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Visit the Washington State Capitol

2020 Teacher Planning Guide

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

This tour provides an introduction to representative democracy and the three branches of government and includes information on the Legislative Building's function, operation, symbolism and history.

Students also visit the Temple of Justice, home of the state Supreme Court, where they participate in a mock court hearing. The tour explores the Rotunda, the State Reception Room, Legislative Galleries, and offices of elected officials. Total tour time is three hours (including a lunch period).

Civic tours are available to 4th-12th grade classes of 20 or more students from mid-January through June. The Department of Enterprise Services Visitor Services Program accepts requests for civic tours throughout the year, but we suggest that you sign up as early as possible due to limited availability. Please fill out the Civic Tour Reservation Form to request a tour. For questions, contact us at (360) 902-8880 or email 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 educational tour options that might be available.

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 expecations, parking, arrival time, leagth 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 permited.
  • 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.

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 Civic Education