Bethesda, Maryland, is a suburb with all the positive attributes of a great city. A thriving economy supports more than 200 restaurants, art galleries, theaters, and boutiques. World-class hotels offer guests exceptional accommodations. Live jazz, classical music, or stand-up comedy performances make the nightlife exciting. The city also has educational and entertaining activities for children, and there are dozens of parks and recreation areas for outdoor fun. Here are the top 10 things you should consider doing and seeing if you plan to visit soon.
Laugh at Positano Italian Restaurant
Stand-up comedy clubs aren’t typically what comes to mind when making dinner plans, but Laugh Riot at Positano Italian Restaurant is a unique hybrid in the heart of Bethesda that lets patrons eat, drink, and be merry. On Saturday nights, enjoy a menu of classic Italian-American dishes (5–7:45pm), and then move next door to the comedy showroom for stand-up that features three local comedians. The show runs 8–9:30pm and costs $10 for admission, but it’s best to get there when the showroom opens at 7:15 for a good seat; there are no reservations, so it’s first come, first seated.
Positano Ristorante, 4948 Fairmont Ave, Bethesda, MD, USA, +1 301 654 1717
Get Your Groove On at Bethesda Jazz and Blues
Cool jazz and blues performed by premier artists. Check. A multi-million dollar renovation of a classic 1930s Art Deco theater. Check. An upscale supper club and menu in the heart of downtown Bethesda. Check. Sounds like a list for hip locals and savvy travelers, right? For dinner and a show head to Bethesda Jazz and Blues. The 300-seat theater features a diverse American-Continental menu, and its 40-foot bar ensures a steady flow of cocktails as chill as the players. Hurry and make reservations, and get ready for top names in a spectacular venue.
Do the Bethesda Art Walk
Shake things up on Fridays and escape the same old routine of happy hour bar binges or an early dinner at home. Get a little artsy instead and do the Bethesda Art Walk, a self-guided tour (6pm–9pm) of the local art galleries and studios the second Friday of every month. It’s a fun and relaxing way to cover a lot of ground in a short time as local artist studios and galleries open their doors to the public. During Art Walk, the work of local and national talents includes art in a variety of mediums including painting, photography, sculpture, pottery, jewelry, mixed media, and textiles.
Visit Glen Echo Park
Step into the wooded Glen Echo Park and be transported back to the 1920s. This former amusement park in Glen Echo, just southwest of Bethesda, is now a thriving artists colony for 14 resident artists, an arts center that offers hundreds of classes, and an active cultural center. First built in the late 1890s, added onto in the 1930s, and restored and reopened in 1968, Glen Echo has remained true to its mission of providing the local community with enriching classes and activities for children and adults. Guests may take classes in painting, photography, glass, music, dance, and more. The grounds include the fully restored 1921 Dentzel Carousel, the Puppet Co. Playhouse, and other landmark buildings. A full calendar includes seasonal events, free summer concerts, and festivals, and the stunning, well-preserved Art Deco buildings and pavilions are busy venues for weddings, corporate events, birthdays, and holiday parties.
Glen Echo Park, 7300 MacArthur Blvd, Glen Echo, MD, USA, +1 301 320 1400
Get Moving in the Great Outdoors
For a real workout that includes scenic beauty, slow-moving canals, and smooth, paved trails perfect for walking, running, biking, rollerblading, and skateboarding, the Capital Crescent Trail is a must. It’s a unique, eye-level view of parts of D.C. and Montgomery County unavailable from a car or bus. The trails run right through downtown Bethesda and extend from Georgetown in D.C. to Silver Spring, Maryland.
A Quite Haven Awaits in Carderock
Carderock Recreation Area is a serene 100-acre park that lets city-dwellers feel like they are a part of nature again. It’s part of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park and is a magnet for nature lovers and athletes who are into rock climbing, hiking, biking, boating, and picnicking. Carderock Recreation Area is in neighboring Carderock, and Bethesda residents love its raw beauty; but they aren’t the only ones. This park is popular with Washingtonians and outdoors enthusiasts from all across the Mid-Atlantic. Newcomers first visiting Carderock are so shocked by the wild, incredible scenery, it’s hard for them to believe downtown Bethesda and Washington, D.C., are just a few miles away.
Hit the Bethesda Literary Festival in Spring
Springtime in Bethesda is lovely and especially colorful with azaleas, dogwoods, cherry trees, and rhododendrons blooming everywhere, but it is also time for the annual Bethesda Literary Festival. Each April, national and local writers, poets, journalists, and essayists come to town to promote their books, read their work, give lectures on the writing craft, and take part in panels and discussions. These events are held all around Bethesda in bookstores, hotels, community centers, and restaurants – all for free. Budding authors and seasoned writers can also try their hand at writing contests. Who knows? The next best-selling author or literary genius may be just around the corner.
Let Strathmore Entertain You
World-class music and art have a home at Strathmore Mansion and Strathmore Music Center, a 1,976-seat concert hall and education center in North Bethesda that has been entertaining and educating local communities since 1983. Thanks to partnerships with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, The National Philharmonic, and other arts and performance groups, Strathmore hosts artists as diverse as Smokey Robinson and Wynton Marsalis, and performances of Dvořák’s Cello Concerto. This 16-acre multi-disciplinary arts center was Montgomery County’s first center for the arts, and has hosted more than 5,000 artists and hundreds of thousands of guests at signature performances, art exhibitions, music concerts, teas, outdoor events, and festivals.
Strathmore Mansion, 5301 Tuckerman Ln, North Bethesda, MD, USA, +1 301 581 5100
Dine, Shop, Relax, or Pamper Yourself at Bethesda Row
Cities like Paris, Brussels, and Barcelona are all famous for their car-free pedestrian colonnades and covered shopping galleries. With more than 30 retail shops, dozens of restaurants, spas, salons, bookstores, and grocery stores to keep shoppers satisfied, Bethesda Row is Maryland’s facsimile. Those who consider shopping an essential daily ingredient can take advantage of more than 300 parking spaces and shop stress-free without worrying about parking tickets. In the mood for Middle Eastern, Asian, Mexican, or French cuisine? There’s a menu to suit any taste preferences. If vanity strikes, try a new “do” at Drybar or stop in for a professional shave at Rooster’s Men’s Grooming Center.
Bethesda Row, 4950 Elm St, Bethesda, MD, USA, +1 301 998 8108
Sample Taste of Bethesda
Every year, rain or shine, fall signals the arrival of Taste of Bethesda, hosted by the Bethesda Urban Partnership. More than 40,000 guests gather the first Saturday in October in Bethesda’s Woodmont Triangle to sample food from 50 local restaurants, tour a classic car show, watch live music and dance performances on five stages, or take their children to Kids Corner to participate in interactive arts and crafts. With bus service provided by the Bethesda Circulator and the Bethesda Metro just three blocks away, leave the car at home and visit all the booths along Norfolk, St. Elmo, Cordell, Del Ray, and Auburn Avenues.