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Western Washington University Students' Guide to Bellingham

With every season comes a different way to experience Bellingham and Whatcom County. If you’re a new student, parent, or a student that is just looking for more to explore, these colder months can still be a great time to discover what this area has to offer and get involved with the community! 

Outdoor recreation is one of the top five reasons folks choose to come to Whatcom County. Positioned between the Salish Sea and the North Cascades, Whatcom County is the peak of the Pacific Northwest. We have more than 100 miles of shoreline to kayak, the best mountain biking in Washington State, and gorgeous scenic drives including Chuckanut Drive and the Mount Baker Highway.  

Check out our blog Explore Scenic Bellingham and Whatcom County Like a Local for a list of the best spots in town ranging from top parks and hikes to lookout spots and shorelines to explore.

Bellingham and Whatcom County hikes range from quiet nature trails to waterfall views through old-growth forests. If you want to get outside for a walk, we’ve got you covered with a list of the Top 10 walking trails in Whatcom County including Lake Padden, Semiahmoo Spit, Hovander Park, and Picture Lake. 

Bonus Spots

Taylor Dock

Explore Historic Fairhaven and Downtown Bellingham by way of Boulevard Park and Taylor Dock, one of Bellingham’s most popular trails. Taylor Dock is part of the South Bay Trail making it the perfect walk to visit Fairhaven before heading to Downtown Bellingham. Taylor is one of the most popular trails and the best way to explore Bellingham Bay and the waterfront. 

We've also put together a list of Bellingham local's must-see spots to help you explore Bellingham and Whatcom County like a true local. 

Whatcom Falls

Known for its namesake waterfall, there is something for everyone at Whatcom Falls Park. The park features 241 acres, and you’ll find everything from miles of serene, forested trails to a 100-year-old railroad trestle standing silently over Whatcom Creek.

Heading up to Mt. Baker is an essential activity this season. Did you know professional snowboarder Hana Beaman calls Bellingham home? Hit the slopes just like Hana or, if cross country skiing is more your style, try out the Nooksack Nordic Ski Club. This local group maintains the trails and helps to build the community around the sport. 

Snowboarders and skiers alike can enjoy a variety of terrain, day lodges, ski lessons, and rentals at the Mt. Baker Ski Area, which has the longest season in the state and often the most snow in North America. In Bellingham, you can also rent snowshoes, skis, and more at Backcountry Essentials 

Check out our Snowsports page for even more information, including a digital Mount Baker winter guide. 

If you would rather stay closer to sea level, there are also a variety of indoor activities to keep you entertained with local experiences. 

The historic Mount Baker Theatre features musicians (both local artists and nationally recognized acts), movies, comedians, the Bellingham Symphony Orchestra, and other events throughout the year. You never know what is going to pop up at MBT! 

Don’t miss out and check our event calendar regularly to stay up to date.  

Spend some time taking a deep dive into the arts and culture all around Whatcom County on our Quest Pass. This curated culture crawl is an easy way to engage in a wide range of local activities and learn more about this city you now call home. Several museums are included, as well as The Pickford Film Center and history-themed tours provided by the Good Time Girls 

Discover Your Quest

The Downtown Bellingham Partnership hosts the Art Walk, which brings together the local art community on the First Friday of every month. Downtown businesses host local artists and attendees can partake in a self-guided walk around these different establishments. The First Friday Art Walk has been a Bellingham staple for over 20 years and is a great way to experience this strong community of artists central to life in Whatcom County.  

If you prefer something a tad more athletic, head to downtown Bellingham for a fun day or evening of trendy indoor sports. Flatstick Pub features nine holes of mini-golf, plus other unique games. Food and drinks are also available. [Those under 21 are allowed in before 7 p.m.] 

Bellingham Axe Throwing is exactly what it sounds like – a place to toss an axe in a sport similar to throwing darts, but with some extra excitement and flair.  

For a full list of activities and events happening in Whatcom County, check out our event calendar.   

Use our itineraries to sightseesavor, and unwind through Bellingham and Whatcom County! Spend a few days being a tourist in this place you now call home. These specialized guides help you explore popular locations like Chuckanut Drive and Larrabee State Park, and also give you tips for the best ways to drive or hike Mount Baker. 

We have also partnered with Sustainable Connections to help connect our community with farm-to-table restaurants! Use their Washington Food and Farm Finder to find the freshest ingredients around or to find the nearest farmer’s market. 

Through rain and snow, or the occasional crisp weather sun break, a mug of coffee fuels the PNW. Whether you are hitting the books or slopes this winter, Bellingham has a variety of local coffee shops where you can pick up your favorite drink or snack. 

Whatcom County is also home to 17 different breweries! We have created a FAQ sheet to help you keep track of family-friendly optionshappy hours, pet-friendly spots, and get the inside scoop on what makes each brewery unique. 

Restaurants in this area (some of which are award-winning) take pride in using as many locally sourced ingredients as possible from surrounding area farms. We also encourage you to save time by making reservations or order take-out and enjoy the scenery. Open Table is a good starting point for booking reservations around the county. You can also check out the restaurant’s website to see if they offer reservations or order online and enjoy a meal on the go!  

There could be a time when you have family coming up to help you move in or a friend visiting that would like to see the area. Check out our lodging page for a waterfront resort, mid-price hotels, or a bed & breakfast.  

You don’t have to physically be here to experience Bellingham and Whatcom County. Explore with our virtual tours blog or book an exclusive virtual tour with the Good Time Girls. You can even invite your friends and family to ‘travel’ with you! 

Last but not least, don’t forget to share your photos with us on social! Connect with us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter, and tag us at Bellingham Experience for a chance to share your own Bellingham Experience on our page! You can also submit your shots to our annual Visit Bellingham | Whatcom County photo contest for a chance to win sweet local prizes. 

Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism
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