Olympia was recently ranked as the best small city to make a living in the nation. The list, released by financial site MoneyGeek, ranks cities based on factors like plentiful shopping, recreational activities and affordable homes. It’s no wonder that so many entrepreneurs, artists and inspired individuals call Thurston County home.

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From the richly cultured competition of the Dragon Boat Races on Budd Inlet (April 30) to what’s been described by Seattle Met magazine as the “Wildest Parade this Side of the Cascades” at the Procession of Species (April 23), springtime in Olympia is festival season and the best time to meet the region’s artsy crowd. Downtown Arts Walk (April 22-23) and these aforementioned annual events draw visitors to revel and relish the art-loving locals, but three new opportunities offer a hands-on approach to Thurston County’s colorful culture.

  • Shipwreck Beads, the world’s largest selection of beads resides in Thurston County. Hone your craft and meet fellow crafters at a variety of classes taught by experts and visiting artists. Current options include Beading 101 or an Introduction to Precious Metal Clay, where students will create beautiful jewelry from soft, workable “clay like” silver. Search “classes” in the tool bar at shipwreckbeads.com to view the current schedule.
  • Arbutus Folk School in Olympia is an education center for artisans to share expertise in a variety of mediums. Workshops and classes are offered on an ongoing basis for skills like woodworking, embroidery and sculpture.
  • Cascadia Homebrew in downtown Olympia is offering a beginners brewing class March 20. Cascadia Brewmaster, Chris, will teach you the ins-and-outs of brewing and even ferment the beer right there for you in two hours or less. Leave with new knowledge and come back two weeks later to pick up your home brewed 6-pack. Check out their Facebook page for more opportunities.

With so much to take in, make a weekend out of this artsy agenda and book a room. A variety of cozy B&Bs, independently-owned inns, and downtown digs are detailed at www.visitolympia.com.  Make sure to connect for real time updates on Facebook, Twitter (@VisitOlympia) and Instagram (@VisitOlympia).

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Raise a Pint to St. Paddy

Tis the season for green beer! Toast the luck of the Irish all month long with some of the freshest brews in town at these top spots.

  1. Furry four-leggers and kids can join the celebration at Top Rung Brewing in Lacey. Bring your own corned beef and hash to pair with its selection of lagers, IPAs and more.
  2. Sample the World’s Best Beer (according to World Beer Awards 2015) at Fish Tale Ale Brew Pub. Also known as Beyond the Pale IPA, this award winning beverage joins a tasty list of freshly brewed selections fit for a St. Paddy’s Day celebration.
  3. McMenamins Spar Café is a lively pub-style gathering place pouring a variety of suds, including its namesake Spartesian Ale brewed onsite using Olympia’s legendary artesian well water.
  4. Oly Tap Room offers more than 650 bottle choices and 14 rotating draft taps.  Outside food from neighboring restaurants is welcome, or pair your brew with fresh, made to order pizzas.

*Note: those looking for green beer should bring their own dye. Cheers!