If you've ever been to Opening Day on Lake Washington in early May, you know that the start of boating season inspires almost a religious fervor among Seattle residents. There's no better place to catch the excitement than in Kirkland, where life revolves around the lake.
Join in the fun by taking a boat tour led by Lake Cruise-Kirkland (1:30 daily; $24, $8.25 ages 5-12, reservations recommended; Kirkland City Dock, Kirkland Ave. at Lake Washington Blvd.; www.argosycruises.com, 800/642-7816, or 206/623-1445).
As you circle the lake's perimeter, you'll see the necklace of parks that ring the Kirkland waterfront before you pass under the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge, the world's longest floating bridge. Other sights include Seattle's Madison Park, the University of Washington campus, and the snow-capped Olympic and Cascade mountain ranges, not to mention crowd-pleasers like Bill Gates's sprawling home.
Back on land, picnic at Marina Park (adjacent to the city dock) while enjoying lake views. Or stroll through the lakeside parks ― a pedestrian walkway on Lake Washington Boulevard links downtown's Marina Park to Carillon Point, south of downtown, a little over a mile each way.
Once you've reached Carillon Point, stop at Waters Lakeside Bistro ($$$$; breakfast, lunch, and dinner; 1200 Carillon Point; 425/803-5595), a restaurant tucked away on the ground floor of the Woodmark Hotel. Or head downtown for margaritas and tapas such as smoked-chicken quesadillas on the heated patio at Cactus ($$; lunch Mon-Sat, dinner daily; 121 Park Lane; 425/893-9799).
Save time for the Kirkland Arts Center (gallery closed Sun; 620 Market St.; www.kirklandartscenter.org or 425/822-7161), four blocks north of Marina Park. Kirkland's founder, Peter Kirk, first began construction on this turreted brick building in 1889, in what was the town center. These days it's a hub for artists of all kinds, and ― with a gallery on one side and an art education studio on the other ― a great place for visitors to talk to artists at work.
Downtown Kirkland ( www.kirklandchamber.org or 425/822-7066) is on the east bank of Lake Washington, 15 miles east of downtown Seattle. Opening Day on Lake Washington is May 7.