Looking for a day trip or weekend getaway to explore parks, shops, and good food? Pack your car and head to Bellingham.
Nestled between Seattle, Washington, and Vancouver, British Columbia, you’ll find the town of Bellingham. A coastal city in the Pacific Northwest, Bellingham is located on Bellingham Bay and is the port for ferries traveling to Alaska. Here, you won’t have to search hard to find views of the water or Mt. Baker when exploring the town. While this could easily be a multi-day trip, our family packed our adventure into one day.
How to get there
If you’re traveling from Seattle, no ferry is required. Hop in your car and head north on I-5 for a road trip that should last about 2-hours, depending on your location and traffic.
[Don’t like to drive? Let the conductor steer the way. Plan your adventure to Bellingham by train!]
Kid-friendly Bellingham starts in Fairhaven Historic District
Our first stop was the Fairhaven Historic District in the southern part of Bellingham. Fairhaven has a charming, small-town vibe, exactly what we were looking for on our trip out of town.
Long drives make us hungry, so we stopped for an early lunch. The restaurant options were plentiful, and after checking out the menu and reading the stellar reviews, we settled on the Filling Station. With license plates used as décor, black and white tiled floors, and bright red chairs, the ambiance was kid-friendly and fun. The restaurant focuses on grass-fed, free-range and wild-line caught dishes. All our entrees were delicious and the kids cleaned their plates.
Browsing and buying
Fairhaven is also home to some great bookstores. Our first stop was Village Books, an independent store with a great children’s book section. This Bellingham bookstore was extra kid-friendly because it had a gift shop and cafe too. Both are suitable for souvenirs and an afternoon pick-me-up. I could have spent all day in this store, but we had to keep moving to get to the rest of our itinerary.
Next, we passed by Sweet Bellingham, where we sampled treats being passed out in front of the store. Then, we stopped at Fairhaven Toy Garden. We shopped a bit, looked at the many options for play, then left after purchasing a small toy.
We were ready for our next destination–Whatcom Falls Park!
Whatcom Falls Park
There are so many kid-friendly things to do in Bellingham and Whatcom Falls Park did not disappoint.
Located about 6 miles northeast of the Fairhaven Historic District we found what seemed like a hidden gem at Whatcom Falls Park. For a sunny winter day, it wasn’t super crowded as we might experience at a popular park in the Greater Seattle area. The park has so much to offer including an easily accessible waterfall, walking trails, a playground, and a fish hatchery.
Visiting the falls and choosing a trail
You won’t have to work hard to get to the falls here. For direct access to the waterfalls, use Silver Beach Road, off the Lakeway Drive entrance. Park in one of the free parking spots and find signs for the waterfalls. You’ll walk right up to a beautiful bridge and there you’ll see it- the most beautiful waterfall for not much effort. The bridge is stroller-friendly and easily accessible for those who need additional assistance.
Choose to continue on trails past the falls or snap a picture and turn back around. We started on one trail, but didn’t get very far because of the rocky terrain. I’m not sure how our stroller would do so we turned back. However, I saw many families and kids passing by who had easily walked the trail.
Play at the park
If you’re looking for a non-hiking activity at Whatcom Falls Park, get your wiggles out at the playground adjacent to the parking lot. It’s small and geared for toddlers, but there’s also a grassy field where my 7-year-old son and husband played with their rocket launcher toy (our small toy purchase from Fairhaven Toy Garden). They played for about an hour. The grounds are also perfect for throwing a frisbee or kicking a ball around. Be sure to pack a couple of those items in the car before you depart from home.
Another kid-friendly thing to do in Bellingham was located right in the park. While my older son and husband played in the field, my 4-year-old and I explored the fish hatchery. A sign at the beginning of the hatchery gave us a little information about the place, while the rest of the walk was a self-guided tour. Keep an eye out for the fish though! The ponds may look dark, but I promise they’re in there. Overall it was a nice educational experience, which rounded out a full day with various activities.
Once our family got back together, it was time to head home. We packed into our car and made the journey back, just in time for dinner. So if you’re looking for an adventure, not too far from home, Bellingham has much to offer. Don’t consider this lively town a pass-through city, but rather a destination.