I love that I will be in Bellingham for the holidays and get to experience the holiday spirit of Fairhaven Winterfest throughout November and December. I bring the whole family to this event and do my holiday shopping, take a carriage ride, sit on Santa’s lap, hear a variety of live holiday music, get a glimpse of The Nutcracker, wander through the Art Walk, and get a holiday beer or cocktail with my gal pals, all in one place almost any day throughout the season.
The Fairhaven Historic District is a picturesque Victorian-era village on the south side of Bellingham, known for its boutique shopping and local charm. It’s always a great area to visit, but it is especially magical at this time of year.
I spoke with Fairhaven business owner of the home decor boutique Current and Furbish and Winterfest co-coordinator, Scott Ward, to hear more about all the events Historic Fairhaven businesses have planned for this year.
Feel-Good Shopping, Window Display Contest and the ‘Signs of the Season’ Treasure Hunt
Fairhaven has a variety of activities planned to help visitors explore their feel-good shopping options. Scott Ward reminded me that Historic Fairhaven businesses are locally- and family-owned and all include locally-sourced merchandise so you can shop with a clean conscience knowing you are supporting local business owners and their families with your holiday gift giving.
You can stroll through the streets and marvel at the creativity of the window displays at Historic Fairhaven businesses. The public will vote online for the winners of the Window Display Contest. If you’re in Fairhaven on a Saturday, at the same time, you can do the family-friendly ‘Signs of the Season’ Treasure Hunt. You can hunt for the signs, Where’s Waldo-style, tucked away in eight separate Fairhaven venues. Its easy. Download the passport, or find your first ‘sign’ and you can collect it from them. Your passport will be stamped for each Sign of the Season you find. Six stamps are enough to enter the drawing, eight stamps makes you eligible for the grand prize. Three children and three adult prizes will be awarded.
All completed cards turned in at Santa’s Mailbox at the Fairhaven Village Green, will be entered into a drawing on Saturday, December 22.
Shop for Local Art
Fairhaven hosts its Fourth Friday Art Walk monthly but the one held the evening after Thanksgiving (Nov. 23, 2018) from 5 to 8 p.m. will be extra special. Fairhaven is full of cute galleries and shops that share the work of local and Pacific Northwest artists. Each location on the Walk offers tasty treats, party favors and a cozy atmosphere. They are close together so they’re walkable and accessible, with art benches placed strategically if you need a rest. If you can’t make it that night, no worries. You can still follow the online map anytime during holiday business hours or all year long.
I have to admit that I’m biased. My fiancé’s nature photography is part of the art available at Whatcom Art Market alongside the work of 45 other local artists. I also love to stroll through my friend Ann Marie Cooper’s gallery specializing in local ceramic artists, Good Earth Pottery. That store has been at the heart of Historic Fairhaven for 50 years. I’ve also been a long-time fan of the fine woodworking cooperative gallery next door, Artwood Gallery. If you love blown glass as much as I do, then you have to stop at Renaissance Celebration.
I’ve found some one-of-a-kind holiday gifts in Fairhaven. But since art is so personal and individual, I sometimes go for the gift card so they can choose their own favorite. With so many amazing pieces, I’ve had a hard time choosing. Thankfully, most galleries and businesses will also ship if needed.
Letters to Father Christmas & Santa and Horse-drawn Carriage Rides at Fairhaven Village Inn
If you celebrate Christmas, you can satisfy lots of those traditions in one stop by the Fairhaven Village Inn. Located across from the Village Green in the center of Historic Fairhaven, the Inn owned by Connie and Gene Shannon has been offering horse-drawn carriage rides and a chance to sit on Santa’s lap for a photo for about 9 years. Although my teens have outgrown Santa’s lap, I will cherish those photos and rides forever.
Even if you miss Santa in person, you can leave him and Mrs. Claus a letter in the classic Victorian mailbox located on the Village Green stage with the forest of trees. Father Christmas’ Fairhaven Elves will spirit the letters away to the North Pole–but we hear they will sometimes sneak photos of the envelopes before delivering them, and they will share these on the Historic Fairhaven Facebook page – so be sure to keep watch!
Music of the Season
For me, the music makes the season. Winterfest makes sure your visit will be accompanied by all your favorites by inviting buskers to share on the Village Green. That includes students from nearby Western Washington University and Bellingham High School along with other local artists. On December 8 from 2 to 5 p.m. you can wander down historic Finnegan’s Alley for the Winterfest Piano Recital to hear your magical favorites from sweet little ones on up to professional pianists.
A new addition this year is the Fairhaven Fa-La-La caroling competition. This is a festive, outdoor singing event, featuring Holiday caroling groups entertaining audiences on the street corners and Village Green of Fairhaven, will also raise charitable donations for the Historic Fairhaven Association and, for this First-Annual event, Northwest Youth Services. Assemble and submit your team now or wander and listen during the competition Saturday, December 22, 2018, between 3:15 and 4:15 p.m., with award presentations from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.
Merriment for Grown Ups & Fairhaven Winterfest Ball
Although Fairhaven Winterfest is very family-friendly, there’s also lots of fun that doesn’t include the little ones. The popular Fairhaven’s Stones Throw Brewery is offering its Winterfest Brew along with a host of other local and Pacific Northwest micro brew favorites. Created just for Winterfest, this dark beer will warm you on these winter days.
Cocktail fans won’t want to miss Miracle at Swim Club, a Christmas Cocktail Pop-up Bar on the evening of Friday, November 23. Swim Club on 11th Street is one of Fairhaven’s newest and my friends love the cozy atmosphere and lighting. This Christmas-themed pop-up cocktail bar serves holiday cocktails in a festive setting.
On Saturday, December 8 from 7 to 11 p.m. you can enjoy a swank holiday evening at the Fairhaven Winterfest Ball, a benefit for Salmon and Whale Recovery. You can dress your best for this evening full of holiday dancing, catered drinks and delights, and fun all for a good cause. Held at Peter James Photography Gallery in the new Orca Building, 100% of profits from the evening will go directly to Whatcom County’s Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association to help provide the local orca whales with the gift of more salmon.
Tickets can be purchased online and at the Peter James Photography Gallery every day from 11:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. in the Orca Building at 1211 Mill Avenue.
Winter Fun on the Village Green
The Village Green, located directly behind independent bookstore Village Books and Paper Dreams, is a Fairhaven hub of daily and Winterfest activity. On Saturday, November 24, a full day of activities are planned. The outdoor stage will present performances by members of the Bellingham Circus Guild including an area favorite, Strangely, plus jugglers, stilt walkers and more than you can imagine. You can also get a sneak peak of The Nutcracker, a collaboration between Bellingham Arts Academy for Youth (BAAY) and Opus Performing Arts, see the talented high school group Bellingham Showstoppers, and some buskers too.
A Holiday Market will showcase small business owners, crafters and non-profit organizations selling holiday-themed goods, including warm holiday drinks and foods that are perfect to share with family members or give away as gifts.
The day’s events culminate at 5 p.m. for the ceremonial Lighting of the Tree during a carol sing-along.
How to Get to Winterfest
There are many ways to get to Bellingham. Its conveniently located along the I-5 corridor and within walking distance of Amtrak and Greyhound. Consider taking the train for an added winter adventure. However you celebrate the holiday season, the whole family will find something at Fairhaven Winterfest to ring in the holiday spirit.