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Old 10-08-2020, 05:13 PM
 
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I have spent much of my adult life pining to live in the northwest. I have visited many times, though only once with my wife. We had semi-settled on Bellingham, which is certainly a nice town. But my wife and I may be going back and forth to Denver a lot, making a place closer to a major airport a bit easier. And, of course, Portland is just across the river from Vancouver. Based on the time I spent in both places, not all that much, Bellingham strikes me as a nice town, lots of good hiking trails, a priority. But Vancouver has the advantage of being near a major city, though you have to time the traffic right. Portland has some of the worst traffic I have ever seen, and I used to live near LA. Portland might be better for medical and real estate in Vancouver seems a bit cheaper than in Bellingham. We are friends with a couple in Bellingham, but are associated with a religion with a substantial presence in Portland, though neither of us are deeply religious. We had hoped to visit both places again, but a little thing known as Covid got in the way. Kind of doing a back and forth. Any words of wisdom, including pointing out anything I might be missing, would be greatly appreciated.
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Old 10-08-2020, 07:11 PM
 
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Depends mostly on your politics. Bellingham is probably one of the most politically extreme cities in the US. Some people like it.

Vancouver people don't care about politics one way or the other, and are basically libertarian.

Fiscally conservative, pro big business, and pro social freedoms.

Both vancouver and bellingham have beautiful nature.

Vancouver has 10 minute access to a world class international airport that goes direct to most places in eastern asia and western europe. Some of the best health care, OHSU, etc.

Bellingham has basically nothing in terms of infrastructure, but does have a very liberal culture and is mostly just college kids.

It's not for me for living, but have visited many times and it's fun for a few days.
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Old 10-08-2020, 09:09 PM
 
Location: Vancouver, WA
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For the points you've mentioned, Vancouver seems like the more logical choice offering more of what you're looking for.

The big advantage of Bellingham, for some, is that it's more removed from larger cities. But that's also a con for others especially if you need to catch national/international flights fairly often. While Portland does have really bad traffic at rush hour, unlike larger cities such as LA or even Seattle, its pretty easy to get around off peak hours. And getting to the airport is super easy and convenient from Vancouver. In fact, much of Vancouver is closer to PDX than many of the outlying Portland towns and suburbs. Plus you get the shopping, nightlife and other large city amenities when you want them. Then, just cross over the river and leave those larger crowds behind most of the time.

I agree with TheOrca that both have beautiful nature. Vancouver is very close to Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens and the local mountains even closer in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Its got the Gorge with amazing waterfalls and hikes. Its also nice having the Columbia River along with other rivers and lakes if you enjoy any type of water sports. In addition, we have great access to the beautiful Oregon coast. Of course, Bellingham has many other great things too including the Sound and Sand Juan Islands close by.

Lastly, Vancouver is further south. So, it may get a bit more warmth, sun and a bit longer days in the winter at this latitude. Because of this, its easier to take weekend trips to the southern Oregon coast and NorCal redwoods. Both are amazing. I actually live closer now to NorCal's Redwood National Park than when I lived in Monterey, CA.

Both are nice. You just have to think about long term livability based upon your daily lives, preferences and requirements.

Derek

Last edited by MtnSurfer; 10-08-2020 at 09:27 PM..
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Old 10-08-2020, 11:42 PM
 
Location: WA
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We live in Camas, adjacent to Vancouver but I was just in Bellingham not long ago on a college visit with my daughter.

The huge advantage that Bellingham has is the water. It's basically at the gateway to the San Juan Islands and Inside Passage which is about the best protected boating and cruising grounds on the planet. My wife and I have dreams about cruising the inside passage and spending a lot of time exploring that area. Bellingham is about the most perfect location on the planet if you are into boating and cruising.

Obviously it is a lot smaller but for the day-to-day stuff of shopping and dining and so forth it seems adequate. Vancouver BC is a short day-trip away for your cultural stuff as is Seattle.

Yes, Portland will have better air service to Denver. But Everett WA has a smaller airport that I expect has direct Alaska Airline flights to Denver. At least I suspect that it did pre-pandemic. Alaska was really expanding at Paine Field before the Pandemic hit. That would basically be about a 1 hour drive from Bellingham to Paine Field and you avoid having to go all the way through the Seattle metro to get to SeaTac airport. Pre-pandemic people from WA would also frequently drive up to Vancouver International for cheaper flights to Asia and Europe than can be had flying out of Seattle or Portland. So that is also an option and would be even closer than Everett except that you have to deal with the border crossing which can add time.

Bottom line? Vancouver is basically part of the Portland metro area. If you want to live the suburb of a big city metro area then Vancouver is your best choice. If you prefer a smaller town then Bellingham would be better.

To use a Colorado analogy:

Vancouver = Aurora
Bellingham = Fort Collins
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Old 10-09-2020, 09:33 AM
 
Location: We_tside PNW (Columbia Gorge) / CO / SA TX / Thailand
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One of my kids went to WWU and really would like to be able to return to Bellingham for a home, and has that as a goal (since leaving for employment in Seattle). A few roomies were able to do that (for the subsequent 15 yrs).

Another kid is Vancouver (WA) based and very active in community cultural events and government.

either will do.

Since you mention Portland traffic as bad, you best make a weighted list of YOUR requirements and calculate a scoring on locations. (One method to reduce subjectivity in choices, just one of many tools you should use in your decision).

Bellingham has a big plus of waterfront and college and access to BC (when open again), Vancouver cannot even come close to those benefits, except if you can deal with Portland issues (including traffic) to frequent the many colleges and events of the area. If you really enjoy diversity in culture / international people, Vancouver BC is a very positive benefit. Also there is a 'Willamette Valley' type intensive Agriculture region very near Bellingham (Lynden / adjacent farming in BC). Very good selection of farm produce in season. Great Ice Cream / dairy products. Ocean access avails a focus on seafood and recreation. If you are a sailor or have an ocean going boat, you can be in San Juans or Gulf Islands in minutes from Bellingham. You can sea kayak daily. Very pristine areas. Alaska ferry ports in Bellingham and you can depart 2x / week in summer. but... Bellingham is considerable smaller than Portland metro area, so variety of 'options' is limiting, and you will need to escape to Vancouver BC or Seattle on occasion for certain items and activities. My kid spent a lot of time at Whistler (or Mt Baker) instead of in class.

Vancouver, WA is quite lacking on the university / music venue, but is a pretty nice 'suburb' of Portland without the 'overhead' / hassle of issues (and tax / personal protection costs) related to metro area. Having PDX airport nearby is a huge plus if you travel a lot via air. Columbia River Gorge is nice and unique recreation. Oregon coast is 1.5 hrs away (handy enough). Vancouver, WA is more accessible to the 'drier climate' east side, (1 hr) than is Bellingham (3+ hrs). More variety of mtns near Vancouver, WA than Bellingham. But Bellingham is much closer to great 'eastern' BC / AB skiing than is Vancouver, WA.

Should be pretty easy to itemize your desires and determine which place best fits, as they are quite different from each other.
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Old 10-09-2020, 09:03 PM
 
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Thanks. Very helpful feedback.
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Old 10-09-2020, 09:57 PM
 
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PS. I think Texasdiver’s analogy to Aurora/Fort Collins is very apt. I am an avid hiker, but my wife and I are both culture buffs....
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Old 10-09-2020, 10:46 PM
 
Location: WA
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Quote:
Originally Posted by diver110 View Post
PS. I think Texasdiver’s analogy to Aurora/Fort Collins is very apt. I am an avid hiker, but my wife and I are both culture buffs....
You might be happier in Vancouver then. Or maybe Camas if you want a bit more of a sense of local community and walkable downtown area. You have just as much access to hiking in Vancouver as in Bellingham, maybe more so as you have the coast, Cascades, Gorge, and Central/Eastern OR. Although Bellingham will have access to more high alpine areas with the North Cascades and British Columbia next door.

But you will have a lot more culture at your doorstop with Portland 15-20 min away. Especially in the evening after commute hours it is ridiculously quick and easy to hop into Portland for dining and events. Honestly I think the food scene in Portland is superior to Seattle and I've lived in both cities for many years. Seattle had more Asian places but Portland seems to have a more eclectic food scene.
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Old 10-10-2020, 02:59 AM
 
Location: We_tside PNW (Columbia Gorge) / CO / SA TX / Thailand
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Quote:
Originally Posted by diver110 View Post
PS. I think Texasdiver’s analogy to Aurora/Fort Collins is very apt. I am an avid hiker, but my wife and I are both culture buffs....
Please define your interests in 'culture' (?)
  • People groups within a society? (I.e. Portland celebrates many different types of people, within a majority anglo and USA nationals)
  • International? (Different people groups)
  • Ethnic celebrations / Events? (Seattle and Vancouver BC)
  • History? (as in how the regional culture formed the current community... Portland / McMenamins History Pub ) https://www.mcmenamins.com/find?tag=history or Ft Vancouver Fur trading to US Military command post.


Having spent my first 28 yrs in / near Ft Collins, I do not find Bellingham similar, (Land Grant Uni and conservative community vs a liberal U and community). I more similarly compare Bellingham to an earlier Boulder with Fairhaven being a tad similar to 'the-hill' in Boulder (those living on the fringe). Bellingham has significant uniqueness (terrain and citizenry (lots of intellectual singles / couples w/o kids, just like Boulder)) of which Ft Collins does not (soccer-moms / family centric as well as state college.) Families in Whatcom county often choose Lynden Ferndale, or Sudden Valley to avoid Bellingham.

Hiking... Ft Collins has plenty of bike trails and paths along a small river or dry ravines / ex-wheat-fields west and south of town (our ex-ranch home is now a Mtn Bike park) The old brick factory has a bike path passing through the land, but no more kilns / towers / indication of a brick factory.
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Old 10-10-2020, 08:03 AM
 
146 posts, read 155,085 times
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I think the point Texasdiver was making is that Aurora is a (fairly uninteresting) Denver suburb, Ft. Collins a small city, similar in location and size to Vancouver and Bellingham. I can believe that Ft. Collins is more conservative. It is interesting how often politics keep coming up. I am a moderate, my wife a liberal, and neither of us has raised the issue of politics in picking a retirement city. In terms of culture, we like going to plays, art museums, classical music concerts, etc.
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