Many a Lower Mainlander has been been enticed by deals south of the border in neighbouring Bellingham. I had never been. Oh, I’ve certainly enjoyed the pleasures of Seattle shopping, but also the great dining, art, touring, and the overnight accommodations that make that the real purpose of visiting.
Curious about the delights Bellingham had to offer, and on the threshold of the holiday shopping season, Black Friday this week, I went to see what all the fuss was about.
It’s close, even from downtown Vancouver, the drive, either via through Peace Arch or Aldergrove is a 45 minute drive (70 km) south to the border. And another 16 km takes you to downtown Bellingham.
Our first stop was Bellingham Costco. Already a member of our local Vancouver Costco, entry is included. Great. How did it differ? Wow, it was overwhelming. Much cheaper electronics, tons of holiday baskets, chocolates, a huge deli section, the usual household and dry goods, and booze, asles of booze, including Dom, Veuve, and Crystal. Do I need to ask why a bottle of Dom is $125 US there and $210 CAD here? Lets just say, for me that’s just one reason to go. But it was crowded, even at 10am on a Friday morning, all the registers were working. One glance past a row of parked cars, and my guess-timate was somewhere around 70-80% of the cars had BC plates. I don’t blame them. Our one purchase here, would have cost us twice as much in Vancouver.
Needing a fill up, (we left Vancouver with 1/4 tank) we decided to see what all the other fuss was about…buying gas. There were 8-10 queues all queued up. And in many cases, at least 3 in the 10 minutes I was there, people were filling up their fuel tanks as well as a number of gasoline canisters. Is that a safe idea? I mean driving around town, over the border with 3 or 4 plastic cans of gasoline in your car? What about the fumes?
The other most-visited shop seems to be the Trader Joe’s in Bellingham.
Certainly many a car hatchback had a multitude of pretty paper Trader Joe’s shopping bags. It was crowded inside, and the lines seemed to be moving slowly. Certainly not a big draw for me, Moet was about the best on offer. But it’s got its niche in a kitch food way.
Enticed by the also great deals for holiday departing from Bellingham serviced by Alaska Air and Allegiant Air, we went to find the airport. Its convieniently located near the freeway. Not a big airport, but it looked to be under major expansion, so obviously growing in size. The parking is pretty close and costs $1 per hour, or $10 per 24 hours. The overflow lots costs $1 per hour, or $9 per 24 hours. There is no longer term rate at the Airport, though there are other private lots that advertise for long-term parking. No hotel at the Airport, though it looks like they have an open RFQ for Hotel Development, so maybe in the near future there will be some smart hotel there. Will look into current accommodations another time.
We stopped by the Bellingham Visitors Center to learn about non-shopping options the area has to offer. The clerk in the office was very helpful and friendly, lots of information on local hotels and inns, restaurants and the local micro brewery, Boundary Bay Brewing, and even hikes. We picked up free street maps of downtown Bellingham and downtown Fairhaven. And were encouraged to tour the tiny quaint Historic Fairhaven, and visit the Bellingham Cruise Terminal, home to the Alaska Ferry.
We did visit the Historic Fairhaven District, and it was charming. Completely chocker full of little gift shops and jewellry shops. I fell for the brick architecture. Maybe it was the fall colours against the red bricks, or the wedding couple in the old doorway, it is pretty. Certainly worth the visit, if just to get a break from the bulk shopping.
Driving home, after just spending 6 hours abroad, a few trinkets in the boot. It was a fun day out. I don’t consider myself to live close enough to go on a weekly basis. But we will most certainly consider flying from Bellingham, and doing a big shop up in Costco, if the occasion presents itself.
M-F 10:00am – 8:30pm
Sat. 9:30am – 6:00pm
Sun. 10:00am – 6:00pm
4299 Guide Meridian Street
Bellingham, WA 98226-6475
Trader Joe’s Bellingham
M-Su 8:00am – 9:00pm
2410 James Street Bellingham, WA 98225
Bellingham Visitors Centre
904 Potter Street
Bellingham, WA 98229
Please be nice! 🙂
I went to Trader Joes for the first time recently. I’ve heard so much about all the interesting snacks that they have on offer. Some of them are so good and relatively affordable. I have never ventured into the core area of Bellingham. Usually I end up at Bellis Fair if I do stop. One of these days, hopefully I’ll make it into the city!
Hi Adelina! Bellingham is more than just Costco, that’s for sure! If you get a chance to go to Fairhaven, its really charming! And on route, there are some craft breweries, and cafes. Need to get some nutrition before you hit the malls! Thanks for your comments.
Lovely article Claire. Thank you! We are always happy to greet visitors and provide information at the Bellingham Visitors Center. We also have friendly ambassadors to speak with at the Bellingham Airport and at Bellis Fair Mall. (Look for them in stylish blue vests.) AND, in 2014 we excited to add an additional Visitors Center location in downtown Bellingham. Hope to see you there!
Hi Annette! Thanks for giving me an update. Looks like there are a lot more Traveler friendly things happening in Bellingham! It’s been a while, and it’s so close! I’m definitely due for another visit! Might make it a weekend, and take advantage of the additional duty-frees! See you soon.
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