You don’t have to pack any bags or take vacation days.
You might not even have to gas up the car. We’re talking about enjoying your hometown by stepping out as a tourist. Sure, we know you might cringe at the idea of being mistaken for a visitor when you already know where the best coffee shop is, can map the local trails from memory, and what breweries give your dog a bowl of water every time you visit. But there’s something to be said about viewing your hometown through an outsider’s lens. Here are 50 ways to make the most of our local area — by visiting as a tourist would.
1. Hit the waves in a kayak.
You can either rent a kayak and go solo, or join a tour. A guide can offer insights to the coastal waters, marine life, and kayaking tips.
2. Go on a day hike, birding walk, or even a historical barn tour.
The key is going somewhere you haven’t been before.
3. Embark on a fishing adventure.
Our waters are chock full of delicious fish. Catch some aboard a charter boat.
4. Try stand up paddle boarding on the calmer bays and lakes.
Many rental companies collaborate with yoga instructors to offer stand up paddle board yoga lessons. Go ahead and test your flexibility and balance!
5. If you’re more into spirits,
visit local distilleries, like Valley Shine Distillery in Mt. Vernon, Bellewood Acres, Chuckanut Bay Distillery or Mount Baker Distillery in Bellingham. Bring a bottle home and try your hand at making a cocktail.
6. Get caffeinated on a coffee roasters tour.
We’re lucky to live among great coffee that’s locally roasted. Find out how it’s done and what local producers do to stand out.
7. Take a winery tour without driving to central Washington.
Whatcom, Skagit, and San Juan Island counties all have great vineyards. Consider organizing a group of friends for a vineyard tour.
8. Give into the kombucha craze with a kombucha brewery visit.
If a brewery isn’t nearby, see about trying samples in the local kombucha bar. Or brew your own (see Crazy for Kombucha).
9. Hit the streets with a camera.
Take pictures of your favorite sights: murals, a gnarled tree, sea gulls over the water. By looking with an artistic eye, you’ll notice new things about familiar surroundings.
10. Catch your dinner!
Go clamming, crabbing, or fishing along our beautiful coastline. (Be sure to purchase a permit first.)
11. Chase the sunset or catch the sunrise.
Being situated between the coast and mountains secures some beautiful sunrises and sunsets. Pack a picnic and claim a front row seat in a particularly beautiful spot.
12. Play hooky
And hit up the good happy hours on Tuesday. Nothing feels more touristy than drinking in the afternoon on a weekday!
13. Spend the night in a great bed and breakfast,
Be sure to sleep in. By the way, this can be a great anniversary gift!
14. Book a spa day at that chic hotel.
If your spa attendant asks where you’re from, claim another state just for fun, and ask for recommendations for other things to do.
15. Get dressed up for an upscale dinner and a show with a loved one.
B sure to do this on an ordinary night, not a special occasion. It’ll feel more like a vacation.
16. Check out Camel Safari.
Yes, for real. Where else can you see these desert-residing creatures in the Pacific Northwest, known for its rain forests? Visiting the Camel Safari is both educational and fun for all ages and just $25 a per person for the hour-long “encounter.”
17. Motor skyward with a Bellingham Helicopter tour.
Bellingham Aviation Services offer helicopter aerial tours over Bellingham Bay, the San Juan Islands, Mount Baker, and other scenic spots. These views are like nothing you’ll find on the ground.
18. Western Gallery at Western Washington University.
Rotating exhibits from near (faculty) and far (various countries) make the Gallery a hidden gem. If you want some fresh air, stroll the campus and see Western’s renowned sculpture collection.
19. Take a pedal party brewery tour:
Enjoy our breweries in an unusual way. Pedal Party NW’s tours take you and your crew to the breweries of your choice via your own pedaling feet. Burn off those brews while you move.
20. Root, root, root at a Bellingham Bells game:
Bells games are an inexpensive way to spend a spring or summer night outside at Joe Martin Field near Civic Stadium. Check the promotional schedule online for themed and discounted games. Hint: The team loves to support our local breweries.
21. See the Bellingham Railway Museum.
Railroads were a key part of the developing American West and still run through Bellingham. The museum focuses on the history of railroading in Whatcom and Skagit Counties. Learn about how essential this mode of transportation has been for our little corner of the world since 1883.
22. Mount Baker Theater:
The beautiful and historic Mount Baker Theater is the perfect place to spend a winter evening. From ballets to stand-up comedy, there is a show that will ignite the interest of just about anyone.
23. Stroll around Boulevard Park.
Enjoy a warm beverage at Woods Coffee to accompany you as you walk around the boardwalk. On a clear day, you can even see the Cascades!
24. Take the Good Time Girls’ Sin and Gin Walking tour of Bellingham.
Skip the traditional walking tour and opt for a little more spice and intrigue with the Good Time Girls. The tours feature Bellingham’s sinful past with lively stories of past-era saloons and prostitution. Local history can’t get much better than that.
25. Paint your own pottery.
For a little more land-based fun, and something perfect for a rainy day, visit Creativitea in downtown Fairhaven. It’s as simple as selecting a piece of pre-made pottery, picking a favorite color or design, and waiting for three to five days while your lovely pottery is being glazed and fired.
26. Visit the Lavender Farm:
Sequim is heaven for lavender lovers. Fragrant, colorful lavender farms abound due to the town’s location in the Olympic Mountains’s rain shadow. Most farms are family-owned and run.
27. Drive to Artist Point:
The drive from downtown Bellingham to the end of Hwy. 542 takes about 90 minutes and the views are so spectacular it almost feels like cheating. The drive follows the glacially fed Nooksack River, and if you get up top on a clear day, you can be rewarded with striking views of Mt. Shuksan, the Cascades and Canadian Rockies.
28. Ski Mt. Baker:
The fun never stops at Baker. Enjoy this more intermediate- expert- level mountain usually from about December through March, depending on conditions. The mountain lodge also offers rentals and lessons for those less experienced. Skier or not, anyone can sit in the lodge and warm up to Baker’s tasty salmon chowder, served in a bread bowl.
29. Take an Oyster Dome hike:
The stunning view has made the hike so popular that Seattleites make the drive up just for the day. About six miles of 1900 ft. elevation gain are entirely worth it when the sweeping panorama of the San Juan Islands greets you at the top.
30. Tour the George E. Pickett House Museum:
Built in 1856, it was a home for the Civil War general later remembered — fairly or not — for leading the Confederates’ ill-fated charge at Gettysburg (more on that if you go). As the oldest house remaining on its original foundation in Washington state, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
31. Purchase some local art.
We live among some incredible artisans who offer a variety of works in all different mediums. Check out some galleries to find the perfect piece of art.
32. Walk around Rotary Park in Anacortes.
Enjoy the sea life, boats, and multiple beaches.
33. Visit a U-pick
to pick your own fruit and produce at local farms. Depending on the season, produce might not be available to pick, so check online ahead of time.
34. Take a ferry to Lummi Island.
Whether you go for a night or a day trip, check out the Beach Store Cafe, look for the petroglyph at Sunset Beach, and meet your dinner at Nettles Farm
35. Bellewood Acres:
This farm offers enough activities for multiple visits. In the fall, stop by for a pumpkin or to pick your own apples. Cozy up in the winter at the Country Cafe with a fresh pastry. And visit the distillery year-round for delicious “Farm to Glass” spirits.
36. Visit Victoria:
While Whistler and Vancouver get plenty of visitors from this part of the state, Victoria isn’t given the attention it deserves. An easy ferry ride from either Anacortes or Vancouver B.C. will take you to the lovely island. Be sure to visit the Butchart Gardens if you go in spring.
37. Kayak from La Conner to Goat Island.
Rentals of kayaks start April 1. It’s known to be one of the best kayaking areas in the state!
38. Eat at AB Crepes in downtown Bellingham
— whether to satisfy your sweet tooth or keep it simple with savory.
39. Settle in at the Pickford Film Center:
More than just a movie theater, this local treasure is cheery, comfortable and hosts first-run, first-rate films and festivals. The staff is committed to supporting Bellingham’s thriving art and film scene. Check online for show times and the rotating schedule.
40. Take a ferry:
We live in a perfect location where in just a day you can travel by land and sea. Ferries out of Anacortes run to the San Juan Islands daily. The best part is, if you leave your car behind, tickets are as little as about $14.
41. Soak in Baker Hot Springs:
For those of us who get serious cabin fever during our long Washington winters, a hike up to the hot springs is the perfect solution. Located on Baker Lake Road, off Highway 20. Turn onto Forest Service Road 1130 and stay right. Hike just a short half-mile to the well-mark springs.
42. Buckle up at the Sumas International Motorsports Academy (SIMA).
Channel your inner Dale Earnhardt Jr. Whether you want to start learning to race go-karts, watch an exciting race, or just rent a few karts for an afternoon with friends, SIMA provides plenty of options for a lively experience.
43. Bellingham Tap Trail:
Twice a year the Bellingham Tap Trail comes out with a guide to all the best breweries and tap rooms. Take a few months, few days, or hours and mark off all the stops on the map.
44. Jump in at Birch Bay Waterslides.
On those warm summer days, grab your suit and towel and make your way to the park, which offers four main slides, a river ride, hot tub, and the extreme 60-footer. Hang onto your trunks!
45. Check out the Whatcom Lightcatcher Museum:
The focal point of the museum is the 37-foot tall and 180-foot-long wall, designed by Jim Olson, which captures sunlight. Beyond the wall, the museum offer rotating exhibits and an interactive gallery.
46. Visit the SPARK Museum of Electrical Invention.
On the weekends the museum hosts a special show, the MegaZapper Electric Show, where the supercharged zapper releases 12-foot arcs of purple lightning. Hair-raising.
47. Buy oysters from Taylor Shellfish Farms off Chuckanut Drive.
The entrance is a little hidden on Chuckanut, but a well-worth stop — especially in the spring or summertime. Visitors can even get a shucking lesson and have a picnic right on the shore. Can’t get fresher than that.
48. Go whale-watching in the San Juan Islands.
Living right by the ocean gives residents many opportunities to enjoy sea life. Take a ferry over to Friday Harbor and transfer over to another boat to watch some magnificent sea mammals!
49. Kayak camping on Lummi Island:
Travel by kayak to the boat-only campground on the southeast corner of Lummi Island. The campground is equipped with outhouses and cleared campsites. If you need to rent a sea kayak the Community Boating Center in Fairhaven is a great place to get all the necessities. Make sure you have the right training and are wearing your PFD.
50. Drive to Deception Pass State Park
in the day, explore, and stay to see the sun set over water. Consider how lucky you are to live on the West Coast.