What’s the first thing that pops into your head when you think of Bellingham, Washington? Based on a quick survey downtown, the words “airport,” “retirement” and “shopping” leaped from lips. Most, if not all, Vancouverites would not consider visiting Bellingham for more than 24 hours.
It may well just be a hub en route to more glamourous cities such as Seattle by road, or a means to get a cheaper flight to LA, but we soon discovered that Bellingham is in fact a hidden getaway itself. The streets aren’t crowded with lost tourists, the outdoors are natural and undisturbed, the locals welcoming, and well, you can’t really complain when you’ve paid just $25 return to go to another country (via Bolt Bus).
Vancity Buzz took a relaxing weekend to the forgotten gem that is Bellingham to rustle up five reasons why you should take the 1.5 hour trip down to this charming little American town, for more than a couple of hours.
1. It’s like a retreat
With so much unspoiled land it’s worth finding a hotel tucked away in the woods for that retreat vibe. We stayed at the Silver Reef Hotel Casino Spa, and despite being just a couple of hours drive away from the hustle and bustle of downtown, being amongst nature and the backdrop of beautiful Mount Baker felt like we were a million miles from the office. For the ultimate ‘treat yourself’ experience stay in the Diamond Executive Suite with your own hot tub.
Downstairs there is a full-service spa, a 975-slot machine casino and a selection of restaurants. We recommend the award-winning fine dining Steak House, where the cocktails are out of this world. Yes, Vegas is wilder and there is more to see, but if you want to get away and pamper yourself in a resort, without spending your life savings or marrying stripper called Precious, then we strongly recommend this secluded haven.
2. The delicious brunches
For anyone who has been to Portland, Oregon, you’ll know that the brunches are worth standing in a 30 to 60 minute line for. Or what about those Voodoo doughnuts (mmm!)? But wait, what if we told you Bellingham offers brunches (and doughnuts) just as delicious with next to no line up at all? Hard to believe, but that’s exactly what our neighbours across the border have.
We sampled amazing salmon eggs benedict at Mount Bakery, while our Arts Editor and the local Bellingham cab driver both tipped biscuits and gravy at HomeSkillet.
Be sure to check out the Colophon Café which serves the tastiest homemade soups next to an oh-so-cosy fireplace. Bellingham was voted ‘America’s Healthiest City’ in Organic Style Magazine and it’s no wonder why with the amount of local organic food produced. For those less fussed about sugar levels, stroll along to Rocket Donuts for very freshly made sweet delicacies. Not as outrageous as Voodoo but pretty satisfying if you’re a doughnut fan nevertheless.
3. Shopping is unique
The thing about Bellingham is that it has all the great things about the U.S. but with a very local turn on them and tonnes of specialty shops. Shopping is a good example; once you’ve stocked up on your Trader Joe’s shampoo or Macy’s designer gear; take a walk around downtown which has some surprisingly stylish and exciting places to burn some American greenery.
For clothing there’s Lulu and Mi Shoes (apparently every girl’s dream shoe closet), but what we really loved was the home stores. Our favourite was Ideal, which features items for the home with careful attention to design. It was like all the best parts of a museum gift shop under one roof and we wanted to buy everything.
4. The museums
Bellingham is rich in history and if you only have time for a couple of museums, we suggest visiting the Whatcom Museum and the Spark Museum of Electrical Invention.
The Whatcom Museum occupies three buildings in the heart of Bellingham’s downtown cultural district. The newest building is the Lightcatcher Building which was developed in 2009 and allows the Whatcom Museum to carry travelling art exhibitions, alongside a family interactive gallery.
The Spark Museum of Electrical Invention is especially great if you’re travelling with kids, but is still quite an educational experience for people of all ages. Spend an afternoon here discovering the wonderful world of electricity and radio, with plenty of opportunity to get stuck in and involved.
5. The Fairhaven Historic District
Imagine picturesque Gastown with less people and more trees and you have The Fairhaven Historic District. Packed with turn of the century buildings, this cute space is packed with speciality shops where you can get everything from used books to antiques and gifts. There’s also a bike trail and on drier days its worth renting a Fairhaven Bike and exploring the water front at sunset.
To find out what else there is to do in Bellingham, visit www.bellingham.org.
Image Credit: Peter James Photography Studio
Disclaimer: Thanks to Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism, Silver Reef Casino and Spa, The Steak House, The Whatcom Museum, The Spark Museum of Electrical Invention and Bolt Bus. Reviews consist of writer’s own thoughts of the experience.