Neighborhood Kids family fun in bellingham & whatcom county


First Annual Festival of Schools

First Annual Festival of Schools A great selection of resources for parents attended the 2008 Festival of Schools.

On Sunday, March 30, 2008, a variety of local organizations, including, turned out at the Depot Market to take part in the first ever Festival of Schools. The event was organized by the heads of the Fairhaven Girls’ School as a time to gather private schools, preschools, camps and other resources for parents in one place.

About one hundred people came through to the festival, where they could enjoy coffee, juice and cookies as they made their way around the tables, learning about all the great resources for their kids in Bellingham and Whatcom County. Door prizes donated by local businesses were also given out to fair visitors and participants throughout the afternoon.

Whatcom Day Academy Susan Donnelly describes the opportunities at her school.

“It was a great first year,” Amanda Werchan of the Fairhaven Girls’ School said. “We’ve had a good response. And one of the things we discovered is that there is a desire to network between the heads of all these schools.”

Susan Donnelly, head of the Whatcom Day Academy, agreed. “This was a great opportunity to share our school with interested families, and also to see what other schools are doing.” Whatcom Day Academy offers a preschool to middle school program that encourages kids to learn through their natural wonder and curiosity about the world, integrating skills in math, science, language, and the arts to help develop their interests.

There was something for everyone at the Festival of Schools, from children’s art programs to Montessori schools to tutoring programs to day camps. Once again, it was great to be reminded of all the great opportunities for learning available for kids in Whatcom County. at the Festival of SchoolsThe team got some great feedback from parents in our community. was also excited to have the opportunity to spread the word about this site and some of our new features, like our brand new Forum and our Art in You section, where you can submit digital reproductions of your child’s artwork for display on our homepage.

It was also a treat to get some feedback from parents in person about what they think of this site and its features. But if you weren’t able to stop by the festival, tell us what you think by posting in the forum. You can also visit Contact Us or send an email to

Hope to see you at the Festival of Schools next year!

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A Walk Through Fairhaven Park

Written By: Ginger Oppenheimer

Based on everything you can do at Fairhaven Park, you’d never guess how big Fairhaven Park is. Just 16 acres, this city park packs a wallop in terms of what’s there for families: Padden Creek runs along the north edge of the park, there are basketball and tennis courts, picnic tables and barbeque grills, picnic shelters and an enclosed area for family gatherings, a playground and open play area, and connections to trails that take you anywhere you want to go.

Welcome to Fairhaven Park

Let’s start with the big picture. Fairhaven was established in 1906 as Bellingham’s fifth city park with just five acres. It was quickly expanded to 16 acres, thanks to donations from local citizen landowners. It was designed as an urban park by John Olmstead, the son of Frederick Law Olmstead, who designed the famous Central Park in New York City.

Today, the park maintains a lovely designed, yet natural feel. Drive alongside the stone and brick archway (constructed in 1925 to replace a log archway) and you’ll see the entire park glide up into the fir trees that ring its borders and the creek on the north. The parking lot, on the immediate right, was the site of an automobile tourist camp in the early 1920s. This was a popular time for auto travel when camping beside your car was all the rage. The camp was shut down after not too long. Today it’s a familiar parking lot and basketball court.

Fairhaven Playground Families enjoy the playground on a sunny day.

Fairhaven Park has one of the most popular playgrounds around, complete with a fountain splash pool that’s always busy during the warm months. This is a great place to let the little ones splash about with friends while you sit on the sidelines and enjoy friendships. It’s a perfect break for moms and kids alike.

The open lawns at the top of the park invite all kinds of unstructured play as well. These are great fields for spontaneous kickball or a little softball practice with the family. Because of the park’s location along the creek, don’t be surprised if you see white-tailed deer calmly grazing in the park. They’re not tame, but Bellingham’s green spaces have allowed the deer to be comfortable in our urban landscape and not too scared of people. They’re a little blasé about people nearby, but will skitter away if you scare them suddenly. Watch from afar so they can graze in peace.

Fairhaven Trails Explore Fairhaven Park along wide, easy trails.

There’s a wide graveled trail of about 0.5 miles around the park that’s wheelchair accessible. Several spots on the trail on the north side of the park drop down to Padden Creek. It’s easy to spend hours here, looking for creatures, turning rocks over to see what’s underneath, or watching salmon in the fall. Then you can pop back out into the park and the sunlight again. Everything is so compact here, it’s easy to do it all in a day or just an afternoon.

The trails also connect to the Interurban/greenways trails, which will take you quickly down to Bellingham Bay or east and south to the Interurban Trail and Arroyo Park, or all the way up to Lake Padden. Getting to the park via trail from just about anywhere in Bellingham is just as easy, too.

Fairhaven ShelterReserve the enclosed shelter for a gathering at any time of year.

Picnic areas
Family gatherings at Fairhaven Park are a dream. There are three shelters—a relatively small one, a larger one, complete with bathrooms, and an enclosed one, which is ideal for our wetter winter days. These are great spots for kids’ birthday parties, large family gatherings, or family reunions. Find out here how to rent a picnic pavilion.

Through the efforts of Project Labyrinth, the construction of a permanent labyrinth has been approved for Fairhaven Park. It will be located at the very top of the park, above and behind the picnic shelter. It’s a secluded place for a meditative journey. The labyrinth will be 61 feet across, have 9 circuits, and be ADA accessible. Of course, the labyrinth will be free to use and have year-round access. As the website explains:

Fairhaven Labyrinth A temporary labyrinth in Fairhaven.

“A labyrinth is a pattern consisting of a circuitous path, usually within a circle, winding around and leading to the center and back out again. Labyrinths are used for walking meditation and as a path of prayer, and are found in many secular and religious traditions around the world….Walking a labyrinth is appropriate for people of all ages and abilities and beliefs.”

If you would like to support Project Labyrinth, please visit the Donation Page.

Further Information about Bellingham Parks

Fairhaven Park
107 Chuckanut Drive
Bellingham, WA 98225

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Tips for Taking Your Kids to Shows

On the list of reasons why Bellingham is a great place to raise a family, I place exposure to the arts toward the top. Not only are there some great local programs that can get kids involved in theatre and music, as we’ll discover later this week, but there also are plenty of theatres, concert halls and other venues which showcase the performing arts in Bellingham, from classical ballet to local folk ensembles and more.

Taking Your Kids to Shows Bellingham is a town with lots of opportunities for kids to participate in the arts.

But before buying your tickets, here are some things to be prepared for when you start taking your kids to shows.

Age Appropriate
Obviously, you’re not going to be bringing your kids along to the Jazz Happy Hour at the Wild Buffalo or any of the other bars in town that have live music. But even looking for the term “all-ages” isn’t always helpful. When it comes to musical concerts, “all-ages” usually refers to venues where patrons don’t have to be 21. For example, the concerts at the Underground Coffeehouse are “all-ages,” but since the UC is on Western’s campus, it’s definitely a college-crowd. Maybe not the ideal setting for you and your preschooler. And there are plenty of cafes that have Open Mic nights, which everyone is welcome to attend, but since the content isn’t always screened, some of the poetry may be for adults only. One way to help determine if a show is family-friendly is by checking the start time; if it’s in the afternoon, it’s probably okay for kids. And while it’s important to judge the appropriateness of content and the location of an event, you also need to decide if your child is at an age where they can handle sitting quietly in a seat for at least an hour. Is this a realistic expectation for your child?

You Get What You Pay For
When you’re looking for family-friendly concerts and shows, look for activities that are free first. Are you prepared to spend over $20 for a ticket to a show when your child might not even make it past the opening act? When you test them out at a free show at the Whatcom Museum or the Bellingham Public Market, you have nothing to lose when you need to leave early if the kids start fussing after one or two songs. And since these settings are a little less formal, other patrons are likely to be more accommodating of crying kids than in a more structured setting, like the Mount Baker Theatre.

Taking Your Kids to Concerts Outdoor concerts are great for introducing kids to the arts in our community.

Take It Outside
Another great opportunity to get kids excited about the performing arts is to take them to outdoor concerts, so they have plenty of space for exploring. During the summer, live music can be found in downtown Bellingham and on the Fairhaven Village Green.

How Do You Get to Carnegie Hall? Practice!
Practice makes perfect. If you want your kids to be excited about attending concerts, you can help them know what to expect by having a "Family Concert Night" at home. Get everyone in the family to prepare something to perform. It can be playing a song on the piano, making up a dance, or telling a joke. You can also do duets, just as long as everyone in the family has their moment in the spotlight. While everyone performs, the kids can practice quiet and attentive listening. This will help kids see that if they expect others to listen respectfully during their performance, they need to be respectful too. Also, discuss what the concert will be like in advance and emphasize things they might look forward to, like loud music or colorful costumes.

Taking Your Kids to Shows Make trips to the theatre special activities that your family can enjoy together.

There are almost no hard and fast rules when it comes to parenting, and determining if your kids will be able to handle a night out at the theatre is no different. Luckily, no one knows your kids better than you do. You know what they’re ready for and you know how to get them excited. Don’t let them feel like sitting through a show is a form of punishment. Going to concerts as a family should be a positive experience, it’s something that they get to do! If you embrace that kind of excitement, your kids are more willing to cooperate and put on their best behavior every time you make plans to see a show.

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