Situated between the North Cascades and the Salish Sea, Bellingham is best known for its natural scenery, outdoor recreation and world-class beer scene. And you don’t even have to leave downtown to experience some of the city’s best attractions. From there you can easily explore the unique experiences and flavors of this college town of 89,000 residents. Not too big and not too small, Bellingham is just right for a weekend away. Here’s where to eat, drink and stay in downtown Bellingham.
Located in the heart of downtown, Hotel Leo is within walking distance of most bars and restaurants on this list. Originally built as the Byron Hotel in the late 1800s, this recently restored property is named after its former owner, Leopold Schmidt — founder of the famous Olympia Brewing Company. The mixed-used historic property offers classy hotel rooms and apartments overlooking the city.
A newspaper clipping from 1899 exclaims that the Byron Hotel was “centrally located within easy access of all points of interest. Large rooms…are comfortable and tastefully furnished.” Now restored to its former glory, those words continue to define Hotel Leo over 120 years later.
For a more laid-back hotel-meets-Airbnb experience, stay at Hotel Leo’s sister space, the Heliotrope Hotel. Located about one mile northwest of downtown in the Columbia neighborhood, this converted 1950s motor inn now operates as a modern boutique within walking distance of several breweries, tap-houses and eateries.
Where to Eat and Drink in Bellingham
If Bellingham does one meal best, it’s breakfast — the only meal that you’re likely to see a line out the door for. Foodies won’t be disappointed in the city’s selection of bakeries, cafes and breakfast joints. Try downtown favorite Old Town Cafe for great vegetarian, vegan and locally-sourced options (I always order the number nine). For more food than you can possibly eat served in a sizzling skillet, spend your morning at Homeskillet in the Sunnyland neighborhood. Paired with a mug of strong, local coffee, this colorful cafe will wake you right up.
Grab lunch or dinner at Black Sheep for arguably the tastiest (and most inventive) tacos in town. My go-to is the roasted veggie gyro, featuring sweet potato and cauliflower topped with tomato jam, tzatziki, feta and herbs on a hand-pressed tortilla. Stop by during happy hour for margarita and cocktail specials at the full bar.
Downtown Bellingham Brews
For drinks, beer is king in Bellingham. Start at Elizabeth Station for an introduction to the local scene. Located at the west end of Holly Street near downtown, this bottle shop and taproom offers brews from local, regional, and international breweries. Friendly staff are always on hand to help you select bottles to go. Kid-friendly and featuring a seasonal food menu, Elizabeth Station is a favorite stop for locals and visitors alike.
From Elizabeth Station, you can walk or ride a few blocks east on Holly Street to Bellingham’s world-class lager brewery, Chuckanut Brewery and Kitchen. Winner of more awards than anyone can count, Chuckanut recently took home two gold medals at the World Beer Cup and was named 2019 Large Brewery of the Year at the Washington Beer Awards. After sampling their suds, continue into downtown to round out your tour de Bellingham beer.
Bellingham’s downtown core contains a handful of unique breweries within walking distance of one another. Start at the city’s oldest brewpub, Boundary Bay for food and classic Bellingham beers.
From there you can walk a few blocks northeast to ever-popular Aslan Brewing, whose sunshiney brewpub and patio are always packed — especially on warmer days. Continue up State Street to Structures Brewing for some of my favorite beer in town. From their flagship Fuzz IPA to saisons and barrel-aged stouts, Structures is always on the cutting edge of Bellingham beer.
For fans of cider, Thousand Acre Cider House is an excellent new addition to downtown. With 24 ciders and beers on tap, Thousand Acre highlights cideries from around the region while educating cider-curious consumers in a decidedly beery city. Their super friendly staff will make you feel at home — whether you’re a first-timer or cider connoisseur.
Turn to Bellingham Tourism for a full rundown on the city’s ever-growing beer scene.
Beyond food and drink, there’s plenty to keep you busy in downtown Bellingham. You can attend a show at the historic Mount Baker Theatre or catch live music at The Wild Buffalo. Spend your time shopping at local businesses, stop by the Saturday Farmer’s Market, or check out Bellingham’s many museums and galleries. And of course, no Bellingham weekend is complete without some time spent in the great outdoors.
There are countless ways to play outside in Bellingham. Whether you hike, bike, ski or paddle, you’ll find it all here. From downtown, you can easily access the recently redeveloped waterfront at Waypoint Park. Or, walk to Fairhaven along the scenic 2.5-mile South Bay Trail which passes through Bellingham’s most popular park: Boulevard Park.
Photos from Hotel Leo: Bellingham Tourism