If outdoor adventures, a wide selection of breweries and endless natural beauty seem like a great combination, then Bellingham is the place to be. Nestled neatly between the North Cascade Mountain range and the Salish Sea, there’s no shortage of beaches, lakes, trails and peaks for visitors to enjoy. Just a 90-minute drive east is Mount Baker, a magnificent gem of the Cascades that offers trailheads to adventure and picturesque campgrounds. Don’t be surprised when you see the parks and shared spaces throughout Bellingham fill up with hammocks, dogs, and just general recreation all around.
Home to nearly 90,000 people and growing, Bellingham still retains that tight-knit, college town energy where people greet each other on the street. Walk through town with a dog and you’ll know what friendly feels like.
Bellingham was first established as a city when the towns of Sehome, Whatcom, Fairhaven and Bellingham all amalgamated in the early 1900s. That combination of different, and distinct neighborhoods is what makes Bellingham feel like much more than just a college town.
One of the first stops you should make in Bellingham would be at the Saturday Farmers Market. Even during the pandemic, the farmers market has continued to provide fresh, local ingredients to throngs of knowledgeable foodies who make their way through the booths every week. Not only does the market offer fresh food from local farmers, but dozens of different artisans, craftsmen and artists show off their work as well. It’s just as easy to buy a high-quality chef’s knife as it is to buy a dozen eggs at the farmer market.
Located at Depot Square, a Saturday morning (10 a.m.-2 p.m.) starting off at the Bellingham Farmers Market leads to a leisurely afternoon around downtown Bellingham; whether trying out local coffee shops or just window shopping, it’s easy to spend a day downtown.
On Wednesdays, the market is held at the waterfront at 300 W. Laurel Street from 4–7 p.m. through September. You can continue to scratch that local artisan itch at the Barkley Village Market, which goes from July 1 to August 26 on Thursdays from 11 – 3. On Barkley Village Green, you can have lunch, listen to live music, and buy from local vendors. Feel free to bring a picnic blanket and unwind, and don’t forget to check out the food truck options for a bite. The third annual Barkley Village Concert On The Green will be held August 21, featuring live music with proceeds to benefit the county humane society.
Shopping in Bellingham makes it easy to support local businesses. From local bookstores to recreational outlets, from eateries to antiquaries, there are treasures for every interest. Seeing how easy it is to access whatever your heart desires in Bellingham, you will find yourself beginning to soak up that local, laid-back culture.
That chilled, friendly culture is truly what sets Bellingham apart from the rest of its Puget Sound counterparts. Once you’re finished with your farmers market and lunch, the evenings in Bellingham wouldn’t be complete without a visit to one of the many state-of-the-art local breweries in town.
While some might be speckled with IPA-drinking hipsters loading up on oatmeal stouts and vegetarian appetizers, there is something for everyone. Dietary restrictions are rarely a problem in Bellingham, as most restaurants have gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options available. A local cider will not disappoint as a gluten-free alternative to those Bellingham brews.
After a night of maybe one too many of those local ales, you might be in need of a strong morning coffee. Lucky for you, finding a delicious coffee couldn’t be easier in Bellingham. Whether artisan, off-the-wall, or standard brand name, you’ll be able to find the coffee shop that fits you in a college town that runs on double and triple-shot lattes. Many of the coffee shops are adorned with local art for sale if you feel inclined to support an up and coming artist or two.
If that coffee is giving you the jitters, just adjacent to the main downtown area is a newly emerging waterfront district so head down to Waypoint Park. While the area now is just beginning to be developed, the city has plans to develop it into a new, multi-block waterside addition.
Currently, a gravel pit is being used as a track for mountain bikers. On days where school is out, the bicycle track is constantly filled with eager teens and seasoned mountain bike veterans, all trying to land their perfect tricks. Try it out.
Across the street is Waypoint Park, which features an enormous art installation officially titled “Waypoint” (known locally as “The Acid Ball”), a massive, spherical iron industrial relic that was originally used in the wood pulp processing plant that once stood in the park. Now the sculpture is bathed in colorful light come nightfall. Try going up to it at night and shining your own light at the art piece!
Art is bountiful in Bellingham, and can be found in the form of galleries, city sponsored sidewalk sculptures and occasional murals. Check out the Whatcom Museum or the Spark Museum of Electrical Invention, both of which are operating at some capacity during the pandemic. For socially-distanced art, visit Western Washington University’s campus for dozens of outdoor sculptures that dot the beautiful college. Wander through WWU’s Sehome Hill Arboretum to find yourself at the top of the observation tower, where you will be treated to a panoramic view of all of the city and Bellingham Bay. Turn around and peek over the trees for a view of the very top of Mount Baker.
For outdoor activities, take in a Bellingham Bells baseball game, or head to Lake Padden for paddle boarding. Ride the interurban trail on a bike or stroll through Whatcom Falls and wade in the cool, shaded water. Cool off in shades of green while exploring the sculptures in the wooded glens of the Big Rock Garden on Sylvan Street. Beauty in Bellingham is around every corner, so come and seek it out.
Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism
Mount Baker Experience
Bellingham Farmers Market
Barkley Village Market
Spark Museum of Electrical Invention
Western Washington University
Bellingham Bells baseball game
Big Rock Garden
Rick Lawler Photography
Bellingham Cruise Terminal
San Juan Cruises
Best Western Bellingham
Wonderland Herbs, Teas & Spices
Windermere: Ron Deboer
Windermere: Brooke Stremler
San Juan Sailing
Kite Paddle Surf
LFS Marine & Outdoor
Tour de Whatcom
Historic Pioneer Village
Holiday Inn Express