If you drive 90 miles up the interstate, you can get from Seattle to Bellingham,Wash. The best way to get to this small city is via the mountain range. One of the state's more than 20 official scenic byways is Chuckanut Drive, which is 15 miles south of Bellingham and off of I-5.
You can get to Bow from the interstate highway exit. It is part of Bow-Edison, which is split between two small commercial districts, but for a baked-goods lover like me, it is important to stop by both. In Bow, the Farm To Market bakery is located across from a vintage, light-blue cinder block post office and offers triple chocolate pecan brownies, polenta cakes and other delights to accompany freshly brew coffee on cheerfully painted tables in the garden. There is a bakery two and a half miles down Bow Hill Road West. There are a number of galleries and shops in town.
You can see the west of the San Juan Islands from the sea-level farmlands before the road starts rising. You can see the Salish Sea bays and islands below as you travel through the towering evergreen forest. During prohibition, the route was used by bootleggers.
The historic Fairhaven section of Bellingham contains eclectic shops, restaurants and Victorian-era architecture. If it is Saturday, the priority should be to get to the farmers market before it closes. A variety of food and wares are displayed by more than 100 vendors. There are stalls on the sidewalk near the market footprint. I was drawn to the samples of beef jerky from Carnal because of the spicy and regular versions it offered.
People looking to escape Seattle are increasingly turning to Bellingham. The city is a great place for a weekend visit. I had a one-night hotel stay on a recent trip there.
Bellingham has a lot of hiking and biking trails. Whatcom Falls Park is a short walk from the town center. A W.P.A.-era stone bridge and waterfall can be seen passing the salmon Hatchery and playground. The scent of Douglas fir groves, moss-covered rocks, and sword ferns make for an excellent session of forest bathing.
Cornwall Memorial Park has a disc golf course, horseshoe pits, and pickleball courts as well as a playground and spray park. If you don't have your own equipment, it's still fun to watch the players or walk through the woods.
Western Washington University is one of the best places to wander. The hilltop campus is home to 15000 students and was founded in 1893. It has a world-class outdoor sculpture collection. The giant tipped cube by Isamu Noguchi and the bright red steel creation by Mark di Suvero are both works of art. Washington State takes its trees seriously and the university offers online tree tours so you can learn about the campus flora. There is one of the largest giant sequoias in the state.
You can get on the water in Bellingham. Guided kayaking tours are offered by the Community Boating Center. The evening excursions include looking for bio-luminescent sea creatures. Five to six hour whale-watching trips can be had from the adjacent Bellingham Cruise terminal, which also has ferries going to destinations in southeast Alaska. The first stop on the ferry is Ketchikan, which takes 36 hours.
It is easy to get into the area's robust brew pubs when you are ready to relax. Trash Bird Hazy I.P.A. and Viva Verano Mexican lager are among the homemade beers that visitors can sample at Gruff Brewing Co. The choices are rounded out by guest taps from nearby beverage makers. Fire pits, cornhole games and brightly colored seating make even an overcast day feel festive in Gruff's backyard. Gruff doesn't serve food, but the Brothers Bus Bistro food truck has some great options, including a hummus, goat cheese, vegetable and pita plate.
Bellingham is ideal for seafood lovers due to the abundance of marine life like Pacific oysters and geoduck, which can be hard to find in other places. One of the higher end restaurants that serves oysters is Rock and Rye. There is a second floor deck for outdoor dining at the bustling eatery with exposed red brick walls and high ceilings.
There are great breakfast options in Bellingham. You can get a cranberry cardamom rose scone and a latte at the coffee shop. Egg sandwiches and waffles can be ordered at Makeworth Coffee Roasters if the wait is too long. The space is bright and airy and has seating on the second floor.
Bellingham is ringed by affordable hotel chain choices, but to stay downtown and within walking distance of its dining and recreational options, we chose The HotelLeo. The Leopold hotel was built in 1929 and fell into disrepair in the 1980's. A wood-paneled library, billiards table and fireplace can be found in the hotel, which reopened as a hotel in the summer of 2019. People can watch movies in a theater.
My weekend was no exception and I needed a rain plan. The Spark Museum of Electrical Invention is packed with antiques and hands-on activities. The Theremin, an electronic musical instrument that is controlled without physical contact, is one of the things visitors can check out. There is a live performance of history and science at the MegaZapper Electrical Show.
The Whatcom Museum features the arts, history and Indigenous cultures of the area. The current show, "Many Wests: Artists Shape an American Idea,"seeks to look beyond the clichés and romantic myths of the West by sharing the perspectives of artists from diverse background.