“I won’t pretend it wasn’t a long day,” says Anna Nordstrom, when asked about a September day trip to Bellingham with her extended family – husband, in-laws, and two kids, aged 3½ and 16 months. “But I will say that it was totally worth it.” The family had contemplated a trip to Vancouver, B.C., but thought that would entail a longer stay than they were really up for. So they settled on Bellingham – far enough to feel they were “away from it all,” but close enough to avoid the challenges of an overnight with two little ones.
The plan was to take the train, largely in deference to Anna’s 3 ½-year-old son, who cherishes “all things railroad.” This would be his first actual ride on a train … instant excitement! Her son was thrilled with the train ride (there was a special conductor’s hat involved) and little sister tolerated it amicably. The family had budgeted for a trip to the dining car, which provided both nourishment and entertainment. The train north out of Seattle hugs the shore most of the way to Bellingham, which makes for a very scenic view of Puget Sound boat and marine life activity.
As most parents are quick to learn, the success of a day trip such as this one lies to a great degree in the planning. And Anna has plenty of suggestions along that line, beginning right at the beginning. “We found it so much more convenient to depart from Edmonds than from Seattle,” she says. “The station is easy to get to, there’s free parking, and you depart a little later in the morning.” (Everett could work for the same reasons.)
The train stops in Fairhaven, one of the oldest and most delightful Bellingham neighborhoods. The family took off right away to walk to the nearest park and let the kids run off some energy. “We had a backpack and the single stroller,” says Anna, “double strollers don’t work well on the train.” Very near the train station is Marine Park, a 2-acre space featuring a gentle sloping beach ideal for beach combing and building sandcastles, and a newly renovated picnic shelter.
After enjoying the park, the family walked around the historic neighborhood, peeking into shops and “spending lots of time in the bookstore (Village Books, 1200 11th St). There is something for everyone there,” says Anna, “including a darling little reading area for kids. When they tired of literature, they played in the grassy courtyard.”
Lunch was at a nearby spot called Magdalena’s Creperie (open for breakfast and lunch daily except Monday, 1200 10th St, Ste 103, 360-483-8569). The menu is diverse enough to satisfy those who enjoy crepes and those who don’t, and the atmosphere is relaxed enough to make families feel welcome. “The other option,” says Anna, “would be to pack a small picnic and eat in a park.” For dinner, the family found an Italian restaurant (Mambo Italiano Café, 1303 12th St, 360-734-7677) that seemed to fit everyone’s needs.
An afternoon stop at Fairhaven Toy Garden (909 Harris Ave) provided some interactive playtime and, before they knew it, it was time to board the train again and head home. Parental inspiration to pack PJs and a bedtime bottle had the desired effect – two sleepyheads cuddling in their seats by the time the train began to roll southward – and the whole family rode home through the darkness, tired and happy.
NEED TO KNOW
For schedules, check amtrakcascades.com.
Prices vary. The lowest rates are available on the least popular trains (that is, weekday trains). Also, those who book well ahead of their travel date will find the best rates. Children ages 2-12 can receive a 50% discount on the lowest available adult rate. One infant under 2 may ride free with each fare-paying adult.
See also: A beach walk, a ferry ride and crepes: Edmonds-Kingston day trip