If your Winter agenda could use some inspiration, you’re in luck—there’s plenty of festive fun to be had in Bellingham and beyond. As the holidays draw closer, here’s a peek at our 2021 to-do list.

Chop Your Own Christmas Tree

The scent of a fresh Christmas tree can make any room feel cozier. Luckily there’s no shortage of Christmas tree farms in the area—and, if you’re feeling up to it, you can even chop the tree yourself.

In Whatcom County, Fullner Christmas Tree Farm has been around since 1958 and is owned and operated by the Fullner family to this day. Alpine Meadows Christmas Tree Farm offers a large variety of trees ranging from firs to cedars and even “Charlie Brown’’ trees (priced at just $10 with the purchase of a full-sized tree).

In Skagit, McLean Christmas Tree Farm has 12 acres of trees plus farm animals such as geese, chicken, and donkeys that visitors can hang out with. Laue’s Christmas Tree Farm doubles as an event venue, and its sprawling grounds make a stunning backdrop for weddings and other special occasions.

Celebrate a Snow Day

Snow days in Bellingham are a rare form of winter magic, so when they do occur, it’s practically required to get outside and play. Your first order of business: Break out last summer’s inner tube or buy a sled from Yeager’s Sporting Goods.

Squalicum Creek Park is a classic snow day spot, with plenty of space for snowball fights and abundant hills to sled down. Alternatively, Fairhaven Park is a great destination for small but mighty sledding hills. Even if it’s a snow day, don’t rule out going to school! There are great hills to be found around Lynden Middle School and Western Washington University.

If it’s not snowing in town, head to the alpine instead. On Highway 542, just before the Mount Baker ski area, Picture Lake and Highwood Lake create natural snowy bowls that look as though they were made just for sledding.

Get Your Adrenaline Fix Outdoors

Some prefer to stay warm with a roaring fire and a cup of eggnog, but others prefer to face the winter chills head-on. If you’re one of the brave souls in the latter category, the Padden Polar Dip might be up your alley. Jump into the (most likely frigid) waters of Lake Padden and be rewarded with snacks, good company, and a hot shower. Birch Bay folks can also get in on the action at the 39th annual Birch Bay Polar Bear Plunge.

If you’re looking for a slightly less extreme way to get moving outside when the temperature drops, the Arthritis Foundation’s Jingle Bell Run, taking place this year on Dec. 11, should be on your agenda. You can sign up for a 5K run/walk, a one-mile run, or even a dog trot. You’ll still get the adrenaline—just without the frostbite.

If one fun run isn’t enough, there’s also the Santa 5K at Cordata on Dec.19. Each participant will receive a Santa hat, and all ages are welcome to join in.

There are always fun hikes to be had in the winter, especially in the Chuckanut Mountains. Raptor Ridge Lost Lake, and Oyster Dome are classics for a reason, and the views are just as spectacular in November as they are in July.

For something less strenuous, Padilla Bay in Skagit is a personal favorite for both walking and running, and it’s family friendly, too. Mount Baker might be covered up with snow, but you can still take in breathtaking views of the mountain by hiking to Lummi Peak at Mount Baker Preserve.

Local Gifts to Love

Allied Arts of Whatcom County is bringing back its annual Holiday Festival of the Arts from Nov. 19–Dec. 24. You can expect live music, workshops for children, demonstrations, and of course more than 100 local artisans.

At the Assistance League’s annual Yule Boutique, taking place on Nov. 6, visitors can expect a large assortment of handcrafted gifts and baked goods (including a 15-foot-long table piled high with cookies, candies, and cakes). Better yet, the proceeds help fund community programs that positively benefit the lives of children and adults in Whatcom County.

Skagit locals can shop for handmade goods at the holiday edition of Mount Vernon’s monthly Valley Made Market, occurring Dec. 11–12 at Christianson’s Vinery. In Anacortes, the Nutcracker Holiday Gift Show takes place from Nov. 11–14 at the Depot Arts Center. It’s the place to go for holiday decor, jewelry, accessories, knitwear, and more. You’re sure to find something for everyone on your shopping list.

To support local businesses, consider purchasing a Think Local First eGift card for your loved ones this year. It’s valid at a wide array of Whatcom County shops, restaurants, bars, and more. To find out more, head to sustainableconnections.org for a list of participating vendors.

Lastly, have you ever opened a Christmas cracker? These quintessentially British novelties pop open to reveal a festive surprise, and you can buy them locally from Olde English Crackers. In addition to making excellent stocking stuffers or table favors, Christmas crackers can be purchased in bulk for weddings and events.

Enjoy a Cup of Cheer

If you like your sugar with a bit of spice, the Mayan Hot Chocolate from Caffe Adagio just might be your new go-to winter treat. It combines rich cocoa with warming spices plus a pinch of heat thanks to the addition of chili.

For something truly decadent, Chocolate Necessities offers Italian-style sipping chocolate, and it’s an experience akin to drinking a candy bar. Try it once and you’ll never settle for a watery cocoa mix again.

Mulled wine might be a holiday standby, but hot spiced mead is an equally effective remedy for the winter chills. Try some for yourself at Honey Moon in Bellingham. Their version is made with cinnamon, cardamom, star anise, pepper, and other goodies for a unique spin on a Christmastime classic.

In Skagit, Garden Path Fermentation is known for offering libations that are truly special. Start with a cup of their warm spiced cider, and if you’re still thirsty after, we suggest following it up with a sip of Frederiksdal Cherry Wine. The menu purports that this rich, world-class Danish fruit wine will change your life, so you should put that claim to the test.

If you’d prefer to imbibe in the warmth of your own home, pick up a bottle of Krampus, a spiced herbal liqueur released seasonally by Chuckanut Distillery. Named after the European “anti-Santa,” this spirit is bottled at 110 proof and is slightly more naughty than nice.

For a drink the whole family can enjoy, Twin Brooks Creamery in Lynden offers seasonal eggnog. We have a hunch that it’s best enjoyed while huddled around the glow of a roaring fireplace.

Look at the Lights

Does anywhere do Christmas cheer better than Fairhaven? The annual Fairhaven Winterfest is back, and you’ll find that everywhere in town is twinkling during the Christmas season. We especially recommend taking in the scenery while nestled in the back of a horse-drawn carriage, departing every Saturday afternoon, or catching the Lighted Bike Parade on Dec. 11.

Presented by Edaleen Dairy, the Lynden Lighted Christmas Parade is a proper Whatcom County tradition. Cars, trucks, floats, and even tractors will be decked out in their glitzy holiday best for the 31st year in a row (and counting).

On Dec. 3 and 4, Ferndale’s historic Pioneer Park will come to life for the 28th annual Olde Fashioned Christmas. In addition to admiring historic cabins in their holiday splendor, children can enjoy Christmas-themed crafts, write a letter to Santa, and even visit the jolly old man himself.

In Anacortes, the Winter Wonderland Walk in Washington Park is about as Pacific Northwestern as it gets. Have you ever seen a camp-site decked out in Christmas lights before? On Dec. 10–11 from 5–8 p.m., go for the lights and stay for live music, food, entertainment, and more.

Give Back to Your Community

In addition to festivities, the holidays are a time to show support for community members in need. Operation Warm is an annual initiative headed by the firefighters of Bellingham and Whatcom County. The organization helps provide brand new winter coats to local children who need them most, and donations can be made at operationwarm.com.

In Blaine and Birch Bay, the Community Toy Store is a gift assistance program that accepts donations of new, unwrapped toys.

From Dec. 9–11, families facing financial hardships are invited to shop for Christmas presents at a discount of 75%, and all proceeds are donated to nonprofits serving local families.

Help bring a sense of wonder and excitement to Lydia Place families this holiday season by signing up to participate in their 24th annual Adopt A Family Program. This is a difficult time of year for parents who are already struggling to make ends meet, but with the support of individuals and businesses, we can make it a time to remember. Each family receives approximately $100 in gifts per child as well as a family enrichment activity and wrapping supplies.

For more than 70 years, the Skagit Valley Herald Christmas Fund has provided children and families with toys, books, and a holiday meal. Donations can be made online at goskagit.com/xmasfund.

Last but not least, consider donating to the Bellingham Food Bank to help ensure that every family has food on the table this holiday season. Those looking to donate can do so online at bellinghamfoodbank.org. If you have time to spare, the food bank is also always on the lookout for volunteers.