Explore the City

Discover The City of Subdued Excitement

Bellingham is a place students love to call home. A vibrant downtown, thriving arts and music scenes, and an easy drive to Seattle and Vancouver, B.C. all make Bellingham an ideal college town. Whether you're a bike rider, bus rider, or a pedestrian, the city is never more than fifteen minutes away from campus. Bellingham is host to an endless number of activities to discover, so get exploring!

 

 

Red fireworks over the Herald building at night

Downtown

In the thriving heart of Bellingham, you can go from window shopping to walking along the water within minutes.

Concerts and Block Parties

Two guitarists are on an outdoor stage. Young people are watching the concert from the sides, and the giant Rocket Donut sculpture is behind them.

There's a lot to do in Bellingham all year round, but town comes alive during the summer for Downtown Sounds. These weekly summer block parties feature concerts and a laid back festival atmosphere. It's the perfect place to dance, snack, and hang out with friends.

Photo by Downtown Bellingham Partnership

More Downtown Fun

Study Anywhere

Students are looking at laptops and notebooks in a cafe. The cafe has two floors, so we see students on the upper balcony as well as on the floor beneath them. A wall of tall windows lets natural light into the very white room.

Wander into any café and you'll find other students hanging out and studying together or alone.

The most popular spots are all right downtown, just a short walk from campus. Several of them offer both food and merch, so you can pick up local goods or plants while you're out.

Photo courtesy of Makeworth Market

Food and Fun on Every Corner

A student in a striped sweater is seated outside of a taco truck. He appears to be eagerly awaiting some food.

If you ask ten Western students where the best coffee or food in town is, you'll probably get ten different answers. 

Part of Bellingham's charm is the wealth of local, one-of-a-kind restaurants, not corporate chains. We also have a thriving food truck scene.

The Best Food & Drink in Bellingham

Many, many raspberries.

Eat Local

Whatcom county is home to some of the best farms (and the most raspberries) in the country; there's amazing food everywhere.

More Than a Market

The farmer's market in Bellingham: a covered space with a tall glass roof and a clock tower that reads "Depot Market". There are dozens of people standing and walking around at the farmer's market, and it is a very nice day.

Ranked #1 in Sunset magazine's top ten Farmers' Markets in the West, this colorful, aromatic, music-filled festival is a beloved destination for students and lifelong residents alike.

​Take a Saturday morning walk to the Depot Market Square in downtown Bellingham for fresh produce, local eats, live music and crafts, from screen-printed hoodies to pottery.

So Much Variety

Students are in a cafe. One is seated, sipping a latte with latte art.

Within a ten-minute bus ride, students can order steaming Thai noodles, gourmet burgers, natural food at the co-op, drive-through classics, fresh sushi, Peruvian sandwiches, Vietnamese phở, Ethiopian stews, wood-fired pizza, and so many more excellent dishes that it will take at least four years to explore them all.

Holly Street in Bellingham at sunset. There are only a few cars on the road and all the traffic lights are green.

Neighborhoods

Bellingham's neighborhoods each have their own character; there's a place for everyone here. 

Fairhaven

Students watching the sun set over Bellingham Bay at the Boulevard Park boardwalk.

Historic Fairhaven functions like a small-scale second downtown. Alongside the beautiful brick buildings and ample views of Bellingham Bay, you’ll find hidden cafés, labyrinthine bookstores, delicious pastries, even a double-decker bus serving fish and chips! When the sun shines, the village green is the perfect place to relax and eat gelato. When you’re ready to head downtown, take a stroll on the boardwalk through Boulevard Park which offers the best waterfront views in town.

Sunnyland

A person is bent over a red chicken, guiding the chicken through a racecourse that is marked by yellow mesh and flags. Dozens of people are watching and cheering the chicken on from the sides of the racetrack.

You'll find this vibrant neighborhood that's popular with art lovers just a quick bus ride from campus. In addition to one of the strangest (but best) restaurants you'll find in town, this area offers a park, creek, trail, and many other places to play indoors and out. 

Sunnyland is also home to the annual Sunnyland Stomp. It's not Bellingham's only block party, but it is the only one that includes a chicken race. 
 

More than a dozen students crossing State street downtown.

Getting Around

Exploring Bellingham is easy and mostly free. 

Take the Bus, It's Free!

Two WTA city busses are stopped in front of Haggard Hall. The 108 downtown is in front, another downtown-bound bus is behind it.

Your Western ID is your bus pass in Bellingham; students travel for free! Local bus drivers are friendly and always willing to help students find their way.

There are also regional buses to get you to the ski slopes, up to Vancouver, or down to Seattle and Portland for a small fee. 

Bike Everywhere

A student rides a bicycle through a park. The cyclist is backlit by the sunset over Bellingham Bay.

With bicycle lanes throughout the city and more than 30 miles of bike-friendly trails, Bellingham is easy to navigate by bike. There are bike shops all over town, including one on campus!

You can always put your bike on the bus, too.

Buses take Western students from campus to all of Bellingham's hot spots: Fairhaven, downtown, Bellis Fair Mall, Barkley Village, the shores of Lake Whatcom and much more. Students love to bike, and you'll find lanes for pedal traffic everywhere in Bellingham. Bellingham has tons of bike shops and repair places like the Outdoor Center, located on campus.

The Community

Bellingham is a beautiful place, but it's the people that make it truly special.

Make Things Together

If you like to build, fix, play,  make, or create, you'll find a collaborative nonprofit space to do it in. Whether you'd rather sew or build bicycles, Bellingham's unique makerspaces offer the upcycled materials and tool shares you need for your next project.

Make Shift

Facing the audience at a concern. Blue spotlights cast a blue glow on the crowd of dancing and smiling people. Most people are wearing black attire, heavy metal logos are visible on some garments.

Bellingham's best all-ages concert venue is also its most collaborative makerspace. Check out our nonprofit arts scene for workshops, studio tours, and an award-winning gallery.

Photo by Make.Shift Art Space

Ragfinery

Four people, some who appear to be students, are looking at and rifling through bins of fabric on tall shelves.

From furniture to art supplies to textiles, using upcycled materials is part of the culture in Bellingham. If you like to sew, you'll find your community (and all the tools you need to borrow) at the Ragfinery.

Photo by the Ragfinery

The Hub

A pile of bicycles, most of which are missing seats and many of which are rusted or in disrepair. They are woven together and blackberry vines are growing through them.

If you'd rather build or maintain your bicycle yourself, you can do that with Bellingham's cycling community at the Hub. Borrow a tool, pick a part out of the scrapyard, and make new friends while you tinker.

Photo by the Hub

Arts & Entertainment

Whether you’re here to laugh, play, or be inspired, Bellingham is a nationally recognized hotspot for music, theater and art. With one of the highest number of arts organizations per capita anywhere in the nation, there’s something for everyone. Get involved with an artistic community that thrives on student participation.

The Music Scene

A crowd of students is watching a concert in the dark. Their arms are raised and they are lit up by a pink glow from the stage, where two musicians are backlit by a huge display and lots of spotlights.

Music is the heartbeat of Bellingham, the city that inspired bands like Death Cab for Cutie and ODESZA. Dozens of venues both on and off-campus boast live performances seven days a week. There's local music everywhere, and bigger acts stop by on their way from Seattle to Vancouver.

Theatre and Film

At a theatre performance, several actors are sitting in chairs. One holds an umbrella above her head. Other actors are standing at the back of the stage, also with open umbrellas over their heads.

Do you like theater, improv, or indie films? Check out what our local theaters—Western's Performing Arts Center, Sylvia Center for the Arts, Mt. Baker Theatre, The Upfront Theatre, and Pickford Independent Film Center—have to offer. You can also get involved with fantastic communities like the Circus Guild, where you can take drop-in classes from Bellingham's best jugglers, acrobats, and storytellers. Want to see the latest Hollywood release? The Barkley Regal Cinemas has a 16-theater complex and IMAX where you can see the latest big-screen productions.

The boardwalk at boulevard park

Boardwalks & Trails

From the waterfront boardwalk to the roaring majesty of Whatcom Falls, trails connect Western students to everything.

Experience the Boardwalk

The Boulevard Park Boardwalk looks like a silhouette because it is backlit by the sunset over Bellingham Bay. The sky and water glow orange behind the boardwalk, and there are shadows of several dozen people on the boardwalk.

Trails aren't just for nature lovers here; they connect urban hotspot to urban hotspot as well. Don't miss the stroll from downtown to Fairhaven via the Boulevard Park boardwalk.

Students' Favorite Walk

Explore Parks and Lakes

One person is sitting on a bench watching the sun set over a lake. The person is facing away from the camera, and they are framed by trees and other greenery all around them.

Bellingham is home to more than 50 parks, each offering their own unique character. From playgrounds to giant chess sets to outdoor concert venues, there's something for everyone.

Parks and More Fun

Wander the Trails

A well-traveled gravel trail in the middle of a wooded part of the Arboretum. Sunlight is filtering through very green trees.

With trails ranging from rigorous hikes to fully-paved pathways, it's easy to traverse Bellingham by trails and greenways.  

70+ Miles of Trails