Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Kirkland, WA

  • Published 2022/12/09

Kirkland is a beautiful and vibrant lakeside city in King County, Washington.

Lake Washington, located along the entire western edge of the city, forms a natural boundary with Seattle.

Prior to the arrival of English settlers in the 1860s, the land in which the city sits was already settled by Native Americans for centuries.

Incorporated in 1905, the city was named after its founder, the English-born steel industrialist Peter Kirk.

Kirk, who arrived in the area in the 1880s, envisioned it to become the “Pittsburgh of the West” when he and other Seattle businessmen established the Moss Bay Iron and Steel Works.

While the steel mill was completed, it never had the chance to go to the production stage due to the disastrous stock market crash of 1893.

In spite of the initial setbacks, other important industries still emerged in Kirkland, most notably wool milling and shipbuilding.

The state’s first wool mill was established in Kirkland in 1892, where it supplied wool products to Alaska Gold Rush prospectors and the American military in World War I.

On the other hand, the city’s Lake Washington shipyard produced over 25 ships for the U.S. Navy during World War II.

The city received another boost when the former town of Houghton merged with it in 1968, ballooning the population to 13,000 residents and creating the modern Kirkland.

Today, Kirkland is a thriving community with more than a dozen inland and lakeside parks and other recreation areas.

Thanks to these features, the city has also been named one of the most livable cities in the entire country.

Here are the best things to do in Kirkland:

Go Swimming at Juanita Beach Park

Sunset over Juanita Beach Park

Mauro Pedro da Silva /

Covering an area of nearly 22 acres, Juanita Beach Park was already a popular recreation area in Kirkland since the early part of the 20th century.

It boasts over 330 yards of shoreline along the pristine waters of Juanita Bay, an inlet of Lake Washington.

Complementing the bay’s clear waters is a clean, sandy beach with a lifeguard, making it a perfect spot for swimming.

Other water activities you can enjoy in the park include fishing along its pier and boating with non-motorized boats.

On the other hand, the park features sports facilities like baseball/softball fields, tennis and volleyball courts, and a playground.

Ducks on the water of Juanita Beach Park

Mauro Pedro da Silva /

Despite the park’s relatively small size, it still contains a network of trails ideal for short hikes.

Moreover, the park is an excellent spot for wildlife-watching with its small creeks and marshlands, thriving with wildlife, particularly ducks and other waterfowl.

However, you can also relax at the designated picnic areas and picnic shelters equipped with useful amenities.

As one of the oldest parks in the city, Juanita Beach Park stands out the test of time with its fantastic swimming area, scenic views, and many other features.

Try Craft Beer at Chainline Brewing Taproom

Chainline Brewing Company is a local brewery located right at the heart of Kirkland.

Providing a good selection of craft beers, their rotating tap keeps everything fresh and exciting with new flavors.

You can also try their other drink offerings, which include cider and a few wine varieties.

Of course, their drinks are best enjoyed when you pair them up with sumptuous food choices like pizza, pretzels, and empanadas, all of which are served in their taproom.

What’s more, the brewery even allows you to bring food bought outside to suit your specific taste.

With its excellent blend of industrial and modern design cues, their taproom features indoor and outdoor seating.

On a side note, the brewery also has another branch called Chainline Station, located several blocks south of the main taproom.

Chainline Brewing Taproom’s great drinks and laid-back atmosphere make it a great hangout spot for you and your friends.

See Local Art at Kirkland Arts Center

Exterior of Kirkland Arts Center

Ian Dewar Photography /

Kirkland Arts Center was founded in 1962 to harness the power of art for creative expression and community integration.

It is housed inside a historic Peter Kirk Building, constructed in 1892.

Named after the city’s founder, the Victorian-era building was included in the National Register of Historic Places.

As for the art center itself, it features a gallery and exhibits containing the works of many local artists.

Building sign of Kirkland Arts Center

Joe Mabel, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It also holds art classes, workshops for children and adults, and special community events annually.

Moreover, the center supports local artists with its Holiday Art Market held every year.

An important part of the city’s culture and identity, Kirkland Art Center is a great place to visit not only for art enthusiasts but also for everybody.

Embark on a Trail Adventure at Big Finn Hill Park

Spanning over 220 acres, Big Finn Hill Park is a haven for outdoor and sports enthusiasts.

It boasts over 9 miles of paved and unpaved trails winding through a wide range of landscapes and terrains.

The trails’ sprawling length makes them perfect for mountain biking and horse riding.

However, you can also take the outdoor adventure on foot and enjoy the park’s refreshing environment.

Home to many small animals and birds, the park is one of the best spots in the city for wildlife watching.

Along with its playground and open playing area, the park also features soccer and lacrosse fields.

After a tiring round of ball games and trekking, you can freshen up and relax at the park’s picnic areas.

Thanks to its natural beauty and family-friendly features, Big Finn Hill Park is the ideal place to take a breather from the bustle of city life.

Go for a Nature Walk at O.O. Denny Park

A creek at O.O. Denny Park

John Hurney /

Located on the northwest part of Kirkland, O.O. Denny Park covers an area of over 45 acres.

It was named after its former owner, Orion Orvil Denny, the son of Seattle founder Arthur A. Denny.

Offering breathtaking lakefront views of Lake Washington, you can also see the towering Mount Rainier in the background during a clear day.

Better yet, the park contains a clean beach where swimming is allowed.

It also has a boat launch for motorized and non-motorized vessels.

Moreover, you can go fishing in the lake’s pristine waters.

On the other hand, you can hike along the park’s trail, which runs across clear streams and woodlands.

The park also has a dedicated picnic area for some unadulterated relaxing experience.

Whether you prefer lakeside activities or the great outdoors, O.O. Denny Park is your all-in-one place to enjoy these.

Dine at DERU Market

One of the top-rated restaurants in Kirkland, DERU Market describes itself as a modern café specializing in the artisanal deli.

Along with their signature sandwiches and salads, the restaurant offers exquisite appetizer choices like bacon-wrapped dates, wild shrimp cocktails, and smoked brisket sliders.

They will also satisfy your sweet tooth cravings with their generous servings of cakes and other treats, which you can enjoy over a cup of creamy coffee.

They also have vegan and vegetarian choices, which are perfect for health-conscious and calorie-counters.

Moreover, their menu includes takeaway options, so you can enjoy great food anywhere.

The family-owned eatery ensures quality with each serving using the best ingredients sourced from local farmers.

The restaurant also boasts cozy dining areas, which include counter seating and an outside patio.

While their food selections may not be as extensive as the others, DERU Market provides an unforgettable gourmet experience with its exceptional menu quality and overall atmosphere.

Go Horseback-Riding at Bridle Trails State Park

Welcome sign of Bridle Trails State Park

Mccunicano, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

With an area of 489 acres, Bridle Trails State Park is the biggest park in Kirkland.

As its name implies, the park is best known for its horse-related activities, with its four arenas and trails spanning over 28 miles.

Thanks to these features, Bridle Trails State Park is considered one of the best equestrian parks in the western part of the country.

However, since the park doesn’t offer horse rentals, you’ll have to bring your horse to enjoy riding along the sprawling trails.

Still, the park allows you to go hiking on foot, as well as take on the 1.6-mile trail for an interpretive walk.

Additionally, the park hosts fun events year-round, particularly horse shows, musicals, and educational programs.

You can also relax at the park’s picnic area, equipped with tables, barbecue grills, and amenities like restrooms.

Whether you’re a horse enthusiast or simply looking for a place to experience nature, Bridle Trails State Park is the place for you.

Play at TechCity Bowl

TechCity Bowl is a family-owned bowling alley located in the southeast part of Kirkland.

Established in 1957, it is one of the oldest businesses in the city that’s still in operation.

With its 32 lanes, the bowling alley can accommodate many groups playing all at the same time.

During cosmic weekends, their bowling lanes transform into visual spectacle courtesy of laser lights and other nifty effects.

TechCity Bowl also contains several arcade machines you can choose a plethora of classic and modern games.

There’s no need to go outside to take a meal since they also serve delicious meals, snacks, and refreshing beverages.

With a great combination of neat features and a family-friendly vibe, TechCity Bowl is the city’s go-to place for indoor recreation.

Swim and Play at Peter Kirk Park

The grounds of Peter Kirk Park

VDB Photos /

While Kirkland is home to many recreation parks, Peter Kirk Park stands out among them with its swimming pools.

Open during summer, the park’s main pool has open swim areas, lap lanes, and a diving board.

On the other hand, there’s a wading pool for toddlers to play and splash around.

During the season, you can also take on different aquatic programs offered by the park, namely swimming lessons, water safety courses, and water exercises.

Aside from aquatic amenities, the park also hosts a number of sports facilities.

Playground at Peter Kirk Park

VDB Photos /

It contains ball fields, tennis and basketball courts, a playground, and a skate park.

You can also relax at the park’s picnic areas with tables and benches.

As a bonus, the park also provides public Wi-Fi internet access so you can stay online while enjoying the activities.

On top of its signature swimming pools, Peter Kirk Park has lots of other fun features which make it one of the best all-around recreation areas in the city.

Explore Virtual Worlds at Sandbox VR

Sandbox VR is a modern amusement center along the city’s 120th Avenue.

The center boasts full-body motion capture and haptics technology for an unprecedented virtual reality experience.

They offer a selection of six games designed explicitly for VR space.

You can fight hordes of zombies in Deadwood Mansion or engage in epic space battles in Star Trek: Discover.

You can also search for hidden treasure in Curse of Davy Jones or participate in futuristic gladiatorial battles in Unbound Fighting League.

The best part, of course, is enjoying all of these with up to five other friends.

Whether you’re into gaming or not, Sandbox VR offers a highly entertaining and immersive experience.

Take a Ride with Duffy Electric Boats

View of docked Duffy Electric Boats

Ian Dewar Photography /

With Lake Washington making up the entire western edge of Kirkland, it’s unsurprising that lakeside boating is also one of the most enjoyable activities you can try in the city.

While there are several boat rental services in the city, Duffy Electric Boats offers a much environmental friendly option with its fleet of low-powered vessels.

Able to carry up to 12 passengers, their boats don’t require a boater’s permit to operate as they only have a top speed of 7 miles per hour.

Since the boats are electric-powered, they also operate very quietly, allowing you to cruise along the lake without the annoying sound of a typical engine.

To add to the unforgettable boating experience, you can bring your favorite food and drinks while music plays in the background.

For a fun, relaxing cruise along Lake Washington, you can never go wrong with Duffy Electric Boats.

Check the Antique Military Items at The War Front

As its name implies, The War Front is an antique shop in Kirkland specializing in various military memorabilia.

A haven for military history buffs, the shop contains a treasure trove of military items dating back from World War I.

The shop’s impressive inventory includes uniforms, bomber jackets, helmets, and army knives.

You can also find medals, vintage water canteens, and even World War I propaganda posters.

Most displayed items are restored in pristine condition, making them a perfect addition to anyone’s collection.

Moreover, the shop also offers item appraisal and purchase of military-related items brought to them.

Whether you’re a collector or simply fascinated with old military memorabilia, you should visit The War Front.

Dine, Shop, and Stay at Carillon Point

The grounds of Carillon Point

VasSlav, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Located on the southwestern part of Kirkland, Carillon Point used to be the center of the city’s shipbuilding industry, most notably during World War II.

Following the end of the war, Carillon Point became a storage complex, then a Seattle Seahawks team’s office, and finally transformed into a tourist hub in the late 1980s.

Home to numerous establishments and facilities, it is a one-stop shop for dining, shopping, and fun water activities.

Located within its premises is 4-star The Woodmark Hotel and Still Spa, the ultimate staycation spot in the city.

View of boats from Carillon Point

Jmabel, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

There are also seasonal boat rentals available for those who want to enjoy some water splashing.

Moreover, Carillon Point’s Central Plaza hosts exciting events such as summer concerts and outdoor movies.

However, you can also take a relaxing stroll along the pier and enjoy the scenic views of Lake Washington all day long.

An all-in-one place for relaxation and recreation, you’ll find everything that you need at Carillon Point.

Other Things to Do Nearby

See Amazing Animals at Woodland Park Zoo

Penguins at Woodland Park Zoo

Chang Han Chris Kim /

Located approximately 11 miles from downtown Kirkland is Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo.

The zoo houses more than 300 species of animals within its 92-acre area.

With its modest size, the zoo features animals from nearly every corner of the world.

You’ll find a wide variety of fascinating animals, ranging from the brown bear of the Northwest and lions of the African savanna down to rhinoceros of India and yellow anaconda of the Amazon.

Gorilla at Woodland Park Zoo

steve estvanik /

Moreover, the zoo also contains a seasonal butterfly garden filled with various species of colorful insects and lovely flowers.

Other excellent zoo features include a vintage carousel and an indoor playing area.

Along with fun and interactive activities, the zoo also hosts educational programs aiming to promote conservation and environmental protection.

With its awe-inspiring animals and fantastic learning opportunities, Woodland Park Zoo is a must-visit.

Lions at Woodland Park Zoo

Joseph Becker /

Learn History at Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture

Exterior of the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture

LifeisticAC /

Seattle’s Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture can be reached from downtown Kirkland via a 20-minute drive.

The museum’s three-story building features exhibits featuring fascinating relics from the prehistoric era to modern history.

Its highlights include carefully reconstructed skeletons of Ice Age animals such as mammoths and giant sloths.

The museum takes you back further into earth’s history with its collection of fossils of dinosaurs and ancient sea creatures.

Sculpture in front of the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture

EQRoy /

Moreover, the museum also has taxidermy of various modern North American fauna, such as wolves, birds, and other small mammals.

On the other hand, the museum has entire sections dedicated to the region’s proud Native American heritage.

These exhibits contain a wide variety of items, ranging from everyday objects, and native art, to towering totem poles and well-preserved riverboats.

A fantastic place not only for history nerds but also for everyone, it won’t be surprising if you find yourself poring for hours over the exhibits in Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture.

Komodo dragon specimen in the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture

Tyshen /

Final Thoughts

With its plethora of attractions and overall relaxing atmosphere, it’s no wonder Kirkland consistently ranks as among the best American cities to live in.

The city’s natural beauty integrates flawlessly with its thriving urban environment.

Thanks to its excellent location, the city also offers seamless access to other nearby attractions in its neighbors.

Set your sights on Kirkland today, and experience what this lovely city has to offer.

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