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The Ultimate Bellingham, WA Bucket List

Posted on May 20 2024

At the northwest tip of the U.S. resides the quintessential Pacific Northwest city Bellingham, one of the best places to live in Washington. With its close proximity to both water and mountains, and a vibrant downtown scene, Bellingham, affectionately called Bham by locals, offers a variety of activities for everyone. So many in fact, it can be overwhelming choosing where to start—that’s where we come in! This Redfin article outlines 16 must-dos to add to your Bellingham bucket list. Whether you’re a long-time resident or are looking to buy a home or rent an apartment in Bellingham, you’re sure to find something to add to your personal list.

Photo of the Chuckanut bay, a view from Chuckanut Drive-an item on the ultimate Bellingham bucket list

1. Kayak in the local waterways

Being located on Bellingham Bay and near several lakes, heading out on the water is a Bham must. You can paddleboard, jetski, swim, etc., but we recommend kayaking! Moondance Sea Kayak offers several guided tours with the option to customize your own, making it the perfect way to connect with the coastal environment. 

Great for both locals and new residents, owner and guide Sophia Rouches details that “paddlers will glide underneath sandstone cliffs, alongside curious harbor seals while taking in the beauty of the Salish Sea.” With the small group size, these tours can ensure attention at an individual level while also promoting low-impact interaction with the natural environment.

Photo from the perspective on someone kayaking, an activity on the ultimate Bellingham bucket list
Photo courtesy of Moondance Sea Kayak

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2. Sip and savor at local brewery and distilleries

Reflecting Washington’s adventurous spirit, Pacific Northwest breweries blend innovation with tradition for the enjoyment of locals, new residents, and visitors alike. One brewery to add to your Bellingham bucket list is Stemma Brewing, a family-owned and operated production brewery and taproom. Focused on being a go-to third-place, this brewery was built “in hopes to be a place where you can build rich and deep relationships with new and old friends alike,” says co-founder Kimberley Harper. This dog-friendly brewery also has a spacious outdoor patio, food trucks, and high-quality brews, making it the perfect spot for anyone or any-dog.

Alongside the vibrant PNW beer culture, Bellingham is home to distilleries as well. Kathryn Anderson, blogger of Coffee and Mascara, highly suggests a visit to Bellewood Farms & Distillery. On the beautiful landscape, “their 62-acre orchard boasts 23 varieties of apples and pears as well as a pet-friendly forested trail along scenic Ten Mile Creek,” says Kathryn. If you need more convincing, the building also offers an indoor farmers market, gift shop, bistro, bakery, and distillery, proving the spot has several recreations for everyone to enjoy.

3. Experience circus magic

A Bellingham staple to add to your bucket list is none other than a show at the Bellingham Circus Guild. Whether you attend an annual Halloween or Valentine’s Day performance or catch one of their monthly variety shows called “Vaudevillingham,” you’re sure to have a mesmerizing escape from the ordinary. According to Natale Luma, the entertainer and marketing manager, “Locals can catch world-class circus performances year-round, often featuring artists who perform in big tops and touring productions in major cities around the globe.” Whether you’re captivated by the axe throwing, aerial acts, or crazy juggling feats, the circus is truly mesmerizing for all ages.

4. Hike Mount Baker

It wouldn’t be a Pacific Northwest city bucket list without mentioning a hike and Bellingham has several to choose from. Talon Jorgenson, avid hiker and blogger of Alpine Feeling, claims the “crowning gem” of the area is Mount Baker. A little over an hour’s drive away from Bellingham, Talon gushes about the summer hiking: “It is an underrated hiking area where you can often find yourself completely alone with your thoughts while absolutely in awe of Mother Nature’s beauty. If you are lucky, you might share your hike with a marmot, pika, or mountain goat.” In her blog post she’s ranked each hike by difficulty level with favorites being Excelsior Peak, Yellow Aster Butte, and Heliotrope Ridge, but with the various options on and near Mount Baker, “there’s a little something for everyone.”

Photo of mountain from a Mount Baker hike, an item on the ultimate Bellingham bucket list
Photo courtesy of Alpine Feeling

5. Cross some local eateries off your Bellingham bucket list

In and near Bellingham’s vibrant downtown scene, there are several eateries with different culinary delights to enjoy. If you’re looking for a special night out, we recommend Carnal, a creative live-fire spot located in the heart of Downtown Bellingham. The menu here changes frequently, but their signature grilled bone-in rib is a must, says manager partner Skip Williamson. With their impressive chef and focus on “new and exciting food that still satisfies like the classics,” Carnal is perfect for an elevated food experience. 

If you’re more in the mood for pizza, try Coconut Kenny’s in Sunnyland, Bellingham. This joint not only serves great ‘za, but strives to be “a cornerstone of connection and camaraderie,” says marketing director Sarah Hirsch. With their pan pizzas, sandwiches, and tropical ambiance, Coconut Kenny’s is a neighborhood essential for a reason. Nestled in and near Bellingham’s vibrant downtown scene, both restaurants and many more offer tasty bites to satisfy every craving and dining occasion. 

6. Take a scenic drive

A Bham bucket list wouldn’t be complete without a mention of Chuckanut Drive. As listed in Redfin’s 12 Things to Do in Bellingham article, this drive is a must for those wanting to see Pacific Northwest beauty. With views of the San Juan Islands and the Salish Sea, this gorgeous road takes passengers on the scenic route of beautiful Bellingham. 

7. Explore Downtown Bellingham

A community staple is the local farmer’s market and Downtown Bellingham has a bustling one every Saturday. This market has a great selection of fresh produce and artisanal treats and is a great way to support local Bellingham businesses and connect with the community. If not on a Saturday, Downtown Bellingham has something for everyone with several cafes like Old Town Cafe, electric boutiques like Third Planet, and craft breweries at Tap Trail recommends Jenny Hagemann, the development and communications manager at Downtown Bellingham. Whether you’re downtown alone, on a date, with friends, or with family, Downtown Bellingham truly has something for everyone to enjoy.

Photo of two people crossing the street in Downtown Bellingham, a place to stop on the ultimate Bellingham bucket list
Photo courtesy of Downtown Bellingham

8. Unleash your creativity

If you’re looking for an indoor activity for when that infamous Washington rain hits, how about an art class? The Jansen Art Center in downtown Lynden, just 20 minutes north of Bellingham, has several studios like ceramics, jewelry, music, theater, paint and fine arts, and textiles. Amanda Slusser, the marketing manager, emphasizes the center’s mission of  “empower[ing] both seasoned artists and beginning students to hone their skills in learning and open studio environments.” With the focus on learning and programs for students of all ages, you’re sure to find something to pique your interest. However, if you’re not interested in a class, the center also has several exhibits with artwork from hundreds of local and regional artists and live performances and recitals to enjoy and spark creativity. 

9. Conquer the bike trails 

Looking for another way to experience Bellingham’s nature? We recommend going mountain biking! Dig Deep Tours, a local bike rental and guide company offers tours for all levels and truly “opens the door to riders who crave a taste of the town’s incredible singletrack trails.” With trails curated per experience level-beginner and expert alike-it’s a great way to learn a little bit about Bellingham whilst being immersed in nature. Whether it’s a short day tour, a multi-day one, or just a bike rental, there’s really nothing like a bike ride to see local sights and take in that Pacific Northwest air.

A group of people on a bike tour, an item on the ultimate Bellingham bucket list
Photo courtesy of Dig Deep Tours

10. Take a chilling ghost tour

For a more supernatural adventure, try a ghost tour at the haunted Chuckanut Bay Distillery. Bellingham Ghost Tours hosts two versions of the ghost tour, one family-friendly and one adults-only, both of which delve into the city’s supernatural history. The tour takes guests on a thrilling journey of “uncovering tales of ghostly encounters and examining evidence from real ghost hunting investigations along the way” says Chuck Crooks of Bellingham Ghost Tours. Available outside of Halloween season, this tour provides a unique Bham experience for those wanting a paranormal escapade. 

11. Bathe in the forest

If you’re looking for a new and unique way to connect with Pacific Northwest nature, we suggest adding forest bathing to your Bellingham bucket list. Forest bathing is based on shinrin-yoku, the Japanese practice of immersing oneself in nature’s ambiance, and is a great way to take in the atmosphere and make contact with the surrounding forest. 

Among The Trees offers both private and public forest bathing sessions in both Bellingham and Whatcom counties year-round. They also offer nature mindfulness walks to “focus on using each of our senses to connect with and explore nature” explains April Claxton of Among The Trees. For a connective nature experience with minimal strain, we recommend trying either a forest bathing session or mindfulness walk — or both!

12. Attend a Pacific Northwest seafood festival

Another main draw of the PNW is the seafood, and what better way to enjoy it than through a dedicated festival? The Bellingham SeaFest takes place annually in early October, and is definitely an event to add to your calendar. This weekend seafood and waterfront festival highlights local Pacific Northwest harvests, features cultural performances and art, and emphasizes education about the local maritime history and culture for all to enjoy.

If you can’t make it to the festival, Bellingham SeaFest also offers experiences yearound like Keep It Simple Seafood (KISS), which are cooking demonstrations with local chefs, fisherfolk, and maritime experts. You can also shop small and support local fisherpeople purchasing fresh seafood at the the Bellingham Dockside Market, a twice-monthly seafood market that highlights local fishing families. Between these three events, you’re sure to get your PNW seafood fix. 

A tray of four oysters from Bellingham SeaFest, an item on the ultimate Bellingham bucket list
Photo courtesy of Bellingham SeaFest

13. Immerse yourself with local art

One of the best ways to engage with a community is through the local art scene. With Washington’s famous glass artists like Dale Chihuly and Ginny Ruffner, checking out local glass art is a must. Located in Downtown Bellingham, we recommend stopping at the Wandering Oaks Gallery. Not only is the gallery filled with “art from Washington-based artists with a focus on fused glass,” as Sheri from Wandering Oaks describes, but the gallery also offers fused glass classes. With much to look at and the opportunity to create your own piece, this gallery is definitely one to add to your list. 

If you’re in the mood for even more art, we recommend checking out Meloy Gallery. Also located in Downtown Bellingham, this gallery features “original Northwest artists’ paintings, prints, collage, and a bit of edgy pottery and ephemera to enhance your home,” says owner Rebecca Meloy. Even if you don’t find a piece to add to your new or current home or apartment, time spent looking at art is never wasted.

14. Retail therapy — PNW style

Whether you’re shopping for new house decor or a PNW outfit, Bellingham has several lovely shops no matter the market. Located in Downtown Bellingham, one cool place to check out is Ideal for their “unique collection of interesting, functional, and smart design,” as described by co-owner Lisa Van Doren. If you’re looking for a special gift or handmade jewelry or a new children’s book, this shop really has it all.

If you’re more in the market for clothing, we recommend stopping by Betty Be Good. While we recommend checking out several of the cute shops in Fairhaven, this one moves to the top of the list with their fresh styles and a denim bar with a variety of in rich colors. Not only do they have cute clothes, but the interior has a shabby chic feel for the best shopping experience. Another plus? Every purchase helps survivors of human trafficking! Whether you’re adopting a new look or just in the mood for a new piece, this shop has several great options to choose from.

Interior of a shop in Downtown Bellingham, a stop on the ultimate Bellingham bucket list
Photo courtesy of Ideal

15. Get into the music festival spirit

Did you know Bellingham has its own music and arts festival? Not only reserved for major cities and the California desert, Bellingham locals have their own extremely cool festival to attend. Bellingham Exit is a multi-day, multi-stage, multi-sensory music and arts festival that “features music, art, comedy, dance parties, art vendors and curiosities on the fringe of expectations,” says Lauren Taylor of Bellingham Exit. This event transforms downtown music venues into spaces with living, breathing art installations to invite guests to experience the extraordinary. If you’re looking to escape the ordinary, we recommend blocking off your calendar in mid-October for this one-of-a-kind event.

16. Satisfy your sweet tooth

If you’re in the mood for a dessert, whether after a meal or as a mid-day treat, a Bellingham must is local favorite Mallard Ice Cream. Located in the heart of Downtown Bellingham, this shop features over 700 flavors, some dairy-free, created at their micro-batch creamery. From unordinary flavors like ghost pepper honey and lychee pink peppercorn to classics like vanilla and cookies and cream, you’re sure to find something to enjoy. Mallard also “believes strongly in using local and seasonal produce” with most of the fruit used sourced from farms at the local farmer’s market says marketing and operations director Stephanie Cheng.

If you’re not in the mood for ice cream, Pure Bliss Desserts, also in Downtown Bellingham, has an array of “from-scratch, using locally sourced ingredients” desserts, says manager Megan Runkel. Not only does the shop have cookies, cupcakes, and cake slices, but they also have a full espresso bar along with alcoholic drinks. Whether it’s a warm sunny day or a chilly winter night, we recommend stopping by either place for a little treat year-round.

Flatlay photo of desserts from Pure Bliss Desserts, an item on the ultimate Bellingham bucket list
Photo courtesy of Pure Bliss Desserts

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17. Find the perfect third location

When relocating to a new city, it’s imperative to find a great local entertainment hub and Bellingham’s community staple is none other than the Firehouse Arts and Events Center. A community entertainment mecca in historic Fairhaven, Firehouse has jazz concerts, theatrical events, self-improvement classes, and even a cafe — the FireHouse Café. This spot has a great warm and friendly ambiance whether it’s by the fireplace for a rainy PNW day or in the covered garden space by Fairhaven’s iconic Sycamore tree on sunnier days. This recreation nexus is the perfect place for a show, class, conversation with new or old friends, or to unwind whether you’re new to the city or a longtime local.

If you are represented by an agent, this is not a solicitation of your business. This article is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for professional advice from a medical provider, licensed attorney, financial advisor, or tax professional. Consumers should independently verify any agency or service mentioned will meet their needs. Learn more about our Editorial Guidelines here.
Darby Mulligan

Darby Mulligan

Darby is part of the content marketing team and enjoys writing about lifestyle and design trends. In her free time, she enjoys baking, running, and crafting. Her dream house is a mix of Scandinavian modern and cottage chic.

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