In the late 19th century, this bustling port town, located 20 miles from the Canadian border, was on its way to becoming a West Coast Chicago. But soon thereafter business went south, literally—to Seattle. Today, you can stroll the historic Fairhaven District and see the redbrick relics that once housed rumrunners, counterfeiters, and other dubious denizens during that bygone era (walking tour maps are available at the visitors bureau, 800-487-2032). To appreciate the city's more venerable maritime past, book a spot on one of the narrated history cruises that circle Bellingham Bay (360-676-6981). Don't skip town without visiting the American Museum of Radio and Electricity (360-738-3886). Coolest exhibit: a full-scale diorama of the radio room on the Titanic, complete with a Marconi transmitter that plays the SOS the ship's operator sent the night it sank in the North Atlantic in 1912.
This article was first published in July 2005. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.