21 Best Things to Do in Bethesda, MD

Bethesda, Maryland
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Nestled northwest of Washington D.C., Bethesda is one of the most budding and vibrant suburbs in the Metropolitan Area.

If you've ever seen the movies "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" or "The Pacifier," then you have an idea of this beautiful and thriving Maryland community.

Bethesda is the most reputable community along the D.C. metropolitan area where great restaurants, gorgeous shopping, and interesting local sights await.

Bethesda is also a veritable hotspot for art, music, and entertainment due to its strong ties to the performing arts, as well as cinema and clubs that have intimate shows with inspiring artists.

If you are ever in the area, here are a few pf the best things to do in Bethesda, Maryland, that you might enjoy:

Take a Peaceful Stroll along Capital Crescent Trail

People walking, and riding bikes at Capital Crescent Trail
Santos Ramos / Shutterstock.com

The Capital Crescent Trail (CCT) started as a grassroots effort to create an innovative shared use pathway in the heart of Maryland's Capital Region.

After more than 20 years in operation, it has become one of the most popular multi-use trails in the area, connecting Bethesda and Silver Spring.

Popular activities on this paved trail range from walking and running to biking and skating and getting all snazzy in your rollerblades and riding off into the sun towards Georgetown—all with a backdrop of scenic landscapes.

Scenic view of Capital Crescent Trail
Nicole Glass Photography / Shutterstock.com

The 11-mile trail is a grand old rail trail made of the former railbed that runs through the rural parts of Montgomery County.

From Georgetown to Bethesda, its complete hard surface asphalt trail features six bridges and a tunnel offering users gentle gradients, crosswalks that are grade-separated at most roadways.

Enjoy a Slice of Unspoiled Maryland Beauty at Locust Grove Nature Center

The Locust Grove Nature Center is a wonderful nature destination within the city of Bethesda, Maryland, that has many things to explore and discover.

They offer environmental education and interpretation programs for both children and adults.

For those seeking quality education in a natural setting, this nature sanctuary provides plenty of opportunities such as campfire nature walks, Native Plant Education and Traveling Naturalist school programs, tots/pre-K programs, Nature Explorers pre-school program, and other special events.

You can come by the nature center and explore the many wonders that await, such as exhibits, deck, and even wander through the trails if you want.

Here, you'll also find Marianne, who specializes in the subjects of Lepidoptera and host plants, and she will be able to explain the significance of these topics to those in attendance.

Experience Blockbuster Flicks in Spectacular Formats

Maryland's movie theaters are often hailed as being some of the most fantastic in the nation; this is because it's home to one of America's foremost cinema chains.

Established in 2010, IPIC features exquisite cinemas equipped with the finest technology, lined with luxurious amenities like full-service restaurants that offer delectable cuisine and cocktail bars.

IPIC's boutique theaters invite you to explore a superb cinematic experience highlighting pure luxury.

And there's also the Landmark's Bethesda Row Cinema found at Woodmont Avenue just next to the Metro’s Red Line stop if you want more movie scenes.

Opened in 2002, the underground theatre became part of the 140,000-square-foot midrise building decorated with pea-green walls.

A towering sign that looks more like vintage lighting for a store than like a movie advertises Landmark, with eight auditoriums having 1,600 seats.

If you want more arthouse and independent films, the Regal multiplex is also a welcome alternative to IPIC and Landmark's.

Check Out the Dalecarlia Tunnel

When you visit Bethesda, one of the must-see sites is the remarkable Dalecarlia Tunnel located in Brookmont, Maryland.

This clearly one of the city's most beloved landmarks was once a railroad tunnel but now carries hikers and bikers to the Washington Aqueduct and under MacArthur Boulevard.

The tunnel measures 5.5 meters (18 feet) wide by 100 meters (340 feet) long, with brick facings on both ends and brick lining its walls throughout.

Constructed back in 1910, this Roman arch tunnel was built as part of the Georgetown Branch of the Ohio and Baltimore Railroad when it was first laid down.

This beautiful arched stone passage serves as quite an entrance for those who are looking to get from one side of town to the other, at least in terms of public transportation, if nothing else!

Experience Bethesda the Local’s Way at Farm Women's Cooperative Market

Name sign of Farm Women's Cooperative Market
Nicole Glass Photography / Shutterstock.com

Farm Women's Cooperative Market offers the best local food and drink amid a vibrant, intimate, and reasonably priced environment with incredible artwork, artisans, and live music.

It has a range of boutique businesses that are sure to be great conversation starters and provide you with all your needs for a memorable night out.

The market also has food trucks on-site that offer yummy bites which pair perfectly with your specially selected libations or maybe even an afternoon snack.

There are local vineyards and breweries also here that offer fresh fruit, wine and cider as you peruse everything Bethesda has to offer.

You won't just find nice necklaces and rings here too, but very friendly vendors, fair prices, and wonderful arts as well.

Indulge in a Serene Escape at Little Falls Stream Valley Park

As big as 160 acres may sound, Little Falls Stream Valley Park in Georgetown is still a great place to spend an afternoon.

The park extends from the northernmost point of Fairfax Road to the southernmost tip of Macarthur Boulevard, completely tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Offering scenic areas full of hiking trails and wide-open fields, this is the perfect getaway for residents and tourists interested in experiencing peaceful nature.

Little Falls Trail winds through many memorable and intimate locations of the park and runs parallel to the more visited Capital Crescent Trail for a short section of its course.

Surrounded by waterfowl and the sound of flowing streams, you'll be immersed in a forest-like atmosphere while enjoying yourself hiking or biking along the trail.

Nature is rich with beauty and sounds like birds chirping in your ear, providing you with serenity as you enjoy the sights around you.

Enjoy Natural Settings of the McCrillis Gardens

McCrillis flowers dazzle in springtime, showcasing a variety of color schemes that are sure to please and excite anyone who would come and visit the McCrillis Gardens.

If you enjoy natural settings, you will find respite here in the midst of Bethesda's bustling neighborhoods.

The Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission acquired the five-acre naturalistic property as a donation in 1978 from its owners, William and Virginia McCrillis.

Brookside Gardens manages the garden so that it remains almost as if the Gardens on display are an apparition, a ghost of what it once was.

At its core is a collection of walkways winding through shade trees and perennials that attract attention from passersby.

The Gardens make for a welcome retreat from the daily grind with its colorful vista and diminutive gazebos representing Wilsonian ideals.

Meander through Willard Avenue Neighborhood Park

Willard Avenue Neighborhood Park is a 5.1-acre park that the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission acquired in 1977.

Situated right alongside a creek, the park offers some privacy from the hustle and bustle of the nearby town streets.

The lovely green space features a half-court basketball court, a playground, a picnic area, a small multi-use field, a walking path with sports courts and fitness machines.

The scenic Willard Ave. Neighborhood Park is popular among those who enjoy strolling down its trails on a regular basis, especially when they have their pet dogs in tow.

Here you can go on a 0.8-kilometer walk to appreciate the serenity surrounding you as you meander through the park’s wooded areas.

There are a couple of benches that you can use in order to sit down and relax as you enjoy the tranquility of nature around you.

Dabble in History at The Dennis & Phillip Ratner Museum

The Dennis & Phillip Ratner Museum of Art on Old Georgetown Road in Bethesda is 100% free to visit.

The museum showcases the historic art of Phillip Ratner and his many years as an active sculptor, drawer, painter, and graphic designer.

Dennis and Phillip Ratner's museum has throughout the changing of exhibits where pastels, watercolors, acrylics, oils, colored pencils, and printmakers are featured each month.

The works shown throughout the exhibit galore include artwork made from silk panels, glass, photography, metal sculptures, wood, quilts, and fiber, as well as wool artworks.

The Ratner Museum also has traveling exhibits and usually hosts Adam Bright and the New Zoo, an exhibition that explores the connection between fairy tales and artwork.

Their exhibitions often focus on literature in art as well as themes such as hybrid creatures or utopia-dystopia.

They support students in studying art to help them achieve their educational goals through being able to attend student-only lectures, guided tours, workshops, or reading clubs.

Enjoy Live Entertainment at The Music Center at Strathmore

Exterior view of the Music Center at Strathmore
Photo by User:Kmf164, CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

When you make your way into the Strathmore Music Center, you’ll be welcomed by the soaring glass walls and windows throughout the building.

As you enter the spacious lobby area, radiant natural light will warmly greet you and fill every corner of this beautiful building.

The luxurious finishes in natural wood exude a warm atmosphere throughout, one that is sure to accentuate any performance.

Once inside, you’ll enjoy some of the best-sounding classical and contemporary concerts with excellent acoustics.

For over ten years now, the Music Center has been delighting people with nothing other than world-class musicians as they give a live performance of music that is simply out of this world.

Catch an Incredible Show at Imagination Stage

Imagination Stage got its name in 2001, but its history began in 1979 as Bethesda Academy of Performing Arts before moving to downtown Bethesda in 2003.

Helping kids make new discoveries about themselves, others, and their world, this unique approach to children's theater has helped it become one of the most beloved performing arts companies in the region.

Imagination Stage continues to nurture young minds as it progresses with its artistic achievements, keeping high standards alive within professional theatre awards and world-renowned productions.

The incredible performances you'll witness here include P.Nokio, an inspired and quirky hip-hop musical with a Psalmayene 24 flair about a brilliant computer games designer who one day discovers that P.Nokio, his newest game character, can live outside the computer.

Other performances also worth watching here include the famous love story by William Shakespeare "Romeo and Juliet" performed by IStage Performance Ensemble members.

Imagination Stage also showcases music-filled pieces like Mother Goose and Mr. Popper's Penguins.

Take a Peaceful Trek along Cabin John Trailhead

At the Cabin John Trailhead, one will find a vast natural landscape perfect for enjoying extended treks that take you along both hard-surface roads and through wooded wonders.

The trailhead is known as one of the most popular spots in all of Maryland to enjoy scenic hikes.

Your hike here starts out near Goya Drive, which connects to the Cabin John Stream Valley Trail, an over four miles of a network of natural surface trails that'll lead you even further into nature's breathtaking splendor before reaching Cabin John Local Park.

Nestled north of Democracy Boulevard and south of Montrose Road in the lower part of the County between Westlake Drive and Seven Locks Road, the facilities here are linked by hard surface trails to recreational amenities in the park.

Natural surface trails at the Cabin John serve the Locust Grove Nature Center and campground facilities.

The Cabin John Trail snakes its way alongside Cabin John Creek while running next to trail users along what some refer to as ridge-tops.

Take a Selfie with Madonna of the Trail Statue

The Madonna of the Trail in Bethesda is a towering monument that commemorates women who took part in the westward migration across the United States.

The twelve identical monuments are spaced equidistantly from one another, left behind for all to see on this very symbolic route along which 12 states (from Maryland to California) still exist today.

The imposing 18 foot-tall statue of a pioneer woman and her children that has been standing since 1929 in downtown Bethesda, Maryland, is one of the town's most iconic landmarks.

Built by the Daughters of the American Revolution, the sculpture commemorates the determination and strength of pioneer women.

Now located next to the former Bethesda Post Office on Wisconsin Avenue, this community favorite has often been used for celebrations marking local social events.

Explore and Shop Pike & Rose

The only thing hotter than Pike & Rose's luxury boutiques and inviting eateries is its roster of exciting entertainment options.

From City Perch's gorgeous bar to Pinstripes' polished lanes and bocce courts, you'll surely have a blast when you step inside this roundabout entertainment district.

Pike & Rose is an open-air shopping center that resides in a picturesque setting with small fountains, cozy seating areas, and even a handful of art installations for shoppers to walk past.

While the stores here offer great couture options, it’s easy to get distracted by the surrounding décor and stunning water features.

Plus, this awesome neighborhood is also like a fun carnival for adults where you’d be able to find something for everyone.

Aside from top-notch restaurants, you'll also find all the latest blockbuster movies in one theater and a collection of clothing and other cosmetic shops, along with an added dose of some Sephora flavor in the mix.

Check Out Awe-Inspiring Artistry in Downtown Bethesda

There are a number of world-class galleries in Bethesda, and one of Washington D.C.'s oldest fine art galleries is Waverly Street Gallery.

Opened in 1993, the gallery used to be called “Creative Partners,” but then in 2007 settled with its official name Waverly Street Gallery.

This art space features contemporary artists working in a wide range of media, including printmakers, painters, ceramic artists, digital artists, and sculptors,

Waverly Street Gallery offers visitors an opportunity to purchase unique works representing both established and emerging talent within the arts community.

The Bethesda Arts & Entertainment District and Bethesda Urban Partnership manages another art space in downtown Bethesda known as Gallery B.

This one provides a whole host of shows and exhibitions, including sculpture, fine arts, photography, and painting.

Another art corner in downtown Bethesda is Bethesda Fine Art, which showcases the work of Washington Color School artists who are passionate about their characters and colors.

There are tons of wonderful things art-related here, from large-scale works to delicate still lifes where each piece is an intimate look into the artist's mind.

Bowl a Perfect Game at Bowlero and Lucky Strike

When you're looking to bowl a perfect game at Bethesda, there's nothing better than giving yourself the secret edge through your choice of lane.

Here, you can play in lanes amazing and fun as they are stylish with their soft lounge seats, black lights, and huge HD video walls that play everything from music videos and family classics to sports games.

This entertainment alley also hosts an arcade of modernized classics and state-of-the-art games, such as Mario Kart, Jurassic Park Arcade, and Pac-Man.

But if you head to Democracy Boulevard Ste 1022 in Bethesda, you'll also come across another great mod bowling spot.

Lucky Strike Bethesda likes baking up new and exciting food offerings for everyone in the bar and tasty cocktails.

And they also have a huge bowling alley with 12 lanes of great bowling action and giant screens so you can watch some of your favorite sports.

Catch Exceptional Theater Performances at Round House Theatre

Exterior of the Round House Theatre
Nicole Glass Photography / Shutterstock.com

A theatre for everyone is what Round House Theatre commits to offering patrons and stage artists.

Located on East-West Highway, the theater company seeks to build artistic stage groups and share the art of theater education with the public.

The company features stage plays with relevant contemporary and social themes that highlight empathy and encourage awareness and dialogues.

But before the show, you can enjoy servings of modern fare and the full-service bar at the Fourth Wall Bar & Café.

Savor locally-sourced specialties and thematic cocktails in line with the theater’s stage works.

Catch amazing and moving performances by talented theater artists and you’ll surely give them a standing ovation and a round of applause at the end.

If you want to hone your stage acting skills, they also offer programs for students of any age from Youth, to Teen, Adult, and Senior.

Sign up your kids for Round House Theatre’s fun Summer Camps like the Destinations, Playmakers, and Teen Institute.

Sample an Array of Dishes at Taste of Bethesda

An annual event held every October, visitors, and locals both young and old enjoy the festivities at Taste of Bethesda.

This event was organized by the Bethesda Urban Partnership in the early 1990s.

This popular food and music festival is free and features over 60 restaurants showcasing local dishes and specialties set up at Norfolk Avenue.

Likewise, enjoy the company of live music with five stage locations in the Woodmont Triangle.

Little ones will definitely have fun at the Kids’ Corner with face painting, hands-on arts and crafts, and many other activities.

Chomp on juicy burgers, grilled chicken subs, and smoky barbecues, or try international fares like Asian, Indian, Greek, and Mexican dishes and more.

If you’re looking for healthy options, you’ll find vendors selling Acai bowls, smoothies, and teas.

Those with a sweet tooth will surely enjoy cakes, crepes, cookies, donuts, and an array of sweet creations at this event.

You’ll also enjoy lines of crafted beers or wine selections to enjoy at Taste of Bethesda.

Go Around the City and See Inspiring Public Art Displays

Visit and get immersed in the city’s downtown public art displays.

You’ll find several sculptures, murals, and installations dotted along Bethesda Arts & Entertainment District.

Stroll along Wisconsin Avenue and see the prism-designed glass and metal sculpture by Jerry Clapsaddle placed at the Gateway Building.

Otherwise, see the Artery Plaza Sunwork by John Van Alstine and the colored glass, tile, and metal mosaic piece by Ned Smyth at the Bethesda Place Plaza.

Take pictures of George Greenmyer’s Bethesda Walk Around on Caroline Freedman Park, and Jenny Reed’s Girl with Hoop at Elm Street Park.

You’ll catch a glimpse of Neptune by Raymond Kaskey on Hampden Square in Montgomery Lane.

You can find several other public art displays along the streets of Bethesda.

Enjoy Cocktail Drinks at Hip Flask Rooftop Bar

Enjoy the evening with a variety of cocktail selections at Hip Flask Rooftop Bar on Woodmont Avenue.

One of the city’s few rooftop bars, it features a glass-walled terrace overlooking beautiful views like Tysons Corner and Silver Spring.

You’ll enjoy the unique modern ambiance and cocktail factory, along with hand-crafted seasonal cocktails served in sheer vessels.

Have a different experience as they serve you with a ritual spirit-forward flask program using some unique flasks.

Non-alcoholic spirits and tonics are also available here.

The bar also offers select drafts from local breweries, wines, and champagne on the menu.

Order shareable foods like honey-habanero wings with blue cheese, deviled eggs with pimiento cheese, crab dip, and assorted charcuterie board with meats fresh from Stachowski Market.

Relax and enjoy your cocktail drinks at Hip Flask Rooftop Bar.

Watch Blockbuster Pictures at Bethesda Outdoor Movies

Your family will enjoy wholesome flicks on Woodmont Triangle at the annual Bethesda Outdoor Movies.

For three nights in the last week of July, you’ll get to catch blockbuster pictures on the park grounds for free.

Bring your lawn chair and prepare popcorn and chips to enjoy your movie night.

After watching the show, you can grab a bite at nearby restaurants like Bacchus of Lebanon, Hanaro Sushi, and The Corner Slice at Norfolk Avenue.

You can also find Jetties and BGR The Burger Joint along Fairmont Avenue, and Bold Bite and South Street Steaks located at Cordell Avenue.

Enjoy the Bethesda Outdoor Movies with your family.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re new to Maryland and want to get a taste of what the state has to offer or looking for a fun day trip outside of D.C., Bethesda is a great place to visit any time of year.

If you're planning a trip in the near future, then you'd do well to consider taking a look at this compilation of exciting things to do in Bethesda, Maryland!

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