Whatcom County is fortunate to have a bounty of city and county parks from Blaine to Bellingham. If you’re looking for some suggestions for where to take your little on a sunny day, here are some highlights of parks throughout the county. The parks have playgrounds as well as other attractions and amenities, from farm animals to beach access.
Travel Tip: The City of Ferndale has closed the parks and playgrounds it operates in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, Bellingham Parks and Recreation has kept its outdoor parks open while increasing disinfecting playground equipment and attempting to educate about proper social distancing to keep them open. Click HERE to learn more.
Many trails and parks operated by Whatcom County Parks Dept are open, although facilities and campgrounds are closed.
1. Whatcom Falls Park – Bellingham
Whatcom Falls Park is a favorite for all ages, and always impresses the out-of-town guests with the Depression-era bridge spanning the falls. The littles love the lower half of the park where the play toy is made especially their size and the hatchery ponds where Steelhead are raised are a hop, skip and a jump away. The upper playground is appropriate for older kids as well, plus everyone flocks to the large boulder next to the play toy.
Adjacent to the upper playground is a basketball court, tennis courts and the new “pump track” for practicing mountain biking skills. This popular addition to the park opened in 2017. I like that the more advanced riders are always willing to give the younger kids a few pointers on how to ride the track.
Trails throughout the park take you a past an old train trestle leftover from logging days and then on to nearby Bloedel Donovan Park next to Lake Whatcom (another great place for the kids). Trails also stretch west beyond the falls and all around the hills, which makes for cool, shady walks in the summer.
Travel Tip: Stop by La Feens Donuts and Ice Cream right across the street from the park on Electric Avenue (the upper parking lot entrance) for an after-park snack.
2. City Park – Lynden
Also known as Million Smiles Park, this playful playground is cheerfully decorated with colorful handprints of local kids. My daughter and her friend vote it unequivocally the “best playground ever.” North of downtown Lynden, this park is hidden among tall evergreens along Fish Trap Creek, which makes it a perfect place to escape to when it gets hot. It features a three-story treehouse with a slide connected to a castle by a series of platforms and bridges.
A cute “tot town” full of storefronts is big fun for the little ones, too. The City of Lynden website notes that Million Smiles Park has tennis courts, basketball court, pickleball court and group shelters. The park is also the start of the Jim Kaemingk Sr. City Trail, which travels to nearby Bender Fields, making a nice loop to walk or bike.
3. Hovander Homestead Park – Ferndale
Full of history, Hovander Homestead Park is a Whatcom County Park located in Ferndale. It is educational along with being a hoot to explore. The Hovander family’s original home, with period décor, is on display weekends Memorial Day through Labor Day; I can remember being fascinated with this step back in time when I was a kid. My children are just as fascinated with the 115-year-old home.
“I love the gardens and going to the old house,” my daughter says. The original barns are also available to explore along with farm animals to commune with, an old water tower to climb and open space perfect for running and playing.
A forest-themed playground, with toys for both tots and bigger kids, is adjacent to the farm area. There’s even an observation tower where you can get amazing views of Tennant Lake. Trails follow the Nooksack River that borders the west side of the park as well as trails stretching east to the nearby Tennant Lake with more natural areas to explore.
4. Marine Park – Blaine
With the unveiling of new playground equipment in fall of 2015, Blaine’s Marine Park has become a local and visitor favorite. Located next to Semiahmoo Bay and Drayton Harbor, the setting is gorgeous. (My kids loved being able to look across the water to Canada!)
We were lucky enough to visit on a day when the tide was extremely low, so we had an opportunity to see some of the tiny sea creatures that make the bay their home – crabs, snails and clams – up close.
The playground itself has two play toys, the Lighthouse and the Pirate Ship, and a giant climbing rock. These three features are more than enough to keep the kids busy! The park also features picnic tables and benches with a view of the water, and walking trails.
5. Waypoint Park – Bellingham
Bellingham’s newest park is among the first phases of Bellingham’s waterfront redevelopment. Once complete, the redevelopment will be a hub for public, commercial and residential uses. Visitors won’t be able to miss the park as its namesake art installation: The huge metallic globe called “Waypoint” rises from the water’s edge. Reclaimed from the original industrial site, now home to the park, the spherical storage tank has been transformed into a stunning sculpture that lights up at night.
The playground has a working waterfront vibe with tall logs sunk into a spongy cyan play surface, making it look like pilings rising up out of the water. And it’s only a short stroll to the beach along the Whatcom Waterway. The park also features a pump track for mountain bikers, located across the road from the playground. Waypoint Park is also an excellent spot to begin a bike tour of the waterfront, heading toward Zuanich Park and the Marine Life Center.
Travel Tip: Check out Hilary’s blog on Waypoint Park for more!
“Bellingham disinfecting and keeping park playgrounds open during coronavirus pandemic” – Bellingham Herald
Click HERE to learn more about what the City of Bellingham is doing to keep our parks clean.
Really, this list is only the tip of the iceberg. We are fortunate to live in a place that values parks and has so many great places for kids and families. A few other parks you and your kids may enjoy include:
A playground and spray park (operational during the summer) are sure fire-fun for the kiddos at this south Bellingham park. Explore the trails along the creek, walk the labyrinth and hike the adjacent Hundred Acre Woods as well.
This gem is right on the bay, along the South Bay Trail that runs from Fairhaven to downtown Bellingham. A pirate-themed playtoy and sandy beach area are perfect for the kids, and parents will appreciate The Woods Coffee located in the park. It’s also a great place to watch the trains go by.
Due to COVID-19, Star Park is currently closed.
This City of Ferndale park, close to the historic cabins of Pioneer Park and the Riverwalk, has a sense of humor. The playground design includes an homage to a local railroad bridge often tagged by graffiti artists with its own “graffiti.”
One word sums up why kids love this park so much: Zipline. But there is more to love, including swings, a forest-themed climbing playground, basketball court, off-leash area for dogs and walking trails. If you’re spending the day park-hopping, Squalicum Creek Park is quick jaunt to the waterfront and Zuanich Point Park to the west or Cornwall Park to the east.