Visit the Washington State Capitol

2021-2022 Teacher Planning Guide


The following information contains important guidelines to assist you in planning your fieldtrip.

In the weeks leading up to your tour

  • If you have changes to your reservation, or a special needs request, contact the tour office at (360) 902-8880 or tours@des.wa.gov as soon as possible. If you have no changes, please confirm this with your tour guide when they contact you a few weeks before the tour.
  • Start teaching civics to your students!
  • Recruit responsible chaperones. One certified staff member per class, or group, and one adult for every 10 students is required. We advise not bringing too many chaperones; 5 adults per class is plenty.
  • Communicate time, date and expectations with other teachers and chaperones.
  • Send out information about student expectations, parking, arrival time, length of tour and lunches to Chaperones. Please make sure your chaperones know that they cannot bring food or drink on tour, and that their lunches will be stowed with the student's lunches.
  • Find small to medium sized boxes to stow lunches in. The boxes should be small enough that once filled, one person should be able to carry it up a flight of stairs. Copy paper boxes are ideal. Label the boxes with each teacher's name or with group names.

Day of your tour

  • Pre-divide students either by class or into the number of groups indicated on your reservation. Students and chaperones need to know what group they are in before they arrive.
  • Collect lunches from students in pre-labeled boxes.
  • Get the bus driver's phone number.
  • Notify the tour office, or your tour guide, as soon as possible if you need to cancel your tour or adjust your arrival or departure time. If your call is not immediately answered, please leave a voicemail message. While we understand that weather and traffic can affect your travel time, we may have to shorten your tour if you are late.

Because the Washington State Capitol is the seat of government, teachers and chaperones are expected to set clear behavioral expectations for their students and to provide direct management and discipline of their groups. To ensure a safe and positive tour experience, groups are expected follow their tour guide's instructions throughout the tour, including emergencies and building evacuations. Guides reserve the right to cancel a tour at any time due to student misbehavior.

  • Students should dress appropriately for the weather and wear good walking shoes. We ask that hats not worn for medical or religious reasons be removed once inside the building/s.
  • Gum, food and drink are not permitted on tour unless needed for medical reasons. This includes water bottles and coffee. All food and drink must be stowed upon arrival.
  • Cell phones and other electronic devices, must be turned off or placed on silent mode. Cell phone use is permitted only for photos or in the event of an emergency. Earphones, gaming devices, and tablets and not permitted.
  • Backpacks and other items should be left at school or on the bus; however, teachers may carry a backpack for first aid supplies and student permission forms.
  • Photos are allowed, but groups must follow the tour guide's instructions regarding when and where photos are permitted.
  • Behavior of students should be consistent with a business environment. The Capitol Campus is the seat of our state government and the noise or behavior of groups cannot disrupt government business. Guides reserve the right to cancel a tour at any time due to visitor misbehavior.

Before arrival, please separate lunches by class and bring them in labeled containers/boxes small enough for one person to easily carry. Lunches will be stored on carts while groups are on tour. To reduce food waste, groups are encouraged to pack lunches in reusable containers. Food going home will be returned to the main entrance where it can be picked up at the end of the tour. Recycling receptacles will be available during your lunch period. Food, gum, and beverages (including water), are not permitted on the tour unless required for medical reasons. This applies to students and adults. Upon arrival, groups will drop off lunches and use restrooms.

Physical Address

416 Sid Snyder Ave. SW
Olympia, WA 98504

Driving Directions:

From I-5 Southbound

Take Exit 105, then Exit 105A. Continue for 0.6 miles. Merge with traffic on the left and continue in the left hand lane of 14th Ave. SW through the roundabout (Jefferson St.) and under the tunnel 0.4 miles to Capitol Blvd. The Capitol Campus will be directly ahead.

From I-5 Northbound

Take Exit 105 and bear left for the "State Capitol/City Center" exit. Cross over Interstate 5 and keep in the left lane on 14th Ave. SE through the roundabout (Jefferson St.) and under the tunnel 0.4 miles to Capitol Blvd. The Capitol Campus will be directly ahead.

Car Parking

Parking on the Washington State Capitol Campus is 2.00 per hour. There are three main public parking areas for visitors. Each visitor parking area is serviced by a large meter located near each entrance. Meters accept debit/credit cards, 1.00 bills, and coins. After paying, place your parking ticket on your dashboard.

  • Visitor Lot at the corner of Sid Snyder Ave. and Columbia Street – Proceed straight through the intersection of 14th and Capitol and onto Sid Snyder Ave. SE. Take the first left on Columbia Street. Then left into the Visitor Lot.
  • South Diagonal Parking Diagonal – Proceed to the intersection of 14th and Capitol. As you proceed through the intersection, veer slightly to your right and onto the South Diagonal.
  • North Parking Diagonal – Turn right at the intersection of 14th Ave. and Capitol Way. Merge into the left land and proceed about 200 yards. Turn left onto the north diagonal. If you reach the corner of 11th and Capitol Way, you have gone too far.

View a map of campus with each of the visitor parking spaces labeled.

Bus Parking

The Visitor Services Program offers limited bus parking for "Civic Tour" School Buses only. To be eligible to utilize the bus zone, Civic Tour groups must be scheduled and approved through the State Capitol Tour Office.

Proceed to the intersection of 14th and Capitol, as directed above under "Driving Directions." As you proceed through the intersection, veer slightly to your right and onto the South Diagonal. There is a bus zone located on the South Diagonal that is available to scheduled Civic Tour School Buses only.

View a map of the civic tour school bus parking options.

Your tour guide will meet the school bus. If you arrive early, please contact Visitor Services at (360) 902-8880.

Please be aware that if bus parking is full, buses will drop off the students in the roundabout at the end of the south diagonal and then will need to park off campus.

  • Be able to name the three branches of government and know the basics of what each branch does.
  • Understand the layers of government-federal, state and local.
  • Understand the basics of voting.
  • Know what year Washington became a state and after what historical person our state was named.
  • Know the name of our current Governor.
  • Know the names of the legislators from your school's legislative district.
  • Understand the basic process of how a bill becomes a law in the Washington State Legislature.

The following information contains important guidelines to assist you in planning for your virtual visit.

Overview of Distance Learning Live Virtual Tour:

This tour enables students and teachers to interface, in real time, with a tour guide as they lead students through a virtual experience of the Washington State Capitol, exploring the historic and legislative locations where government happens!

Utilizing augmented reality and 360' panoramic views, students will learn about the three branches of government and the importance of voting and public participation in the law making process. Total tour time is 60 minutes and includes opportunities for Q and A with the tour guide.

Virtual sites that will be explored include the capitol building's main entrance, legislative chambers of the Senate and House of Representatives, Governor's Office, State Reception Room, Rotunda, and State Supreme Court.

Distance Learning Virtual Tours are available to 4th-12th grade students. The Department of Enterprise Services Visitor Services Program accepts requests for Distance Learning Virtual Tours throughout the year, but we suggest that you sign up as early as possible to secure your preferred date. To request a tour, please fill out the virtual tour reservation form. For questions, contact us at (360) 902-8880 or tours@des.wa.gov.

Groups with fewer than 20 or younger students are encouraged to contact the State Capitol Tour Office at (360) 902-8880 to discuss other virtual tour options that might be available.

Logistics for Teachers:

Requirements and Parameters:

  • The Distance Learning Live Virtual Tour is available Monday-Friday, and is offered between 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.
  • Length of tour – 60 minutes
  • Minimum number of students - 20
  • Maximum number of students - 60. We can schedule multiple tour dates and times if you have more than 60 students.
  • We prefer that participating schools or groups utilize the Zoom platform. If you utilize a different platform but are still interested in a tour, please contact us at (360) 902-8880 or tours@des.wa.gov. We will be happy to work with you to accommodate your platform needs.
  • The teacher will set up the meeting invite and serve as host.


At least 2 days prior to your Distance Learning Live Virtual Tour, e-mail your meeting invite to tours@des.wa.gov and notify us of the following as needed:

  • Any changes to your approved reservation.
  • Any special needs that require accommodation (visual, hearing, assistance devices).
  • Any questions you have about how the virtual tour will work.
  • Names of any additional teachers who will be joining you for the tour.
  • If you would like to have a pre-tour test run of your platform link. We suggest doing this more than 2 days out so that scheduling can be accommodated.


Pre-Tour Reminders for Teachers:

  • We ask that the lead teacher monitor and facilitate student questions by whatever method currently used in your distance learning classroom setting.
  • Please let the tour guide know at the beginning of the tour what method for asking questions the students will use.
  • Students will have the opportunity to ask questions both during and after the tour as time allows.
  • Please review with students the Best Practices for a Successful Virtual Tour.
  • If possible, it would be helpful if students have basic knowledge of representative government and the three branches.


Best Practices for a Successful Virtual Tour

Be on time. Please be on time for your virtual tour. Entering the virtual tour late can be distracting to the group, and your tour guide, and we don't want you to miss out on anything!

Learn the web conference platform before the tour. Learn how to enter the virtual tour, mute and unmute yourself, turn off your camera and use chat.

Stay in one spot during the tour. It's distracting to your classmates to see you moving around during the tour. Find a quiet spot where you will be comfortable so you can enjoy the entire tour.

Eliminate distractions and background noise. Turn off the music or the TV in the background. If you need to use the restroom, try to do that before the tour starts. Don't text or play on your cell phone during the tour. Please also mute your microphone feature to decrease background noise.

Wait for your turn. Follow your teacher's instructions for asking and responding to questions. Please don't blurt out a question until you are called on by the tour guide or your teacher.

Remember, this is a school activity. While it might be exciting to see your friends, this is not the time or place to visit with them. Your virtual tour has a chat feature, so please use it only to ask questions or respond to a question from your guide or teacher.

Respect your Tour Guide for the work they have done to offer you this virtual tour of the Washington State Capitol. Make sure they know how much you appreciate them. The best way to do this is to listen, ask questions, and be on your best behavior during your tour.

Activities to enjoy before or after your visit to Olympia

  • The Evergreen State is Washington's official nickname. Have students tell why they think Washington has this nickname. Then have them make up a new nickname and tell why they chose it.
  • The state song of Washington is Washington, My Home by Helen Davis. Learn to sing or play the state song in music class.
  • Washington's state flower is the rhododendron, and the state bird is the goldfinch. Have students pick a new state symbol for Washington. They could draw a picture of it and tell why they chose it.
  • Washington's state seal bears a portrait of George Washington and the year 1889. Have students design their own state seal and explain the symbols that they have chosen. (See state coloring book.)
  • Elect a "mock legislature" in your class, draft a bill and pass it through your legislature.
  • Have students write a newspaper article about their visit to the State Capitol.
  • Research a current legislative topic of interest to the class. Students could write letters to their legislators regarding the issue.

Online Resources for Continued Learning