Explore the City

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.

Dario poses in front of the Academic West facility

I love the small-town feel of Bellingham, but I still feel like I am in a city with lots to do all the time.

Dario Castellon
Urban Planning & Sustainable Development


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

A cyclist exploring Downtown Bellingham

Explore the eclectic mix of shops and cafés or hop on a bus to anywhere in the city. Go for a walk by the marina or go shopping for vinyl records at Everyday Music. Ranked as the 5th hottest “boomtown” with a population under 150,000 and voted #2 in the nation for vitality of small locally owned retail businesses, Bellingham is a happening place.


Stroll through Boulevard Park into the Fairhaven area located in South Bellingham. 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 into the city-center.

Getting Around

Exploring Bellingham is easy and free.

Two people crossing the street in Downtown Bellingham

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.

Boardwalks, Trails & Boulevards

From the waterfront boardwalk that ties Bellingham together to the roaring majesty of Whatcom Falls, Western students have a lot to explore.

The Boulevard Park boardwalk at Sunsey

Within the city limits, which cover 28 square miles, there are more than 40 parks and trails, each with their own unique character. From campus, head into the Sehome Arboretum above Western or go down to the bay and take in the spectacular views at Boulevard Park, where you can watch the sunset, grab a coffee, barbecue, play Frisbee, slackline, or dip your toes in the water.

Community Markets

​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.

The Depot Market Square during a farmers market in Downtown Bellingham

More than Just a Market

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 Bellinghamsters alike.


Step into any of Bellingham’s bookstores for a wide selection of brand new, gently used and rare books—you never know what you’ll find. For the ultimate book browsing experience, Village Books, Fairhaven’s three-story bookstore, is complete with a café overlooking the bay, weekly live literature events, and frequent author signings. Village Books was recently named a top-five finalist for the title of best bookstore in the nation by Publisher Weekly.

Local Flavor

You'll find that restaurants in Bellingham use a lot of local ingredients drawn from Whatcom County's thriving agriculture (for berry-lovers, Whatcom County is the #1 producer of raspberries in the nation!).

A close-up of red raspberries

So Much Variety

Within a ten-minute bus ride, students can order steaming Thai noodles, gourmet burgers, drive-through classics, bowls of chowder at the Community Food Co-Op, 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.

Students exit a coffee shop on the waterfront

Brain Fuel

Bellingham is a coffee lover's paradise, and no one knows coffee like college students. You won't find a Starbucks on every corner—local cafés got there first. Many coffee shops come equipped with on-site bakeries and bistros, keeping you fed through all-day study sessions. Tony's Coffee, the winner of America's Best Espresso at the Seattle Coffee Fest, is located in Bellingham and supplies Western's numerous on-campus coffee stops. Students and Bellinghamsters alike treat cafés like their homes: talk, study, meet new friends and reconnect with old ones.

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.

Dancers performing a dramatic piece on stage
A band performing in the Underground Coffeehouse on campus

The Music Scene

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. Big-name musicians traveling between Seattle and Vancouver often stop in to play a show, while home-grown favorites are featured nightly. Students are highly active in the music scene, and bands from Western have gone on to local and national acclaim.

Students performing a play in the DUG Theater

Theatre and Film

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.

A close-up of a student painting

See Art, Make Art

Ranked as the second-best small arts community in the country, Bellingham fosters creativity, expression, and experimentation. Visit high-quality art studios or participate in the monthly Art Walk while exploring downtown. Whether you're an artist or an appreciator, be part of the evolving scene at creative art spaces like Make.Shift, Ragfinery and Allied Arts, where you can blow glass, create pottery, upcycle textiles, and learn welding. Bellingham is a DIY community – from repurposing used building materials for backyard projects to painting pottery and fusing glass. You're sure to find a local business or workshop that supports your interests or helps you develop new ones.

Photographs in a gallery

Makerspaces and Museums

Bellingham has its own makerspace that offers workshops, tools and a thriving maker community that encourages creativity and inquiry. 3D printing, laser cutters and a woodshop are among some of the things they have to offer for people of all ages.

For the museum experience, head over to the Mindport Museum of Art and Science, SPARK Museum of Electrical Invention or the Whatcom Museum, featuring constantly rotating exhibits of the best local sculpture, painting and photography.