Despite a burgeoning craft beer scene, ample waterfront access and an abundance of meeting spaces, Shauna Stewart still points to Olympia’s people as the region’s greatest asset. “We are a community of passionate, engaged individuals all eager to make a difference,” says Stewart, executive director of the Olympia-Lacey-Tumwater Visitor & Convention Bureau (OLTVCB). 

In addition to the Washington State Capitol, Olympia is home to three educational institutions, creating what Stewart calls a “thinking class.” “This fosters innovation and passion in all things. You see this in the region’s craft products (beer, spirits and coffee), with the farmers’ commitment to nurturing their land to feed the community and in the one-of-a-kind shops offering up unique treasures,” she explains.

It’s no wonder meeting planners find the greater Olympia region enticing. The area’s amenities include plenty of meeting options, such as the recently renovated Hotel RL by Red Lion, with a 7,500-square-foot ballroom and sweeping views of the iconic Capitol Lake. In addition, Great Wolf Lodge is just a 20-minute drive south on Interstate 5 in Grand Mound and offers more than 30,000 square feet of meeting space. 

Born and raised in Olympia, Stewart first worked for OLTVCB in marketing and membership development after graduating from college in 2006. She then moved to Tacoma and later Portland, Oregon, before returning to Olympia in October 2015 to lead the organization as its executive director. “[It’s] a decade-long dream come true,” she says.

Stewart especially appreciates spending time with her family exploring nature. “Olympia’s waterfront, Nisqually Wildlife Refuge and Tumwater Falls Park all offer a sense of peace and relaxation that I crave as a working mom with a busy toddler,” she says. “As a Pacific Northwest native, I live for those moments in the outdoors.” 

Here are three more reasons meeting planners should consider the Olympia area:

1. In 2014, the Thurston County Board of Commissioners designated a scenic route through the county’s rural and agricultural region. Named the Thurston Bountiful Byway, it includes more than 90 suggested agricultural, ecological and cultural stops, including creameries, nurseries, wineries, sculpture gardens and historic sites.

2. You can tip a glass to the Olympia area’s thriving craft beer and wine scene with a visit to wineries along the South Sound Wine Trail or a tour of Olympia’s own Fish Tale Brew Pub.

3. Olympia is located right along Interstate 5 at the gateway to the Olympic Peninsula, putting visitors less than two hours from a range of recreational activities—from mountain hikes to beachcombing.

In the early 1990s, Washington communities and activists had a vision of maintaining green wilderness and creating space where people could embrace the outdoors near urban cities like Seattle. “We’re all better and healthier when we’re connected to nature,” says Caroline Villanova, community and partnerships manager at Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust.


Originally from Oregon’s Rogue River Valley, Debbie McCune, director of sales for Travel Salem, relocated to her new hometown when her son was young. In fact, the city’s kid-friendliness is one of the things that attracted her.


This jewel of the Inland Northwest is full of charm.