by Joanna Nesbit
At first glance, the Fairhaven Village Inn’s charming 19th-century style may appear too elegant for families, but don’t be fooled. This intimate 22-room, three-story inn welcomes and accommodates kids. What you get when you stay here is old-fashioned hospitality and a spacious room in the heart of Fairhaven, Bellingham’s quaint historic district, where families can stroll the red-brick village packed with shops and eateries. The Village Inn offers an urban experience on a kid-sized scale that is great for exploring by foot.
Although styled like its turn-of-the-century neighbor buildings, the Village Inn was built in 1989 and offers modern amenities and comfortable rooms with recent updates in a variety of configurations, complete with views of Bellingham Bay’s working harbor. The inn also overlooks the Village Green, a central green space bordered by brickwork and benches. A popular community gathering spot, the Village Green hosts live music concerts throughout the summer and a variety of festivals. Kids will appreciate the accessible grassy area for cartwheels or a game of tag.
The Village Inn staff is friendly and knowledgeable, ready to offer recommendations and insider tips to visitors. Be sure to ask about nearby walking trails, weekend boat rentals, and bicycle rentals, as the inn offers ready access to outdoor adventures and parks just minutes away.
The inviting lobby feels like a parlor, featuring a fireplace, an antique birdcage, and a historic-style desk for check in, where you’ll receive a $5 gift certificate to Village Books, Bellingham’s independent bookstore on the other side of the Village Green. Double doors open into a cozy library stocked with books, games and comfy reading chairs, as well as a sideboard of self-serve coffee, tea and cocoa available at all hours. The tall, antique chair situated between the bookshelves is sure to intrigue children as it looks a bit like something royalty would occupy. In December, the chair is moved to the lobby during the holiday season for kids to sit on Santa’s lap.
On the second floor, an outdoor rooftop patio with garden tables and umbrellas offers views and extra space for bouncy kids. You can have breakfast here, complimentary of the inn, or use it for picnicking if you’d rather not dine out (you’re welcome to bring in food). Pick up to-go orders from a local restaurant or grocery items from the nearby Haggen grocery store. On the ground floor, which you’ll enter from the small parking lot, find an old-fashioned telephone box with a wall phone that harkens back to days gone by. Around the corner, there’s a vending machine with soda.
To stay at the Village Inn is to appreciate the whole Fairhaven experience — quaint setting, kid-friendly shops and eateries, and playgrounds. You won’t find chain hotel amenities here, but the inn’s personalized service, old-fashioned library, and easy access to outdoor activities more than make up for them.
Our Editor Loves
- Spacious rooms with views
- Library with kids' books and games
- Complimentary breakfast
- Water Sports
- Connecting Rooms
- Family Room 5+
- Game Room
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
A Bayside room on the third floor offers sunset views of the harbor where the Alaska ferry docks weekly. Bayside rooms contain cozy gas fireplaces and a small balcony with two chairs and a small patio table, accessible via a sliding glass door. The calls of the wheeling seagulls will remind you you're on the salt water. Across the hall, Parkside rooms overlook the Village Green for an equally appealing view and morning light. The Parkside rooms don't include a gas fireplace or balcony, but do include a queen sofa bed.
All rooms are spacious and come in Two Queen or Single King configurations with comfortable beds outfitted in creamy sheets and intricately stitched quilts (or seasonal down comforters). Each room also contains a flat-screen TV with cable, HBO and DVD slot (rent movies at the nearby grocery store), armchairs, a desk, an armoire with bathrobes, a coffee maker and an ironing board. The bathrooms include tubs and updated spacious vanities. Mini-fridges and microwaves on a rollaway cart are available upon request, so be sure to ask for them.
Families can also book connected rooms or the corner Suite (for a little extra money and a lot more space). The luxurious Victorian-style suite features two rooms separated by French doors. The bedroom contains a king bed and an armchair, and the very spacious living room offers a queen-sized sofa bed, armchairs, a fireplace, large dining table for 10 amd two flat-screen TV's with cable and HBO. A jet tub is also available and housed in a separate space.
The inn also offers two ADA-compliant rooms situated near the elevator for convenient access. Rollaway beds are available for $20 and cribs are complimentary upon request. Children 12 and under stay free, but those 13 and older are $30 each. Room rates are based on double occupancy.
Families should be aware that Fairhaven is located not far from the waterfront railway line, and trains travel through town daily, as well as periodically through the night (they seem to be most noticeable around 4 a.m.). If you or your kids are noise-sensitive, we recommend a Parkside room. The front desk staff is also happy to provide earplugs -- just ask -- but you'll probably find the noise no more noticeable than an occasional city siren.
Complete with rocking chairs and a fine view of Bellingham Bay, the outdoor deck off the second floor was a happy surprise as well as a warm and sunny spot in which to bask. (Our two previous stays had been in the wintertime.) The location is convenient to all the many eating & shopping options in Fairhaven. Our room was exceptionally spacious and pleasantly decorated. A local friend warned us not to plan a Saturday night stay in a townside room since the adjacent public square shows outdoor movies then. Not a cheap choice by any means, but our overnight was relaxing and pleasant - well worth the expense.
We’ve been staying here for many years and always find it a wonderful, comfortable spot. It still is, but we were a bit dismayed on our last visit to Fairhaven that the breakfast has been substantially diminished. We're active people and used to appreciate the yogurt, hard boiled eggs, berries and waffles to power us through our day. We now go to Mount Bakery to get a filling breakfast, which adds to the cost of the weekend. Maybe an AirBnB next time, since we have to go out to get fueled?
Families will love the library with a gas fireplace, overstuffed reading chairs and cocoa. Kids can cozy up with a book or borrow it for their room. On the reading shelves, they'll find a range of books for all ages, from Dr. Seuss to Nancy Drew to Harry Potter, as well as family games such as Cranium, Clue and Monopoly. A basket of wooden train tracks and toddler toys will entertain your youngest travelers. Parents can pick up a novel or browse shelves of nonfiction. With its yesteryear ambiance, the inn is just the place for a weekend of unplugged, old-fashioned fun -- but it also offers free Wi-Fi for teens who need to stay connected.
Just outside the door, summers in Fairhaven offer family fun on the Village Green. On Wednesdays, find a smaller version of the downtown Saturday Farmers Market, and on weekends, join families for live entertainment and a big-screen outdoor family movie, hosted by Fairhaven Outdoor Cinema. These movie events are popular, so consider staking out your spot on the grass early. The Village Inn offers blankets to borrow, but you can also watch the movie from the inn's rooftop patio.
Also, don't miss walking or biking the South Bay Trail, literally outside the Village Inn door, to Taylor Dock and the waterfront Boulevard Park, where families can romp on a pirate-themed play structure and pick up beverages at Woods Coffee. Alternatively, head to Fairhaven Park on the half-mile Padden Creek trail, accessed via a short walk from just outside the inn entrance. The woodsy creek-side trail offers families a peaceful, Northwest forest experience that opens out into a broad expanse of park with a playground, splash park and tennis courts. Bring a soccer ball or a baseball and bat.
The Village Inn includes complimentary continental breakfast in its room rate, served in an airy room off the lobby from 7 to 10 a.m. The floor-to-ceiling windows and white-and-black tiled floor give the room a friendly, cafÃ©-style ambiance with lovely morning light. If weather allows, you can also have breakfast on the outdoor patio. Help yourself to coffee, tea, hot and cold cereals, fruit, yogurt, boiled eggs, English muffins, toast and Belgian waffles made to order. The bread is provided by two local bakeries, Great Harvest Bread and Avenue Bakery, both well loved by area residents.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
Complimentary fresh-baked cookies are available in the lobby every day, along with tea, coffee and cocoa in the library.
Wi-Fi is complimentary throughout the property, as is onsite parking.
Same-day laundry service is available.
The Art of Smart Timing
For many families, summer is the best time to visit, and the long hours of daylight allow for scenic outdoor adventures. Like Seattle, its big-city neighbor, Bellingham receives its sunniest weather from June to September, and the rainiest from October to March. The city's proximity to the water gives it cooler than average temperatures during the summer, rarely exceeding 75 degrees, which spells relief for some visitors. If planning a summer visit, be sure to book early, as this is the high season in town and Fairhaven is a popular place to stay.
As an alternative, consider the off-season to avoid peak hotel rates and busy foot traffic (bear in mind that Bellingham's tourist season will never feel as crowded as a larger city's busiest months). The maritime climate makes the city a mild year-round destination that receives less rain than you think -- around 35 inches -- that tends to come as a mist rather than a downpour (for reference, New York receives 44 inches and Houston receives 50 inches). September and October can be two of the Northwest's most beautiful months, often offering stable, sunny weather. But you never know when rainclouds will roll in, even in the summer, so always pack a rain jacket and fleece.
The holiday season in Fairhaven is particularly festive with twinkly lights and decorated shops. The nearby Bellingham Cruise Terminal hosts an annual gingerbread competition, as well as holiday performances by local dance schools and choirs. Winter can be a nice time to catch up on indoor activities -- take advantage of the gas fireplace in your room and have the walking trails to yourself.
Bellingham International Airport (BLI) completed a major remodel in 2014 to become a Northwest hub serviced by Alaska, Allegiant and Frontier airlines. Located on the north end of town, about 15 minutes from the Fairhaven, the airport has direct flights year-round from a number of western cities, including Honolulu, as well as seasonal flights from San Diego, Denver and Maui. Because Bellingham is just 90 miles north of Seattle on I-5, farther-flung visitors can fly to Sea-Tac and drive north or catch an airport shuttle. Amtrak also services Bellingham with two arrivals daily from Seattle, which debark at the depot in Fairhaven.
For Mom and Dad
Pop down to Daphnes Bar, located at the hotel (directly next door to the lobby). This romantic little spot is open daily from 3 p.m. to midnight and offers low lighting and specialty cocktails in a spacious, yet intimate setting. The bar offers a cheese platter for light noshing but not much else, so it's not the place for a meal. If you like pub food in a lively atmosphere, the Archer Ale House is just a couple of doors down. Descend the stone steps to enter the English-style pub for a pint and a game of darts. The menu includes Northwest specialties, such as oysters and crab, as well as dishes from across the pond, including Irish nachos (oven-baked potatoes smothered in cheddar) and shepherd's pie.