The days are getting shorter and kids are headed back to school, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t time for another great day trip. This time, we’re headed north to Bellingham. Home to Western Washington University, Bellingham is not just an outdoor-lover’s dream, but is a day-trippers paradise.

Just 90 miles north of Seattle and 21 miles south of the Canadian border, Bellingham is bordered by the Puget Sound and San Juan Islands to the west and Mt. Baker and the North Cascade Mountains to the east.

Head north via Interstate-5, but don’t take it all the way. Get off the highway at exit 231 and take the winding Chuckanut Drive the rest of the way. The road winds along the coast and the San Juan Islands are so close, you could swim to them. Stop at one of the many vantage points – it is well worth the five minutes.

Stop #1: Chuckanut Drive will drop you off in the historic Fairhaven. Wander around town and stop at the plaques on the ground – you can get a good idea of what the town looked like many years ago. While there, make sure to:

  • Stop into Village Books – you could get lost for hours in this three-story shop.
  • Grab a cup of Joe at Tony’s Coffeehouse – it was where Tony’s Coffee started 38 years ago and while not directly associated with it anymore, the coffeehouse continues to serve Tony’s coffees and teas.
  • Visit one of the many galleries and see the inspirations of local artists – Fairhaven is a hot bed of artistic talent
  • Take a picture with Dirty Dan Harris, the founder of Fairhaven. You can find his statue lounging on a bench in Fairhaven Square.

Stop #2: Next stop is Western Washington University – or as many call it: Western

  • See where Western started – Old Main was the original home to the New Whatcom Normal School, a teaching school for women. Now the building houses the school’s administration and services.
  • Red Square – When classes are in session and the sun is out, Red Square is a flurry of activity – from students studying, catching up with friends, playing an impromptu game of hacky sack and so much more, this is the place to see Western.
  • Take in the sculptures throughout campus – it’s one of the top 10 outdoor sculpture collections in the nation.

Stop #3: Park your car downtown and wander through the many quirky shops and restaurants.

  • Stop in and get bagels for the week at The Bagelry – ask any Western alum and they will likely say this bagel shop is one of the things they miss most.
  • You’re probably hungry by now – go to Boundary Bay Brewery for lunch and don’t forget to buy a sweatshirt!
  • Need a gift or just something for yourself? Check out Greenhouse – they have everything you need for your home and kitchen.

Stop #4: Folks in Bellingham love the outdoors – maybe more than most people. Experience one of the best parks at Whatcom Falls. Park your car and walk into the park – you will instantly hear the waterfalls, drowning out all the other noise. A paved path leads you to a sandstone bridge spanning Whatcom Creek and then the main waterfall comes into view. Once summer arrives, college students can be seen jumping the 60-foot cliff known as “The Whirlpool,” which has become a tradition for Western students.

Stop #5: Before heading home, head back to Fairhaven to Boulevard Park to watch the sun go down. It’s been a perfect day.