Shopping, Dining & Entertainment
Bellingham’s historic downtown is truly charming, and is the center of activity year-round. The cafés and waterfront shops add a unique flair to Bellingham, making it the perfect mix of rural beauty and lively urban energy. The amenities in the city are one of a kind; offering a multitude of specialty shops, boutique clothing stores, bohemian art galleries, and haute cuisine.
A taste for everyone
Whatcom County offers cuisine for all in the community, from farm to table, gluten free and non-gmo, to chain restaurants, and critically acclaimed chefs, the city has something for everybody. Whether you’re looking for a seaside seafood dinner, a gallon of fresh milk from a dairy farm, Whatcom County provides whatever you like. The region offers many restaurants located on the water, boasting spectacular views of Bellingham Bay with the San Juan Islands in the distance.
If you’re looking for an award winning chef and a critically acclaimed restaurant, look no further. The Willows Inn located on Lummi Island, just a few miles north of Bellingham, offers the finest dining experience in the Pacific Northwest. Chef Blain Wetzel is head chef of The Willows Inn and co-winner of the 2014 James Beard Award for Rising Star Chef of the Year. Chef Wetzel has refined his restaurant and instilled the menu with an obsessive focus on local ingredients with the mantra “Fished, foraged and farmed. Every day.” Be sure to plan ahead if you wish to dine at The Willows Inn, as they take reservations months in advance for their exquisite farm to table tasting course.
In addition to exceptional dinning, Bellingham and Whatcom County is host to a multitude of microbreweries, wineries, and distilleries. With many farms home to the arable Nooksack Valley located just northeast of Bellingham, wineries such as Samson Estates flourish on locally grown grapes. Craft brewing and microbrews are so popular, that there is a 10-day Bellingham Beer Week festival to celebrate our favorite beverage!
A shopper’s delight
Whether you’re hunting for bargains or looking for handcrafted wares and boutiques, Bellingham has the store for you. Value-driven shoppers will enjoy Bellis Fair Mall, housing department stores such as Macy’s, Maurices and JCPenny. Of course, Bellingham also has access to big box stores such as Fred Meyers, Walmart, Home Depot, and many more.
The city has much to offer in the way of locally made and specialty items. Shoppers may tour Fairhaven’s historic district, with its European atmosphere, courtyards, outdoor cafes, art galleries, local artists, quaint specialty shops and restaurants. A variety of stores and restaurants in Fairhaven are popular among locals and tourists alike; you will surely find something new every time you go back. For those looking for an exceptional book store check out Village Books, a community-based, independent bookstore, where it has been awarded the Tourism Business of the Year by the members of the Convention & Visitors Bureau. Right outside of Village Books is
the Village Green, home to outdoor concerts, movies and a farmers’ market on varying days. If you’re looking for somewhere cozy to stay in this one-of-a-kind area, visit the Fairhaven Village Inn. Within walking distance of everything in Fairhaven, the inn also features views of Bellingham Bay and the San Juan Islands, and some rooms may even have a fireplace.
The flourishing shops of downtown Bellingham have a wide range of amenities for consumers, from specialty shops located in the historic Daylight Building on State Street, to the established shopping strip located on Railroad Avenue. These flourishing streets are host to clothing stores, record shops, cafés and more.
Bellingham’s quality of life is among the best in the nation, and continues to draw national recognition. Everyday life in Bellingham is made richer thanks to quality education and cultural benefits that are the envy of most cities Bellingham’s size. Home to Western Washington University, Bellingham enjoys the benefits of university-sponsored cultural events and easy access to stimulating college courses in a host of disciplines.
Entertainment: We have something for everyone
Museums and Galleries
A Smithsonian affiliate, the Whatcom Museum boasts two locations in Bellingham’s downtown cultural arts district. The state-of-the-art Lightcatcher Building features a compelling schedule of contemporary art exhibitions, as well as a Family Interactive Gallery, museum store, and popular café. Nearby, the landmark 1892 Old City Hall Building, listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1971, and the Syre Education Center hold vast collections of historical significance, spanning more than century.
Spark Museum of Electrical Invention displays the inventions and innovations that changed the course of human history, spanning four centuries from Issac Newton and Benjamin Franklin to Thomas Edison and Nicola Tesla. Many are drawn to see the 4-million volt force of the MegaZapper – one of the largest existing Tesla coils in the nation.
Drawn by the beauty of the region, artists of nearly every medium find creative inspiration in Bellingham. Many local galleries are open year round with exhibitions and works for sale. Evening gallery walks take place on First Fridays in downtown Bellingham and on the Summer Solstice and Thanksgiving Weekend in the Fairhaven Historic District. Artists throughout the county open their studios to the public the first two weekends in October for the Whatcom Artist Studio Tour.
Theater and Music
The Mount Baker Theater, another downtown Bellingham icon, spotlights the live arts that are the pulse of the region’s quality of life. The beautifully restored 1927 architectural treasure is also listed on the register of National Historic Places. The 1,500-seat theater is the largest performing arts facility of its kind north of Seattle and hosts more than 100 live performances each year. Dedicated to showcasing some of the best live performing artists on both the professional and community level, the Mount Baker Theatre is also home to the Whatcom Symphony Orchestra.
The Pickford Film Center brings the latest in independent, foreign and documentary films to the heart of Bellingham. The theater’s lively schedule shows movies daily on three screens in two locations.
When you’re ready to laugh, The Upfront Theatre offers live improv comedy shows every Thursday through Saturday in downtown Bellingham.
Each summer, the Bellingham Festival of Music brings together principal players from major American and European orchestras and to present concerts of classical music at the highest caliber of artistic excellence at the Western Washington University Performing Arts Center.
Western Washington University
One of the advantages of having a major university smack in the middle of a city is the opportunity for community members to plumb the talents of “those on the hill.” Western Washington University boasts a highly acclaimed outdoor sculpture exhibit thanks to the foresight and efforts of the 1957 Board of Trustees who decided to include the acquisition of art in the budget of any new construction. Consequently, the sculpture collection features major international, national and regional artists representing sculpture from 1960 to the present.