Touring Olympia’s Downtown Art with a Mobile Tour Guide

olympia downtown art tour
The playground located on the boardwalk is located right next to the Harbor House building, which is also the location for restrooms along the downtown art tour.

On a bright afternoon, I decide to take my family on an outing in downtown Olympia. As a local, one of my favorite places continues to be Percival Landing. It’s located on the east side of Budd Bay and is the southernmost tip of Puget Sound. According to the City of Olympia, the original dock was built in 1860 by Sam Percival. Over the years, it has grown to a length of almost one mile. The boardwalk has seen many improvements; the most recent taking place in 2004 when the city replaced many of the existing docks, created a playground, installed new bathrooms, and added new art pieces.

The Stqry app is like having a tour guide in your pocket, allowing visitors to learn about the area on their own schedule.
The Stqry app is like having a tour guide in your pocket, allowing visitors to learn about the area on their own schedule.

I’ve always noticed Percival Landing’s interesting sculptures and murals, but honestly have never really taken the time to learn about them. Thanks to Stqry, a free mobile app that can be used in a variety of Pacific Northwest locations, our family can learn about the rich arts and culture in Olympia. The Olympia-Lacey-Tumwater Visitor and Convention Bureau brought Stqry to Olympia and created our own mobile tour guide. After downloading the app and charging my phone, I load up the family including our two dogs. We take the short drive park near the Olympia Yacht Club.

Stqry is fairly easy to use because it identifies your location and immediately shows you what is nearby. Just within the Olympia vicinity are 132 “stories,” which are different articles with local information. I chose Waterfront Public Art and we’re off. The tide is up today. My 9-year-old son Jacob points out the schools, of what we guess, are minnows and the jellyfish in Puget Sound as we pass by.

olympia downtown art tour
This sculpture is named “Motherhood” and many families helped to raise the funds to cast the piece. The names of those mothers are carved into the stone base.

The first piece of art we come to is a beautiful map at my feet on the boardwalk. Jacob instructs me to look at my phone and tell him about it. We learn that the map was completed by a “lifelong saltwater yachtsman,” who donated the gift to the City of Olympia. He felt it was important to identify Olympia’s location on Puget Sound.

As we continue on our walk, we sip from the drinking fountains that also include a separate bowl on the bottom for our furry companions. My two pups are grateful for the drink break and I’m impressed with the design.

Moving on, Jacob notices stone platforms holding smaller works of art and asks to know more. I go back to Stqry and see they are a separate “story” labeled the Percival Plinth Project. There is a lot of artwork in along Percival Landing.

Of course, along our route we stop at the playground. Jacob spins and climbs on the rope pyramid merry-go-round. The Percival Landing playground includes swings, a huge grass field, and many different climbing structures for all different ages. Next to the playground are bathrooms along with the Harbor House, a large rentable meeting space. As we walk away Jacob remarks with excitement, “Mom, look, you can see the water and rocks underneath us through the docks!” I’m grateful to have him with me to point out the small things I may have missed.

olympia downtown art
Kujira has been a fixture at Percival Landing since the 1980s and is one stop along the tour.

During our walk at Percival Landing, we eventually visit eight different pieces of artwork along with the platform pieces. Each one has a different story to tell. The most interesting one I find is titled Motherhood and is a large stone sculpture that sits just north of the playground and restrooms. I’ve admired this piece for years, but didn’t know it was a gift from a Russian artist. He designed it as a thank you for the kindness he and his family received upon relocating to Olympia.

Before heading home we make a quick stop at the Heritage Park Fountain. Children of all ages enjoy cooling off in the fountain. All in all, this was a perfect family outing and a way to learn more about the community we live in.

My appreciation goes to the Olympia-Lacey-Tumwater Visitor and Convention Bureau for bring an easy tour guide, Stqry to Olympia. It’s not complicated to use and provides a great learning experience while also getting you out of the house. I would highly recommend it for locals and tourists alike.


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