Finding things to do in Bethesda, MD, is simple because there are so many options. Bethesda is a thriving community with a bustling arts and entertainment district, a number of favorite restaurants, and plenty of nightlife and shopping opportunities. In 2018, Money magazine put it on the list of best places to live in the United States, which came as absolutely no surprise to the people who call it home.
Just northwest of Washington, D.C., within 45 minutes of Baltimore and just over two hours from Philadelphia, Bethesda, Maryland gives you easy access to the entire region while providing all the comforts and conveniences you need close to home.
A Brief History of Bethesda
In the earliest days, Bethesda was a “wide spot in the road,” and the earliest European settlers in the area were tobacco farmers. This fledgling city — though you couldn’t call it that at the time — was along the route farmers and traders took with their produce, tobacco, and more. A tavern was finally built there in the middle of the 18th century.
When the Maryland legislature decided to repair the road in the early 1800s, houses and businesses slowly started to emerge in the area. It wasn’t until 1891 with the arrival of the trolley — and the enterprising people who wanted to create a place where the Washington elite could escape for a long weekend — that the area really started to come alive. It experienced its ups and downs over the years, but it was on its way to becoming the bustling suburb we know today.
11 Things to Do in Bethesda, MD
There is no shortage of attractions in Bethesda, and residents and travelers alike can find plenty of fun things to do every day of the year. Whether you enjoy art and history, outdoor recreation, fine dining, or family-friendly events, you’ll find it in Bethesda.
Here are a few of our favorites:
1. The Strathmore
The Strathmore is a world-class performing arts center offering accessible, affordable arts programming. With classes, visual arts, and musical partnerships with esteemed artists and organizations like the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and The National Philharmonic, this place has something special to offer art lovers of all types.
2. Bethesda Row
Along Bethesda Ave just off Wisconsin Ave, Bethesda Row is your one-stop shop for dining, spas, shopping, and more. Treat yourself at the Apple Store and Pampillonia Jewelry, have lunch at Bibibop Asian Grill or Matchbox Pizza Bistro, and see a movie or get your nails done. This is a wonderful place to enjoy an afternoon with friends and family. Downtown Bethesda offers more than 700 retailers, which is more than enough to keep you busy for days!
3. Taste of Bethesda
This annual event, typically held in October, brings together the best of the area’s food and music for an event that both kids and adults enjoy. While adults check out the entertainment stages and extensive menu offerings, the kids can enjoy face painting, arts and crafts, and more.
4. Cabin John Regional Park
Cabin John Regional Park is a popular outdoor recreation area in Montgomery County. With tennis courts, an indoor ice rink, picnic areas, campgrounds, playgrounds, hiking and biking trails, and more, this is a great place to take the kids for an outdoor adventure, or to take some quiet time to yourself — and it’s only about 15 minutes from downtown Bethesda.
5. Central Farm Market
The Bethesda Central Farm Market was the first of what became four related farmers markets in Maryland and Virginia. Located in downtown Bethesda and open on Sundays year-round, it’s a place to buy great food, crafts, and locally grown produce while enjoying music, wine tasting, chef demos, activities for kids, and much more.
6. Waverly Street Gallery
The Waverly Street Gallery is one of the oldest such galleries in the Washington, D.C. area. It’s a true center for contemporary fine artists, and you’ll enjoy a variety of works including paintings, sculptures, ceramics, photography, jewelry, and more. The Gallery also keeps an active calendar of events, special exhibits, and artist demonstrations.
There are numerous golf courses in Bethesda, whether you’d like to get competitive with your golf buddies or simply practice your swing. Falls Road, Sligo Creek, Kenwood Golf and Country Club, Burning Tree Club, and the University of Maryland Golf Course are just a few of dozens of options within a short drive of downtown Bethesda.
8. Glen Echo Park
This is one of the Maryland attractions that offers a bit of everything. At Glen Echo, you’ll find classes, concerts and shows, art galleries, and other events. Kids will enjoy the nearby Glen Echo Park Aquarium. In that space between Clara Barton Parkway and Macarthur Boulevard, you’ll also find the Clara Barton National Historic Site, The Journey Space Healing Arts Center, Adventure Theater, The Puppet Co., cafes and restaurants, a pottery store, and the Dentzel Carousel.
9. Stratton Local Park
Another one of the Montgomery County parks, Stratton Local offers recreational options for everyone. Enjoy picnic shelters and a playground as well as basketball and tennis courts and softball and soccer fields.
10. Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club
The Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club pairs a delicious food and wine menu with world-class musical performances in an historic theatre and concert hall. It’s a popular choice for an evening out on the town.
11. Washington, DC
It’s not a Bethesda attraction, per se, but it is one of the primary destinations that is easily accessible from Maryland. The United States capital and its many attractions — including the National Mall and countless historic sites — are only about 25 minutes from Bethesda, MD. That makes it a great day trip for residents and visitors alike. The trip is also an easy commute, which is why many people who work in Washington like to live in Bethesda.
Experience Bethesda, MD for Yourself
Bethesda offers modern conveniences and entertainment with proximity to the region’s most important cities while being surrounded by the natural beauty that gives you the opportunity to get outdoors. It’s a great place to visit, and maybe one of the best places to call home.
Contact Nomadic Real Estate today to speak with an expert about any questions you might have about living near the nation’s capital or buying / renting a property, or for advice about the best activities, sights, hotels, and more in Bethesda, Maryland.