To be fair, Bellingham doesn't always deserve its wet weather reputation ? August and September, after all, can be glorious! However, Whatcom County residents are usually faced with more than a few rainy days the rest of the year. For active families with young children, this sometimes means hunting for a safe, welcoming indoor place to play.
Children need to stretch their minds and bodies through active or imaginative play in every season, wet slides and frozen sandboxes aside. In Bellingham, families can find a variety of museums, restaurants and libraries in which to play, visit and learn on a rainy day.
Other than the libraries, they all come with entry fees. Call ahead for current times and prices.
Stories and more
The Bellingham Public Library welcomes families with children of all ages. The library's head of children's services, Bethany Hoglund, said the libraries are working hard on creating an environment for learning and play.
"We know that young kids can be excited," she said. "Play is a big part of early learning, and we're working to incorporate that into our spaces."
As part of their effort to include room for music, games and independent play, the central branch has created an Early Learning Center. The center, open to infants and preschool-aged children, is free to visit and includes books, toys, puppets, blocks and room to move around.
Regular programming for families is also in place, Hoglund said, with eight weekly scheduled story times at the downtown branch, evening story times on the first Monday of every month at the Barkley branch, and family movie screenings at the central and Fairhaven branches throughout the winter.
Bellingham Public Library Central Branch
210 Central Ave.
Bellingham Public Library Fairhaven Branch
1117 12th St.
Bellingham Public Library Barkley Branch
3111 Newmarket St., Suite 103
'Mom, I'm hungry'
If you're looking for a chance to play and dine, Bellingham is home to two businesses that serve meals in a play-focused environment.
Perch and Play, which opened in October 2012, is an indoor playground with an adjacent cafe serving kid-friendly meals, healthy adult fare and espresso, beer and wine. The play spaces are geared toward children from birth to 10. "The Backyard," home to a treehouse and climbing structure, appeal to older children while "the Peapatch," gated separately, is restricted to children under three. Play areas are visible from the elevated lounge area and are supervised by a play monitor. Parents are encouraged to accompany younger children into the play areas.
Captain Jack Jr's Family Entertainment Center, which opened in August 2012, is a pizzeria with arcade games, a toddler play area and prize-redemption games. The family-owned restaurant offers traditional Italian fare as well as gluten-free menu items.
Perch and Play
1707 N State St.
Captain Jack Jr's
4176 Meridian St.
Let's get moving!
If your kids really need to work out their wiggles, Bellingham is home to several indoor venues for physical activity. Kids 10 and under (and shorter than 5 feet tall) can break a sweat at Jump Around Fun Zone, an indoor bounce house venue with snacks for purchase, free Wi-Fi for parents and a commitment to clean, safe play.
If you and your little ones are missing the beach, consider a visit to the city of Bellingham's Arne Hanna Aquatic Center. The center's four swimming pools are open to the public at set times throughout all months of the year, with calendars posted regularly online.
Admission rates are discounted by 50 cents for Bellingham city residents, so bring a piece of mail or an ID showing your home address.
Jump Around Fun Zone
4600 Guide Meridian, No. 108
Arne Hanna Aquatic Center
1114 Potter St.
Learn on the go
Exercising growing minds can be just as important as exercising growing bodies, and two Bellingham museums offer abundant opportunities for children to engage their curiosity through educational play.
Mindport, a hands-on museum in downtown Bellingham, is described on its website as combining science and art to encourage "exploration, observation, creativity, play and fun." While Mindport does welcome visitors of all ages, they especially recommend the exhibits for children older than six. Interactive exhibits are central to the museum's mission, and curious children will have no trouble finding things to touch and explore.
Whatcom Museum, which moved its children's exhibits from a small space on Prospect Street to its location in the Lightcatcher Building on Flora Street in 2009, now welcomes families to its Family Interactive Gallery, know as FIG. The gallery is designed to engage audiences of all ages on subjects like nature, art and history. Whatcom Museum also hosts toddler art classes throughout the year.
210 W. Holly St.
Whatcom Museum's Family Interactive Gallery
250 Flora St.