Friday, May 4th, 2018
Top 5 Parks for Kids in Bellingham and Whatcom County
Hilary Parker

Whatcom County is filled with an array 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 range from playgrounds to other attractions and amenities.

Who knows parks better than kids? This list is kid tested and kid-approved, thanks to my own children and their friends.

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 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 left over 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. For an added treat, 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.

City Park, Lynden

Also known as Million Smiles Park, it’s 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 tree house with a slide connected to a castle by a series of platforms and bridges.

Million Smiles Park. Photo courtesy of Lynden Chamber.

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.

Hovander Homestead Park, Ferndale

Full of history, Hovander Homestead Park in Ferndale 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 new forest-themed playground, with toys for both tots and bigger kids, was installed in 2012. 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.

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. The east end of the park is also home to an amphitheater as well as many activities associated with the “Wings Over Water” birding festival each March.

Squalicum Creek Park, Bellingham

When the playground at Squalicum Creek Park, which was once primarily ball fields, opened in early 2015 my kids were ecstatic. Why? One word: Zipline. I think the rest of the kids in town felt the same way because on a chilly morning during spring break we ventured out for some playtime and found it already jam-packed with kids and families. Along with the zip line, there are swings, a forest-themed climbing playground and a basketball court.

Other amenities include a restroom, an off-leash area for dogs and walking trails. The park is bright and sunny, so don’t forget to bring the sunscreen! The park may seem tucked away on a quiet stretch of Squalicum Way, west of the hospital and Meridian Street, but once you’ve zeroed in on it, it’s easy to get to. And it’s a quick jaunt to the waterfront and Zuanich Point Park to the west or Cornwall Park to the east.

Honorable mention

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:

Fairhaven Park

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 and the adjacent Hundred Acre Woods as well. They even have a water sprinkler system during the summers too!

Boulevard Park

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. Also, a great place to watch the trains go by.

Star Park

This Ferndale park, close to the historic cabins of Pioneer Park and the River Walk, 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.”

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About the Author:

Hilary Parker is a writer and editor living in Bellingham. She and her children love discovering all that Bellingham and Whatcom County have to offer.


  1. Nice article, Hovander Farm had always been a favorite in our family. Even during winter fog, rain, and ice. It is magical. One summer an actor was leading a group of is through the tall grass as he shared Walden.

    Comment by Rebecca Meloy — April 22, 2014 @ 11:46 pm

  2. I also wanted to add to the Blaine Marine Park Playground that the playground is also in walking distance to the Blaine Public Pier and to downtown Blaine for ice cream!

    Comment by Debbie Harger — July 27, 2016 @ 10:18 am

  3. I am an older adult living in Bellingham with some mobility issues. It would be wonderful to see an article about places for people like me to go and see. I dream of finding a place where I can sit in nature, maybe look at the water, without having to go on a long walk or maybe use a cane or walker.


    Comment by Leslie Weldon — July 31, 2018 @ 10:12 am

  4. Thanks Leslie – great idea!

    Comment by admin — July 31, 2018 @ 10:19 am

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