Imagine sitting on a park bench watching a flaming sunset over Lake Washington with views of Seattle and the Olympic Mountains in the background. You then stroll along the lakeshore passing parks, upscale condominiums, beautiful marinas, art galleries and unique boutiques until you come to the perfect restaurant. HmmmÄwhat will it be tonight? Fresh, local seafood? Ethnic cuisine? Elegant fare? Or a juicy burger served with a cold Northwest microbrew? If this is your idea of the perfect place to live, then you'll want to consider Kirkland.

Located just north of Bellevue on the shores of Lake Washington, Kirkland features a resort-like atmosphere thanks to the preservation of more than 25 percent of its waterfront for public use, including seven parks. Shoppers can choose from a variety of quaint downtown waterfront boutiques or major shopping in the city's north area. The restaurants also are world-class. And the scenery is breathtaking.

Many businesses, ranging from light industrial to high tech, are calling Kirkland home, with a number enjoying offices overlooking the water and shoreline. Kirkland also is the headquarters and training camp for the Seattle Seahawks, the NFL football team. Homebuyers have a number of attractive neighborhoods to choose from, whether it's a waterfront condo or traditional single-family home. As you can see, there are a number of advantages to living in this upscale, lakeside community.

Founded: 1905
Square miles: 10.5
Median household income: $52,800
Parks: 31
Average commute time: To Seattle: 15 minutes; To Bellevue: 5 minutes

Sources: 1990 Census figures, 1997 King County Annual Growth Report, Northwest Multiple Listing Service, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 1998 Greater Seattle InfoGuide.