Neighborhood Kids family fun in bellingham & whatcom county


Day Trips Outside Whatcom County

A child’s always energy increases as Spring Break draws near. While some Whatcom County families plan to leave town for the week, others may need to stay close to home due to work, financial restraints, or other reasons.

For a flexible Spring Break experience, consider taking the family on a day trip. A day trip allows for a balance of getting away without an overscheduled agenda, the expense of a hotel, or a wasted day of driving. A family may choose to do any number of the activities suggested below as they mesh with interests and opportunities.

Idea 1 – Walk-On for a Ferry Ride

Friday Harbor Friday Harbor
Public Domain Photo

Drive to Anacortes (about an hour from Bellingham) and take a Washington State Ferry to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. You can save money by leaving your car in Anacortes for the day, as many attractions in Friday Harbor are within walking distance of the dock. A walk-on fare is only $10.10 for adults and $8.10 for kids ages 6 to 18, while the fare for a vehicle (with driver) is $35.05, plus extra for additional passengers.

The ferry ride itself is a wonderful experience. You can enjoy the beauty of the north Puget Sound region and islands from on the ferry’s deck or, depending on the weather, from inside. Bring a backpack with snacks, books, and games for shared family-bonding time along the way.

Friday Harbor Friday Harbor Ferry Terminal
Public Domain Photo

Once in Friday Harbor, you can walk through town to visit local shops, enjoy meals at restaurants, and get dessert at ice cream shops. If a family movie is playing, film fans might want to visit the historic Palace Theatre (c. 1914); call (360) 370-5666 for show times.

Another attraction for history buffs is the small storefront for San Juan National Park. At this downtown location, you can learn about the history the island and its unique role in the British and American settlement of the area.

Up the hill from the ferry dock is The Whale Museum, which provides great opportunities for learning about the marine life of Puget Sound.

Idea 2 – Cross the Border to Visit Canada

Blaine Peace Arch Blaine Peace Arch
Public Domain Photo

As the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games reminded us, the Canadian border is only about a 30 minute drive from Bellingham. A day trip to some British Columbia towns is an easy achievement for a Whatcom County family, as long as everyone has a passport.

Newton Wave Pool in Surrey is a great place to spend a rainy Spring Break day. Kids will love the wild waves, slides, and deck games, and adults can relax in the hot tub or even check out the exercise facility.

After a long day in the pool, you can enjoy a movie at Colossus Langley. A trip to the movies is always a treat, but kids will really like visiting this multiplex that is shaped like an alien spaceship. The Colossus has 3D and IMAX capabilities, as well as party rooms and a food court-style eatery.

Idea 3 – Cross the Border to Visit…the U.S.?

While Point Roberts is an unincorporated community of Whatcom County, it is bordered by Canada and Boundary Bay. A car trip to Point Roberts will involve traveling across the United States and Canadian border four times (don’t forget the passports), so you’ll have plenty of time on your drive to learn about the history of this geographic anomaly.

Point Roberts, WA Point Roberts, WA
United States Geological Survey

Visit your local Bellingham Library or Whatcom County Library to get Point Roberts, U.S.A by Richard Eugene Clark or Historical Atlas of the Pacific Northwest by Derek Hayes for information about the area.

In Point Roberts, you’ll find Lighthouse Marine Park, which is part of the Whatcom County Park System and can provide an excellent place for exploration or a picnic. If the weather cooperates, you could even attempt an overnight camping experience.

Idea 4 – Drive to the Island

Leave Bellingham by heading south on the historic and beautiful Chuckanut Drive, then jump over to Highway 20 to reach Whidbey Island.

Deception Pass Bridge Canoe Pass and Deception Pass Bridges
Library of Congress

Spend some time enjoying the view from Deception Pass Bridge and exploring Deception Pass State Park before continuing to Fort Casey, located just south of Oak Harbor.

Fort Casey provides expansive views of the Sound, unique local history and a great play space for kids. The fort itself offers hours of fun playing variations of hide-and-seek, and the Admiralty Head Lighthouse encourages learning about the military history of the Puget Sound.

Hopefully these options will provide some family building opportunities that fit the schedule, and pocketbook, of those looking for something special to do during the coming school Spring Break.

What day trips outside of Whatcom County will you family make over Spring Break? Leave a comment to share your suggestion.

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From Bellingham to the Oregon Coast

As the recession drags on, many families are resorting to creative options for recreation. Spring Break is the next big vacation time for families, and summer will soon follow.

Columbia River Traffic in Astoria, Oregon. Columbia River traffic in Astoria, Oregon.
Photo courtesy National Park Service

If you want to get away to something different, a road trip along the Oregon coast may be just the right choice for your family. A reasonable drive from Bellingham (five to seven hours), the North Oregon Coast offers an opportunity to stay in the Northwest and see some new sights. In addition to smaller towns and quaint ocean-side villages, the coast has a few larger towns with unique potential for a great family get-away.

A great way to go is to turn off I-5 at Longview and head west to Astoria, a fishing city with a rich history. Located at the mouth of the Columbia River, it’s the northern tip of Oregon. The first permanent U.S. settlement west of the Rocky Mountains, Astoria was established in 1811 by New York financier John Jacob Astor as a trading post for the fur industry.

Fort Clatsop in Winter. Fort Clatsop in winter.
Photo courtesy National Park Service

Astoria also has connections to the journey of Lewis and Clark that can be followed along the coast. Fort Clatsop National Park is located a few miles from Astoria and offers a replica of the fort where the explorers wintered in 1805-06, providing many learning opportunities for children and adults.

Fort Stevens State Park, Astoria Column, and a restored downtown all offer varied activities for all ages.

Before leaving town, parents who were adolescents in the 1980s may be excited to visit the house where “The Goonies” was filmed, as well as other Goonies Locations around Astoria.

Continuing south on Highway 101—a gem in and of itself—brings you to Seaside. Seaside is unique with its long, flat beaches and a small amusement area reminiscent of an east coast boardwalk of the past. There are arcade games, shops, and restaurants along the street which ends in a turnaround at the sea wall.

Lewis and Clark Statue in Seaside, Oregon. Lewis and Clark statue in Seaside, Oregon.
Photo courtesy
National Park Service

If your kids are interested in marine life, check out the Seaside Aquarium, which has been in operation since 1937. For some historical learning, remember to visit the Lewis and Clark Salt Cairn Historic Monument and to learn the story of the local Clatsop Tribe.

Another 15 minutes down the highway is Cannon Beach. While Oregonians may have long discussions about their favorite beach town, Cannon Beach is the popular choice of many. The beach is a combination of rugged cliffs, huge rock structures, and beautiful sand. The town itself offers a nice selection of restaurants, specialty shops, and art dealers for vacationers. For a seashore treat, don’t miss Bruce’s Candy Kitchen with their many flavors of freshly-pulled salt water taffy.

Take another 40 miles of winding road south, both along the coast and through farmland, and you’ll travel and around Tillamook Bay to the town of Tillamook.

The number one attraction in this town is the Visitor’s Center of Tillamook Cheese. At this busy location, you can watch the cheesemakers at work, learn about the history of the area, and enjoy the spoils of gift shop and restaurant. The Tillamook Ice Cream Counter seems to be a consistent family favorite.

Tillamook Cheese Factory Tillamook Cheese Factory
Public Domain Photo

Other attractions in Tillamook include the Tillamook Air Museum and Tillamook County Pioneer Museum.

From Tillamook, you can go east to the Willamette Valley and catch a bit of the big city life in Portland on your way back up Interstate 5. If you want to extend your trip along the ocean, you can continue south to Newport.

Life Astoria, Newport offers the charm of fishing village. The Oregon Coast Aquarium is a true tourist draw that offers a learning opportunity for all ages. The original Mo’s Restaurant on Yaquina Bay, known for its world famous clam chowder, is a historical favorite of locals and visitors alike.

Any day at these beautiful cities along the Oregon Coast Highway offers charm and opportunities. A walk on a stormy beach, followed by family games around a fireplace is a memory maker for all ages.

Has your family made the trip along the Oregon Coast? What are some of your favorite stops?

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1st Bellingham St. Patrick’s Day Parade

Erin Go Bragh! You might hear a lot of folks in Bellingham chanting this Gaelic phrase, roughly translated as “Ireland Forever,” this weekend. Although St. Patrick’s Day is still a few days away, Saturday, March 13, 2010 will mark the first Bellingham St. Patrick’s Day Parade at noon in downtown Bellingham.

St. Patrick's Day Get moving for the 1st Annual Bellingham St. Patrick’s Day Parade!

Parade Committee Member Teresa Schmidt of Sprout Creative took the time to answer a few questions, via email, about the impetus of this community celebration.

“Janet Lightner, or Janet O’Lightner as she’s known these days, is the woman behind the parade. A small, but enthusiastic committee formed to help her, and now we have about 25 volunteers to help on parade day,” Teresa explained.

Janet is also the general manager of Boundary Bay Brewery & Bistro, which is hosting a family-friendly post-parade party in their Beer Garden with live music, dancing, and BBQ.

For Bellingham’s parade, Janet looked to the massive St. Patrick’s Day celebrations that occur in large cities like New York City, Boston, Chicago, and New Orleans for inspiration. With a high percentage of Irish police officers and firefighters in those cities, St. Patrick’s Day parades have traditionally honored these uniformed officials.

“When the committee started planning the Bellingham parade, we naturally thought of our police force and firefighters. They have had an extremely tough year and we thought that dedicating the parade to them would show these hard-working men and women how much the people of Bellingham appreciate and support them,” Teresa said.

One aspect that will set the Bellingham St. Patrick’s Day Parade apart from its big city contemporaries is a dedication to staying Green & Clean.

“Green is the color of Ireland, of shamrocks, and of everything related to St. Patrick’s Day—and green is also how lots of folks in Bellingham choose to live their lives and do business,” Teresa explained.

“Parades can be a source of wasted resources, or they can be done sustainably and thoughtfully,” she continued. “The parade committee knew that Bellingham would embrace a truly Green St. Patrick’s Day parade! While we are encouraging human-powered floats and recycled materials, we don’t want anyone to miss out, so all types of participants are welcome. We will have lots of bikes, some electric vehicles, plenty of walkers and dancers, and the Grand Marshal (Mayor Dan Pike) will lead the parade riding in a pedi-cab!”

If you’d like to participate in the parade, you can show up at the starting line in the parking lot of Woodsmiths Furniture on Saturday, March 13, 2010 between 10:30 and 11:30 AM. Floats or bands should Sign-Up in advance. Or check out the Parade Route to stake out a good spot by noon on Saturday, March 13, 2010 where you and your family can enjoy all the fun.

For more parade information and other fun St. Patrick’s Day festivities, please visit Bellingham St. Patrick’s Day.

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