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 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. 

Walk Taylor Dock

Explore Historic Fairhaven Village 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 best way to explore Bellingham Bay and the perfect walk to visit Fairhaven before heading to Downtown Bellingham.

Explore Whatcom Falls Park

Known for its namesake waterfall, there is something for everyone at Whatcom Falls Park. The park features 241 acres and miles of serene, forested trails. 

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. Check out the Port of Bellingham's Whatcom Water Trails map, which highlights 22 of our most popular water trails. 

Want more guidance? Whatcom County is home to two companies that offer guided kayak excursions: Moondance Kayak and Dragonfly Kayak Tours. Both are women-owned companies and great for anyone looking to rent gear and take a guided tour! In warmer months, you can even take a nighttime bioluminescence tour. 

Click here to find local shops that rent kayaks, paddle boards, wet suits, and more. 

Heading up to Mt. Baker is an essential winter activity. 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 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. Find a full list of local outfitters and gear shops here.

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 love going to shows, you're in luck, because there's always something going on in Bellingham.

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. 

There's also plenty of places to see live music, like The Wild BuffaloThe ShakedownThe Blue Room, and Boundary Bay Brewery. Find a full list of music venues here

Get Electrified at the SPARK Museum 

Discover the SPARK Museum of Electrical Invention! Explore a 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 Culture Crawl Quest Pass to discover the incredible arts and culture around Whatcom County. The pass includes The Pickford Film Center, history-themed tours with the Good Time Girls, and a variety of murals and other outdoor art

Explore Downtown During First Fridays Art Walk 

Head downtown on the first Friday of every month for the First Fridays art walk! 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 pizza 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 exploring like a visitor 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! 

Think Local First

Discover favorite local businesses and restaurants--and score savings--with this interactive Think Local First pass! 

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

Did you know that Whatcom County is also home to nearly 20 breweries? You can find family-friendly optionshappy hours, and tons of pet-friendly spots. Plus, a ton of breweries host trivia nights

Restaurants & Dining 

Restaurants in this area (some of which are award-winning) take pride in using as many locally sourced ingredients as possible from local farms. Open Table is a good starting point for booking reservations around the county. Plenty of places also offer delicious vegan and gluten-free options. 

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. 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 TikTok, and tag us at @BellinghamExperience for a chance to be featured on our page! You can also submit your shots to our Visit Bellingham | Whatcom County photo contest. Voting happens on our Facebook page and the top three photos win sweet local prizes. 

View As Calendar
View As Tiles
JAT & The Extraterrestrials
Sunday, Jul 14, 2024
12 - 5 p.m.
Meloy Gallery - Suite D.6, Downstairs in Bay Street Village
301 W Holly St., Bellingham, WA 98225
Northwest Tune-Up
Sunday, Jul 14, 2024
9 a.m. - 10:30 p.m.
Waterfront Waypoint Park
1145 Granary Ave., Bellingham, WA 98225
The MegaZapper Show
Sunday, Jul 14, 2024
2:30 p.m.
SPARK Museum of Electrical Invention
1312 Bay St., Bellingham, WA 98225
History Sunset Cruise
Tuesday, Jul 16, 2024
5:45 - 8 p.m.
Bellingham Cruise and Ferry Terminal
355 Harris Ave., Bellingham, WA 98225
Downtown Sounds
Wednesday, Jul 17, 2024
5:30 - 9 p.m.
Downtown Bellingham
Bellingham, WA 98225
Western Wednesday - Deals for College Students at Boundary Bay
Wednesday, Jul 17, 2024
11 a.m. - 9 p.m.
Boundary Bay Brewery
1107 Railroad Ave., Bellingham, WA 98225
Western Wednesdays
Wednesday, Jul 17, 2024
All Day
Downtown Bellingham
Downtown Bellingham, Bellingham, WA 98225
Sucia Island Day Adventure
Thursday, Jul 18, 2024
10 a.m.
Squalicum Harbor
2505 N. Harbor Loop, Gate 7, Bellingham, WA 98225
Fairhaven Gore and Lore Tour
Friday, Jul 19, 2024
Fairhaven Historic District
1207 10th St., Bellingham, WA 98225
JAT & The Extraterrestrials
Friday, Jul 19, 2024
12 - 5 p.m.
Meloy Gallery - Suite D.6, Downstairs in Bay Street Village
301 W Holly St., 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.
Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism
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904 Potter Street, Bellingham, WA 98229
Phone: 360-671-3990

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