BELLINGHAM — When I was approached with the opportunity to take a tourism trip to Bellingham and Whatcom County, I jumped at the opportunity.
There are numerous similarities in that region to some of our tourism opportunities in Union Gap and Yakima County, and in particular I was interested in seeing the Lynden Pioneer Museum.
I split my time equally over a few days between Bellingham and Lynden, and am already prepared for a return trip because there is still so much more to do.
I stayed at the Inn at Lynden in downtown Lynden for two evenings, and what a bucolic town it is. You feel like you’ve stepped back a few decades into almost a Mayberry feeling town. The hotel is in the former Waples Mercantile Building, which was renovated a few years ago after a 2008 fire. The historic business received national recognition for the innovative sales and marketing efforts of Billy Waples. His name is still so prevalent it’s hard to believe the store actually closed over 50 years ago.
The hotel offers terrific customer service, has bikes you can use throughout town and is attached to multiple businesses including a taproom, the well-known Village Books and the delicious Avenue Bread (check out the breakfast sandwich options). One of my favorite parts of staying at this property was waking up after a great night of sleep, lacing up my running shoes and jogging several miles on the remarkably quiet, tree-lined streets. If you’re looking for a place to get away and love to run or bike in the countryside or in a quaint town, this is definitely a place to go.
One of my first stops was the Lynden Pioneer Museum, and the similarities to our own Central Washington Agricultural Museum were many. The museum houses thousands of items that depict life in Lynden and the surrounding area and showcase the importance of agriculture, transportation and local business. The museum is home to the second-largest number of horse-drawn vehicles west of the Mississippi; only the Ford Museum has a larger collection.
Our ag museum recently opened its own Horse & Buggy Building, and it was great to see so many unique buggies on display. You’ll also see a display representing the original Waples Mercantile Building, and if you’re fortunate enough to have museum director Troy Luginbill as your docent, you’re in for a fascinating history lesson.
I also headed to Berthusen Park, where the Puget Sound Antique Tractor and Machinery Association hosts Vintage Farming Days (July 31-Aug. 3), one of the largest Antique Tractor and Machinery Association and Gas Engine shows in Washington state. There is a 2.4-mile hike/trail on the park’s 236 acres that is beautiful, serene and takes you through a grove of old growth Douglas fir and western red cedars.
Of course, I managed to eat terrific food on this trip, and one of my dinners was at Herb Niemann’s Steak House in Everson. I’d heard their steaks and schnitzels were delicious, and after flipping a coin a few times I decided to go with a filet mignon. It did not disappoint; you could cut it with a butter knife and it melted in your mouth. This was after I’d had a wonderful appetizer, Tiger Prawns Tropaz, which were huge prawns in a delightful white wine and cream sauce. I actually soaked my bread in the sauce to make sure I was enjoying every bit.
This restaurant often has a line outside the door on weekends, and I can see why. A return trip is necessary because I have to try the authentic Bavarian schnitzels, which looked and sounded divine.
We have local favorite breakfast places in Union Gap like Old Town Station and Jean’s Cottage Inn, and in Lynden a local favorite is Dutch Mother’s Family Restaurant. I met Gary Vis, the executive director of the Lynden Chamber of Commerce and a lifetime resident, for breakfast. He said I had to try the pannekoeken, which is an authentic Dutch pancake and something I’ve never had. First of all, it’s huge and you have a choice of toppings from sweet (I did brown sugar and nuts) to savory, with things like sausage or bacon. It truly was scrumptious, and if you’re a breakfast fan you have to give it a try.
Whenever I do a story like this, I love to find one of the local burger places that reminds me of our Pepp’rmint Stick Drive-In, Majors Restaurant or Miner’s, and in Bellingham one of the most suggested is Boomer’s Drive-In. It’s a 1950s-era burger joint complete with a drive-in and car-side dining. The servers aren’t on roller skates, but it sure feels like it. I went for the mushroom Swiss burger with waffle fries and a shake, and all were spot on. The burger was flavorful and sloppy, and was a nice guilty pleasure combined with a classic shake.
One thing that impressed me the most about my Bellingham and Whatcom County trip was the amount of hiking and walking trails available for people of all skill and shape levels. When in Lynden, I loved the downtown streets and Berthusen Park. In Bellingham, I tried three different hikes/trails. My wife and I love quick and easy hikes/walks with a great payoff, and Whatcom Falls Park, just minutes from downtown, has a terrific waterfall and a classic bridge that is straight out of a movie scene. This would be a great park for after-dinner or weekend strolls and is so convenient.
I also did part of the South Bay Trail, which takes you from Fairhaven to downtown Bellingham. What a wonderful feature for the city. I was there on a lovely day with amazing views of Bellingham Bay, and the Taylor Dock walkway was special. The highlight of my hikes was the Chantrelle Trail at Lake Whatcom Park. It’s about a 30-minute drive from Bellingham. The trail has a quick ascension in the first 1,000 feet or so, and the route I took was about 2.5 miles to the viewpoint. It is a breathtaking view of the lake and the region. The hike is strenuous at first and uphill, but the path is well shaded and the view at the top is a satisfying reward. The drive was pretty, with unique architecture and several fun restaurants along the way that looked like they’d be a fun stop. Maybe next time!
No trip to Bellingham is complete if you don’t visit some of the local craft breweries. There are 16 breweries in Whatcom County, and six of them are downtown. I got to explore and taste at Aslan Brewing Co. and loved both of the locations. The primary brewery has a wide-open, family-friendly setting with outdoor seating and a cool vibe inside. It is also the first time I’ve been at a brewery featuring all organic beers. I did a flight and loved each of the choices offered — including Dawn Patrol, which I was familiar with from a trip to Suncadia. They also regularly rotate new seasonal varieties such as Captain Ron, which would definitely keep me coming back time and time again.
Their second location, the Aslan Depot down the road, is a 21-and-over taproom where you can get barrel-aged beers. I could picture my wife enjoying this location, and they also offer ciders and wine. The ties to the Yakima Valley were evident and they knew all of our local breweries and hop suppliers, and had spent some time at Bale Breaker Brewing Co. I had time for a quick jaunt to Boundary Bay Brewery & Bistro, a classic-feeling Northwest pub, and beyond the beer (Bellingham Blonde, perfect for a sunny day) the sandwich and chips I ate were your quintessential pub food.
Other highlights of my trip included a coffee and a super cheesy grilled cheese sandwich from Woods Coffee, locally owned and founded in Lynden. Woods has 19 locations in Whatcom County. A tour of the Edaleen Dairy was fascinating, and of course it was completed with a delicious scoop of their outstanding ice cream.
To learn more about Bellingham and Whatcom County, visit www.bellingham.org.
• Eric Patrick is director of tourism for Union Gap. Email him at email@example.com.
Editor's note: The location of Herb Niemann’s Steak House has been corrected.