Bellingham, WA: Livability Top 100 Best Places to Live 2014
Bellingham Mayor Kelli Linville describes the city as “a gem of the Northwest,” a statement that’s certainly apropos. Located on the shores of Bellingham Bay, approximately 90 miles north of Seattle and 20 miles south of the Canadian border, Bellingham is everything one could ever want in a small- to mid-sized municipality.
To the west of Bellingham: North Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands, which are ideal for fishing, sailing, canoeing and sea kayaking, not to mention bird and whale watching. To the east: the North Cascade mountains and snow-capped Mount Baker (10,781 feet), a picturesque peak that boasts some of the highest annual snowfall totals in the world, which explains why Mt. Baker Ski Area is a mecca for skiers and snowboarders alike. In between is downtown Bellingham, the focus of a diverse, robust economy that earns high marks for its public education system and health-care industry, the latter headlined by PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center.
In fact, excellence in education is a hallmark of the region. Taken together, tens of thousands of students attend classes at Whatcom Community College, Bellingham Technical College, and the Bellingham campus of British Columbia-based Trinity Western University. Meanwhile, Western Washington University – by itself nearly 15,000 students strong – is home to more than its share of nationally recognized programs.
Yet what visitors and locals appreciate most are the area’s cultural diversity, distinct neighborhoods, preserved open spaces and easy access to amenities. Attractions include the Bellingham Farmers Market at Depot Market Square, countless specialty shops and boutiques, and several dozen city parks.
“There’s something here for everyone,” says Mayor Linville, referring to the “lively arts, entertainment, and cultural scene, the extensive parks, trails and recreation opportunities, and easy access to the mountains and the sea. We’re truly one of the best places in the nation to live, work, learn and play!”