Between arranging time off work and planning accommodations, managing a getaway is a hassle. Staying close to home saves you the trouble and allows you to enjoy a time-saving vacation on a budget. For a memorable vacation full of relaxation and entertainment, you don’t even need to leave Bellingham.

Bellingham made Forbes’ recent list of “coolest towns for summer vacation,” which says something about its allure. The city may not have tropical beaches or mega-malls, but it has much more. Follow this guide for a top-notch weekend staycation in Bellingham.

Step 1: Get Into a Vacation Mindset

Fairhaven’s Marine Park is a beautiful place to stop for a snack, launch your kayak or simply enjoy the view. Walk down Harris Avenue from downtown Fairhaven to reach this spot. Photo credit: Lauren Murphy.

Travel and Leisure says the keys to a perfect staycation are to unplug, see something new, catch up on sleep, go outside, pamper yourself and bring home a souvenir. As you plan your Bellingham staycation, keep those things in mind and put yourself in a vacation mindset. If you were abroad, what would you be doing? Probably not taking work calls or planning next week’s dinner. A staycation is an excuse to relax and put all responsibilities on hold.

Step 2: Fuel Up

It’s difficult to narrow down Bellingham’s breakfast options because quality restaurants are plentiful. Whether you want a brunch filled with fresh seafood or a classic griddle dish, there’s a Bellingham restaurant waiting to serve you. For a Bellingham classic, head to The Bagelry downtown and chow down on a house-made bagel with your choice of flavored schmear – yes, they have lox.

Looking for something more upscale? The Fork at Agate Bay is the perfect choice. If you live in Bellingham, this restaurant is far enough out of town to feel like a treat, but close enough to drive to easily. As with all fare here, their breakfast is delectable and can be enjoyed on their lovely patio near Lake Whatcom.

Step 3: Take a Walk

The view from Taylor Dock never gets old. A meandering stroll along the boardwalk is perfect any time of day, but catching the sunset makes it even better. Photo credit: Traci Hahn.

Waypoint Park is Bellingham’s newest waterfront park with stunning bay views and well-maintained walking paths. From The Bagelry, the park is a quick jaunt – just head towards Roeder Avenue and look for the park’s 400,000 pound acid ball, a remnant of the Georgia-Pacific pulp and paper mill on the waterfront. Previously, the structure helped break down wood chips. Now, it’s art.

From The Fork at Agate Bay, a stroll on nearby Lake Whatcom is a closer and equally spectacular activity. Head south on North Shore Road for three miles and you’ll run into the North Lake Whatcom Trail entrance. This winding trail immerses you in Bellingham’s nature, offering constant peek-a-boo lake views.

Step 4: Explore Fairhaven

Charming 19th-century architecture and unique history makes the historic Fairhaven district a must-see. The area isn’t lacking in quality boutiques and eateries, either. Explore the ins and outs of Fairhaven on your staycation and you won’t be disappointed.

Village Books is a three story new and used bookstore in the heart of Fairhaven, connected to an adorable gift shop, Paper Dreams. After browsing the shelves, head downstairs to the Village Green and take in the view of the San Juans while you have lunch at the Colophon Cafe or people-watch the day away.

If you’re up for more walking, you can’t miss the Taylor Dock boardwalk. The view never gets old, no matter how many times you’ve walked it. Walk or drive down Harris Avenue to get unbeatable sunset views from Marine Park.

There are a number of businesses in historic Fairhaven, some long-lasting and some brand new. Newly-opened Big Love Juice and Swim Club are local favorites while The Black Cat remains a Fairhaven classic. There’s plenty of activities for everyone in Fairhaven. 

Step 5: Dinner and a Movie

It’s not difficult to find a beautiful spot on North Lake Whatcom Trail. The scenic area is filled with breathtaking views and small areas with lake access. Photo credit: Jon Ellis.

Trade multiplex theaters and restaurant chains for Bellingham’s own independent cinema and a locally-sourced dinner. The Pickford was founded in 1998 by a group of local film fans dedicated to bringing quality cinema to Bellingham. They offer independent, foreign and documentary films year round. Dress up your GMO-free popcorn at their spice bar and grab a local kombucha or glass of wine in the lobby.

If the Pickford doesn’t have the movie you’re looking for, walk a few blocks to their other small theater, The Limelight Cinema, offering similar films and concessions.

Either before or after the movie, you’re bound to get hungry. Bellingham has plenty of farm-to-table restaurants to choose from, so aim to try somewhere new. Hundred North is a must, serving local fare and delectable cocktails.

Step 6: Find Rest

Schedule a rejuvenating treatment for yourself at Sound Women’s Health & Aesthetics and emerge feeling like a whole new person. Then take your staycation to the next level with an overnight stay at the Chrysalis, which is both an inn and a spa. In the morning, prepare to pamper yourself with an aromatherapy soak and stress-zapping massage. Afterward, you’ll feel refreshed and ready to take on your week.

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