I’m a Washington local with insights into the absolute best things to do in Bellingham!
Bellingham is the largest city in Whatcom County and one of the best places to visit in Washington state. You’ll find plenty of exciting things to do in The City of Subdued Excitement.
This list covers popular outdoor recreation and museums, as well as excellent places to dine, drink, and shop. I also recommend a few hidden gems which you won’t find on other Bellingham guides! This Pacific Northwest destination is sure to surprise and intrigue you.
Table of Contents
- 31 Best Things to Do in Bellingham
- Fairhaven Historic District
- Whatcom Falls Park
- Mallard Ice Cream
- Larrabee State Park
- Brewery Hopping
- Boulevard Park
- SPARK Museum of Electrical Invention
- Bellingham Farmers Market
- Chuckanut Drive
- Mount Baker Ski Area
- Ashuri Baklava Cafe
- Lake Padden Park
- Mount Baker Theatre
- Artivem Mead Co.
- Waypoint Park
- Makeworth Coffee
- Big Rock Garden Park
- Whatcom Museum
- Lummi Island
- Sehome Hill Arboretum
- Chuckanut Bay Distillery
- Oyster Dome Trail
- Cafe Rumba
- Bellingham Marine Life Center
- Maritime Heritage Park
- Mindport Exhibits
- Chain Lakes Loop Trail
- Whale Watching with San Juan Cruises
- Galbraith Mountain Bike Park
- Lake Whatcom Park
- Village Books and Paper Dreams
- FAQs About What to Do in Bellingham
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31 Best Things to Do in Bellingham
Fairhaven Historic District
Spend time in Bellingham’s most adorable historic district.
Any trip to Bellingham should include a visit to the charming Fairhaven Historic District. Fairhaven Village was once a separate settlement before becoming part of Bellingham in 1903. Though it feels like one of Washington’s small towns, even today.
There are several bars, shops, and restaurants to check out in Fairhaven Village. Go to Galloways Cocktail Bar for some of the best drinks in the city, or order an ice-cold beer from Fairhaven Stones Throw Brewery. Grab a great cup of coffee and check out an arcade lounge in McKenzie Alley.
Wander through the streets, stop in cute local businesses, and admire all of the classic brick buildings. You’re bound to stumble upon something good in Fairhaven.
👉 Don’t Miss: Sip both local coffee and Fairhaven Stones Throw beer on this Brew to Brewery Tour!
Whatcom Falls Park
Admire the falls at a picturesque city park.
Visiting Whatcom Falls Park is one of the best things to do in Bellingham if you’re an outdoor enthusiast. The park is east of downtown Bellingham and on the northern end of Lake Whatcom.
Whatcom Falls Park has well-maintained hiking trails that are scenic year-round. Take a stroll over the beautiful moss-covered stone bridge and admire Whatcom Waterfall, one of the best waterfalls in Washington. If it’s hot enough out, take a dip in the swimming holes where you’ll stay cool beneath a shady canopy of trees.
You can also bring your dog to the off-leash dog park, ride your bike on the pump track, or visit the salmon hatchery.
Mallard Ice Cream
Sample odd, innovative, and tasty flavors at a beloved ice cream shop.
Mallard Ice Cream is one place I visit on every trip to Bellingham, WA. It serves some of the best ice cream in Washington state. This quirky, rubber-duck-filled shop in downtown Bellingham works with odd, out-of-the-box ingredients. Somehow, it turns them into irresistible ice cream.
Some of the strangest flavors include coriander, dill pickle, ghost pepper honey, and “everything but the bagel.” My advice is to try the weirdest thing on the menu if you can’t decide what to get. It’s bound to be a pleasant surprise!
Not feeling so adventurous? It has classics like chocolate and vanilla, and serves non-dairy options, too.
Larrabee State Park
Camp, hike, and search the tide pools at Washington’s first state park.
Larrabee State Park is Washington’s first state park. It was established in 1915 and visiting is one of the best things to do in Bellingham. It’s only 15 minutes from downtown Bellingham so it’s easy to get to.
Explore miles of hiking trails that go up mountains, to lakes, and down to the shoreline of Samish Bay. Book a campsite for the weekend or picnic down by the beach. Search for anemones, crabs, and starfish in the tide pools. Larrabee State Park has a little something for everyone, whether you’re looking for views and solitude or recreation.
Drink beer with the locals at some of Washington’s best craft breweries.
Sampling tasting pours from local breweries is one of the best things to do in Bellingham. It’s a craft beer destination and many of its best breweries are conveniently downtown. Still, it’s worth venturing further for others.
Aslan Brewing is one of the most easily recognizable, with brews you can find all over the state. Try Gruff Brewing for top-tier beer you can sip by a fire pit. Boundary Bay is the oldest Bellingham Brewery and its beer garden is a local favorite.
My favorite beer spot is Otherland. Its vegetarian food menu is just as delicious as its German-style beers!
📚 Related Reading: Big beer fan? Then you won’t want to miss my round-up of the best Seattle breweries. Bookmark it to read next!
Watch sunsets over Bellingham Bay on a 2.5-mile boardwalk connecting Fairhaven and downtown Bellingham.
Take a stroll through Boulevard Park. It’s the scenic way to get from Fairhaven to downtown Bellingham. This pleasant 2.5-mile walk follows the Bellingham boardwalk, and the best time to do it is at sunset when golden light illuminates the bay.
There are plenty of places to stop on the way to Boulevard Park. Take a seat at a bench if you need a break, let kids play at the playground, or grab a drink at Woods Coffee.
SPARK Museum of Electrical Invention
Learn about electricity through hands-on exhibits and docent demonstrations.
The Spark Museum of Electrical Invention is packed with information on the history of electricity. Come here to learn about the creation and development of electricity, and how it “sparked” other inventions.
Some of the information here is dense. Luckily, there are docents available to demonstrate or distill some of the more complicated concepts. Hands-on exhibits will keep you entertained as you make your way through the museum. The Spark Museum of Electrical Invention isn’t huge, but it’s surprisingly easy to spend a few hours at this engaging spot in Bellingham, WA.
Bellingham Farmers Market
Support local farmers and artisans at a vibrant year-round market.
Bellingham, WA is close to the Skagit Valley, which is full of incredible Washington farms. This means you can count on the produce at the Bellingham Farmers Market being top-tier.
There’s always a good range of fresh fruits and veggies at the market. You’ll also find flowers, sauces, meats, drinks, and hot food vendors. Local makers at the market sell jewelry, pottery, wearables, and more.
The market occurs year-round on Saturdays from April to December and every third Saturday from January to March. Find it in the Depot Market Square.
Take the scenic route to and from the city.
Hands down, Bellingham is one of the best weekend getaways near Seattle. Take Chuckanut Drive if you’re traveling from the south. This scenic drive connects Skagit County and Bellingham on a road that winds between the Chuckanut Mountains and Samish Bay. There are several places to stop and snap pretty photos, hike, or eat.
Visit Taylor Shellfish Farms or Chuckanut Manor and Grill to slurp down oysters. Picnic in Larrabee State Park, or hike to Oyster Dome for a fantastic view across the water. Stop somewhere with a clear view if you’re on the road during sunset, as beautiful colors wash over the bay.
🚗 Need a Car? Book a rental with Discover Cars to take advantage of all the outdoor adventures Bellingham has to offer! You’ll get a great deal and be able to go on as many hikes and to as many parks as you’d like.
Mount Baker Ski Area
Ride fresh powder at one of northern Washington’s top skiing destinations.
The Mount Baker Ski Area is just an hour and a half from Bellingham, Washington, so a day of skiing or snowboarding is well within reach of visitors.
You’ll find a variety of trails for riders of all levels. Lessons are available for anyone wanting to brush up on their skills. The ski resort also has rental facilities and tasty food to warm you up between runs. To get here, you’ll take the scenic Mount Baker Highway which is full of views that will take your breath away.
Ashuri Baklava Cafe
Delight in Turkish coffee and perfectly made baklava.
Ashuri Baklava Cafe is one of my favorite hidden gems in Bellingham. This tiny, authentic, and brother-owned Turkish Cafe serves the most perfect Turkish coffee and baklavas.
Get the cardamom coffee and pistachio baklava for a winning combo. There are a few other Turkish pastries and drinks to choose from, too. In addition to food, it sells lamps, cups, saucers, rugs, and pillow covers so you can take a little bit of Istanbul home with you.
Lake Padden Park
Go swimming, fishing, and paddling at a tranquil lakeside park.
Lake Padden Park is another popular spot for outdoor excursions in Bellingham, Washington. Naturally, much of the recreation revolves around the lake. Swimming and fishing are two of the main activities. There’s also a boat launch for people who’d like to explore the lake via kayak or canoe.
Summer is the nicest time to visit, but this is a great year-round park for walking and jogging. There’s a 3-mile loop around the lake, hiking trails, tennis courts, and a nearby golf course.
Mount Baker Theatre
Watch award-winning films and national and local performances at a beautifully restored theater.
The beautiful Mount Baker Theatre was originally built in 1927 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It went through several stages of repairs that began in the ‘90s.
The gorgeous, 90-year-old theater is still put to good use. It hosts concerts, ballet performances, film festivals, comedians, and much more. Check ahead to see if there’s a performance when you’re in town to see a show at the historic Mount Baker Theatre. You can also call to book a tour of the venue.
Artivem Mead Co.
Sip mead in a cool, bird-themed tasting room.
Artivem Mead Co. is a mead bar in the Granary Building in downtown Bellingham. It’s charmingly bird-themed and every drink is named after a bird. Try the Red Mockingbird with chocolate and raspberry notes. Or order the Resplendent Quetzal, made with Guatemalan coffee blossom honey.
Order a flight to sample multiple flavors. It’s a great deal and a good way to determine which bottle you should take home. The tasting room is cozy with lots of seating and water views, so make sure you stay a while to enjoy it all.
Spend time at a cool, industrial park on Bellingham’s waterfront.
Waypoint Park is on downtown Bellingham’s waterfront, right beside the Granary Building. The park has a cool, industrial look because of all of the old mill buildings in the area. But the main eye-catching structure is the Acid Ball. This is an old pulp mill relic that was repurposed into an art piece and covered in reflective glass beads. Visit at night to see it glow.
Come to the park to relax at the pebble beach or let kids play at the playground. There’s also a pump track for all ages, coffee, and ice cream nearby, and plenty of room to picnic.
Enjoy a cup of coffee at a modern, light-filled roastery.
Start your morning in Bellingham, WA at Makeworth Coffee. This local coffee shop serves fresh house-roasted coffee and a few breakfast options, too. The cafe is light-filled and airy, with seating upstairs and downstairs and a calming ambiance for remote workers and students.
I recommend trying the honey lavender latte if you want something sweet but not overbearing. Make sure you grab a bag of single-origin coffee before you leave. Makeworth’s beans are some of the best in the city.
🛎️ Need a Hotel? Hotel Leo is a historic hotel right downtown! It’s affordable and close to many of the places on this list. It’s convenient whether you’re using public transit or driving. I highly recommend booking a stay with them.
Big Rock Garden Park
Check out beautiful sculptures in a tiny, manicured park.
Find Big Rock Garden tucked away in east Bellingham. This tiny, 2-acre garden features dozens of sculptures created by both international and local artists. Ferns, rhododendrons, maples, and other plants throughout the garden both complement and enhance the art.
The trails are well-maintained and accessible. Head to this gem of a garden in Whatcom County if you need a spot for some quiet reflection.
Discover art, history, and culture in a regional museum.
Go to the Whatcom Museum to see regional art, learn about local history, and get a taste of the culture in Bellingham, Washington. Whatcom Museum is made up of three arts district buildings in downtown Bellingham. Each is well laid out with interesting exhibits.
The Lightcatcher Building is one of the most popular. Come here to see stunning contemporary art in an equally stunning building. The Old City Hall has historical exhibits, along with a popular floor of stuffed birds. Finally, the Syre Education Center features extensive photo archives, perfect for researchers.
Take a trip to a nearby island.
Lummi Island is one of the best islands to visit in Washington state and it’s a great day trip from Bellingham. You can catch the ferry to Lummi by driving just twenty minutes to the Whatcom Chief Ferry on the Lummi Reservation. The ferry crossing takes 5 minutes.
Bring a bike with you to Lummi Island. You can ride all around the island easily and check out many of its gems. Visit Sunset Beach, wander through the Otto Preserve, and hike up Lummi Peak for views of the San Juan Islands across the water.
Sehome Hill Arboretum
Wander shady trails and climb a tower for a view of the Bellingham Bay.
Sehome Hill Arboretum is right beside Western Washington University. It’s a great place to go for a hike without leaving the city. There are over 5 miles of trails in the arboretum. Nearly any trail will lead you to the observation tower.
Enjoy views of Bellingham Bay and even Mount Baker from atop the tower. While hiking, check out interesting rock formations, native plants, and wildlife, and get a good workout on the hills.
Chuckanut Bay Distillery
Taste award-winning whisky, vodka, gin, and more at a prominent local distillery.
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (360) 738-7179 | Website | Hours: 2 pm – 6 pm Tuesday-Wednesday, 2 pm – 7 pm Thursday-Friday, 12 pm – 7 pm Saturday, 2 pm – 6 pm Sunday, Closed Mondays | Entrance: free to enter, tours $20
Love sampling craft spirits? Add Chuckanut Bay Distillery to your list of things to do in Bellingham. It’s been around for a little over a decade, and its spirits have won many awards, so you know it’s good.
Order a tasting flight or try a cocktail. Its restaurant, Penny Farthing, serves shareable plates that pair well with the drinks. You can also book a distillery tour. You’ll sample spirits and learn about the production process and the history of the Chuckanut Bay Distillery.
Oyster Dome Trail
Hike to a beautiful viewpoint atop the Chuckanut Mountains.
Oyster Dome Trail is a great hike that’s just 25 minutes from Bellingham! Come here prepared for a steep climb with a good number of switchbacks.
You’ll be rewarded with fantastic views as you make your way up Blanchard Mountain. See Lummi and Orcas Island, and even as far as Vancouver Island on clear days! Keep in mind that the road up to the trailhead is a bit rough, and try to arrive early because the lot can fill up fast at this popular trail.
📚 Related Reading: Plan to go on a hike near Seattle next!
Munch on delicious and authentic Peruvian sandwiches.
Cafe Rumba makes the most delicious Peruvian sandwiches. Grab lunch here on your trip to Bellingham. It’s got an extensive menu, but rest assured: anything you choose will be good.
I recommend getting the Choripollo or Butifarra if you just can’t make up your mind. Wash it all down with Chica Morada (purple corn juice). The portions are generous enough that you can save some for lunch the next day, too.
Bellingham Marine Life Center
See, touch, and learn about marine animals that live in the bay.
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (360) 671-2431 | Website | Hours: 10 am – 4 pm Monday-Tuesday, 10 am – 4 pm Thursday-Friday, 10 am – 4 pm Saturday Sunday 10 am – 4 pm (by appointment), Midday lunch closures, Closed Wednesday | Entrance: free, donations accepted
The Marine Life Center is a good place to visit in Bellingham if you’re traveling with kids. It’s a small but interesting educational center that has touch tanks with local marine creatures.
The staff is knowledgeable and patient when answering questions. There’s plenty of signage and diagrams for those who want a self-guided experience. You’ll see octopuses, starfish, crabs, rays, fish, anemones, and much more.
Maritime Heritage Park
Take a stroll in a park next to a creek that teems with salmon in the fall.
Maritime Heritage Park is between the Lettered Streets and Central Business District. It’s bisected by Whatcom Creek. The Whatcom Creek Fish Ladder is the park’s main attraction. In fall, the creek is teeming with salmon rushing upstream to spawn, along with harbor seals taking advantage of the run.
This is also a nice park for a post-lunch stroll. There’s a native plant trail and placards throughout identifying what plants you’re looking at.
Engage your curiosity with clever interactive exhibits.
Mindport Exhibits is a unique museum in that every exhibit is completely interactive. It’s relatively small but a great place to take kids. Even adults will enjoy trying out the exhibits that illustrate various scientific and art concepts.
Make a tornado, turn your hand into an instrument, and get a close-up look at your eye. Nearly all of the exhibits were created by the staff. You can easily spend an hour here playing, exploring, and learning.
Chain Lakes Loop Trail
Hike in the breathtaking wilderness around Mount Baker and Mount Shuksan with views of North Cascades National Park.
Hike the Chain Lakes Loop for one of the most scenic hikes in Washington. This hike is in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. It takes you through meadows, mountains, and alpine lakes.
You’ll have views of Mount Baker, Mount Shuksan, and even the North Cascades. Take a dip in a lake on a hot day as a refreshing mid-hike reward. It’s a loop trail, so you’ll choose between two starting points. Begin with a steep climb or end with one. Plan to do this hike in summer or early fall, and consider a guided experience.
Whale Watching with San Juan Cruises
Witness majestic orcas in Puget Sound.
Bellingham’s proximity to the San Juan Islands means it’s a good place to try one of the best activities in Washington state: whale watching!
San Juan Cruises operates out of the Bellingham Cruise Terminal. Book a whale-watching tour with them. You’ll take a half-day journey out on the water and around the San Juan Islands to see the majestic orcas. Your booking includes lunch, and you’re guaranteed orca sightings.
Galbraith Mountain Bike Park
Test your mountain biking skills on a variety of trails.
Galbraith Mountain Bike Park is a top destination for local mountain bikers. There are tons of mountain biking trails around the park for riders of all levels. The trails are well-maintained by the Whatcom Mountain Bike Coalition.
The park is used primarily for biking, but hikers and horseback riders come here, too. Enjoy views of the city, Bellingham Bay, and the mountains while you ride. Head to Fairhaven Bicycles for great deals if you need to rent a bike to ride at Galbraith Mountain.
Lake Whatcom Park
Hike and bike around a peaceful lake.
Lake Whatcom is a must-visit park when you’re in Whatcom County. The peaceful park has hiking and biking trails that follow the lake. The trails are well-maintained and clean and the Hertz Trail is an easy and popular one to try. There are plenty of places to swim here, so visiting Lake Whatcom Park when it’s hot out is a must.
Village Books and Paper Dreams
Find books and gifts in a three-level bookstore with two restaurants and lots of events.
Village Books and Paper Dreams is a must-stop spot in Fairhaven if you consider yourself a bookworm. This massive 3-floor shop is a bookstore and gift shop, and it has a cafe and a restaurant.
Snag tons of local Bellingham, Washington-themed gifts and peruse the local author section. There are lots of cozy nooks for you to relax and read. The store hosts excellent events almost daily.
FAQs About What to Do in Bellingham
What are the most popular things to do in Bellingham?
There are so many things to do in Bellingham, WA that will delight both Washington residents and Pacific Northwest visitors. Bellingham may not be one of the biggest cities in Washington, but it still has many gems. Don’t pass up a visit!
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