A Kirkland Christmas, wrapped with a bow
"Ten ... nine ... eight ... " we chanted. Ignoring the cold December weather, hundreds of us gathered in Kirkland's Marina Park to join...
Special to The Seattle Times
If you go
Kirkland shopping getaway
Kirkland is north of Bellevue on the eastern shore of Lake Washington. From Interstate 405 take Exit 18 (85th Street/Kirkland). Or take the Kirkland/Lake Washington Blvd. exit from Highway 520 eastbound.
The Heathman Hotel, 220 Kirkland Ave.; www.heathmankirkland.com or 425-284-5800
The Woodmark Hotel, Carillon Point; www.thewoodmark.com or 425-822-3700
Downtown Kirkland has a number of public parking lots. Two-hour free parking and four-hour pay parking is available at the Marina Park lot. Four-hour free public parking is available under the Kirkland Library (you need not be a library patron to park there), Third Street and Kirkland Avenue.
Take Metro Route 255 from downtown Seattle or any of the bus routes serving Kirkland Transit Center at Third Street and Park Lane.
Overnight moorage is available at Kirkland Marina; 77 slips available on a first-come/first-serve basis. Multi-day moorage available. Fees based on the size of the boat and day of week range from $7-$30. No showers or electric hookup; public toilets nearby.
For comprehensive visitor info, see www.ExploreKirkland.com
Kirkland Downtown Association, 111 Park Lane, 425-893-8766 or www.kirklanddowntown.org
Kirkland Chamber of Commerce, 401 Parkplace, Suite 102, 425-822-7066 or www.kirklandchamber.org
Christmas Ship cruises: Schedules and ticket information, www.argosycruises.com or 800-642-7816.
KIRKLAND — "Ten ... nine ... eight ... " we chanted.
Ignoring the cold December weather, hundreds of us gathered in Kirkland's Marina Park to join in this annual countdown. Some were huddled at the beach bonfire, others on the wooden dock, and the youngest at heart stood close to the towering holiday tree laden with ornaments so large they could double as full-size children's toys.
"... Seven ... six ... five ... "
Then, with the flick of a switch, the lights blazed, also switching on Kirkland's holiday charm in this annual ritual on the first Saturday in December. This is a night of tradition; a night that Marina Park hosts the opening ceremonies and the lighting of Argosy's Christmas Ship flotilla. The ships — with several scheduled evening departures in December from this dock — are illuminated, and the season's celebrations move into full swing. Having lived here for two decades, I can tell you Kirkland loves to celebrate — year-round, it seems — with festivals for art, wine, cars, music in the park, and the Fourth of July. There's even an Osprey Fest. But none compare to December when the town is transformed into a wonderland that would warm the heart of even the crustiest of Scrooges.
Crews worked throughout November decorating the 10-block downtown area surrounding Marina Park with thousands of tiny white lights that blanket trees and buildings. Megawatt holiday greetings and scenes illuminate rooflines. Light poles are wrapped, wreaths are hung. Even the bronze animals making up the public art collection along streets and sidewalks often sport bright red and white knit caps and mufflers.
Marina Park, a regular venue for Kirkland's celebrations, calms after the lighting celebration. During the day, its crescent-shaped beach draws few. Unlike summer's crush, many of its public dock's 77 slips are open. It's a great time to snag a spot and spend some time in this lakeside community.
The lake and its beaches prompted fond memories for Edmonds residents Gail and Jim Shapiro. During a recent day-trip, Gail recalled when they used to bring their children — now ages 35 and 38 — to play on Kirkland's beaches.
"The walk along the lake," she smiled, "just always draws you back."
Jim Shapiro said Kirkland is simply, in a word, "fun" because of its "food, water, friendly people and funky stores."
Kirkland's becoming an increasingly popular overnight getaway destination. The number of luxe hotel rooms nearly doubled with the October opening of the 91-room Heathman Hotel, which puts guests smack dab in the center of town, minutes from the dock, shops and restaurants.
The Heathman's wood-paneled lobby is a warm oasis on a cold day. Sinking into one of the plush armchairs in front of the fireplace or near the decorated holiday tree ringed by dozens of poinsettias leaves little desire to do much else. Located where the Kirkland Hospital once stood, this new boutique hotel is a sister to the popular Heathman in Portland.
The hotel's emphasis on luxury is highlighted with its "Art of Sleep" bed menu which allows guests to select their preferred pillow style and to choose between European Featherbed, European Pillow-top and Tempur-Pedic beds. Those decisions are about the only task guests need to perform as they are greeted by their own personal concierge who handles all details during their stay; one that should allow time for a visit to the calming atmosphere of the basement level Penterra Spa.
Previously, the Woodmark Hotel, with its full-service restaurant and spa at Carillon Point, a mile and a half south of downtown on the Lake Washington shore (www.thewoodmark.com, 425-822-3700), was the only upscale hotel in town.
If the season's crowded malls and big box stores make you crazy, strolling Kirkland's tree-lined streets to one-of-a-kind gift shops, art galleries and designer consignment stores could be just the tranquilizer you need. Slow-paced is the operative phrase around here. Store clerks — often the owners themselves — take time to visit while you explore the merchandise they've packed into these small storefronts.
Prepare for an instant holiday high when you enter Reasons to Believe, 92 Kirkland Ave. (www.reasonstobelieve.com, 425-893-8159) where sculptor Dennis Brown creates and displays his whimsical, brightly painted clay Santas.
"I love Christmas. And I get to spend all year with it," he says of his 800-square-foot store, decorated with more than 3,500 ornaments and showcasing more than 2,000 Santas made by Brown and other artists.
Entering the train depot-like wood-framed building housing Steve Suskin's Eastside Trains, 217 Central Way (www.eastsidetrains.com, 425-828-4098), takes boomers back to their childhood. He describes his store's thousands of trains and related equipment as "a hobby that went out of control." If they aren't already running, ask to see the two giant model-train displays come to life.
A block away, Wendy Marshall's Chalet Cadeau, 132 Central Ave. (425-822-5894), may just well have some of every type of collectible ever created, with a heavy emphasis on American-made products.
Evergreen garlands and lights link Park Lane's neighboring galleries, gift shops, clothing and decorator stores. No two are alike and each will require some significant exploration.
Wind down the day's shopping in the laid-back atmosphere of The Grape Choice wine store/tasting bar, 7 Lakeshore Plaza (www.thegrapechoice.com, 425-827-7551); a popular hangout for locals (and their pets). Order a glass of wine from their tasting menu to sip while winding your way through their maze of popular and hard-to-find wines.
First, forget any thoughts of the pre-holiday diet, then snag a copy of the Dining, Shopping and Events Guide from the brochure rack outside Kirkland Downtown Association, 111 Park Lane, to help you decide from among the dozens of eateries, ranging from fine dining to coffee shops.
One favorite lunch stop is Sasi's Cafe, 130 Lake St. S. Roland and Doris Oberholzer's sliced roast pork sandwich on rosemary-scented bread with a side of tomato bisque soup can't be beat.
Lynn's Bistro, 214 Central Way (www.lynnsbistro.com, 425-889-2808) showcases the one-woman performance of owner/chef Lynn Tran. Tran single-handedly creates culinary works of art in the open kitchen yet finds time to whiz through the dining room greeting diners. Her Sunday brunches are popular, with menu items like crab and gruyere cheese omelets and crepes.
Brian Scheehser's Trellis (www.trellisrestaurant.net, 425-284-5900) in The Heathman Hotel, features produce grown on his three-acre farm a few miles east of Kirkland. Many of his garden goodies harvested this fall, then cellared or frozen, will be used this winter. The duckling breast with figs, plus rum raisin bread pudding for dessert, shouldn't be missed. Fresh-made doughnuts appear randomly in the restaurant; you can't assume you will get them, but with luck your visit will be timed so that you can savor the miniature morsels.
Burn off some of the calories on a 1.5-mile walk between Carillon Point and downtown Kirkland, a route that parallels Lake Washington's shore, passing several city parks, each with benches and — on clear days — perfect views of the Olympic Mountains.
A peek into history requires only a short walk north on Market Street from Marina Park. You'll immediately see the 1922 Christian Science Church, turned Heritage Hall, at Central Way and Market Street. It is home of the Kirkland Heritage Society and available for public rentals.
About five blocks further north a cluster of brick buildings, all built in the late 1800s, are reminders of Kirkland's early days when founder Peter Kirk envisioned a great steel mill on the eastern shore of Lake Washington creating a "Pittsburgh of the West."
Jackie Smith is a freelance writer based in Kirkland.
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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When vice president of Sub Pop Records Megan Jasper isn't running things at the office, she's working in her garden at her West Seattle home where she and her husband Brian spend time relaxing.