Bellingham, home to Western Washington University and located about 90 minutes north of Seattle, is a mid-sized city with a lot of charm. If you’re looking for a quick getaway, consider spending a night in Bellingham. The City of Subdued Excitement actually has a lot to offer visitors. You’ll find plenty of places to eat and things to do, whether you’re traveling with a family, looking for a little adventure, or want a quiet couple’s night away.
Your Bellingham getaway starts on the drive there. While you can take I-5 straight into Bellingham, why not take the scenic route? Get off of I-5 in Bow and take Chuckanut Drive the rest of the way. This 24-mile highway runs along the Chuckanut mountains and provides amazing views of Samish Bay.
What to do
Whether you’re interested in outdoor activities or something a little more protected from the elements, you can find it in Bellingham.
Bellingham has no shortage of places to shop, especially in the downtown and Fairhaven areas. If you enjoy bookstores, first head to Village Books in Fairhaven, which offers three stories of new and used books, as well as events like author readings. Eclipse Bookstore and Fine Art, also in Fairhaven, looks out over Bellingham Bay and is quite literally overflowing with books–you’ll find them on the many shelves as well as stacked up along the floor–making it great for browsing. Henderson Books in Downtown Bellingham is another nice used bookstore, and is worth checking out if you are in that area.
If books aren’t your thing, you’ll find plenty of other fun and unique shops to browse. Your best bet is to walk around Fairhaven or downtown until something catches your eye, whether that be an antique shop, a clothing boutique, or yarn store! Music enthusiasts will enjoy Everyday Music downtown, while across the street tea lovers may want to check out Wonderland Tea and Spices.
Insider tip: Finding parking in Fairhaven and downtown can take a while. The city buses are a convenient option and only cost a dollar per ride, or three dollars for a day pass. Once you’ve reached the area, you’ll find it easy to walk around and explore, with many shops within close walking distance of each other.
There are countless ways to explore the outdoors while you’re in Bellingham. Hiking trails abound; try the Chuckanut Ridge Trail for mountain views, or go to Whatcom Falls Park, which offers some shorter trails that are perfect for those who want to take in some natural scenery without the exertion of more strenuous hikes. Those who are looking for a challenge may enjoy the difficult-yet-rewarding Oyster Dome hike.
There are also several parks that are great for a more relaxed stroll. Big Rock Garden features a variety of sculptures by local and international artists alike. Or head to Boulevard Park for a walk along the waterfront.
If you go in the warmer months, you can rent kayaks or standup paddleboards. Mountain biking is popular all year. Once the snow starts falling, Mount Baker makes skiing and snowboarding easily accessible.
Shows and Exhibits
If you are looking for activities that don’t center on shopping or the outdoors, there are still plenty of options. Take in a movie at the Pickford Film Center, or catch an improv show at the Upfront Theater. Those traveling with children may be especially interested in the, Mindport Exhibits, which offers a variety of interactive displays, or the SPARK Museum of Electrical Invention, where visitors can learn about the history of electricity and view a variety of electrical artifacts dating back to the 1600s.
Where to eat
You won’t run out of options when it comes to finding a place to eat in Bellingham! To start your day, try Harris Avenue Cafe and get a stack of their delicious cornmeal buttermilk pancakes, or grab a pastry at the popular Mount Bakery Cafe in either the downtown or Fairhaven locations. For hearty fair at a reasonable price in a casual atmosphere, try Skylark’s Hidden Cafe.
For lunch, consider going to Boomer’s Drive-In, a retro burger place with tasty fries and hard ice cream milkshakes where you can either be served car-side or eat in. Another quick, fun option is Fairhaven Fish and Chips, where you pick up your order out of a vintage double-decker bus.
After a full day of activities, you’ll probably want to relax over dinner. If you want something a little more upscale and romantic, head to The Fork at Agate Bay. For something with a view, try Keenan’s on the Pier. If you’re downtown and looking for something fun and a bit faster try Casa Que Pasa, a popular Mexican-style restaurant known for their potato burrito.
And don’t forget dessert! A trip to Bellingham wouldn’t be complete without a stop at Mallard Ice Cream, where the flavors are always changing and you’re as likely to find turmeric flavored ice cream as cookies and cream.
Insider tip: Mallard’s is cash-only, so come prepared or get some from the ATM inside.
Where to stay
There are a variety of accommodation options available in Bellingham, from budget to upscale. Stay at the Fairhaven Village Inn and be right in the heart of the charming Fairhaven district. If you dream of sleeping in luxury, try the Hotel Bellwether, located right on the waterfront. AirBnbs are a great option for those looking for more space or a unique experience, and can be more budget-friendly than traditional accommodations.
Images by Grace Carlson