If you enjoy rainy days, college students, retired and friendly folk and abundant outdoor activity, visit Bellingham, Washington. A beautiful town, population of 65,000, located on a Bay that never ceases to disappoint, this charming little town is known for its local natives’ motto: You always come back. It’s perfectly situated in between two major cities, Seattle and Vancouver, and is at the same time an outdoorsman’s haven of continual pleasure. Whether it’s hiking, biking, skiing, walking, sailing, canoeing, kayaking or simply sitting on a rock atop Western Washington University’s “Big Rock” overlooking the Sound on a rainy day, the spirit of Nature blankets the soul of every green activist.
Bellingham may be a college town and home to the retirees, so it may come as a surprise to many that it’s also, among other things, a perfect place to raise a family. There are so many things to do with children, one being the über-cool Mindport on W. Holly St. This place, to put it mildly, rocks. Its combination of fine and interactive art encourages youngsters to explore things in a different way. And, yes, adults get a kick out of it too.
The term “fine art” allows kids to learn things in a more internal way (a painting, a sculpture, or a showcase of an Aquatic Ecosystem) and gives them the chance to think: “What does this painting mean to you?” or “What do you like about this sculpture?” and “ Look inside the tank: do you see the little tadpoles? What do you think they feed on?” Kids are hungry for learning new things, and asking them questions, or letting them ramble on about the things they see gives them the opportunity to discover.
Interactive art (which kids love best) is where they get to explore things hands on. Just as you enter Mindport, to the left of its entrance before admission (which is a low $2 per person), is a hydromechanics exhibit. Sure, it sounds like a complicated hands-on activity, but it’s not. It’s a small 8ft down sloped “river” with rocks, and twists around to a small pool of water. Children take a small handful of different sized/shaped chips of wood and place it on top to see how it moves down. Seeing the kids’ delight in watching their chips making it all the way to the pools is enough to get every parent the sense of satisfaction for taking them here in the first place. Sometimes the chips get stuck. Sometimes they go slow, and sometimes they go fast. They’re all different, and that’s the study of water, and objects being placed in water. Children learn this through their experience with it first-hand.
The “Tornado” is also a big hit. Align the three knobs in their right order, and you see wind and fog create an actual weathering system; a tornado. Kids love sticking their hands in it and feeling the small sensation of wind, but what’s most impressive is seeing the formation of a tornado being created one foot away from you.
There are so many other creative and mind-stimulating exhibits here. One could easily spend hours here, playing and learning (and not realizing you’re doing so). If you have wee ones, keep it short: overstimulation can sometimes lead to a less-than happy child. In any case, thirty minutes or three hours at Mindport, you’ll leave feeling like a kid again, wearing a bright grin and feeling hungry for more.