Art, history tours offer visitors a unique look at Whatcom County


A volunteer docent leads a tour of the “People of the Sea and Cedar” exhibition at the Whatcom Museum’s Lightcatcher building.
A volunteer docent leads a tour of the “People of the Sea and Cedar” exhibition at the Whatcom Museum’s Lightcatcher building. Whatcom Museum Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

With visitors in town during the holidays, it’s always nice to find unique activities in Bellingham that get everyone outside of the house. The Whatcom Museum offers a variety of entertaining and educational activities to consider, but to really dive deep into the museum’s exhibits, collections and themes visitors can participate in docent-led history and art tours or take a self-guided walking tour in a few neighborhoods throughout the city.

A guided tour is one of the best ways to get the most out of a museum visit. The Whatcom Museum offers a variety of tours for people of all ages. These include weekly public, docent-led tours of current exhibitions in the Lightcatcher galleries, as well as a weekly tour of the history exhibits at Old City Hall.

For those looking for insights into art history, technique or themes, a docent-led tour provides an opportunity to have one of the museum’s trained guides share information while answering questions. Docents are eager to share their knowledge in informal, interactive hour-long tours. These volunteers spend hours training and researching the artwork, artists and exhibit themes so that they can offer an educational experience to visitors. Docent-led tours last an hour and are included with paid admission or free to members.

Currently the museum is touring “Art of the American West: Highlights of the Haub Family Collection from the Tacoma Art Museum” at 1:30 p.m. Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays and “People of the Sea and Cedar: A Journey through the Tribal Cultures and History of the Northwest Coast” at 2:30 p.m. Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays.

For those interested in the history of Bellingham, the architecture of Old City Hall or local maritime history, visitors can take a docent-led history tour at Old City Hall at 12:30 p.m. Sundays. Tours meet on the first floor, last an hour and are also included with admission or free to members.

Want to take out-of-town guests outside? The city of Bellingham offers self-guided historic walking tours of a few neighborhoods. Experience the evolution of downtown Bellingham, the Old Sehome neighborhood or Highway 99 (Pacific Highway 1) through historic photographs from the museum’s photo archives. The tours are available digitally as an interactive story map, as an audio tour or in booklet form (available for $5 at the Museum Store). The downtown tour is a great way for people to see how downtown has changed since the first settlers arrived in 1852. To access the digital story maps visit

Personalize your tour experience: Interested in bringing a group of friends or family for a private docent-led tour? The museum schedules private tours of Old City Hall as well as of the Lightcatcher gallery exhibitions. Private tours are $15 per person for non-members and $5 per person for members. Call 360-778-8938 or email [email protected] to schedule a private tour.


The non-profit Whatcom Museum is operated by the Whatcom Museum Foundation and the city of Bellingham. The Old City Hall building at 121 Prospect St. and the Lightcatcher Building at 250 Flora St. are open noon to 5 p.m. Wednesdays to Sundays. The Family Interactive Gallery, located inside the Lightcatcher, is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays to Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. Admission, good for all sites in a day, is $10 general, $8 youth (6-17 years) and student, senior or military, $5 children (2-5 years). Memberships start at $50 and include free museum admission.

The museum offers a variety of programs and exhibitions about art, nature and Northwest history. Its collections contain more than 200,000 artifacts and art of regional importance, including a photographic archive. The museum is accredited nationally by the American Alliance of Museums and is a Smithsonian Institution Affiliate.