Take a Tour of the Capitol

With the 2018 legislative session starting Monday, January 8, 2018, a visit to the picturesque and historical state capitol in Olympia is a must.  Visiting the state Capitol allows you to see your state Legislature in action, either listening to testimony in committee hearings or debate in the state House and Senate chambers, or running into your representative or Governor Jay Inslee while touring the beautiful campus. The Capitol Campus is managed by Washington State’s Department of Enterprise Services (DES). DES provides specific information including campus hours, driving directions, Capitol facts and history, and event and tour scheduling on their “Visit the Capitol” web page.


The following are activities that can be enjoyed on the Capitol Campus:


General Public Tours

Guided public tours of the Washington State Legislative Building are offered seven days a week hourly — on weekdays between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. and between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. on weekends. The last tour of the day will be at 3:00 p.m. Tours are free and will last 50 minutes. Public tours begin at the tour information desk — which is located on the second floor of the Legislative Building, just inside the main entrance doors. Tours are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Group size is limited to 25 people per tour time.


Group and School Tours

The Department of Enterprise Services Visitor Services Program accepts requests for tours throughout the year. Please use the online tour request form or give us a call at (360) 902-8880 or email us at tours@des.wa.gov and our staff will be happy to help you determine what works best for your group’s needs.

Please see the Teacher Information Page for additional planning assistance and helpful hints.

Other useful links for school tour:

·         History and facts of the Capitol

·         Washington State Tourism

·         Washington State Post Card

·         Kids to the Capitol

·         Washington State Legislature Civic Education



Legislative Building Tour

The Legislative Building is home to the Washington State Legislature and the offices of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, and State Treasurer. Completed in 1928, the Legislative Building has the tallest free standing masonry dome in North America and houses the world’s largest Tiffany chandelier. The tour of the Legislative Building includes the North Foyer, Rotunda, State Reception Room, and Legislative Galleries. This tour is targeted to all groups and last approximately one hour.


Governor’s Mansion Tour

The oldest standing building on the Capitol Campus, the red-brick Georgian style Executive Mansion has been home to Washington’s Governors since 1910. Fully restored and furnished with many antiques from the American Federal period, the mansion is open for public tours on most Wednesdays by reservation. Tours are only available in the afternoon. Group size is limited to 20. This tour is available for 4th grade and up.

Please note: School groups tours of the mansion are limited to a 15 minute walk-thru if part of a Civic Education Tour.


Monument and Memorial Sites

The Washington State Capitol Campus is home to many Veterans Memorials including the Winged VictoryPOW-MIAMedal of Honor, WW II, Korean War Memorials, and Vietnam Veterans. Self-Guided memorial brochures are available at the Visitor Information Desk and at the Legislative Building Tour Information Desk.


Capitol Adventure Tour

Adventure Tour, available to groups of 15 or more (available from May through December; Monday-Friday only)

Using stories, visuals and interactive exercises, this tour introduces younger children to Washington State history and representative government through a hands-on adventure tour of the Washington State Capitol. As part of this tour, each child receives an ‘Adventure Tour’ coloring book to take home. This tour is 45 minutes and is specifically designed for K-2nd grade. A minimum of 15 students is required. Teachers can supplement this tour with a self-guided ‘I SPY’ scavenger hunt of the Capitol Campus.


Civic Education Tour

Civic Education Tour, available to groups of 15 or more (available from September-June; Monday-Friday only)

This tour is an introduction to representative democracy and the three branches of government and includes information on the Legislative Building’s function, operation, symbolism and history. Also included is a visit to the Temple of Justice, the home of the state Supreme Court, where students participate in a mock court hearing. The tour includes visits to the Rotunda, the State Reception Room, legislative galleries, and offices of elected officials. The tour is three hours (including a lunch period) and is specifically designed for students ages 3rd-12th grade.


Botanical Tour

Botanical tours of the Capitol Campus grounds are available by appointment only. Please email the Capitol Campus Horticulturist or call (360) 725-0018 to arrange a botanical tour. Botanical tours can be for individuals or groups of up to 25 people.

Most of the West Capitol Campus is a National Historic District whose landscape features were originally designed by the famous Olmsted Brothers. The west campus contains many magnificent tree and shrub plantings that all have a story waiting to be shared. View the Trees of the West Capitol Campus brochure.

Both east and west campuses contain many examples of sustainable landscape practices. Learn about these practices as the grounds staff continues to pilot projects with a goal of integrated ecological management.


— Source: Washington State Department of Enterprise Services


Legislative Districts and Redistricting

As Americans, it’s generally understood that the ballot we cast every voting cycle has names of legislators, judges, school district members, etc, which we elect to represent us when decision are made for which we are absent. It is also generally understood that our ballot looks like our neighbor’s ballot, with the same representatives because we live in the same area. In politics that area is known as a district. At some point, across some imaginary line, citizens in another district vote for a different set of representatives. This blog aims to shed a little light on how those lines are drawn, and redrawn, to correctly represent our very mobile American populous.

How are our federal and state district lines chosen? Federal representative government has Chambers – The House of Representatives and the Senate.  The House of Representatives was intended by our founders to be the voice of the people, with each Representative representing an equal proportion of the electorate. The First Congressional Congress only had 64 Representatives, which expanded with population rise/territorial expansion until 1913 when we capped the number of seats to where it currently rests, 435. Those 435 districts are required to represent the same number of people, which is why California sends 53 members to represent it and Washington State sends 10. Our districts in the state are also proportionally represented, with King County having 15 State House Representatives while Thurston County has 4.

What is Redistricting? People move a lot in this country, and since all these districts are meant to be equal sized, they need adjustment! Imagine how many people have moved to Seattle lately, they will need more representation, proportionally, in the future. The founders saw this issue coming, and wrote into the Constitution a required counting of every citizen at least once every ten years. This is our US Census. Every ten years, a door-to-door counting is done, and once compiled is sent to states to readjust! Washington, for example, got an extra Representative in 2010 due to our growth. Once the state receives it’s new population numbers, they are required to redraw their legislative district lines. This process varies by state, but is typically lead by the political party with a majority of the state legislature. Each redistricting effort is highly contested – there is a lot to gain by playing with the line to the benefit of one side or the other. In Washington, we use a bipartisan committee which recommend the new district lines and send it to the legislature for ratification.

So in 2020 when you hear a knock on the door and see a census worker, know they are doing their duty to make sure we are represented the way the Constitution mandates.

To find out about the districts you live it, check out app.leg.wa.gov/districtfinder/

Register to vote!

Voting is the most direct and impactful way to make your voice heard, elections are just around the corner!

 There is still time to register in person! See how to where you live here: https://www.sos.wa.gov/elections/auditors/

Register/update in the future mail or online

Online: https://weiapplets.sos.wa.gov/MyVoteOLVR/MyVoteOLVR

By Mail: https://www.sos.wa.gov/elections/register-mail.aspx

Have questions?