Seattle's perfect little secret: the best things to do in Kirkland, Washington

Kirkland, Washington looks like money. Only a twenty minute drive from Seattle, Lake Washington sparkles to the west and new construction vaults into the sky on virtually every corner. And in the already lush, green Pacific Northwest, Kirkland’s proximity to high-paying jobs at companies like Google and Microsoft have helped make it one of the most affluent communities in the state of Washington. 

Despite the fairly recent flush of good fortune, Kirkland retains a small-town friendliness that stands in stark contrast to the famous Seattle freeze. It’s the type of place where people greet you on the sidewalk and seemingly everyone you see breaks into a smile.

This shot overlooks the clean brown baseball diamond at Lee Johnson Field in Kirkland from a high enough angle to afford a view of the surrounding low brick buildings and beyond them, the blue water of Lake Washington's Moss Bay
Lee Johnson Field overlooks Moss Bay in Lake Washington, beyond which sits Seattle © Tamara Gane / Lonely Planet

At the center of town is a verdant park and baseball field which also serve as a reminder that in 1982, a team of boys from Kirkland banded together to win the Little League World Series. If the streets weren’t full of Teslas, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a throwback to another era.

Combine this with a thriving arts scene, outdoor activities, fantastic restaurants and wineries and you have the perfect destination for a quick getaway from Seattle, not to mention Portland, Oregon or further afield. If you’re planning to spend the weekend in Kirkland, here are our recommendations for the best things to do while you’re in town. 

Mt. Rainier rises over Lake Washington with a white sailboat in the foreground.
Like Seattle, Kirkland affords beautiful views of Mt. Rainier from a variety of scenic outdoor destinations within the city © John & Lisa Merrill via Getty Images

Outdoor activities

The Emerald City may have Lake Union of Sleepless in Seattle fame, but Lake Washington is the second-largest lake in the state and Kirkland has five public beaches on its shores. Waverly Park is  probably the best in the area for swimming or windsurfing, while Dale Cooper Houghton Beach Park is most popular for its volleyball courts. You can’t beat Marina Park for people watching, either – the park is the heart of Kirkland and makes for an idyllic place to picnic while you watch families play, couples canoodle and boats pull in and out of the marina. 

Northwest Paddle Surfers rents kayaks and paddle boards during the warmer months, while Woodmark Waterfront Adventures in Carillon Point has boats, waverunners and still more kayaks to rent. 

A woman in a hot pink long-sleeved top and a yellow life preserver paddles a yellow kayak with a yellow and black paddle in deep blue waters in a Kirkland, Washington marina full of sailboats, house boats, and a large brick building on a hill
Water sports are popular in Kirkland thanks to Lake Washington being right in town © John and Lisa Merrill via Getty Images

If you’ve got something more mellow in mind, Argosy Cruises operates sightseeing excursions twice a day from May through September along with other special events cruises throughout the year. 

For people who prefer to stay on dry land, Peter Kirk Park has tennis, basketball, and skateboarding courts. You can also head to the five-mile Cross Kirkland Corridor  and nearby 19-mile Sammamish River Trail, which are popular with joggers, walkers, and cyclists alike. 

The orange and red light cast by neon storefront and restaurant signs on a street in downtown Kirkland, Washington illuminates big, full green trees and contrasts with a deep blue summer night sky. On the left side of the street is a row of parked cars. On the right, diners sit at cafe tables on the sidewalk.
Kirkland, Washington has a diverse dining scene from fresh seafood to fusion cuisines, hip wine bars and cozy cafes © John & Lisa Merrill via Getty Images

Kirkland, Washington restaurants

Kirkland is home to an amazing array of restaurants, including the famous, James Beard-winning Cafe Juanita. Its high-end menu consists of delicious Northern Italian-style dishes with ingredients sourced from both Italy and the Pacific Northwest. Reservations are recommended. 

If you’re looking for something more casual, Little Brother offers fresh baked breads and local fare in a sleek, modern setting. They are a particularly good choice for breakfast, serving up speciality beverages like turmeric tonics and beetroot lattes. If you’re craving something more traditional, George’s is an excellent option, with a menu spiked with Greek twists on classics like omelets, burgers and Baklava pancakes.

Sushi lovers shouldn’t miss Izumi Sushi, which merits a trip to Kirkland all by itself. This unassuming spot in a strip mall rivals anything you’ll find at fancier establishments in downtown Seattle. It’s fresh, authentic and the portions are generous. Most nights you’ll have to build in time for a 15-20 minute wait, but it’s well worth the patience. Isarn Thai Soul Kitchen is another fabulous option with delicious food, reasonable prices and one of the best happy hours in town.  

An arrangement of red wine bottles topped with red melted wax, pine cones, and candles sits on a dimly lit red counter with a chalkboard sign that reads "tasting fee $15 per person" in white letters. In the background, clear wine glasses hang upside down from a shelf.
Thanks to proximity to Walla Walla, Yakima, and Snoqualmie wine regions, not to mention the hop fields of Washington and fruit farms of Wenatchee, there are a lot of beverages to try in Kirkland © John Borthwick via Getty Images

Washington State wines, beers and whiskeys

If you came to Kirkland hoping to taste some of Washington’s famous wine, head to Delille Cellars' Maison Delille Wine Lounge.  The decor is stylish and inviting, with multiple options for seating and a glass wall which opens to the sidewalk in the summer. While the lounge offers live music on a regular basis, the wine is the real star. Delille Cellars is hands down one of the best wineries in Washington and wine lovers shouldn’t leave town without at least sampling a glass. 

If one winery visit isn’t enough, you’re in luck. Kirkland is only a ten minute drive from Woodinville Wine Country, home to over a hundred wineries and tasting rooms. Here, you can taste your way through Washington wines without driving over the mountains to Eastern Washington and Walla Walla wine country.

Highlights include the free tour and tasting at the iconic Chateau St Michelle Winery, the fantastic wines in the Efeste tasting room and the elegant wines of Long Shadows Vintners.  Delille Cellars also has a tasting there if you missed the opportunity to stop by their wine lounge in Kirkland.  

Woodinville is also home to over 14 cideries, breweries and distilleries like Woodinville Whiskey Company and Woodinville Ciderworks. For local beer, you can’t do better than Kirkland’s own Chainline Brewing Company just off the Cross Kirkland Corridor trail. 

A man in a blue t-shirt and jeans and a woman in a pink t-shirt and jeans walk hand and hand down a paved trail in Juanita Bay Park in Kirkland, Washington, surrounded by green trees on either side of a long fence of wooden rails. In the immediate forground is a gate made of wood beams and metal joists in the outline of a house like a child might draw, with square walls and a triangle roof
Just a couple miles from the pedestrian-friendly downtown is even more walkable space in the form of urban trails like the ones found in Juanita Bay Park © John & Lisa Merrill via Getty Imgaes

Walk around downtown Kirkland 

One of the best things about Kirkland is that it’s remarkably easy to get around without a car. It’s an easy bus ride from Seattle and many of the city’s major attractions are within walking distance of each other. 

Downtown Kirkland is famous for its small businesses, ranging from consignment stores like Found Interiors or shops like Purpose Boutique.  You can also shop for gifts at Clementine or channel your inner engineer at Eastside Trains. End your day with  a delicious macaron served with a glass of sparkling wine at Lady Yum or a frozen treat from Sirena Gelato

A gate made out of red metal piping and colorful metal depicts four columns with eleven rows of styled houses in primary colors, all connected by orange plumbing. This piece of public art in Kirkland, Washington adorns the Pump Station Gates. A bus stop for the number 4 line sits in the background, with a blue and orange bus stopped by a beige sidewalk
Public art is plentiful in downtown Kirkland, including this detailed art installation called "Pump-to-Gram" by artist W. Scott Trimble © John & Lissa Merrill via Getty Images

Arts and culture 

Kirkland boasts a thriving art scene. If you want to get it taste of it you need only take a look around to enjoy more than 30 outdoor sculptures installed throughout the parks and sidewalks. 

If you’re visiting during summer, there’s a fabulous free outdoor concert series at Marina Park. Year-round, the Kirkland Performing Arts Center offers a regular lineup of films, local performers, and world-renowned artists in their intimate, state of the art theater. 

Ryan James Art Gallery in Kirkland’s Totem Lake neighborhood, focuses primarily on local artists and loves having visitors stop by to get a feel for the local arts scene while they’re in town.

The brick, contemporary exterior of the Woodmark Hotel, which overlooks Lake Washington in Kirkland
Carillon Point is one of the most popular spots in Kirkland, Washington thanks to its waterfront access and marina © John & Lisa Merrill via Getty Images

Where to stay in Kirkland 

The Heathman Hotel is located downtown Kirkland, steps away from previously mentioned attractions like shops, parks, Lake Washington and the Kirkland Performing Arts Center. It’s an upscale, boutique hotel where amenities include the option to choose from different mattresses and free shuttle service within 10 miles of the hotel. The Heathman Hotel also boasts a fantastic restaurant with a large outdoor patio which is enclosed and heated during chillier months, allowing diners to enjoy sitting outside year-round. 

The Woodmark Hotel and Still Spa is situated on the waterfront at Carillon Point, about a mile and a half from downtown Kirkland. Many of the rooms have views of Lake Washington and some have private patios overlooking the water. The hotel provides transportation within a 5-mile radius of the hotel, which is sufficient to reach destinations like downtown Kirkland or Bellevue. Other amenities include a spa, a fitness center, complimentary kayaks and free late night snacks. The hotel has two restaurants, both with water views, one of which offers outdoor seating in summer. 

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