Welcome to the city of subdued excitement! Bellingham is actually a very exciting place, and these fun facts about our quintessentially northwest community are sure to delight and enthrall you. Who knew such mischief happens here?
Bellingham is acclaimed for its easy access to outdoor opportunities in the San Juan Islands and North Cascades. It’s also nicely situated between Seattle and Vancouver B.C., which makes for lots to do and see along the coast corridor. Bellingham was selected by Livability.com as one of the Top 100 (small to mid-size) Places to Live in America, as well as a top 10 Best Downtowns in the country.
Home to WWU, Western is recognized nationally as one of the most sustainable, “green” campuses in the nation by the Sierra Club, and is also the top master’s granting institution in the Pacific Northwest as noted by U. S. News and World Report. Carrie Brownstein of Sleater-Kinnery and Portlandia fame is an alumna, as are Death Cab for Cutie bandmates, who cut their baby teeth here.
Bellingham is the northernmost city in the contiguous U.S with more than 50,000 people, the only city in the lower 48 that experiences twilight all night during part of summer. Climate is generally mild, rainfall averages 34 inches/year, and hottest summer days rarely exceed 90 °F. Paradoxically, Mt. Baker Ski area an hour away, enjoys the unofficially highest average annual snowfall of any resort in the world.
The annual Bellingham Festival of Music, one of America’s premier virtuoso orchestra events, brings principal players from major U.S. and European orchestras together to perform classical music concerts all July long. Public happenings like this are a big part of Bellingham life, and Fairhaven’s Outdoor Cinema, a community favorite in summertime, is quite the social gathering.
Bellingham is home to a rich theater culture, featuring The Pickford Film Center, Idiom Theatre, Firehouse Performing Arts Center, and historic Mount Baker Theater, with its 1509 seating capacity, to name just a few. Hilary Swank performed at the Bellingham Theater Guild, a non-profit community theater now nearly 80 years old, before moving to LA to pursue her acting career.
Bellingham’s creative community encompasses a wide array of artists, writers and performers. Well-known writer, Steve Martini, makes his home here, as does Ryan Stiles, of Whose Line Is It Anyway? fame. Ryan’s downtown improv comedy venue, the Upfront Theatre, is a popular local venue, and he often shows up to perform unannounced.
Bellingham’s signature Ski to Sea event features seven sports in a relay race over 90 miles, with more than 4,000 participants on 500 teams competing each May. This competitive team relay race is made up of seven legs: cross country skiing, downhill skiing (or snowboarding), running, road biking, canoeing (2 person), mountain biking, and kayaking. Racers begin at the Mt. Baker Ski area and make their way down to the finish line on Bellingham Bay.
The annual Whatcom Artists Studio Tour is a perfect venue to shop for fine art and craft, and to see artists at work. Held the first two weekends in October each year, visitors can tour the studios of some of the Pacific Northwest’s finest artists during this free event. Bellingham ranks 2nd in the nation for arts businesses per capita.
The Chuckanut Writers Conference is a premier Northwest writing event, attended by professional teachers, industry experts, literary agents, published authors, and wannabe authors from around the country. This intensive craft-focused, cross-genre symposium is designed to inspire writers of all experience levels with spotlights on talented authors, distinguished writing teachers, and respected agents who share industry insights and hear pitches.
An outdoor enthusiasts’ paradise, Bellingham is an ideal place to train for competitive sporting events, and many professional athletes take advantage of year round race activities to finetune their athletic talents. The Mt. Baker Hill Climb and the Northwest Traverse, which celebrates the journey of wild salmon, are two well-attended late summer events, challenging mind, body, and spirit.
The legendary Mt. Baker Banked Slalom, also known as the Legendary Banked Slalom (LBS), is a snowboarding contest held annually, to which snowboarders from around the world flock. The LBS is regarded as the predecessor to the boardercross event, and has been won by some of the biggest names in the history of snowboarding. The winner receives a Duct Tape trophy and an embroidered Carhartt jacket, but it’s really all about the guts and the glory.
Some of the best breweries in the Northwest are located here in Bellingham. Beer Week celebrates all five Bellingham craft breweries — Chuckanut, Boundary Bay, Kulshan, Aslan, and Wander —plus many regional breweries, numerous beer bars, beer stores, restaurants, and other businesses who host beer-related events throughout the city. Livability.com ranked Bellingham #8 in its 2014 list of the “Best Beer Cities” in the U.S.
Whatcom County may not be the first Washington wine destination you think of, but our area produces some fine artisan wines. Wineries are small, family owned, and find balance not only in the blending of grapes, but also in blending the natural beauty of the region with local food, art, and personality. The Whatcom Wine Trail, features eight area wineries, and two distinctive local distilleries, that make premium Vodka, Gin, Eau de Vie, and old fashioned Moonshine. All create high-quality artisanal products, exemplifying the farm to glass experience.
Washington State offers tremendous birding opportunities, with its scenic landscapes and habitats that vary from seacoast to rainforest to rugged mountains to a semi-arid inland sea of sagebrush. Whatcom County is home to six key locations on the Audubon Society’s Great Washington State Birding Trail, Cascade Loop. Patient bird-watchers, looking to fill in their checklists, find a rich variety of viewing sites to spot hundreds of species, especially waterfowl and birds of prey. The state checklist includes approximately 500 species.