With salish sea waves breaking onto the waterfront and snow-clad Mount Baker towering over the horizon, Bellingham anchors Whatcom County in Washington’s scenic northwest corner. Annette Bagley, director of marketing at Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism, describes it best, saying, “We are a hip, urban, yet outdoorsy community in an elegant historic setting.” ¶ It’s also easily accessible, thanks to the fullservice Bellingham International Airport, a ferry terminal, and the interstate highway—making it an ideal destination for conferences, meetings and events of any size.
Where to Meet
With a lively atmosphere, the Silver Reef Hotel Casino Spa has an assortment of meeting and convention spaces—totaling 23,900 square feet—from the 10,350-square-foot Event Center, accommodating up to 600 guests for a meeting or 1,000 for a reception, to the classic 290-square-foot, 12-seat Chairman’s Room. The 154-seat, 6,780-square-foot Theatre has tiered seating and state-of-the-art audio-visual equipment. Add to that 205 guest rooms, six on-site eateries, a spa, and 80,000 square feet of gaming floor with 1,200 video slots and table games, and the Silver Reef offers a full-service experience for event attendees.
Eagles soar over the trees and marine life cavorts in the bay along the parkway approaching the newly renovated Semiahmoo Resort. Located 30 minutes from Bellingham, it boasts more than 35,000 square feet of event space. Options include the 7,200-square-foot exhibit hall, suitable for a 1,000-person reception, and the 6,510-square-foot ballroom, accommodating 500 seated at rounds and 1,000 theater-style. Thirteen additional banquet and hospitality rooms hold from five to 500 guests. Featuring two golf courses, a destination spa, 211 guest rooms and four restaurant choices, Semiahmoo is truly a destination resort. The dramatic waterfront setting provides a variety of preand post-meeting activities, such as beachfront bonfires or bayside walks. Emily Baker, guest services assistant, notes: “Semiahmoo gives visitors an island atmosphere without having to take a ferry.”
With more than 11,000 square feet of meeting space and 132 guest rooms, the recently refurbished Four Points by Sheraton Bellingham Hotel and Conference Center offers a variety of options for meeting and event planners. The hotel’s 12 meeting rooms can be arranged for everything from an intimate gathering of 10 to a general session of 500. Located adjacent to Interstate 5 and close to downtown, the hotel provides easy access to all of the region’s activities.
A parklike peninsula on Bellingham Bay, minutes from downtown, is the home of stylish Hotel Bellwether. Groups seeking a dramatic setting overlooking the bay could choose the 1,401-square-foot Admiral-Garden Room, accommodating 60 seated or 90 for a standing reception. Also facing the bay, the 772-square-foot Compass Room offers an intimate yet scenic setting for a reception of 40. For larger events, the 4,437-square-foot Bellwether Ballroom has dramatic views of the San Juan Islands and space for up to 290 attendees. Guests staying in one of Bellwether’s 66 luxurious rooms and suites have easy access to restaurants and downtown shopping.
Other Bellingham venues include downtown’s historic 1,500-seat Mount Baker Theatre, which is perfect for a large-scale presentation or performance. The theater also has smaller rooms for events with up to 100 participants. The Bellingham Cruise Terminal hosts a variety of events and can accommodate up to 250 guests in the Dome Room, which showcases a spectacular view over Bellingham Bay.
A short drive north of the city, the Ferndale Events Center accommodates 1,300 people in more than 12,000 square feet of flexible space. The center is perfect for a trade show, corporate event or wedding. Nearby Lynden is the home of the Northwest Washington Fair and Event Center. The fairgrounds host the annual Northwest Washington Fair and have modern facilities ranging from small meeting rooms to the 46,000-square-foot Henry Jansen Ag Center. Manager Jim Baron notes, “We can serve a small group of five or a large gathering for thousands.”
What to Do and Where to Go
For an invigorating experience, the Mount Baker area offers year-round mountain recreation. Whether for whale watching on the Salish Sea or picnic tours to Sucia Island, cruises of every length and theme sail from Bellingham’s Squalicum Harbor. For a unique team-building activity or breathtaking wedding, the Schooner Zodiac offers private charter trips on a classic 1924-built sailing ship.
Less strenuous activities include browsing the shops and boutiques in the Victorian-era Fairhaven District or the Downtown Cultural District. The SPARK Museum of Electrical Invention is a one-of-a-kind museum featuring interactive exhibits and demonstrations about the world of electricity. For a little liquid refreshment, follow the Bellingham Tap Trail—a map available at the Visitor Center—which highlights the area’s fine craft breweries. “Bellingham is experiencing a craftbrewery boom, with several excellent breweries emerging in the last few years,” says Bellingham Tourism’s Bagley.
Regardless of what’s on tap for your next meeting or event, the area’s stunning scenery, variety of activities and abundance of modern facilities make Bellingham and Whatcom County attractive destinations for any event.
BELLINGHAM WHATCOM COUNTY BY THE NUMBERS
83,580 people living in Bellingham
1,900 pleasure and commercial boats are moored in Squalicum Harbor, the second-largest in Puget Sound
60 percent of the country's red raspberry crop is grown in Whatcom County
14 area golf courses
2nd in the nation for arts businesses per capita