#2 Bellingham, Washington 

Population: 82,000
Getting there:
Amtrak offers two daily trains between Bellingham and Seattle or Vancouver and points in between. Alaska Airlines and Allegiant Air provide non-stop service between Bellingham and an increasing number of destinations, including Seattle, Honolulu, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Oakland, Phoenix, and Palm Springs.

A trip to Bellingham’s Taylor Shellfish will find you making the acquaintance of the world’s largest burrowing clam, the geoduck. Beyond the fresh sea food, Bellingham is a stone’s throw from the Canadian border, with Mt. Baker casting a brilliant backdrop to the east and the islands of Puget Sound dotting the western coast. There is no shortage of stunning natural beauty. A slice of the quintessential Pacific Northwest, there’s year-round adventure from whale watching and kayaking in the Chuckanut Bay to winter sports at Mt. Baker.

The town itself is charming with a storied and naughty past, best told by local guides Marissa McGrath and Sara Holodnick, aka “The Good Time Girls,” who since 2011 have been leading historical walking tours in Bellingham. Their most popular – The  Sin & Gin Tour – takes you on a wild ride through the former brothels and speakeasies. Don’t miss a stop at Mallard Ice Cream for the organic, wacky, locally-sourced and inspired ice creams, and the famous Farmer’s Market for a taste of the local culture.

Where to stay: The Chrysalis Inn & Spa overlooks Bellingham Bay, offers spacious and cozy rooms with fireplaces, alluring sitting nooks, oversized baths and luxurious amenities. The spa is the nicest in town with soothing and experienced skin and body therapists. Part of the Chrysalis Inn’s charm is its location along the railroad tracks, but be forewarned that occasional trains can be heard and felt during both the day and night.

For a unique and quiet stay on the outskirts of town, the Tree Frog Night Inn is a B&B with two beautiful suite options. Owned by a husband-and-wife team who treat guests as family, the organic and locally sourced breakfast will be the best you’ll find anywhere in town. Literally, you can visit the hens your omelette came from – they’re on the property.

Side trip: Lummi Island. Imagine orca jumping the waves, abundant wild salmon, country roads, and pristine wilderness. That’s what you’ll find on Lummi, the most accessible of the San Juan Islands. Served by a small county-operated ferry which makes the crossing once an hour until mid-night.  If for only one reason to visit, do it to have dinner at the Willows Inn where Chef Blaine Wetzel was named on Food & Wine magazine’s Best New Chefs list in 2012. The island is truly a hidden gem and one of the Pacific Northwest’s best-kept secrets.
More info: www.bellingham.org, www.lummi-island.commore