Parents, you know the struggle: Sometimes you just don’t want to cook dinner, but going out can be a hassle, especially if your little eaters aren’t satisfied for some reason. (Which could be anything at all!)
Fortunately, many restaurants “get it” – and make sure to cater to kids in some way, while being a cut above fast food, which many of us grown-ups appreciate.
Here, I provide a roundup of many of the best places in Bellingham and Whatcom County to dine out with kids. It’s by no means an exhaustive list but includes the input of many parents who responded to my Facebook inquiry on the subject.
- Address: 310 N. Samish Way, Bellingham
- Phone: 360-647-2666
Years ago, while hanging out at the children’s museum downtown, a mom said to me, “We’re from out of town and my kids want chicken strips. Where’s the best place to get them?”
I immediately knew the answer was Boomer’s because my kids were wild about them – and still is, for that matter.
Boomer’s kid’s meals come in cute classic car meal holders and include a burger, or those famous chicken tenders, plus fries, a drink and a Tootsie Pop. After all these years, Boomers is still my kids’ top pick.
This mom loves Boomer’s too – I love the Bacon Guacamole Burger special, the fun-to-eat waffle fries and the milkshakes. Oh, the milkshakes. I could probably write a love sonnet about them.
The atmosphere at Boomer’s is fun, too. You can dine in your car, old-fashioned drive-in style or dine in, where the gas fireplace in the middle of the dining room is a special draw in the winter time. The decor is straight out of a ‘50s drive-in with the soundtrack to go with it.
- Address: 6937 Hannegan Road, Lynden
- Phone: 360-354-5236
The Rusty Wagon isn’t in Bellingham, which is probably why it wasn’t on my radar. I’d seen the Rusty Wagon when driving along Hannegan on my way to Lynden, and was always curious about the funky, whimsical road-house style restaurant, but didn’t stop until a number of Facebook friends recommended it as a fun, family-friendly establishment.
The second you pull into the parking lot, it’s apparent this is a great place for kids. There’s a “Kids Corral” outside with a small playground and lots more to do and see around the grounds. It’s the perfect place to take your toddler to get the wiggles out when sitting at the table becomes too much.
Once inside, it’s just as fun. All sorts of country and western paraphernalia lines the walls. There’s not a corner untouched by color and kitsch.
The Rusty Wagon serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, everything from steaks to gourmet burgers to hearty salads.
We came for a last hurrah before school started, and we definitely indulged! First up, nachos. Loaded with chicken, tomato, onions, black olives and pickled jalepenos, plus generous sides of salsa, sour cream and guacamole, we were not going to go home hungry!
Then we split an enormous brownie covered in whipped cream and chocolate sauce. It was truly a delightful treat. And I think it lasted all of three minutes before the kids devoured it. (Mother’s note: This is not a usual dining experience for us! For dinner that night we ate a salad.)
- Address: 1801 Roeder Ave., Bellingham
- Phone: 360-306-5668
The Loft is hip and urban in appearance, and at first glance you might not think this waterfront destination is a kid-friendly kind of place. Appearances can be deceiving.
They do a great job with the classic color-able kids’ menu, with a short but adequate menu of kid favorites, including fish ‘n’ chips and penne pasta with butter and cheese. The drink menu also includes an extensive number of non-alcoholic choices, beyond the regular soda.
(FUN FACT: Kids dine free on Mondays. As always, some restrictions may apply.)
While you’re waiting for your food, the kids can enjoy all the boats right outside the window docked at the marina.
Once the food arrives – ahoy, matey! – it comes in a jolly paper pirate ship, which keeps the kids delighted while they munch on some really good food.
Then when it’s time to leave, kids get to dip into the treasure chest to bring home a toy.
The Loft is next door to the Marine Life Center, so combining the two makes for a super fun and easy outing.
More kid-friendly best bets
- Boundary Bay Brewing Co. – Known for its beer and it’s good food, this brewpub is family friendly and has a great kids’ menu. During the summer, the beer garden is a wonderful family hangout while listening to live music.
- Filling Station – 1950’s gas station kitsch meets some mighty fine food. Friendly staff to boot.
- LaFiamma Wood Fired Pizza – A favorite with many of the kid crowd, not just for the pizza but also because kids get a mound of pizza dough to play with while they wait for their food.
- Red Robin – When my kids were toddlers, I remember how great the wait staff was – keeping our bottomless fry baskets filled until the food came on a busy Saturday afternoon. And the kids still love a trip to Red Robin for the choices on the kids’ menu, yummy desserts and the arcade. As one friend says, “If we let the kids pick, it’s always Red Robin.”