Sitting on the northwest side of the Nooksack River, Ferndale is a quiet little Main Street town whose major highlight is a pair of historic parks that have preserved a little slice of Whatcom County’s past.
Located two blocks south of Main on 1st Avenue, Pioneer Park contains a dozen hand-hewn cedar log buildings that date back to the late 19th century, moved here and preserved since the 1930s. Inside, visitors can check out exhibits that range from aged photos to an old Linotype machine. Tours of the buildings are available 11:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Tues.–Sun. mid-May to mid-September and cost $2.
Head south from town on Hovander Drive and Neilsen Road to Hovander Homestead Park (360/384-344, www.co.whatcom.wa.us/parks ), where you’ll find a restored century-old Victorian home and farm on the Nooksack River, a big red barn, milk house, children’s petting zoo, flower gardens (including 30 varieties of dahlias), fruit orchard, hayfields, and antique farm equipment. Bring your picnic basket for a lunch along the river. Now a National Historic site, the park is open daily, but the homestead is open only on summer weekends. Admission is $3 per car. Tours are available in the summer noon to 4:30 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.
Ferndale has several of the county’s best festivals. The Scottish Highland Games (360/647-8500, www.bellinghamhighland.org ) take place on the first Saturday in June, with bagpipe music, Highland dancing, dog trials, Celtic music, and the caber toss. Then comes the Whatcom County Old Settlers Picnic (360/384-1866) at Pioneer Park on the last weekend of July. More than an old-timers picnic, this century-old festival includes country music, dancing, and parades.
In early August the Civil War Re-enactment takes place at Hovander Homestead and includes staged battles between the Blue and Gray armies. The first weekend in December brings Olde Fashioned Christmas at Pioneer Park (360/384-3693). People dressed in turn-of-the-20th-century costumes take you through the cabins to experience the sounds, sights, and smells of Christmases gone-by, including horse-drawn wagon rides.
Popular with locals are Cedar’s Café (2038 Main St., 360/384-1848) and Ferndale Bakery (5686 3rd Ave., 360/384-1554). The best carnivorous meals can be found at Pacific Prime Rib (2254 Douglas Rd., 360/384-5111), where the menu also includes pasta, seafood, and steaks. Another favorite is Chihuahua Family Mexican Restaurant (3rd Ave. and Vista Dr., 360/384-5820).
Finally, those hoping to picnic at Pioneer Park should stop by Haggen Foods (1815 Main St., 360/380-6353, www.haggen.com ) for deli items and express Chinese food takeout.