From meeting new people to experiencing new sights, sounds, and smells – is there anything more exciting or rejuvenating than a break from the day-to-day mundanity? Traveling is an excellent way to immerse yourself in a new culture, setting, or way-of-life, but the best part is this: you don’t have to venture far from home to enjoy what this world has to offer.
Whether your journey takes you across your own city, to an unexplored part of your state, or even to the other side of the world, there’s no doubt you will still learn a lot about your surroundings – and yourself – along the way.
While the culture an hour away from your home might not be drastically different from what you’re used to, you can still gain a deepened sense of appreciation for where you’ve laid your roots. Plus, traveling locally has a lot of benefits:
More cost-effective. Local travel is certainly a budget-friendly way to explore! Many activities and parks are free or have a low cost of entry. For day trips, you can also pack your own meals to save.
Eco-friendly way to travel. Travel is hard on the environment, but putzing around your area is more sustainable than air travel.
Quick trips. Getting out locally means you can do it more often! Long weekend trips are a lot easier to take when the destination is a short drive away.
Easy to plan. Preparing your itinerary for a local getaway will likely save you some time and stress.
More convenient. Especially if you have little ones, sticking close to home may be much more convenient than far-off destinations. If you forget something, have an emergency, or need to cut the trip short, being closeby definitely has its benefits.
Bellingham is located in Washington State, near the Canadian border, and boasts a beautiful coastal location. It serves as a gateway to Alaska, acting as a port for ferries traveling to and from the region.
It’s well known for Mount Baker, a huge snow-capped volcano with ski runs, as well as the SPARK Museum of Electrical Invention, which contains hands-on science exhibits that visitors of all ages can enjoy. Of course, it’s also home to a thriving dining scene, as well as artistic, historical, and cultural attractions like no other.
Even those who have lived in the city for a decade would agree they haven’t experienced all that Bellingham has to offer, while for those new to the region – well, they’ve got a lot to look forward to as well.
*Note: Some of the suggestions may not be doable due to coronavirus closures, but keep this list handy for when things start opening back up more! Be sure to check individual pages for specific operation details.
Bellingham has plenty of state parks and national parks both within and surrounding the area, all of which provide a tranquil escape for those looking to surround themselves by nature.
Known as the first Washington state park, the Larrabee State Park is definitely a travel destination all within itself. Its main draw card is its beautiful views of the San Juan Islands and Samish Bay, but it also has a few hidden gems such as the lakes, old growth trees, and hiking trails. This state park is almost fairy tale-like and is great for relaxing and unwinding with family or friends.
If you want a quieter and more secluded state park, the Birch Bay State Park is a good fit for you. It features a beautiful, wooded area of evergreens (as its name suggests), plus a saltwater shoreline where you can swim and try windsurfing or paddling. They also have well-maintained campgrounds if you want to extend your trip and stay for a night or two.
Deception Pass State Park is the most visited state park in Washington, thanks to its beautiful views of the beach, rustic bridges, and massive trees. It also has both a freshwater shoreline and a saltwater shoreline that you can enjoy, and quite possibly the best sunset in all of the state.
The Bay View State Park is the best choice for camping, with its wide variety of campgrounds all offering different levels of privacy. You can also get a great view of the San Juan islands and indulge in water sports such as sailboarding, water skiing, and swimming. There’s also a large area of grass where you can enjoy the view and have a nice, relaxing picnic. It’s well worth the trip.
Still need to get your nature fix? If you’re craving seeing even more of the beautiful scenery that surrounds Bellingham, then there are also plenty of hiking and walking trails for you and your family to enjoy.
Fragrance Lake Trail is a 6.3 km trail that loops around the picturesque Fragrance Lake. This trail also features old growth evergreens that makes for a beautiful hike, but it’s moderately trafficked as well. It’s also great for nature walks and running, as well as hiking.
The Whatcom Creek Trail runs for about 6.4 km and is primarily gravel, so it’s great for bringing your dog (on a leash) or for going on long walks with the kids. It’s even stroller friendly, so the trail is definitely good for all skill levels, especially beginners. It features waterfalls, wildlife, and wildflowers, making it great for nature walks too.
The Pine and Cedar Lakes Trail is rated as difficult and may not be best for hiking with children. It’s very popular for locals and visitors alike, so you can expect this 7.6 km trail to be moderately trafficked. This trail features a view of the lake plus a lot of beautiful growths of evergreens and cedars. It also features great campsites nearby and you’ll see a lot of people tackling this trail on their mountain bikes too.
If you’ve worked up an appetite after a long hike, or simply feel like treating yourself to a delicacy, then you’re in luck. Here are our top restaurant recommendations!
Keenan’s at the Pier offers casual dining with a touch of elegance. We love their patio seating, especially because it’s heated, so you can enjoy the views in all kinds of weather. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you can make Keenan’s your go-to restaurant while you’re in Bellingham. Try the Dungeness Crab Omelette for breakfast and the Jack Mt. Pork Chop for dinner. We hear they’re both standouts!
For the best burgers in town, you won’t find better than Fiamma Burger. Delicious, uncomplicated, and straight-up comfort food, this is a great place to dine in when you want to keep things simple but good. Locals highly recommend the B “Ham” Burger and their sweet potato fries.
Homeskillet is a tiny kitchen that serves excellent comfort food in big servings. You can easily share one plate between two people, especially the signature Homeskillet, which we highly recommend. It’s hands down the best breakfast place in town, and its interior has a great homey feel to it too.
D’anna’s is the local go-to restaurant for great Italian food and is also great for date night. From Chicken Piccata to their wide range of pasta dishes, they’ve got all the Italian classics prepared and plated beautifully. For a bit of local flavor, try the Dungeness Crab Ravioli, made with fresh pasta every day.
ANMLY is one of the top spots in Bellingham for great coffee, great food, and an excellent ambience. Definitely one of the best local hot spots in town, serving up refined breakfast food and specialty coffee. Their food is always good, but if we had to pick a few of our favorites, we would recommend the Red Pesto Bowl and their Breakfast Burrito (get it with avocado).
After feasting and enjoying all that the hiking trails and state parks have to offer, you may be wondering: “what next?” Well, when it comes to Bellingham’s attractions and activities, you’re only just getting started. Here are some of the most fun things on offer in and around the city!
Looking to entertain some little ones? Or perhaps you’ve got some teenagers in-tow who are starting to get a little bored? Either way, these attractions will entertain both children, teens, and adults alike!
Hovander Homestead Park covers as much as 350 acres of land and is very richly preserved, plus it’s a great place to learn about the early pioneering life in America. They feature a lot of wildlife, plenty of grassy wide open spaces, child-friendly trails, and well-maintained picnic grounds. It’s a nice place for enjoying an afternoon with the whole family.
The Marine Life Center makes full use of its small space to feature local marine life, making it very engaging for kids. The staff are very informative and knowledgeable about the hundreds of species of marine life featured there, and the exhibits are sure to impress visitors both young and old.
What should you do in Bellingham once the sun goes down? We’re glad you asked! Here are our suggested night-time attractions.
Mount Baker Theatre is housed in a richly historic and well-preserved building, adding to the experience of catching a show there. A good local insider’s tip would be to watch musical events from the balcony, but go for main floor seating for theatre events. Check out their schedule, as you never know what might take your fancy!
The Wild Buffalo House of Music always features the best shows in town, and you can count on their friendly and helpful staff. If you’re catching one of their events, be sure to arrive a little early because there’s limited seating. It’s the perfect post-dinner treat for any night of the week.
What can you do in or around Bellingham that won’t cost anything more than a few dollars? The answer: plenty! Here are just two of our favorite attractions within the area that can be enjoyed on the cheap.
The Whatcom Museum is an interesting and engaging small museum housed in a beautiful building that shows off its amazing architecture. It’s a great way to learn more about Bellingham’s local history and it’s also an affordable way to keep the kids engaged for an afternoon. The intriguing items on display will impress even the fussiest of visitors.
Hop over from the Whatcom Museum to SPARK, where you’ll get a fun and educational experience about the many innovations and inventions of the electrical era. Reasonably priced and incredibly interactive, it’s something that the whole family can enjoy.
Looking to get the most out of your time spent within the city of Bellingham? Whether you want a fun way to waste away a Sunday afternoon or a date idea that won’t break the budget – here are our most recommended things to do in Bellingham that won’t cost you a cent.
Whatcom Falls Park is a must-visit on our list, with 241 acres of nature and four waterfalls as well as their very well-maintained trails. They also have playgrounds, a fishing pond, and serene streams that you can enjoy. Be sure to bring your camera, as this is one place you’ll certainly want to capture.
Sehome Hill Arboretum has great hiking trails for all levels, and it also features an old tunnel that was hand-cut into the rock way back in 1923. It’s a good place for getting some air and going for a stroll, and it’s a dog friendly place too, so feel free to bring Fido.
Alright, by now you’ve probably been on your feet all day exploring the sights and delights that Bellingham has to offer. If you’re craving some rest and relaxation, or even a bit of pampering, these are two of the best spas in the region.
Silhouettes is a one-stop shop kind of place where you can enjoy skin, nail, and hair treatments while also enjoying a massage after a day of activities. It’s a great way to relax and unwind after spending the day exploring Bellingham. Be sure to check out their specials for something unique!
Blessings Salon Spa is a comfortable, yet professional place to be pampered and to relax those muscles after a strenuous day of outdoor activities. Blessings offers a great homey vibe while still offering a professional ambience, making it perfect for sitting back and enjoying some TLC. Don’t miss their signature massages!
If rejuvenation for you is less about deep relaxation and more about sweating it out, then you’re in luck. Bellingham is home to some of the highest-rated gyms and yoga studios within the region.
The newly renovated Bellingham Fitness gym is one of the best gyms in town and offers a full range of equipment. Very modern and well maintained, and you can even sign up for a free one-day pass if you want to try before you buy. There are classes across every type of fitness type too, so you’re sure to find something you enjoy.
If yoga is more your style, then you must visit 3 Oms Yoga. They have a great culture, are very open to all levels of yoga, and you can just feel how passionate the instructors are about yoga. The space is also warm, relaxing, and welcoming, perfect for getting into that zen state of mind.
Looking to fulfill your wanderlust by heading outside of the region for a day? You could spend decades within Bellingham without barely scratching the surface of all there is to do in this city, but consider these day trips next time you fancy a new adventure.
The drive from Bellingham to Mount Rainier National Park will take about three hours. If you decide to go there for a day trip or an overnight stay, you’ll be treated to spectacular views of the mountains, picturesque hikes, and well-maintained picnic grounds. It’s well worth the trip!
Seattle is an easy hour and a half’s drive from Bellingham and it’s the closest neighboring metropolitan city. If you plan on heading over for a day trip, be sure to visit Seattle’s many highlights such as the Pike Place Market, the Chihuly Garden and Glass, and the Seattle Art Museum. Its art scene is absolutely thriving!
As a final reminder, some of these activities may need to wait until businesses fully reopen from coronavirus closures. However, there is still much to see and experience in Bellingham that you can enjoy today! What are your favorite spots in Bellingham? Send them our way to [email protected] or by tagging us on Instagram @rvshare and using the hashtag #rvsharelocal.