Washington State

How to Spend a Weekend Getaway in Bellingham

There’s plenty to eat, see, and do in this Pacific Northwest city.

Bellingham is a mid-sized city in northwest Washington, just a little south of the Canadian border. Home to Western Washington University, this may not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking of vacation spots in Washington, but in reality there are a lot of activities that make it a great place to get away for a weekend.

Recently, my boyfriend and I decided to go to Bellingham for a couple of days. I spent part of my college years there, so I’m familiar with the city. To be honest, I didn’t really think much of it at the time, good or bad. The stress of graduating college with your sanity intact can kind of take any appreciation you have for your surroundings right out of you.

View of Bellingham Bay from the Western Washington University campus.

Luckily, on this trip I was able to fully appreciate Bellingham and all it has to offer. I would happily spend more time there in the future.

If you are thinking of taking a trip to Bellingham, I’ve listed some tips for what to do, see, and eat while you’re there. While by no means an exhaustive list, I hope this guide gives you the inspiration you need to plan your own weekend getaway to Bellingham!

Where To Eat

The are a lot of great restaurants in Bellingham, whether you are looking for a big breakfast, quick burger, or sit-down dinner. These are my personal recommendations, based on places I have been and liked. Of course, I haven’t been to every place in town and I’m sure there are plenty of places that I have missed. So don’t be offended if your favorite place isn’t listed.

Breakfast

There are many options for going out to breakfast while you are in Bellingham. One popular breakfast destination is the Little Cheerful Cafe, with is only open from 7 AM to 2 PM seven days a week. We ate there on our first morning and I highly recommend the California Omelet and their truly excellent hash browns. This restaurant only accepts cash, however, so come prepared.

Another great spot is the Harris Avenue Cafe, where we went on our second morning. They served what might have been the best pancakes I have ever had. I think they were made with cornmeal and I can’t stress enough how delicious they were. Do yourself a favor and try them on your next trip to Bellingham.

Lunch or Dinner

For lunch or dinner you can find a place to eat that caters to just about any craving you might have. Boomer’s Drive-In is a fun burger joint that serves delicious hard ice cream milkshakes. Casa Que Pasa is a popular Mexican-style restaurant downtown, and is known for their potato burrito. El Agave is a family-style Mexican restaurant with large portions and reasonable prices, and is also a personal favorite of mine. In Fairhaven, get your fish and chips fix at Fairhaven Fish and Chips, which operates out of a vintage London double-decker bus.

Dessert

Who could forget dessert? Mallard Ice Cream is a popular place that serves a combination of unique flavors like Green Tea or Turmeric along with more traditional flavors like Cookies and Cream or Strawberry. It’s worth trying, even if it can feel a bit overpriced. Also, they are another cash-only establishment, so keep that in mind. If you want something different, AB Crepes is another solid option that serves a selection of sweet (and savory) crepes all day.

Where To Shop

There is a nice variety of fun little shops to explore in Bellingham, particularly in the Fairhaven and downtown areas. You can find parking in both sections of town, though is may take a while, and you might be better off taking one of Bellingham’s easy-to-navigate and cheap buses. Once you’re there, you can just walk around until you see something that catches your eye. Shops range from bookstores to clothing boutiques to antique shops and everything in between.

View from the third floor of Village Books.

That being said, there are a few stores that I think you should try not to miss. If you are a bookstore lover like me, Bellingham has got you covered. Check out Village Books in Fairhaven, a Bellingham favorite with three floors of new and used books. Another Fairhaven bookstore is Eclipse, a used bookstore where every inch is literally crammed with books. Books pack the shelves and line the floor in stacks. Plus, if you go to the bottom floor and look out the back windows you will see a gorgeous view of Bellingham Bay.

View from Eclipse Books.
My kind of bookstore. (At Eclipse Books)

If you head to downtown Bellingham and haven’t had enough bookstores yet, try Henderson Books, a used bookstore with multiple rooms of well-organized and well-stocked shelves. They also sell a variety of small antiques and other trinkets up at the front of the store. Also in downtown, music lovers can check out Everyday Music, while tea enthusiasts might enjoy Wonderland Tea and Spices.

Other Things To Do

Get Outdoors

I’ll be honest, I’m not the most outdoorsy person. That being said, there are tons of opportunities to take part in outdoor activities in Bellingham, if that’s what you like. When we were up there my boyfriend and I went to Boulevard park, a popular park right along the water. It’s a great place for a walk, and it has a playground for kids.

View from Boulevard Park

If you are into hiking, you will find no shortage of trails in Bellingham. The Oyster Dome, Whatcom Falls Park, Sehome Arboretum, and Fragrance Lake are just a few of the popular places for hiking in and around the city. Try this list of hikes on the Bellingham Tourism website for more ideas.

Visit Western Washington University

You may not think of a college campus as being a place worth visiting on vacation, but Western has some features that can make it a fun stop. If you are into sculptures, there is a whole collection of various outdoor sculptures throughout the campus. On a sunny day, especially on a weekend or during a school break when the campus is less crowded, it can be nice to take a stroll from one end of campus to the other, looking at the different pieces.

At Western Washington University.
At Western Washington University

And there you have it. Everything that I have to recommend on what to do in Bellingham. If you are planning a trip up their soon I hope this helps. If you’ve never considered Bellingham as a vacation spot before, hopefully this inspires you to reconsider. Also, if I left out any favorite Bellingham spots of yours, feel free to let me know in the comments.

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