This summer, we’re packing your calendar full of free, family activities throughout Thurston County. From parks to tours and museums, you are sure to find something to keep you busy. We’ve put together this list of 20 different things you can do with your kids without spending a penny.

  1. Providence logo (2015)Cool off at the East Bay Public Plaza in front of the Hands On Children’s Museum. Get wet without the worry of deep water in the outdoor stream. Pack your own lunch and sit at the tables with umbrellas. Public restrooms are also available on site.
  2. Learn about water inside the WET Science Center, located right next door. The interactive exhibits are open Monday through Saturday with many activities related to water. Kids will learn about the water cycle, how to conserve water, and many other interesting facts.
  3. heritage park fountain
    The Heritage Park Fountain in downtown Olympia encourages people to run through the shooting water.
    Take a walking tour at Percival Landing. Download the Stqry app on your phone and set off. The app will teach you about the many pieces of art located on the boardwalk.
  4. Swing by the Percival Landing playground located along the tour, so kids can let off some steam. Enjoy the scenic view or walk to the nearby Heritage Park Fountain. With a wide array of shooting water jets, you can hear the happy shrieks of children as they run through the water.
  5. Drive to historic Priest Point Park on East Bay Drive.  Explore the wonderful wooded paths to the water, playground, and picnic areas. Kids will enjoy scouring the beach for treasures to take home.
  6. Continue to Burfoot Park, about 5 miles further down the road. This park has all the same great amenities, but doesn’t seem to get as crowded. Be sure to show the kids how to turn over rocks and look for the hermit crabs hiding underneath.
  7. east bay public plaza
    At the East Bay Public Plaza kids and adults alike can enjoy wading in the man-made stream to cool off.
    Check out Kenneydell Park on Black Lake for a roped-in swimming area, dock, picnic areas, playground, and restrooms.
  8. Visit Long Lake in Lacey with great swimming, volleyball, and plenty of room for other outdoor activities. Bring a life jacket or plan to keep watch since no lifeguards are on duty.
  9. Head south to Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve, just outside Littlerock. This hiking area has lots of interesting wildlife and of course the ever mysterious Mima Mounds.
  10. Explore McLane Creek Nature Trail off Delphi Road. The trails take you around a collection of beaver ponds complete with plenty of salamanders and other creatures to observe in and out of the water. Make plans to return in the fall when the salmon are migrating.
  11. Meet some animals at Lattin’s Country Cider Mill and Farm located on Rich Road off Highway 99. Learn about farm animals and get to pet them at the same time.
  12. Take your own four-legged friends to the off-leash dog park in Lacey. With five acres open seven days a week, from dusk to dawn, you can easily tire out the whole family. And don’t miss the children’s playground located near the backside of the park.
  13. Head inside the State Capitol Building for an educational adventure for all ages. Tours are offered seven days a week between 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. on weekdays and 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. on weekends. And there is much more to see on the Capitol grounds if you go outside, including the beautiful Centennial Rose GardenTivoli Fountain, Kiwanis Food Bank Garden, and many other hidden gems.
  14. wet science center
    The WET Science Center includes free interactive exhibits to educate the public about our water system. Photo courtesy: WET Science Center.
    Visit one of the five Timberland Regional Library branches in Thurston County. Join in the summer reading program or attend a special event. You can also borrow movies and music.
  15. Step inside the Tenino Depot Museum on a Saturday or Sunday from 12:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. This museum is dedicated to the southend of the county and children can touch everything they can get their hands on. While in Tenino, the family can also explore the City Park, where the museum is located, or rent one of the free yellow bikes to use around town.
  16. Bike together on the 22-mile Chehalis Western Trail which runs north to south throughout the heart of Thurston County. It provides many different scenic views, four different trailheads with parking and restrooms, and connects with the 14.5 mile Yelm-Tenino Trail as well.
  17. percival landing
    Take in a great view along the Percival Landing boardwalk while also learning about the many pieces of artwork.
    Try your hand at geocaching. From small trinkets to simply leaving your name, every single one takes you on a different quest.
  18. Mark your calendars for entertaining summer festivals and events.  Use this guide to make sure all the dates are on your calendar.
  19. Visit Olympia’s Capital Lakefair celebration July 13 – 17 this year. You can find live music, rides, a car show, sponsored runs, volleyball tournaments, many food options, and the iconic parade on Saturday with floats from around the state. The event concludes Sunday with a fireworks display over Capitol Lake.
  20. Learn about the past in Tenino on July 23 – 24 at Oregon Trail Days. You can take a turn at making ice cream, try stone-cutting or learn to fire a black powder rifle. There is also plenty of music, food, and a parade which kicks things off on Saturday.

As you can see there are plenty of different free activities around Thurston County to keep you and your family busy throughout the summer.  Be sure to keep reading ThurstonTalk for other great ways to keep everyone entertained all summer long.

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, Lacey, Tumwater and the surrounding area, visit our complete event calendar.

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