Located on a high bluff overlooking Bellingham Bay, the outstanding Whatcom Museum of History and Art (121 Prospect St., 360/676-6981, www.whatcommuseum.org, noon–5 p.m. Tues.–Sun., free) is housed in old city hall, an ornate redbrick building capped by a four-corner cupola and a tall clock tower. Built in 1892 as the New Whatcom City Hall, it remained in use until 1939. Today, the museum has grown to include the old city hall, along with three nearby structures.
The main building contains historical displays, changing exhibits, Victorian clothing, woodworking tools, toys, and contemporary art. Also here is a small gift shop with unusual items from around the globe.
Two nearby structures house separate collections that are also part of the Whatcom Museum “campus.” The Arco Exhibits Building (206 Prospect St., same hours as Whatcom) across the street houses changing fine-art and historical exhibits. The Children’s Museum (227 Prospect St., 360/733-8769, noon–5 p.m. Sun., Tues., and Wed., 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Thurs.–Sat., $2.50) has many participatory exhibits for kids of all ages, including an infant/toddler exploration center and puppet theater.
Make it a point to visit Mindport (111 Grand Ave., 360/647-5614, www.mindport.org, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Wed.–Sat., noon–4 p.m. Sun., $2 for adults, $1 for kids), a creative center that will amuse, fascinate, and educate both kids and adults. The exhibits are mostly made from reused old junk, with a touch of whimsy thrown in. It’s great fun.
For something completely different, check out the American Museum of Radio and Electricity (1312 Bay St., 360/734-4168, www.amre.us, noon–5 p.m. Wed.–Sat., $5 adults, $2 children). The collection includes more than a thousand radios, some dating to the 1940s.
Immerse yourself in local railroad memorabilia, history, and lore at the Bellingham Railway Museum (1320 Commercial St., 360/393-7540, www.bellinghamrailwaymuseum.org, noon–5 p.m. Tues. and Thurs.–Sat., adults $4, kids $1) in downtown Bellingham. This little museum has a particularly impressive collection of old railroad lanterns and a number of antique scale models.
© Ericka Chickowski from Moon Washington, 8th edition