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A recreation guide to being active inside

Whatcom, Skagit counties offer plenty of indoor activities during winter

Climbers pick their way through climbing routes on the walls at Vital Climbing Gym Jan. 13
Climbers pick their way through climbing routes on the walls at Vital Climbing Gym Jan. 13 (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)
By Connor J. Benintendi Sports Editor

It’s cold and wet, so it’s time to try the plentiful indoor recreation facilities in Whatcom and Skagit counties that offer a range of different sports and activities.

Here’s a list of options, including ice and roller skating, swimming, ax throwing, climbing and ping pong.

Bellingham Sportsplex

photo  The Bellingham Sportsplex, a multi-use indoor recreation facility, offers ice skating, indoor soccer and hockey, among other activities. (Finn Wendt/Cascadia Daily News)  

The Sportsplex, next door to Civic Stadium has a variety of organized community events, including ice skating, indoor soccer and ice hockey camps and leagues.

For activities held on the ice, public skating drop-in events are the most accessible and affordable for anyone looking to put on a pair of skates on a whim. Public skates, for all ages, are hosted every Monday and Wednesday from 8:30-11 a.m., with an $8 registration fee and 50 slots available.

Adult ice skating events are held on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, restricted to ages 16 and up. The price and time window are the same, but only 30 slots are available. The full schedule of drop-in skating events is available on the website of Whatcom Sports and Recreation, which manages the facility.

photo  Ice skaters skate laps at the Bellingham Sportsplex during open skate Dec. 28, 2023. The Sportsplex offers various different ice skating sessions, as well as hockey and indoor soccer events. (Finn Wendt/Cascadia Daily News)  

In addition to the free-skating opportunities, the Sportsplex offers year-round ice skating classes and youth skating camps that align with school breaks. Plenty of recreational hockey options are also offered but require participants to bring their own gear.

Drop-in soccer is also available on the Sportsplex’s fields, allowing players of all skill levels to join indoor pick-up games. Event options, based on age and intensity level, range from adult (16 and over), 55 and over, women over 40, Lil Hammers (3–5 years old) and walking soccer. Times and prices vary.

Youth soccer camps for kids 5–14 years old and organized adult leagues are also hosted at the Sportsplex.

Swimming facilities

photo  The Arne Hanna Aquatic Center offers a wide range of sessions including open swim, lap swimming, kayaking and much more. (Finn Wendt/Cascadia Daily News)  

Bellingham’s local indoor pool, the Arne Hanna Aquatic Center, has a time window for everyone. From open swims to lap swimming to kayaking (yes, you can practice rolls and turns indoors with lifeguards at the ready), there are plenty of opportunities to get in the pool during the winter months.

Admission to Arne Hanna is by one-activity, single admission; or 10-day, three-month or annual passes. Prices vary, and they are available for reference on the facility’s website.

Any of the passes will allow admission to drop-in events, with the open swim being the most in demand. Open swims have a maximum capacity of 150 participants. A full schedule with all of Arne Hanna’s events is available on its website. Swim lessons are also offered at the facility.

In Skagit County, the Fidalgo Pool and Fitness Center offers many of the same programs that Arne Hanna does. 

Northern Whatcom County also has the pool at Forge Fitness, but membership is required.


photo  20th Century Bowl on State Street in Bellingham is one of three bowling centers in Whatcom County. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)  

Five bowling alleys are available in Whatcom and Skagit counties.

Whatcom County has 20th Century Bowl in Bellingham, Park Bowl in north Bellingham and Mt. Baker Lanes in Ferndale. Skagit County has Riverside Lanes in Mount Vernon and Sedro10 Entertainment in Sedro-Woolley.

So which one is the best? It just comes down to which one is closest to you, as pricing is similar. The only difference is Park Bowl charges an hourly rate for each lane, while the others charge per game.

20th Century stays open the latest, with a midnight closing time five nights a week and extended hours to 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Mt. Baker Lanes closes the earliest, at 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday (9 p.m. Sundays and Mondays).

All of the bowling alleys except Sedro10 Entertainment have organized leagues, and each serves food.

Roller skating

photo  Roller skaters line up for a game of limbo at the Lynden Skateway Dec. 29, 2023. (Finn Wendt/Cascadia Daily News)  

Whatcom and Skagit counties each have a roller-skating rink: The Lynden Skateway and Skagit Skate in Burlington.

The Lynden Skateway has fewer open skate hours and a more complicated schedule. If you want a guaranteed skating experience, stick to the open skate nights, which are Fridays and Saturdays from 7–10 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 1:30–4 p.m. More details on operating hours and events are available on the facility’s website. 

The Bellingham Roller Betties also host their events at the Lynden Skateway, with the next bout scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 3.

Skagit Skate’s open hours are also fairly limited. But unlike the Lynden Skateway, there is an all-day public skate from 1–9 p.m. every Saturday. An event schedule is also available on the website with information about specialty skating nights.

Climbing gyms

While it’s not for everyone, particularly because of the level of fitness required, a membership to one of the local climbing gyms offers a year-round indoor recreation option.

Bellingham has Vital Climbing Gym in the downtown area, and there is also Riverstone Climbing Gym in Burlington. Day rates are comparable for both if you want to give it a try (maximum $21), and Vital also offers five-day and 10-day passes.

Pickleball, ping pong and golf

Volli Entertainment Center and Sports Bar on Cordata Parkway in Bellingham offers a wide range of indoor activities, including pickleball, a golf simulator, mini golf, cornhole and more.

Membership is $19 a month, but a general admission option is offered for $4.99 per person and gets you access to cornhole, shuffleboard, pool and other activities. Some features require a reservation or charge an hourly rate.

Bellingham Axe is another unique place in the downtown area that offers a peculiar sport — ax throwing. It is on the expensive side, however, with a $31 price tag per person.

For ping pong enthusiasts, the Anacortes Table Tennis Association meets at 7 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays in the gym at Anacortes Middle School, with 10 tables available.

While it’s more of an extreme sport, Life Force Ninja offers a ninja course experience in Bellingham. The gym offers drop-in sessions for $20 per person and allows ages 5 and up.

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