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America's Coolest College Towns

Procession of the Species parade, Olympia, Washington

Lynnette Peizer/Alamy

Olympia, WA (Evergreen State College)

State capitals and colleges fit together seamlessly in a number of locales (see Austin and Madison). Olympia nicely mixes buttoned-up government workers and dreadlocked students. It’s hard to miss the Capitol Campus—you can see the legislative building’s sandstone dome from almost anywhere in the city. Take a guided tour, and then stroll through the lovely conservatory and gardens. Every Earth Day, the Procession of the Species parade, with participants colorfully dressed as birds, turtles, killer whales and more, weaves through downtown—near where Harlequin Productions draws theatergoers to its unconventional shows at the State Theater.

Local Taste: Though vegetarians are plentiful in Olympia, shellfish fans are, too; find them slurping Fanny Bays, from the British Columbia bay of the same name, at the Oyster House.

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