Trip planned... now what?
May 10, 2010 7:54 AM   Subscribe

We're going to spend a week in Washington! What are some good sights to see in the Bellingham area? We'll also drive to Seattle at least once during the vacation. We don't know anything about the area!

Mrs. Lewis and I don't have an itinerary planned but we'd like to know what some of our options are. We're looking for relaxing stuff to do together, museums to check out, touristy attractions and little-known secrets. Overrated places to avoid would be good to know about too. We appreciate nature from a distance, so any hiking/outdoors activities are best kept short (but scenic drives are cool). We'd especially like to know about quirky stuff that's off the beaten path. We'll be there the last week of May and won't be crossing the border into Canada.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis to Travel & Transportation around Bellingham, WA (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Plenty of threads on things to do/see in Seattle, but here are a couple for Bellingham.

--Definitely make a little trip down Chuckanut Drive. Spectacular view, and not a huge time investment. If you're going to head down to Seattle, go this route (adds a half-hour or so to the trip-- so worth it!)
-- Casa Que Pasa on Railroad Ave. makes some pretty awesome Mexican food-- especially their potato burrito.
-- The Bagelry on the same street is great for breakfast/lunch.
-- The Colophon Cafe (in the basement of a bookstore) down in the Fairhaven district (the old part of town, very charming and worth a couple of hours of wandering in and of itself) used to make this amazing African Peanut Soup-- overall they do a lot of healthy, very tasty dishes.

That's all I can think of at the moment, will add more if I can recall anything else about those first two years of college.
posted by mireille at 8:07 AM on May 10, 2010

Response by poster: Great tips, thanks mireille! I looked up Chuckanut Drive and we'll definitely be taking that route to Seattle. Looks like Chuckanut eventually leads to I-5... would you recommend getting on the interstate at that point or is it worth following the coastal roads down through Whidbey Island and taking the Mukilteo-Clinton Ferry back back to the mainland? That probably adds substantial time to the trip but sounds like it could be fun too. An acquaintance of mine recommended checking out Deception Pass, and after scanning the map I want to check out Useless Bay just for the novelty of it. So maybe a worthwhile detour. :-)
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 8:39 AM on May 10, 2010

Response by poster: Ooh, I love internet research. Wikipedia says "often referred to as Puget Sound's Largest Artist's Colony, Whidbey is home to numerous working artists, writers, and performers. These include many well-known painters, sculptors, glass artists, wood workers, metal workers, mixed media artists, photographers, authors, poets, actors, and musicians." I bet there are some galleries my artist wife would love to check out there. Before today I didn't know anything about that island. If anybody's got any more info about it, I'd appreciate that too. :-)
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 8:44 AM on May 10, 2010

I can't believe I forgot about that one-- yes, Deception Pass is definitely worthwhile! The best word I have to describe it is dizzifying. If you park on the far side of the bridge you can enter the park and take a relatively short hike down to the water. Look for bald eagles, too.

I did do the Whidbey trip once and thought it was pretty nice, but if you do it maybe set aside some time to head down some side streets to public beaches-- IIRC, the road to the ferry was more "inland" on the island. You would do well to take a ferry ride anywhere on Puget Sound, and the Whidbey ferry sounds like it might fit in best in your trip.

If you're into the art stuff, you might consider Port Townsend as well-- you can get there via ferry from Whidbey.
posted by mireille at 8:55 AM on May 10, 2010

If you do head towards Whidbey Island, you can take a brief side trip and drive to the top of Mt Erie for some amazing views of the islands. Its only really worth it on a clear day though.

In Bellingham you have the Whatcom Museum and the American Museum of Radio and Electricity.

The Annual Ski to Sea race is happening on May 30th. If you're still around, you can watch some of the racing or check out the stuff going on in Fairhaven.

There is a Farmer's Market on Saturday mornings in Bellingham.

If the weather is nice you can take a drive up the Mount Baker Highway. You can't get all the way to the end this time of year, but if the weather is good, there are great views from the ski area. You won't be able to drive up the the ski area on the 30th due to the Ski to Sea Race.

Also in Bellingham, the Big Rock Garden is interesting.

Boulevard Park is nice.

That's all I can think of right now.
posted by bajema at 9:07 AM on May 10, 2010

If you are heading down to Seattle, I recommend Tulalip Casino and the outlet mall next door (half way between Bellingham and Seattle), then once in Seattle, check out Pikes Place Market, Chinatown, Seattle Center on a weekend, the Seattle Art Museum, Seattle Aquarium, riding a ferry to Bremerton or Bainbridge Island, the Fremont neighborhood, Beth's Cafe, Asian Art Museum and arboretum next door... Have a great trip!
posted by MsKim at 9:37 AM on May 10, 2010

State Route 20 is a beautiful scenic drive with amazing mountain and lake views. Late May is still early in the season, so there is a possibility of road closures. Drive at least as far as Ross Lake.

I was also going to suggest touring the Diablo Dam along the way, but it looks like those are cancelled this year.
posted by Crashback at 9:40 AM on May 10, 2010

The Clinton to Mukilteo ferry is not a huge time suck. The crossing is less than 20 minutes, and in may you might still see gray whales in the sound. Ft. Ebey, about halfway down Whidbey on the west side offers great views from a spectacular bluff into the straight, and an easy hike to a lovely beach.
the Tin Fish, just up the hill from the ferry in Mukilteo has great fish tacos.
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:03 AM on May 10, 2010

If you decide to travel down Whidbey Island, I recommend spending a half hour running around Fort Casey. Lot's of ladders to climb and a few really big guns to pose with.
posted by nangua at 10:17 AM on May 10, 2010

Best answer: If you like beer, make sure to stop by Boundary Bay Brewery and Bistro in downtown Bellingham for some of the finest suds made in the northwest. And when in Fairhaven, stop by Archer's for a wide selection of world beers (and some darts).

If you REALLY like beer, head out the Mt. Baker Hwy from Bellingham and visit North Fork Brewer, Pizzeria, Beer Shrine and Wedding Chapel. I like the stout. And the drive out is beautiful.

The American Museum of Radio & Electricity is fun and weird and a great way to kill an hour in downtown Bellingham. Mallard Ice Cream is nearby.

WWU has a beautiful campus, and is well worth a visit - if only to visit its many sculptures.

If you do visit Western, drive to the top of Sehome Arboretum to the lookout tower for a view of Mt. Baker.

Larrabee State Park can get pretty packed. I recommend instead Teddy Bear Cove. Bonus: sometimes you'll run into nudey sun bathers.

If you do visit Larrabee, the hike to Fragrance Lake is not too hard.

I love Bellingham. Have fun. :)
posted by kables at 10:42 AM on May 10, 2010

Best answer: Whoa nelly! There's lots more interesting things to do than drive on Whidbey Island! Wiki may call it artistic, but what it is primarily is support for a huge Navy base and home to many suburban retiree enclaves. Deception Pass is indeed spectacular, but you're better off turning around and going back to the freeway, or turning around and then going towards Anacortes, and catching a ferry. (Check the times online, and get there at least 1/2 hour early.)

The ferry ride through the San Juan Islands has to be one of the most gorgeous trips anywhere. If it's artistic you want, get off at Orcas Island. Lots and lots of studios, galleries and art for sale everywhere. Orcas has a mountain, Mt. Constitution; if it's clear day the view from the top includes Mt. Baker and Canada -- quite something. If it's history you like, get off at San Juan Island and visit English and American Camps; site of the Pig War. It's an easy day trip.

Absolutely agree about the drive on Chuckanut Drive. My recommendation would be to drive south (you can get on it directly from Fairhaven - see above). That makes it easier to pull into the turnouts on the side of the cliff and gape. Drive to Edison, which was once a dying little town but has recently become a lively and still mostly unknown little town. Have a cinnamon roll or lunch at the Farm To Market Bakery, check out the truly addictive bread at the Bread Farm outlet, wander around for a bit (it's still a very little town) and then continue south on the Farm To Market Road until you intersect with the highway which allows you to turn left to the freeway or right to Anacortes (see above).

The drive to Mt. Baker on the Mt. Baker Highway is interesting, once you get up the mountain a bit. Artists' Point, at the top, is open now. If you like mountains, it's great. I don't so much, but my family is very enthusiastic about the drive. There, or on the way back, stop at the Mt. Baker Vineyard; they have a nice tasting room and make some excellent wines with grapes from Eastern Washington.

There is no longer a Whatcom Museum. There is now The Lightcatcher Museum, which costs $10/head and is worth neither the time nor the money. IMHO, of course, but I seem to be in the majority on this one. The Museum of Radio and Electricity has some cool Tesla stuff, if you're interested, but we're looking at an hour, max, to see everything there.

The Bellingham Farmers' Market now has a permanent building, and is always crowded, with parking hard to find. End of May it's mostly greens and beaded earrings. But there are some great little booths to buy lunch -- my fav is the Greek Orthodox Church ladies. Excellent!

Boulevard Park is okay and has a good coffee shop (always crowded, tho), but I would suggest Zuanish Point and Glenn Commons, next to the Hotel Bellwether. Nice places to hang out or stroll near the water.

Memorial Day weekend is Ski to Sea in Bellingham. It's a team relay race from Mt. Baker to Bellingham Bay; ski (cross country & downhill), run, bike (road & mountain), canoe, kayak. You can watch part of it, if you're interested, or just go to Fairhaven for It All Ends In Fairhaven, a mildly rowdy street fair. Saturday is an honest-to-god small town parade. Everybody gets kind of excited.

Remember: Bellingham is proudly known as the City of Subdued Excitement.

If you're interested in the parade, email me. We set up camp chairs early in the morning at Our Spot on the curb, and you're welcome to join us. Since you're traveling, we'll even provide more chairs.
posted by kestralwing at 11:05 AM on May 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: +1 on kestralwing's response: skip Whidbey Island (except maybe Deception Pass + Mt Erie). If you'd like to spend less time in the car, consider the ferry ride to Orcas/San Juan Island.

You could take the ferry all the way through the San Juans to Victoria, BC -- but if you didn't bring passports, be careful to get off before then. :-) Ferries are MUCH cheaper & involve less wait time on foot than if you bring the car. Of course that limits what you can do on the islands. On SJI, the ferry landing is at the major town and you can rent scooters to get about. On Orcas Island you really need a car.

There's a bald eagle colony somewhere on the Skagit River--may be worth researching.

For a Seattle visit, if you're here Memorial Day weekend, the Folklife festival will be going on. It's a free multi-stage festival at the Seattle Center (by the Space Needle). Tends to be a bit of a zoo, but if you like world music, take a look at the schedule.
posted by mvd at 2:28 PM on May 10, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone for the ideas! I'm going to compile everything into a list and run it by the missus. I'll probably come back to the thread after our trip and mark what we decided on as best answers. kestralwing, I'll contact you directly if she's interested in joining you for the parade... I think it sounds like fun but she might feel awkward as a non-MeFite. Whatever we decide, thanks for the invitation!
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 7:44 AM on May 11, 2010

On the other hand, if you like museums and will be going to Seattle, I really liked the Frye Museum. Quieter and less crowded than a lot of museums these days, and I really liked the works they had on display.
posted by kristi at 2:30 PM on May 14, 2010

Response by poster: We had a great trip but didn't get to as many of your recommendations as we'd have liked. The weather was gorgeous for half of the week and rained for the other half, which some suggested is better than average for that region. We did get to drive Chuckanut, which was indeed a spectacular scenic route. We also went to the Folklive Festival and had an absolute blast. Someday we hope to visit the area again and I'll keep this thread in mind so we can hit up all the stuff we missed. :-)
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 10:05 AM on June 14, 2010

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