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 returning student looking for something new to explore, here are some tips to discovering what this area has to offer and how to get involved with the community. 

Here in the Peak of the Pacific Northwest, 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 home to 100+ Miles of shoreline to kayak, the best Mountain Biking in the State of Washington, epic amounts of snow, and scenic Drives like Chuckanut Drive and Mount Baker Highway. 

Stroll Along 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. 

Explore Whatcom Falls Park

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.

Whatcom is full of water trails making it a true kayak paradise. From the Salish Sea and Bellingham Bay to rivers and lakes, we have it all. To help locals and visitors, the Port of Bellingham recently created the Whatcom Water Trails map which highlights 22 of our most popular water trails. 

Whatcom County is also home to two companies that offer recreational kayak excursions: Moondance Kayak, owned by Kristi Kucera, and Dragonfly Kayak Tours, owned by Victoria Ayres. Both are women-owned companies and great for anyone looking to rent gear and take a guided tour!

Insider Tip: The Water Trails Map can be found online here or you can email info@bellingham.org and request to have a map mailed to you if you’re planning your water adventure from home!

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. 

See a Live Show or Music Performance 

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!  

There's also plenty of places to see live music, like The Wild Buffalo, the Shakedown, and Boundary Bay Brewery

Get Electrified at the SPARK Museum 

Discover the SPARK Museum of Electrical Invention! Explore world-class collection of artifacts and objects that highlight the history and development of electricity, radio, and early technology. On weekends, catch the hour-long MegaZapper Electrical Show, featuring one of the largest Tesla coils in the US.

Catch a Movie or Take a Walking Tour

Leave the planning to us! Use our new Culture Crawl Quest Pass to discover the incredible arts and culture around Whatcom County. The pass also includes The Pickford Film Center, history-themed tours with the Good Time Girls, and a variety of murals including the largest mural in Washington and the brand new 720-foot long mural by Lummi artist Jason LaClair. 

First Fridays Art Walk 

Head downtown on the first Friday of every month for the First Fridays! Typically over a dozen downtown businesses host artists, with a bunch of other fun events ranging from signature dishes at local restaurants to pop-up stages and live music. It's the perfect time to explore Downtown Bellingham and discover a new favorite spot.

First Fridays have been a Bellingham tradition for over 20 years and is a great way to experience the community and connect with Whatcom County artists and locals.

Go to a Game Bar in Downtown Bellingham

When it doubt, putt putt it out!! Head to downtown Bellingham for a fun day or evening of trendy indoor sports. Flatstick Pub features nine holes of mini-golf, local beer, brick oven pizaa plus other unique games.

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.  

Check the Events 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.

You can also explore Bellingham and Whatcom County using one of our interactive mobile Quest Passes:

Culture Crawl

Just like we said earlier, engage in authentic local arts and culture (without hours of research) when you follow along the Culture Crawl! 

Forty-Ninth Parallel Ports Pass

Voyagers ahoy! Travel to the extreme NW peak of the US Pacific Northwest when you visit gorgeous port communities on the 49th parallel.

Farm to Table Trail

Calling all foodies! Discover local restaurants, farms, markets, and hot spots for a taste of Whatcom County’s best foodie experiences.

Coffee & Dessert

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 dessert. 

Breweries & Taprooms

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 & Dining 

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!  

21 & Under

Not 21? No worries. Bellingham and Whatcom County have plenty of options for college students who aren't of drinking age. Catch a show at The Blue Room or grab a mocktail at Quantum Leaf. Before 7pm, people under 21 can play around at Flatstick Pub. 

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.  

Getting around Bellingham is easy, especially if you're starting at or near the Western Washington University campus. 

By bus: 

The Whatcom Transportation Authority (WTA) offers unlimited and free transit for WWU students. WWU students can use their Student Bus Pass to ride anywhere within WTA's bus system, including to Mount Vernon.

Western's campus is on the BLUE Line, which means that every 15 minutes, one bus departs toward Downtown and another departs down Bill McDonald Parkway. Routes on the BLUE Line have three-digit numbers (107, 190, etc.). 

By bike: 

Bellingham is an extremely bike-friendly town. With lots of roomy bike lanes, established bike routes, and greenways that help you avoid road traffic, biking is a a great alternative to driving or taking the bus. 

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. 

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View As Tiles
Ghostwalk, A Creative Haunting of Sehome Hill
Wednesday, Dec 7, 2022
Western Washington University campus
516 High Street, Bellingham, WA 98225
Flatstick Pub's Study Hall - Free Mini Golf with Student ID
Thursday, Dec 8, 2022
7:00 p.m. - 11 p.m.
Flatstick Pub Bellingham
902 N State St, Bellingham, WA 98226
Ghostwalk, A Creative Haunting of Sehome Hill
Thursday, Dec 8, 2022
Western Washington University campus
516 High Street, Bellingham, WA 98225
Ghostwalk, A Creative Haunting of Sehome Hill
Friday, Dec 9, 2022
Western Washington University campus
516 High Street, Bellingham, WA 98225
Ghostwalk, A Creative Haunting of Sehome Hill
Saturday, Dec 10, 2022
Western Washington University campus
516 High Street, Bellingham, WA 98225
Lighted Bike Parade
Saturday, Dec 10, 2022
4:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.
Depot Market Square
1100 Railroad Ave, Bellingham, WA 98225
Ghostwalk, A Creative Haunting of Sehome Hill
Sunday, Dec 11, 2022
Western Washington University campus
516 High Street, Bellingham, WA 98225
Ghostwalk, A Creative Haunting of Sehome Hill
Monday, Dec 12, 2022
Western Washington University campus
516 High Street, Bellingham, WA 98225
College Day at Neko Cat Cafe
Tuesday, Dec 13, 2022
12 p.m. -5:45 p.m.
NEKO Cat Cafe
1130 Cornwall Ave, Bellingham, WA 98225
Ghostwalk, A Creative Haunting of Sehome Hill
Tuesday, Dec 13, 2022
Western Washington University campus
516 High Street, Bellingham, WA 98225

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        We acknowledge that Whatcom County is located on the unceded territory of the Coast Salish Peoples. They cared for the lands that included what we’d call the Puget Sound region, Vancouver Island and British Columbia since time immemorial. This gives us the great obligation and opportunity to learn how to care for our surrounding areas and all the natural and human resources we require to live. We express our deepest respect and gratitude for our indigenous neighbors, the Lummi Nation and Nooksack Tribe, for their enduring care and protection of our shared lands and waterways.
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