Literary City Guide | bELLINGHAM, WASHINGTON
Tour Guide: hannah streetman
Hannah is an aspiring editor finishing up her B.A. in Creative Writing from Western Washington University. A lifelong reader and word enthusiast, her best days are the ones she spends wandering around a new place with a coffee in her hand and a book in her bag. (Photos by Hannah Streetman)
Relationship to Bellingham: I grew up in a suburb of Denver and moved to Bellingham for school.
Writer you’d like to invite to dinner: Anne Carson
Chef you’d like to prepare the meal: Bellingham’s own Kate Lebo, poet and pie maker
Writing soundtrack: Foghorns on the bay (not a band)
Pen or Pencil: Pen with quick-drying ink for lefties
Coffee or Tea? Coffee
Paperback or Hardback? Paperback
Village Books. Located in the gorgeous old brick buildings of the historic Fairhaven district, this bookstore is sort of the hub for all things literary in Bellingham. It hosts hundreds of author talks, panels, and open mics and offers three floors of new and used books for your endless browsing. The Book Fare Café on the top floor has locally-sourced food and great views of the bay.
Eclipse Books. Also in Fairhaven, in Eclipse Books you’re completely surrounded by books—floor to ceiling stacks and piles upon piles of used books that couldn’t fit on the packed shelves. After some rummaging around, I always leave with a treasure.
Henderson’s. This used book store is so impeccably and satisfyingly organized, down to the most specific sub-genres. If you’re looking for the gothic architecture section, for example, the owner might give you directions to go passed 60s fashion, make a left at the transcendentalists, and it will be on your left after turn-of-the-century crime novels. It’s wonderful to get lost in here.
Michael’s. Across the street from Henderson’s, Michael’s Books also has a great selection of used and collectible books. I’ll often hit Henderson’s and Michael’s together.
Alternative Library. The Alternative Library houses rare books that you can’t find in normal libraries, including a large selection of graphic novels, small press books, and zines. It’s housed in Bellingham’s landmark “Karate Church,” which was a church before it was a karate studio before it was a library.
Wilson Library. I’ve spent most of the last three years in this Western Washington University library. The entire campus is gorgeous, and this is a worthwhile stop if you’re walking through. The “Harry Potter room” as high ceilings and perfect silence, and Zoe’s Bookside Bagels is how I get though finals.
Little Free Libraries. You’ll see these adorable libraries scattered around in residential neighborhoods. It’s a simple system: Take a book, return a book.
READINGS & CONFERENCES
Chuckanut Writers Conference. Every June, this conference gathers a faculty of renowned Pacific Northwest writers for one weekend to give lectures, panels, and workshops. For writers, this is a great way to make connections in the industry and like-minded friends in the community.
Village Books Literature Live Events. I’ve been to many of the open mics and readings that Village Books puts on. My favorite was when I accidentally stumbled upon Paul Harding talking about his new novel when I was in the middle of reading his Pulitzer Prize-winning Tinkers.
Poetrynight. Bellingham’s oldest and largest open mic, Poetrynight hosts spoken word and acoustic performances every Monday from 8-10pm, usually at the Bellingham Public Library.
Antique Stores in Old Town. There are several antique shops in this part of town that offer extensive selections of beautiful old books along with other antique ephemera. My favorite is Penny Lane antique mall.
Pickford Film Center. The Pickford is a charming little theater where you can catch all the best independent films.
Woods Coffee at Boulevard Park. This coffee shop is right on the water at Boulevard Park. I come here to get work done and take breaks by walking along the boardwalk.
Tony’s Coffee. Huge windows give Tony’s lots of natural light and lovely views of century-old brick buildings. This is my favorite place to people watch or meet friends for coffee.
Avellino. Avellino always has unusual baked goods, including lots of gluten-free options. Their menu and selection of local art is always changing.
The Black Drop. The best espresso in Bellingham. Try one of their signature drinks—I would recommend the Bee’s Knees, a honey rose latte.
A PROPER MEAL
Farmers Market. On Saturdays from May to November, the Bellingham Farmers Market is the place to buy veggies, sample local restaurants, and watch street performers.
Bayou on Bay. Here you’ll find authentic Cajun food and fresh seafood, with the best sweet potato fries ever. You can also stop by the Oyster Bar for some eclectic cocktails and frog legs.
Old World Deli. This deli has a European atmosphere with its exposed brick walls. Everything is either local or made in-house, and their wine and cheese selection is amazing. My go-to order is the muffuletta with a fresh-squeezed lemonade.
Man Pies. Man Pies sells variations on the chicken pot pie—chicken curry, roasted zucchini and eggplant, spicy pork, and the list goes on.
Gypsies & Gingersnaps. Part quirky boutique and part café, Gypsies & Gingersnaps has delicious quiche and cherry turnovers. Everything that comes out of their bakery is absolutely exquisite, and you can browse the boutique while the barista makes your coffee.
Mallard’s Ice Cream. Mallard’s makes their ice cream in-house. Their unusual flavors like cantaloupe, vanilla black pepper, and rhubarb make it a popular stop in the summer. They also have a lot of non-dairy options.
Papa’s Sweets. A sweet old-fashioned candy shop. Try one of their salted caramels—trust me.
Rocket Donuts. Rocket Donuts has a good selection of classic donuts, fritters, cronuts, and espresso drinks. Their two locations have a fun vintage sci-fi feel, and the big metal rocket outside of their downtown store is a Bellingham landmark.
hannah's 5 Favorites
1. Favorite view: The view from Chuckanut Drive, a wonderful winding road that coils along the side of Puget Sound from Bellingham to Burlington. To one side are mossy forests and to the other are breathtaking views of the San Juan Islands. There are several spots for you to pull off the road to read or explore.
2. Favorite place to write: In any of the above coffee shops, where the presence of other people somehow keeps me from getting distracted.
4. Favorite coffee shop: Tony’s Coffee. I’m there every lunch break to eat one of their pumpkin cookies with cream cheese frosting.
5. Favorite thing about Bellingham: How green everything is. I’m from Denver, where everything is beige, so I’m still getting used to how ridiculously lush it is up here.