9+ Things to Do in Bellingham on Business + Bonus Picks
The compact city of Bellingham, in Washington State, is an up-and-coming area for industrial growth and business travel.
Located twenty miles from the border of Canada and 90 miles from Seattle, this “small town” is making big waves in business.
Ready to make the most of your business excursion and get a little sightseeing done at the same time?
There will be plenty to do in Bellingham to keep you busy during your downtime, no matter what you’re interested in.
First, the Transportation
Planning your itinerary is easier if you know how you’ll be able to get around the area.
You could rent a car, but the companies operating in Bellingham are limited and the high rates for rentals may not be in your corporate travel budget.
Bellingham International Airport does provide shuttle buses to the port and downtown area if you’re not renting a car or hiring someone to take you to your hotel.
Once you’re there, here’s how to get around town.
Alternatives to Renting a Car
Although the city is the 13th-largest in Washington State, it’s not overcrowded. In fact, you’ll find that Downtown Bellingham, where most of the business hotels are, is surprisingly pedestrian-friendly.
Since 2005, the government has worked to provide walkable pathways to the waterfront from Downtown, as well as increased development for retail and housing in those areas.
Walking and biking are preferred methods of transportation in this green city, which is continually investing more in making the attractions as easily accessible as possible.
If walking and biking aren’t your preferred means of getting around, don’t worry! Whatcom Transportation Authority public buses will take care of you seven days a week.
Their website offers an interactive map with stops and schedules, wheelchair-accessible options and an online store to buy fares and passes ahead of time.
Rideshares and Taxis
Lyft operates rideshare services in Bellingham, and there are a variety of taxi companies. If you want to arrive and travel in style, check out the Northwest Limo Service.
Bellingham’s Resource Directory has a complete list of all ground transportation available in the city. Wherever you want to go, you can find a way to get there.
1. Things to Do In Downtown Bellingham
Downtown Bellingham is where the action happens for business professionals, locals and tourists. Chances are, your company will book your lodging near this area.
No matter the time of year you visit, there’s likely to be something on the Monthly Happenings Schedule of Events. The calendar is filled with things like live musical performances, trivia and other game-related events, as well as tours of local businesses.
Downtown is the historical backbone of Bellingham. As you explore the area on foot, you’ll run into old neighborhoods, trails, parks and waterfront property.
A Historical Walking Tour
From Maritime Heritage Park, you can walk The Old Village Trail until it connects with Elizabeth Park.
Traversing this path will take you through Fairhaven Historic District and past scenic stops, including:
- The Perry Center for Fisheries and Aquaculture Sciences
- Confederate Civil War hero George Pickett’s home, famously known as The Pickett House and the oldest house in Bellingham
- Waterfront views of Lake Whatcom
- The First Congregational Church
- The Great Northern Freight Depot of 1905
Buildings along the walkway date back to the late 1800s and early 1900s. Much of the city has undergone renovation to modernize these historically rich areas while still keeping the original Victorian architecture and feel.
Shopping the Central Business District
The Central Business District is much more than historic buildings and a tribute to the past.
Stretching down East Chestnut and West Holly Street, you’ll find dozens of gift shops, coffee shops, diners, restaurants and grocery stores.
What’s a business trip without a bit of leisurely exploring thrown into the schedule? Bellingham boasts gorgeous natural surroundings full of the typical Pacific Northwest charm, and it’s easy to get a taste of it through the city’s park system.
There are a few parks within walking distance of downtown for an easy escape into nature. Check out the murals at Waypoint Park or admire the sunset (or sailboats) at Zuanich Park. Both are located on Bellingham Bay.
Check Out: 5 Business Travel Hacks for Your Next Trip.
2. Where to Visit on Your Breaks
Your central spot in the business district is ideal for a short 15-minute break when you need to stretch your legs and get some fresh air, but don’t have time for an extended excursion.
Within a few blocks of wherever you are, there’s something to see downtown.
Here are some of the best places to fill your gaps between meetings when time is limited:
The Farmer’s Market
Take a short stroll down Railroad Avenue, and you’ll run into Bellingham Farmers Market. This collection of local artisans and farmers runs from 10-2 on Wednesdays and Saturdays, weather permitting.
It’s a crowd favorite for residents and tourists looking for fresh produce, unique crafts and souvenirs to take back home.
Mount Baker Theatre
The history behind Mount Baker Theatre makes it worth a trip even if you don’t have time to see a show. The movie palace opened nearly a century ago and serves as the centerpiece of the Downtown Arts District.
Visitors and residents can rent the space for events, attend live performances or walk through the building and see the glamor of the only surviving theater palace in the area.
The scenery surrounding Bellingham is breathtaking. Immerse yourself in it by hitting some of the hiking trails.
Part of the 74-mile Bay to Baker Trail extends from Downtown Bellingham, starting on Eldridge Ave and spanning 1.5 miles north.
Nearby Bellingham Boardwalk offers spectacular views of Puget Sound, and the New Waterfront Trail takes you to the marina via a paved path on Hilton Road.
Downtown Bellingham’s Art District
Fairhaven Village is the cultural district of Whatcom County. There’s plenty to explore here, but you can take in quick chunks of it during your breaks.
Check out art galleries like the Whatcom Artist Studio Tour, the murals along Downtown Bellingham Art Walks and the Outdoor Sculpture Collection.
There’s so much to see, you might just find yourself planning another trip to Bellingham to get it all in.
A trip to the Whatcom Museum is perfect for a longer break, although the small scale of the museum means you won’t miss out if you can’t spend all afternoon there. This longstanding museum hosts exhibits from around the globe and provides a fascinating look into the development of the American West.
Distilleries, Wineries and Breweries
Bellingham is famous for its range of locally produced libations.
If you enjoy wine, beer and spirits, go for a quick tour of the many local wineries and farms. Be sure to return after work hours for tastings!
On your breaks or after hours, food is a must!
Resident favorites for dining fare include these must-try restaurants:
- Soy House for top Vietnamese cuisine
- Evolve Espresso + Provisions, offering caffeine-infused wonders to get you through the long days
- Black Fern coffee shop for short business meetings
- Redlight, a craft bar great for relaxing after a long day
3. Must-See Nature
Get away from it all for a day trip and unwind with some fresh air powered by Bellingham’s gorgeous natural vistas.
Best of all, most of these can’t-miss places are within a half-hour drive from downtown — perfect spots for spending a free morning or afternoon.
- Whatcom Falls Park is conveniently located two miles from downtown, with four sets of waterfalls and more than five miles of trails to explore.
- Lake Padden Park is a favorite for anyone interested in outdoor activities like hiking, biking, horseback riding, kayaking and paddling. There’s even a golf course on site.
- Boulevard Park/Bellingham Bay, an extended dock out over the bay, allows visitors to see the wild area with all the amenities of a family-friendly public site. Food concessions, restrooms and picnic tables are available while you enjoy grilling, beaching and fishing.
- Galbraith Mountain is a world-famous destination because of its hiking and biking trails close to Downtown. If you’re a cyclist, you can easily get to the trailheads, then spend the day on more than 65 miles of bike paths.
- Larrabee State Park, to the west of Chuckanut Mountain, is six miles south of Bellingham. Washington’s first state park, Larrabee has been around since 1915 and is full of public recreation activities.
- North Cascades National Park, part of the famous Pacific Northwest mountains, is where everyone from Tacoma to Vancouver heads when they want to get away from the grind. Cascading waters create a peaceful backdrop, and glaciers fill the view. Yes, actual glaciers. It’s a bucket list must, and you’re right there.
- Chuckanut Mountain is part of the Cascade Range, and has the special distinction of being the only place where the Cascades meet the sea.
4. Top Attractions
During your trip, be sure to make time for some of Bellingham’s top tourist draws:
- Marine Life Center, Whatcom County’s showcase of living underwater animals in rehabilitation, as well as other bay and Puget Sound exhibits
- Big Rock Garden Park, an indoor and outdoor sculpture collection located above Lake Whatcom
- Sehome Hill Arboretum, a 180-acre park of indoor and outdoor plants adjacent to Western Washington University
- San Juan Islands excursions, where you can see whales and other sea creatures via boats, kayaks and bicycles
You might also be interested in Bleisure Recommendations for the Top Business Travel Destinations
Interesting Facts About Bellingham
Getting to know a little bit about your destination before your trip always helps you appreciate your new surroundings more. This is especially true for a place with an interesting past, like Bellingham!
Before Bellingham was settled by early American explorers, it was home to American Indians for thousands of years.
In 1852, two men from California stumbled upon the beginning of Whatcom Creek as they were searching for lumber. Since this area had everything they were looking for, including a harbor for trade, they stayed.
Following their lead, others came and settled into four areas, known today as Whatcom, Sehome, Fairhaven and Bellingham. The four towns would eventually consolidate into Bellingham and bring massive industrial gians for mining, railroad building, logging and marine fishing.
Today, those industries are still thriving, but tourism is added to the mix — particularly for the outdoorsy set. Skiers, hikers, mountain bikers, dirt bikers and kayakers flock to Bellingham.
Data shows a healthy and steadily growing economy in Bellingham. The job market ] increases yearly, with a future projection of a 41.7% growth over the next ten years. Compared to the United States average of 33.5%, that’s a massive boom.
As people continue to recognize the city’s impressive opportunities, they’re leaving Seattle and even coming across the Canadian border in favor of Bellingham. This puts the port town on the radar for all the mega-corporations located in Seattle to extend into the area.
Business growth is consistent in areas including medical services, higher education and industries like corporate retail and petroleum refining.
See also: Business Travel Essentials — How to Plan and What to Pack
A business trip to Bellingham offers ample opportunity for a getaway that’s productive and refreshing at the same time. The peaceful vibe of the place will leave you feeling rejuvenated, even after a short visit.
One can’t help but feel calm and centered in this quaint port town, where big industries are incorporated alongside the slow pace of marine life and Victorian architecture.
For help with choosing the best lodging for your needs while in Bellingham, take advantage of Hotel Engine’s free booking tool. For larger groups, contact our Project Services Team to coordinate your lodging and consolidate travel costs.
Audrey Fairbrother is the Content and SEO Manager at Hotel Engine. She spends her days writing about all things business travel, researching topics that are important to Hotel Engine’s audience and cultivating the company’s brand voice. When she’s not working, Audrey enjoys spending time with her family, and hiking in the nearby Rockies with her dog, Albie.