by Kelly Sullivan
A new school year always brings a lot of students to Whatcom Community College who are not only new to the college, but also new to Bellingham. Whether you are finding your way around the city of subdued excitement for the first time, or just looking to try something new, here is a quick guide to Bellingham to help you fill your free time.
It won’t take one long to observe that Bellingham is clearly the capital for locally-owned cafes and breakfast and lunch eateries. You will not go wrong with any of these, and each meal will put you back about $10. Many are located in downtown Bellingham, in and around the business district (Railroad Ave.). Two stops you cannot miss are The Bagelry, with daily fresh-made bagels, and Mallards’ local homemade ice cream.
If you are looking to spice up your late morning, after a safe night of fun, head south on State St. into the small touristy part of Bellingham known as Fairhaven. After your late morning meal, you can poke around in the local bookstore, homemade ice cream shop, or head over to the pier on Bellingham Bay, a few blocks north.
For meals oriented later in the day, Bellingham has two excellent burger places downtown: Bob’s Burgers and Brew, and Fiama Burger. If you’re looking to spend less, you could check out Boomer’s Burgers on Samish Drive.
Across from Boomer’s are two of Bellingham’s best Thai restaurants: On Rice, and Supon’s.
The blue book you can pick up when buying books in the Whatcom bookstore will have coupons to many other restaurants around Bellingham, as well as tip you off to a few more good ideas.
Although you may just end up hanging out with friends during most of your free time, there is plenty to do if you find yourself looking to branch out. Bellingham has plenty of movie theaters. There is one in Sehome Village, one in Sunset Square, and one in Bellis Fair Mall, right by Whatcom. All have discounted tickets for students at specified times. If you are looking for some indie flicks, The Pickford Cinema is located in the downtown business district of Bellingham, although it offers less frequent movie times.
The Upfront Theatre is the place to go for comedy. Open since 2004, this cabaret-style improv and comedy theatre on Bay St. in downtown Bellingham is owned by local celebrity Ryan Stiles of Whose Line Is It, Anyway? and The Drew Carey Show fame. Prices to shows, held every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night, are cheap, the laughter is always plentiful, and Stiles has been known to appear unannounced at some shows. Improv classes are also available.
There are two bowling allies in Bellingham: Park Lanes Bowling is a block east of Whatcom, and 20th Century Bowling is downtown Bellingham on State St., one street north of Railroad Ave. Both have very cheap rates for shoes and lanes.
Bellingham also has many city and state parks that are great for daytime exploration.
Boulevard Park is located along the shore of Bellingham Bay, between downtown Bellingham and Fairhaven. Dog walkers, barefooted frisbee players, runners, and nappers can all convene in this beautiful part of Bellingham that has been transformed from a landfill many years ago.
Larabee State Park, a short drive down State St. (which eventually turns into Chuckanut Drive, south of Fairhaven) offers a variety of hiking trails and weekend camping. For further outdoor excursions, Mt. Baker is the place to go for hiking, as well as winter skiing and snowboarding, and is about an hour drive down the Mt. Baker Highway.
During the week, many local businesses support local musicians, comedians, and writers by hosting Open Mic nights, including the Three Trees Coffeehouse, the Black Dot Coffee, the Honey Moon, and the underground coffee house on the Western Washington University campus (which attracts mostly college students). All are free, but be sure to call or go online to check ahead to see which night and time each one is hosting, so you can go watch with friends or enter yourself!
There is a huge local music scene in Bellingham. Many coffee shops and bars have small concerts throughout the week for local musicians. The Mt. Baker Theatre, which had funny duo Cheech and Chong perform last winter, and Western, which has had performances by Fleet Foxes and Tech N9ne, generally host the bigger performers.
‘What’s Up!’ magazine, which is free, and can be found in stands around Bellingham, is a great source to check for local entertainment of any kind, as is ‘Cascadia Weekly’, another free publication.
One of the things that many college students find is that extracurricular activities are a great way to meet people and make connections. Whatcom currently has over 20 clubs, including a business club, music club, literature club, French, German, and philosophy club. For information on times and meeting places, keep your eyes out around the halls for club posters, or head to the student life office for full information about weekly meetings.
The Student Life office is located on the second floor in the Syre Student Center, and is the go-to place for ways to get involved in campus activities. There are advisors and students that fill the office who know where to go and when to go there. Whatcom hosts many speakers and artistic performances throughout the year, which you should be sure to keep your eyes out for.
If it doesn’t conflict with your school schedule, student council is another way to get to know the students of Whatcom, know what’s happening with the college, and requires only three hours of your time each week. Whatcom also has soccer, basketball, and volleyball teams for those looking to get involved in sports. The counseling center in the Laidlaw Center has information on volunteer opportunities in schools, businesses, and sustainable relations around Bellingham.
There are plenty of places and ways to get involved in Bellingham and Whatcom. College is a great time to figure out what you like, and although the gray cloud cover may try to keep you indoors, there is plenty to do and see in this big and friendly community.
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