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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 4, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 09
From Fairhaven to downtown, Bellingham full of suprises
Arts & Entertainment
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From Fairhaven to downtown, Bellingham full of suprises

by Scott Rice - SGN Contributing Writer

You've got to love living in Seattle. The city itself is world-class, with a host of art, entertainment, and shopping choices. Added to this cultural bounty are three other fabulous cities within easy reach: Vancouver, Victoria, and Portland. The pièce de résistance of this multicultural matrix is the bevy of smaller towns and cities offering unique venues of their own to explore: Port Townsend, Leavenworth, and Yakima, among others. It's an embarrassment of riches. That's why a sweet college town like Bellingham can easily get lost in the mix. That's a shame because Bellingham has a lot to offer.

Bellingham is known as the home of Western Washington University and the southern terminus of the Alaska Marine Highway. It's also known to have a high percentage of baristas, waiters, and bartenders with college degrees. It seems students don't want to leave after four years because the quality of life is just that good.

The Fairhaven Historic District takes up roughly four square blocks on the south side of Bellingham Bay. The city was founded in 1883 by 'Dirty' Dan Harris and later incorporated into Bellingham proper. There are about 200 businesses in the area including art galleries, artisan co-ops, bookstores, bakeries, coffee shops, and the Fairhaven Village Inn, the district's only hotel.

The Fairhaven Village Inn is a charming little locally owned hotel with a world-class feel. Many of the 22 spacious rooms have views of the bay with large sliding glass doors opening onto breezy patios. The service is impeccable and the complimentary breakfast is actually worth stopping by for. They will even make you a sweet waffle on the spot. You could easily spend an entire weekend at the Fairhaven Village Inn and never start your car.

Morning walks and the South Bay Trail were made for each other. After breakfast you can pick up the trail just outside the door of the Inn. Stroll north over the Taylor Dock (the views are stunning) about a half mile to Boulevard Park. There you'll find the best coffee in town at local favorite The Woods Coffee. The wood and stone café and coffee shop offers gorgeous outdoor seating with a trick fireplace that does double duty for indoor and outdoor patrons.

If you must leave the quaint environs of Fairhaven you will definitely want to check out improv night at the Upfront Theatre. The talented players of Bellingham's premier improv troupe do shows Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. The all-ages venue serves beer and wine, and did I say these folks are funny? 'Cause they are.

After the show, stop in Boundary Bay Brewery and Bistro for some of the Pacific Northwest's best ale (the food is good, too). I like their Scotch ale, which balances the traditional sweet malty richness with a just the right amount of hoppy zip. Try it with the beer beef stew (simmered in the Scotch ale) and you'll swoon. Another must-eat from the BBB and B crew is the yam alechiladas. Yams, cheddar, and jack cheese, caramelized onions, and roasted garlic are wrapped up in corn tortillas and topped with a poblano molé. The place is always packed and raucous because the beer and food are good. Who wants a quiet brewpub anyway? Happy hour: Saturday through Thursday from 4-6 p.m.

You'll probably feel like dancing after tossing back a BBB and B brew, and as luck would have it, the ever so Gay Rumor's Cabaret is right next door. Billed as Bellingham's only 'alternative' nightclub, Rumor's is the hotspot for dancing seven nights a week from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., with happy hour daily from 6-9 p.m.

Perhaps the best surprise of the weekend was the Whatcom Museum, a three-building campus in the heart of downtown Bellingham. The Old City Hall has been oozing Victorian charm since 1941 and currently houses historic artifacts of local significance (the antique dentist chair will give you bad dreams). A short walk down the street is The Lightcatcher, an uber-modern design by Jim Olson, where you will find an amazing art collection focused - but not exclusively - on Northwest artists such as Dale Chihuly, Diem Chau, Hilda Morris, Barbara Earl Thomas, George Tsutakawa, and Gerard Tsutakawa. Admission is $10 with discounts for students, military, seniors, and kids. One Hamilton gets you into both museums. See it all in about four hours and leave time for a leisurely spin over the lovely Chuckanut Drive.

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