Bellingham is a funny little college town that will totally charm you, if you give it the chance. On the surface, it seems like a town mostly set up for college kids or active young professionals. However, dig a little deeper and you’ll find Bellingham has TONS to do for families with kids!
Bellingham is in a bit of a rain shadow, and, although it’s often overcast in the winter months, the temperatures are mild, making Bellingham a great place for year-round outdoor activities.
And we think what makes Bellingham REALLY special is all the amazing outdoor activities. However, we have included a number of fantastic indoor activities that are totally worth your time as well.
These are our 50 FAVORITE things to do with kids in Bellingham.
Visit a Playground
This park is probably Bellingham’s most popular park. And for good reason! This park is a fantastic way to feel like you are deep in the forest without getting more than a mile from your car.
This park has EVERYTHING. First, for the kiddos, you’ll find a toddler-sized playground down at the main parking lot. At the upper parking lot, there is a second playground great for older, more adventurous kids.
Families with younger kids will love the short loop trail that takes you past Whatcom Falls, and a number of smaller water falls, and the Derby Pond. At the Derby Pond, take a break and check out the ducks before continuing on. You may notice the fish hatchery on the maps, but unfortunately, we haven’t seen fish there in years.
There are, in total about 4 miles of trails to explore in this park with tons of sights to see along the way. Some, but certainly not all of them are stroller friendly. So consider babywearing if you want to get out to explore the WHOLE park. Also, in the summer, there are some beautiful slow-moving (and not too deep) swimming holes are a ton of fun for kids (and adults!).
Bloedel Donovan is basically at the end of Whatcom Falls Park, but the look and feel are totally different. At this park has a nice sandy beach on Lake Whatcom, a playground, bbq and picnic areas, and some small trails where you can stroll around a watch the birds, or just take in the view of the lake.
In the summer, this area is a popular swimming spot. But despite it’s popularity, you can typically find a spot to enjoy the water, go for a swim, or head out in your paddleboard or kayak. Note that all boats have to be inspected prior to going into Lake Whatcom (yes, even kayaks), so just be prepared to drive through the inspection line before putting in.
Our FAVORITE thing about Fairhaven Park is the seasonable spray park (open only during the summer hours). It’s simple, but big and TONS of fun for the kids. If you go anywhere near this park, be prepared with a change of clothing for your child because they won’t be able to resist running through.
Fairhaven Park also has an excellent playground and plenty of open space for free play, ample space for picnicking, and some shorter trails in the woods, and near Padden Creek for a stroll.
The entire Fairhaven area is very walkable. You can get from Fairhaven shops to this park in about 10 minutes. And you can connect into the Interurban Trail system as well.
4. Boulevard Park
You’ll definitely want check out Boulevard Park. This adorable little park is right on the water on Bellingham Bay with plenty of space for families to stretch out for a picnic, areas to play on the shore, rocks for climbing, a fantastic ship-themed playground, and EVEN a walk-up Woods Coffee! The park connects to the over-water boardwalk for a fun and beautiful stroll all the way to Fairhaven.
This park really has it all, and every part of the park is really beautiful and enjoyable. However, this little gem of a park is far from secret- so expect crowds on weekends, or really nice days. But, with so many things to do, the park is enjoyable even when it’s a bit crowded, just as long as you can find a place to park.
5. Waypoint Park
Waypoint Park is Bellingham’s newest park, and one of the first steps in Bellingham’s waterfront redevelopment plan. The area sits on the former location of a paper mill, and, similar to Seattle’s Gas Work’s Park, Bellingham has decided to clean up some of the components and leave in place for residents to check out! There is also a great little playground area that not just a standard structure and pretty fun, plus a rocky shoreline, and walking trails. The Bellingham Waterfront project is definitely still a work in progress, but the park is a great start!
6. Zuanich Point Park
Zuanich Point Park is another great waterfront park located near the marina. There are huge grassy areas for frisbee or other free play, playground equipment for the littles, and a couple of miles of walking trails. We love checking out all the boats from the walking trails. There are some pretty amazing yatchs and sailboats in the marina, and, if you’re lucky, you’ll see a seal or too looking for scraps from fisherman.
7. Cornwall Park
Cornwall Park is an interesting little park with thick forests, beautiful streams, playgrounds, quiet trails, and even a disc golf course. We love it for it’s beautiful scenery, quiet trails, and the shaded forest gives such a different feeling.
Technically Hovander is up in Ferndale, but this fantastic park is worth the drive. This park has gardens, tons of trails, farm animals (in the summer) and old farm equipment to check out, and more. Check the calendar because Hovander typically has tons of events, and classes going on.
My family loves checking out the animals, and taking a walk along the Nooksack River, especially in the late summer when the blackberries are ripe. This park is HUGE and no matter what is going on, you can always find a quiet place to relax.
Visit a Park or a Kid-Friendly Trails
9. Sehome Arboretum
We really love exploring Sehome Arboretum with kids because it has a lot of interesting things for kids. At the top, there is an observation tower for kids to climb up. There is a fun little tunnel to walk through, small streams, lots of different trees, rocks, ferns and more. Plus, this trail is remarkably quiet, making it feel more relaxed for families who prefer to take their time.
Sehome Arborteum has 6 miles of total trails, though you can see a good chunk of park walking only about 2. You may want a backpack carrier for smaller children who won’t be able to walk the entire distance.
10. Lake Padden
The Lake Padden trail system includes a 2.6 mile stroller-friendly loop trails, access points to the non-motorized lake, playgrounds, picnic areas, tennis courts, and the list goes on.
Families with babies and stroller-bound younger children will love taking the scenic loop trail. And older kids will love the water access and playground. And if you need a bit of solitude, the back trails (while not stroller friendly) are typically very quiet, or get out paddling on this peaceful lake.
The Stimpson Family Nature Reserve boasts some really amazing old growth forest, and is perfect for the nature lovers in your family. The forest is quiet and peaceful, and filled with deer and small animals. Please note that dogs are not allowed in this perfect forest.
12. Northridge Park
This tiny little park is full of unexpected charm, particularly for an evening stroll. The 0.7 mile loop trail is great for strollers or younger hikers who can’t yet take on longer hikes.
There is parking on Magrath Road, on the east side of the park. From there, you’ll walk over a bridge. Listen carefully, and you’ll hears TONS of frogs and toads singing happily (particularly late in the day). At dusk, owls can be easily spotted hunting in the forest, and hooting away.
Like many of the trails in Bellingham, this trail connects into a larger trail system. So if you decide you want to take a longer walk, you can continue on the Klipsun Trail, and then to the Roadroad trail which will take you across town, if you chose.
13. Big Rock Garden
This park is a bit different from most of the Bellingham city parks. This park has beautiful flowers, and amazing sculptures for your viewing pleasure. It’s just a quick walk around, but lots to see, with someone for everyone in your group. Except, of course, you furry family members- no pets allowed in this park, unfortunately.
14. Railroad Trail
This long, wide trail is perfect for family bike rides, walks with strollers, or just getting around town without getting in the car. The railroad trails is one of the things that makes Bellingham special because it connects into trails all across town making it possible to walk or bike through town without getting onto busy streets or sidewalks.
Similar to the Railroad trail, Interurban Trail is great because it connects so many small parks and trail systems, making for nicer walks, even when you are in the middle of town.
As an added bonus, the Interurban Trail leads you right to Arroyo Park, which is a Pacific Northwestern’s dream wit h thick forest, a beautiful stream, and just a LOT of green.
Farther down the Interurban, there is a great little mini hike down to Teddy Bear Cove. There you’ll find a picture-perfect little cove, often without another person in sight. Plus, you can get an up close view of the train crossing over the bay. Note that the train is definitely loud, and might be overwhelming for kids sensitive to sound.
For families that love hiking, don’t miss Larrabee State Park. We particularly love the Fragrance Lake Loop, and the Lost Lake Trail. And, of course, you won’t want to miss exploring the beautiful shoreline. Clayton Beach is another favorite, with lots of sand, and driftwood for climbing, plus views of the beautiful Samish Bay.
Other Outdoor activities
17. Bellewood Acres
You won’t want to miss Bellewood Acres, especially if you have a change to visit in fall. This beautiful apple orchard has delicious apples of every type plus so many fun activities for kids (and adults), making it a memorable and totally fun place to spend the day.
The fall harvest festival features tons of delicious food and drinks (including their award winning, house made honeycrisp vodka, gin, and apple brandy), corn maze, pumpkins, tractor rides, and tons more. Your kids will love it!
The farmer’s market in Bellingham is a surprisingly great way to spend a Saturday. The farmer’s market runs from mid-April to mid-December and features fantastic locally grown produce, locally baked bread, local honey, and TONS of fantastic local food, art, and clothing vendors. Shop for food, or just for fun, then stop by one of the food trucks for a fantastic breakfast or lunch.
Kids will love checking everything out, and maybe picking up a special treat or something.
19. Taylor Shellfish Farms (and the drive along Chuckanut)
To be honest, Chuckanut Drive, right on the coast on the south-western part of Bellingham, is not for the feint of heart. The winding cliff-side drive gives you some pretty amazing views of the sound, on a quiet forest road (rather than the bustling freeway). Even the kids will appreciate these views. But if you are as afraid of heights as I am, you might ask someone else to drive 🙂
And for a perfect pit stop, check out Taylor Shellfish Farms. If you are an oyster lover, you’ll get to try tons of great local varieties, as fresh as they come. Even if you aren’t a fan of oysters, you can take in the views, and even take a tour! The whole area is really beautiful and totally interesting!
Everything is outside, and really set up well for kids. Even toddlers will be happy exploring this great area.
20. Whale Watching or Fishing
When you are in a town like Bellingham, constantly overlooking the ocean, you’re going to want to get out there! Whale watching, fishing, or just chartered tours are a great way to explore. And because the Puget Sound is SO full of interesting animals, your kids will love it too! Yes, getting out on a boat will cost you a pretty penny, but the experience will be so memorable, we think it’s totally worth the splurge.
When it comes to whale watching, there are two main options. The first is a large whale watching group with dozens (or more) other people. These cruises are typically cheaper, and offer amenities like meals and drinks. Check out San Juan Cruises for a great, large whale watching cruise.
The second option is a smaller whale watching boat. For families, or groups of approximately 4 or more, you’ll typically have the boat to yourself. These boats are often simpler, and, while most have a bathroom, you might not LOVE it, and food is rarely part of the deal. But on a private boat, you get a lot more control over how your day is spent. If you opt for a fishing charter, or a charter or any kind, you’ll end up on a similar boat, with a similar situation. Though the prices are higher, my family prefers the smaller, more private whale watching experience, and we love Outer Island Excursions!
One thing to note- getting out into the sound far enough for great orca viewing, or fishing can be quite a drive in the boat (30 – 60 minutes out), which can be difficult for kids. Consider bringing something for them to do during the drive. Seeing that beautiful black fin, or, even better, an orca breach, will make it all worth while, but there can definitely be some tough moments.
If you are lucky enough to be in Bellingham, or really anywhere in western Washington, in late summer for berry season, than you are quite lucky indeed. And Bow Hill Blueberries is one of the best places to enjoy these delectable berries. There organic blueberries are perhaps the tastiest in the area, and, since they don’t spray, you can feel good about your kids eating them right off the bush. After picking, you’ll DEFINITELY want to stop into the store for a blueberry ice cream sandwich!
22. Mountain Biking on Galbraith Trails
If your kids are old enough for mountain biking, you don’t want to miss hitting the Galbraith Trails. These trails are pretty amazing, and you’ll find trails for all skill levels, and all preference levels. But the trail system is complex and can be confusing, so we definitely recommend getting a map from WMBC here, and perhaps talking to some of the people at the local bike shops for some more guidance. With some many avid mountain bikers, you’ll likely get TONS of great biking advise if you ask around.
If you need to rent a mountain bike, we love Jack’s Bicycle Center– they rent out high quality bikes, and do a great job getting you set up perfectly, no matter your skill level.
23. Miniature World
Miniature World is a funny little attraction your kiddos will love. They have a miniature train, miniature golf, bumper cars, and a small selection of arcades. The place is a bit dated, but my kids didn’t care- it was a total hit for us!
And don’t miss visiting during the holidays for their Christmas train, complete with a visit to the ‘North Pole’.
The Marine Life Center is a perfect tiny aquarium, set up particularly well for younger children. This exhibit is free, though you’ll want to plan on leaving a donation so that it can continue to run. With fantastic, knowledgeable volunteers, and a touch pool, this place will definitely be a favorite of your children’s’.
This funny little museum will spark (pun DEFINITELY intended) your interest in all things electricity, even if you don’t expect it to. There are exhibits for those who want to dive deep into the history of electricity, or for those just like a little hands on fun. Perfect for kids of all ages.
Located within the Whatcom Museum, the FIG is a perfect little interactive area for kids to explore. Though the area is small, it’s exceptionally well designed to keep kids busy and having fun. This area is particularly great for toddlers and young kids.
27. Playdate BLI
We love Playdate BLI because it’s such a nice break for PARENTS. Kids absolutely love the play space, with tons to climb, and slide, and run on. It’s a fantastic way to burn off some energy, and SO MUCH FUN! And parents can relax, have a delicious meal, or even a drink- they offer beer and wine. It’s a comfortable place that is designed for parents just as much as kids.
28. Trampoline Zone
For a rainy day, the Trampoline Zone is a great way for kids to have a blast jumping the day away. They even offer a kid zone for smaller kids, to keep them safer.
Vital is a great little bouldering gym (meaning the climbing walls are short enough that no ropes are needed), that allows children, with some restrictions. First, only children over the age of 5 are allowed to climb, or even be on the climbing mats. Secondly, a parent must always be the spotter for their child. And third, only 2 children per adult.
Many children are naturals at climbing, so the climbing gym is a nice way to explore these skills. Plus it’s just fun! Plus, the parents can join in on the fun, and get a little exercise as well.
The fun little theatre, owned by comedian Ryan Stiles, is a family-friendly venue everyone that will get everyone in your group laughing. Check out their current lineup here.
Mindport is a small, but really fun museum with lots of hands on exhibits for kids, even the older kids! In has unique exhibits- not just the standard things you’d find in every children’s museum in America, and lots of opportunity for learning.
Exploring the area
32. Take a Walk Around Downtown
Downtown Bellingham is thriving, and super walkable, and it’s a great way to check out Bellingham’s college-town, laid back, and truly unique vibe. Along the way, you’ll definitely want to stop at Mallard for some delicious, and at times a bit strange, ice cream. My favorites have been beet, lavender, and white pepper ice cream. BUT if you like your ice cream in the standard flavors, don’t worry- they’ve got you there as well.
Right next door, you’ll find Avellino- in my humble opinion, the best coffee shop in town (by FAR!).
33. Take a Walk Around Fairhaven
Fairhaven is a sort of a second downtown area, with a bit more polished feel. As much as I love downtown Bellingham, I’ll admit that I love Fairhaven more! The area has so many fun shops, great for browsing, even with kids!
We love stopping at the double decker bus, Fairhaven Fish and Chips, for the best fish in chips around, on a sunny day. Waits for food can long, but since it’s outdoor only seating, the kids can play while you wait.
Or, for a sweet treat, check out Rocket Donuts for classic donuts, plus some totally unique flavors (bacon maple, a giant donut, or cronuts can all be found at Rocket), or delicious ACME ice cream.
Head to the Fairhaven Village Green to let the kids run around, or for a picnic lunch. We love to pick up Fairhaven Poke and relax in the grass while the kids play.
Go out to Eat
Because Bellingham is such an incredibly casual town, many of the local restaurants are totally kid-friendly. There are definitely a lot of great restaurants, BUT we picked just a few of our favorite kid-friendly and delicious restaurants in Bellingham
34. Old World Deli
This little deli is legit my favorite place in town. Their sandwiches, soups, and salads are SO delicious and full of flavor. I particularly love the Mediterranean Tuna, and, when they have it, split pea soup. They also have some really delicious kids items. And the casual atmosphere makes it perfect for families with kids.
35. Aslan Brewing
This family-friendly brewery is bright, and beautiful, with tons of outdoor seating. I’d call the menu modern comfort food, and it’s really quite tasty. Plus, they have a huge selection of beer for mom and dad, and I don’t mean just 18 types of IPA- they actually make other beers too.
Jalapenos is a local chain, with 3 restaurants in the Bellingham area, and all are great. The food is tasty, and has tons of kid-friendly options. Portions are HUGE so you can easily just share your dish with your kiddo(s- they are really huge portions!), if you can agree on the meal. Or order off the kids menu.
This brewery is another super family-friendly choice. They have a really great outdoor space, giving wiggly kids the space to get out of their chair and explore a bit, so parents can actually have time to eat a meal, and maybe even enjoy a beer. The outdoor space is comfortable even in the cooler months, thanks to a great warming (kid-safe) fire pit.
Or eat inside, in their beautiful open dining room. Still kid friendly, but without the flexibility to let the kids move around.
38. Bayou on the Bay
This fun little cajun restaurant has a surprisingly kid-friendly menu (best ever mac and cheese, or chicken tenders!), and is again, so casual that no one cares if your kids are a bit.. noisier. Everything on the menu is delicious, and fun- you can even get oyster shooters, and beignets!
The crust on a La Fiamma pizza is enough to get me in the door. The pizzas, more of a traditional Italian style, are by far the best in town, with lots of unique toppings, as well as the standards. The place is fun and super kid-friendly- you’ll definitely love the whole experience. One note- this restaurant is popular, so waits can get long quickly. But for families with little kids who eat at 5 pm, it’s perfect.
40. Fiamma Burger
Owned by the people as La Fiamma pizza, this amazing burger joint is perfect for families who want a delicious, but quick meal. Fiamma Burger is a counter-service restaurant, with some a mix of smaller tables, and larger, communal tables, or you can take your food to-go. The offer burgers of every kind (including vegan, vegetarian, and pescatarian-friendly, or gluten free options), that you and your family will love.
41. Kuri Kuri
Kuri Kuri is a conveyor-style sushi restaurant, making it a quick and easy spot for lunch or dinner. They offer a huge variety of options on the conveyor ( including tons of kid-friendly options), or you can order off the menu if you want something specific. The prices are good, and the small plates mean you never get too much, or too little to eat. Plus you can be in and out quick if the kids get bored.
42. Thai Busara
This restaurant is delicious- everything single thing. Plus, the owner is really great, making you feel relaxed and at ease no matter what. This was the first sit-down restaurant I went to with my twins when they were infants. They cried (a lot) and I did a lot passing babies around, standing up and bouncing them, nursing them, whatever, and I felt completely comfortable there.
43. Pho Bubble Tea
This tiny little Vietnamese restaurant is full of charm, and great food. I’ll warn you- it’s a tiny little shop, that looks a bit out of place near a modern strip mall, and the appearance might throw you at first. But the food and service are good, and if your kid’s haven’t tried pho yet, you might be surprised by how many kids LOVE it. We also love the Vietnamese Sandwiches (banh mi) for pick up as a far-superior-to-fast-food quick lunch.
44. Food trucks
Food trucks are big in Bellingham. There are a ton of really great trucks, and just so many to chose from- check out this guide for more information.
One tip: A couple of the local breweries, including Kulshan and Wander, don’t have kitchens of their own, but they invite a couple of food trucks to come and serve their customers. They both are family-friendly and offer ample outdoor seating to enjoy a quick meal and a beer.
Day trips from Bellingham
Bellingham is in a really beautiful section of the Pacific Northwest, and you’ll definitely want to check out the surrounding area is if you get the chance. These are our favorite day-trips from Bellingham
45. Mount Baker
In the summer, the snow melts enough that the Mount Baker Highway can open, all the way up to Artist Point. And both Heather Meadows and Artist Point are spots you definitely will not want to miss. In this area, you’ll be able to see glaciers, beautiful glacier fed lakes and streams, wildflowers, wild huckleberries, and epic views.
Even better, you can see ALL those things just a mile or two (or less!) from the car, making it totally accessible even for families with younger kids. There are tons of longer trails, and backpacking routes available. But you can definitely just can wander around for a bit, and see SO much.
Just an hour away from Bellingham, this tiny little island town is full of charm. It’s a perfect place to head out for a sea kayak ride, hang out on one of the many beaches, or just take in the views.
47. San Juan Island
From Anacortes, take the ferry out to the San Juan Islands for a super memorable day. San Juan Island is the most populated of the San Juans, with tons of great restaurants, state parks, hikes, and SO much more.
This park has some excellent trails, a scary, but beautiful state park, tide pools, beaches, and the best spot to watch the sunset. It takes about an hour to get there from Bellingham, and it’s well worth the drive!
This underrated National Park is free to enter, and a full of sights you really can’t see anywhere else. Don’t miss the peaceful mountain trails, and bright blue water of Diablo Lake, and really every stream and lake in the area.
50. Vancouver, B.C.
Bellingham is less than 30 minutes from the Canadian border, so you may as well pop over and explore this beautiful city. We love the Stanley Park, the Vancouver Aquarium, VanDusen Gardens, Capilano Suspension Bridge, Science World, and SO many others.