Art and romance (and a lot of beer)
written by Ryn Pfeuffer
Summer and no-holds-barred fun is in full swing! We crave cold beverages, outdoor patios and as much of the resurgent feeling of community as possible. Add to that a desire for adventures between our rugged coastline and the Cascade Range.
Make the most of the summer with a getaway to Bellingham. Much more than a stop between Seattle and Canada, this laid-back coastal beauty offers diverse culture, an impressive scene as well as scenic outdoor options galore.
Whether you want to explore craft breweries or some of the best mountain views in Washington, here are some itinerary ideas. You have earned every single ray of sunshine we get in this spectacular, too-short season.
CRÊPES • BOOKS • ART
For an unforgettable weekend getaway, hole up at The Chrysalis Inn & Spa (804 10th St.). Located on Bellingham Bay, romantic amenities abound. Think double soaking tubs in every room, window-seat views of the bay, and couples massages. Book a king suite for a summer treat (and more space). The hotel’s restaurant, Keenan’s on the Pier, is quite lovely too, with daily happy hour from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and a divine cocktail list.
A more affordable (and family-friendly) option is the Heliotrope Hotel (2419 Elm St.), a hip, restored 1950s motel tucked on a quiet residential street.
For a casual yet elegant breakfast or lunch, cozy up at Magdalena’s Crêperie (1200 10th St. #103) for sweet and savory crêpes and farmer cheese-stuffed pan-fried pierogies that are in a class of comfort food all by themselves. The all-buckwheat savory crépes are on a higher level—with two eggs, smoked salmon, avocado, artichoke lemon pesto, and mascarpone horseradish cream sauce.
From there, it’s a two-minute walk across Fairhaven Village Green, a small park that hosts summer movies and festivals, to indie bookseller Village Books and Paper Dreams (1200 11th St.). There, a statue of Mark Twain welcomes patrons to this beloved store that’s been serving the community since 1980. (It turned over ownership to three of its employees in 2017.) Spend time perusing two floors of stacks—with about half the store new inventory and the other half used and bargain books. Sip a coffee at the upstairs café or pick up a quirky card or gift. You can always reserve titles in advance to pick up. They’re also more than happy to ship. On Saturdays, the bookstore hosts Story Time in the Kids’ Section.
The Whatcom Museum’s Lightcatcher Building (250 Flora St.) is also worth a stop. Designed by Olson Kundig Architects’ founding partner, Jim Olson, the 42,000-square-foot-building hosts a rotating schedule of art exhibitions throughout the year. But its spectacular centerpiece is a 37-foot high and 180-foot-long translucent façade that reflects sunlight during the day and creates a lantern-like glow at night. Lightcatcher is also home to the Family Interactive Gallery (FIG), an educational resource for families with children younger than nine.
After, head downtown to take advantage of Bellingham’s lively arts scene. More than a dozen businesses participate in the First Friday Art Walk, held from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Expect cozy studios, artist meet-and-greets, and live music experiences.
Nearby, the nonprofit Pickford Film Center (1318 Bay St.) offers a daily, year-round schedule of independent, art-house and non-commercial films. Right now, the eclectic lineup of films ranges from John Water’s 1988 cult hit, Hairspray, to The Race to Alaska, a documentary on the race through one of the most complex waterways in the world in competition for a $10,000 purse. In August, PFC offers free movies on top of the parkade at 1300 Commercial St. This year, they’re honoring Patrick Swayze with three of his most iconic films. To celebrate the actor’s would-be seventieth birthday, Boundary Bay Brewing Co. will be serving a Swayze Hazy IPA.
HIKES • BREWS • FOOD TRUCKS
Bellingham is also a popular launch spot for Mount Baker hikes. The mountain’s indigenous name is Koma Kulshan, which loosely translates to the white mountain with a puncture wound on top (the crater). If you want to hit the trails, take the Mount Baker Highway (Hwy 542) 62 miles east into the heart of the North Cascades. Plenty of day hikes abound—and wildflowers in August, before fall colors emerge. Skyline Divide offers experienced hikers miles of wildflower-filled meadows and views of Mt. Baker. Church Mountain Trail is an easier trek for kids with some hiking experience.
After a tough climb, celebrate your ascent with a few pints. Bellingham is a beer drinker’s paradise. Start at Aslan Brewing Co. Brew Pub (1330 N. Forest St.), a cool, family-friendly brewery that serves certified organic beer, including an IPA, ale, lager, brown and a stout. For non-imbibers, Aslan brews a non-alcoholic beer, Pete’s NA. The food is as good as what’s in your glass. Try the waffle fry poutine, slow-roasted pork belly or bacon bison burger.
Started in 1995, Boundary Bay Brewing Co. (1107 Railroad Ave.) consistently racks up medals at the North American Beer Awards and was named one of ten great breweries in the United States by Food & Wine magazine. Located in downtown Bellingham, its tap room serves more than a dozen beers and rotates seasonal and limited releases. Bonus: Boundary Bay’s beer garden is dog-friendly and hosts free summer concerts. Check out www.bbaybrewery.com/events for the full line-up of events.
For a low-key community vibe, snag a picnic table on the dog-friendly patio at Good Local Brews (2620 Northwest Ave.). It usually has at least ten local craft beers on tap and serves wine for a refreshing alternative. In addition, two food trucks serve food that pairs well with beer and hits the spot. Traditional Chinese potstickers, crispy bao buns and crab Rangoon from the Dumpling Girls (open Wednesday-Sunday 11 a.m.-7:30 p.m.) are fantastic. Ditto for the flavorful burritos from A Qué Taco (open Monday-Saturday 11 a.m.-8 p.m.). A supreme burrito will easily feed two hungry people.
SWEET TREATS • KAYAK TOURS
Start the day with Saltadena Bakery (111 W. Holly St.) and a Lil’ Scrappy. The Salty Deena is a tasty mash-up of chocolate cake, cream cheese frosting, caramel sauce, flaky sea salt, whipped cream and salted chocolate chunk cookie bits. If that’s not sweet enough, pair it with a shakerato iced coffee with a creamy foam on top.
If you’re looking for a half-day excursion, the three-hour tour with Moondance Sea Kayak Adventures (909 Squalicum Way, #122) is a wonderful way to experience sea kayaking in the Salish Sea ($80/adult; $60/child). Launch from Larrabee State Park, twenty minutes south of Bellingham, and explore Chuckanut Sandstone formations, a Nature Conservancy-protected Island, and Wildcat Cove. Experienced guides cater beginners to skilled paddlers and go above and beyond to make guests feel safe. From flora, fauna, and marine wildlife to geological features, guides are savvy in local knowledge. Adventures sell out quickly, so be sure to book in advance.
Before you head out of town, swing by Mallard Ice Cream (1323 Railroad Ave.) for a scoop (or a hand-packed pint to go). There’s a creamy frozen treat for everyone with twenty-eight basic flavors and adventurous options, such as Cereal Milk, Thai Tea, and Turmeric Black Pepper.
Aslan Brewing Co. Brew Pub
Boundary Bay Brewing Co.
Good Local Brews
Mallard Ice Creamem>
Saltadena Bakery & Cake Shop
The Chrysalis Inn & Spa
First Friday Art Walk
Moondance Sea Kayak Adventures
Pickford Film Centerem>
Village Books and Paper Dreams
Whatcom Museum’s Lightcatcher Building