THE GREAT AMERICAN VACATION
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The suburbs east of Lake Washington can easily supplement any Seattle itinerary. The center of East King County is Bellevue, a fast-growing city with its own downtown core, high-end shopping, and a notable dining scene. Kirkland, north of Bellevue, has a few shops and restaurants (including fabulous Café Juanita) plus lakefront promenades. Redmond and Issaquah, to the northeast and southeast respectively,
are gateways to greenery. Woodinville, north of Redmond, is the ambassador for Washington State's wine industry, with many wineries and tasting rooms. Redmond itself is home to Microsoft's gigantic campus. Drivers now have to pay a toll to cross the 520 Bridge to the Eastside; see www.wsdot.wa.gov/tolling/tollrates.htm.
Three-quarters of a century ago, Bellevue was a pleasant little town in the country, with rows of shops along Main Street serving the local strawberry farmers. Today it's fast becoming a destination in itself, with snazzy shopping malls, restaurants, and a strong art museum.
Kirkland's business district, along the Lake Street waterfront, is lined with shops, restaurants, pubs, and parks. At the height of summer, it's often warm enough to swim in the sheltered waters of Lake Washington; Juanita Beach Park is a popular spot with an enclosed swimming area.
A string of pretty parks makes Redmond an inviting place to experience the outdoors, and the 13-mile Sammamish River Trail is an attraction for locals and tourists alike. The rapidly expanding city is today one of the country's most powerful business capitals, thanks to the presence of such companies as Microsoft, Nintendo, and Eddie Bauer. Although there are several good malls and a lot of generic strip-mall stores, this isn't a place to shop—locals come here either to work or to play outdoors.
Issaquah is experiencing rapid (and not terribly attractive) development, but it's what lies beyond the subdivisions that counts. The surrounding Cougar, Tiger, and Squak mountain foothills—dubbed the Issaquah Alps—are older than the Cascade Range and pocketed with caves, parks, and trails. This area has some of the most accessible hiking and mountain biking in the Seattle area; Seattleites often use these trails to train on in early spring before the more arduous trails in the Cascades and Olympics open for hiking season.
Woodinville is perhaps the Eastside's most popular day trip. It's the home of Chateau Ste. Michelle and dozens of other wineries plus destination restaurant The Herbfarm. Additionally, luxurious Willows Lodge is just down the road from the main attractions, making Woodinville a great place for a romantic getaway.
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