throw rocks.  What’s a Thurston County parent to do?

Pack some emergency snacks, slap on the rubber boots and head out for some rainy day fun. The Olympia area offers a myriad of choices ranging from the extra active, burning that pent up energy, to the creative and contemplative, more suited to a good chat and quality time together.  And if you are a brave soul, ready to take on the elements, simply click here for a full dose of outdoor choices.

Cozy and Creative

cinder edna
The Olympia Family Theater hosts short plays, often on weekdays, that appeals to even the youngest crowd.

For those looking for a fun activity, done together, feeding the creative side of their kids (and themselves) look to these great options.

Olympia Family Theater

Olympia Family Theater Playspace

112 State Ave NE ( between Washington and Capitol Way)

$5 per show – Check website for current shows 

Not only does this local theater group put on amazing shows, suitable for adults and children, at larger venues (next up is “The House at Pooh Corner” in February) but they offer weekday theater experiences in their Let’s Play Weekday Performances held at their OFT Playspace.  These shows run about 30 minutes and are geared for even the youngest tots.  Plays are entertaining and offer opportunities for interaction with the actors after the show.

The Painted Plate

412 Washington St SE in Olympia


hands on childrens museum
Discovery at the Hands On Children’s Museum is a great option when rain keeps your family indoors.

This downtown Olympia ceramics painting studio has been around for a very long time and with good reason.  The cozy vibe, friendly and knowledgeable staff, and myriad choices of things to paint make for a great afternoon chatting, painting and sipping a hot drink.  As a parent who has her fair share of animal shaped figurines adorning her shelves, I suggest steering the creative efforts in a more useful direction – think custom switch plate for their room, toothbrush holder to match the bathroom, or a custom mug for Nana (my mom brags about hers to all her friends).

Hands On Children’s Museum

414 Jefferson Street NE in Olympia


No list of rainy day options would be complete without a reminder of the Hands On Children’s Museum.  If you are looking to save a few bucks, try the Museum’s Free Friday Night scheduled for the first Friday evening of each month from 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.  The Museum also creates many organized craft projects that are free with admission.  Explore.  Create.  Climb.  Run.  Discover.

Culinary Exploration

Bayview School of Cooking

516 West Fourth Ave in Olympia


kids cooking class
Kids cooking classes, offered at Bayview School of Cooking, engage students and provide real skills.

Creativity comes in many forms and the culinary arts feed the body and the soul for many.  Bayview School of Cooking offers “Kids in the Kitchen” classes for age five to eleven as well as adult/child experiences.   The next class is scheduled for January 11 and teaches kids to craft nourishing soups for chilly days.  Age appropriate knife and prep skills are taught along with seasoning and serving.  February’s class is all about chocolate!

Panera Bread’s Bakers in Training

West Olympia Panera Location

2525 Capital Mall Dr SW in Olympia


Panera Bread offers, in select locations, a 90-minute hands on baking class.  Set your reservation and collect your own crew of “bakers” among your kids and their friends, ages five to twelve.  One of our Thrifty Thurston writers experienced the class first hand and has written a terrific guide to help you plan your own successful trip.

Active and Engaging

Ways to burn off the extra energy that builds in our kids during the indoor months abound in Thurston County.  And ThurstonTalk has, at one time or another profiled many of these options.  Click through the links to read more about each activity, helping you choose the best for your little rascals.

Alley Oop Gymnastics

2643 Mottman Ct SW in Olympia


Indoor Swimming KidsTrampolines, a pit filled with foam blocks, balance beams and a spring loaded floor.  What more could a kid need to burn some energy on a rainy day?  Alley Oop, on Olympia’s Westside, offers Open Gym time for kids under 6 on Tuesdays from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Fridays from 10 – 11:30 a.m.  Cost is $7 a child.  Older kids can enjoy the gym from 6:30 – 8 p.m. on Saturday nights for $12 each.

Swimming Indoors

Ever notice how hungry you are after swimming?  That’s because it’s not only fun, but excellent exercise as well.  Tire out your kids in one of these Olympia indoor swimming pools.

Warehouse Rock Gym

315 Jefferson St NE in Olympia


Kids of all ages enjoy rock climbing at an indoor gym.  The challenge of the climb, the thrill of the heights, and my kid’s favorite, the controlled “fall” to the mats at the end are all terrific ways to be active during the winter months.  Families are welcome and kids of all ages can participate, with those 3 and under free.  Pricing varies depending on whether you take a class, belay (use the ropes to go higher!) or are just “bouldering” (free climbing below 14 feet).  Read more about climbing in a full article here.


Aztec Lanes on Martin Way is newly remodeled and ready to host an activity the whole family can participate it.
Aztec Lanes on Martin Way is newly remodeled and ready to host an activity the whole family can participate it.

Aztec  Lanes Bowling

2825 Martin Way East in Olympia


Have you bowled lately?  Better yet, have you bowled with your kids?  It’s so fun.  And, while Aztec Lanes may still look a little “rough” from the outside, the newly renovated interior is fantastic.  Check the schedule for open play times and request the bumpers if you have little ones in tow.  Click here to read a bit more history on Aztec Lanes.

Hopefully this list of rainy day fun inspires you to try something new with your brood this winter.  Because we know the wind will blow and the rain will fall – but what we do with those soggy months is entirely up to us.

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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