The Basics: Kirkland, a city of 45,000, lies 10 miles east of Seattle on the shores of Lake Washington. The rather cute, tidy downtown doesn't have much to interest visitors with small kids (except perhaps for a Ben & Jerry's at the south end of main drag Lake Street, 176 Lake St. N., 425-576-1609); the shops and restaurants that line the sidewalk are oriented toward a more grown-up -- and beach-partying -- crowd. Still, you'll find plenty to keep you busy on an outing with children. The city's lakeside location makes it a good destination on days when the sun is out and you want to stroll outdoors with a nice view of water and sky. A commons area with park and playfields is located right next to a shopping center that offers eating and entertainment choices. And the spectacular Juanita Bay Park is worth a trip on its own.
Don't Miss: Parks and public access points are located at regular intervals along Lake Washington Boulevard (which turns into Lake Street), one of the main routes into town, creating a good spot for walking, stroller-pushing or running. Start at Houghton Beach Park (5811 Lake Washington Blvd.) located about .7 miles south of downtown, which features grass, water access, paths and a nice playground right on the beach. There's parking and a restroom at this location. When you're finished, walk about .3 miles north to Marsh Park (6605 Lake Washington Blvd.) and look for the interpretive signs and public dock. Afterward, visit the pretty paths and plantings at Settler's Landing (1001 Lake St. S.) down the road, then finish up with a short walk north to grassy David E. Brink Park (555 Lake St. S.). Views along this stretch of road are grand, and even on chilly winter days, the sidewalk is full of joggers, walkers and parents pushing baby strollers. Stop at David E. Brink Park, or continue the short distance into downtown Kirkland.
Marina Park is located in the heart of downtown Kirkland at 25 Lakeshore Plaza Dr. This is a good place to watch boats coming and going, visit the beach, picnic or play in the gazebo.
Three blocks east of Lake Street, on Third Street between Central Way to the north and Kirkland Way to the south, lies pleasant Peter Kirk Park (202 Third St.), a 12-acre complex that includes a playground with a nice climbing structure and a skateboard/scooter area, grassy hills and pathways, playing fields, basketball and tennis courts, the seasonal outdoor Peter Kirk pool, a teen and senior center, the Kirkland Performance Center and the Kirkland Library (308 Kirkland Ave., 425-822-2459, www.kcls.org). All areas of the park are wheelchair-accessible, and free parking is available at the library. Visit the park for playtime, stop in at the library, then walk a short way across the parking lot that lies east of the park to Kirkland Parkplace (425-827-7789, www.kirklandparklace.net). The shopping center's restaurants include an Emerald City Smoothies, Noah's Bagels, The Original Pancake House and Starbucks; there's also the Kirkland Cinemas and the popular Parkplace Book Company (425-828-6546), which often has events for children. The shopping center's sidewalks are wide enough for strollers, and are under cover.
If you want to eat somewhere a bit more upscale, visit the Purple Cafe and Wine Bar, located directly east of the park in the Park Place parking lot (323 Park Place, 425-828-3772, www.thepurplecafe.com). While the adults enjoy a glass of wine, the kids can taste caramel, chocolate, strawberry or regular milks ($4), or try an individual pizza or the "Purple Cookie Jar," five house-made cookies ($5.95). Purple is open Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m., and Friday-Saturday from 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
The 144-acre Juanita Bay Park(2201 Market St.) is located on Lake Washington, north of downtown. It really has something for every interest: You'll find grassy areas and picnic tables, expansive lake views, exciting boardwalks that extend far out onto marshy areas, interpretive signs, good bird-watching, and a wide, paved boardwalk with lake and habitat views that's perfect for walking and scooter- or trike-riding. Guided interpretive tours take place on the first Sunday of every month, beginning at 1 p.m. Look online for a wildlife and park guide, and plant inventory and tour information. (www.ci.kirkland.wa.us/depart/parks/ tours.htm)
Getting There: For driving directions, a map of downtown, directions to points of interest and information about parking, visit www.ci.kirkland.wa.us/map.htm. The Web site also shows all of Kirkland's parks, with pictures, area maps and a list of features; go to www.ci.kirkland.wa.us/depart/parks/parks_guide.htm
And Don't Forget: As an added visual treat for kids, look for large, generally figurative sculptures scattered throughout the city, including those at Peter Kirk Park, Marina Park and in front of the Kirkland Library. The life-size "Cow and Coyote," at the intersection of Lake Street and Central Way, should especially interest children. For pictures and locations of public art, visit http://explorekirkland.com