15 Best Things to Do in Silver Spring, MD

Silver Spring, MD
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Silver Spring in Maryland may not be as well-known as other American cities, but that doesn’t make it any less of a gem.

Just outside Washington, D.C., the neighborhood has a thriving art and entertainment scene and plenty of open space for outdoor activities.

Silver Spring is an unincorporated area in Montgomery County, whose name comes from the mica-flecked springs that Francis Preston Blair discovered in the region.

The residents of Silver Spring are passionate about the arts, with multiple theaters dedicated to living performances, numerous galleries, and several public art displays ranging from murals to museums.

Moreover, Silver Spring is a modest but lovely, up-and-coming tourist attraction worth visiting.

It holds its own when it comes to historical, educational, and recreational activities for visitors traveling through or staying for a few nights.

Art and culture aren’t the only things to enjoy in Silver Spring.

It boasts over 150 restaurants in the central business sector.

With the locals serving traditional Irish fare to Salvadoran pupusas, there’s a little something for everyone’s taste buds.

There are several exciting things to do and places to visit at this secret getaway.

Here are the best things to do in Silver Spring, MD:

Stroll Downtown Silver Spring

Buildings along Downtown Silver Spring
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Downtown Silver Spring offers a vibrant, laid-back ambiance with a varied mix of food, shopping, and entertainment.

It is on Georgia Avenue, approximately two blocks from the Silver Spring MARC station, and lets you access the D.C. Metro via the Red Line.

Downtown Silver Spring is also the home of the American Film Institute Silver Theatre and Cultural Center, which screens independent films from around the world.

The area around the theatre features several restaurants, cafes, bars, and retail stores.

A water fountain at Downtown Silver Spring
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After working up an appetite, you may eat at one of the many delicious restaurants that serve everything from American to Salvadoran cuisine.

If you’re craving some Latin American cuisine, head to El Golfo Restaurant.

Enjoy a more upscale dining experience at Tragara Ristorante.

All these and more make Downtown Silver Spring one of the best places to explore.

People dining al fresco at Downtown Silver Spring
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Visit the Acorn Urban Park

Welcome sign of Acorn Urban Park
babbage, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Enjoy the historic Acorn Gazebo, spring grotto, and magnificent shade trees inside the Acorn Urban Park in downtown Silver Spring.

The quaint gazebo, a 19th-century beauty, previously stood on the grounds of Francis Preston Blair’s Silver Spring plantation.

It's now the centerpiece of this lovely park.

Acorn shaped gazebo at Acorn Urban Park
Farragutful, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Blair had the gazebo built in 1850 to commemorate the oak tree under which he proposed to his wife in 1812.

The park also features a spring grotto, an artificial cave used as a storage space for ice and milk back in the day.

Now, it’s a fantastic shaded spot to beat the heat on a hot day and enjoy the peace of this park.

Acorn Urban Park is one of the best things to do in Silver Spring if you want to enjoy some time outdoors.

Live through History at the Silver Spring Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Station

Brick structure of Silver Spring Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Station
Farragutful, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Only seven miles from the U.S. border, Capitol Silver Spring Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Station has ferried suburban residents for more than 50 years.

The Silver Spring Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Station marks the community's transformation into a vital transit, retail, and residential suburb.

Likewise, it's one of only two remaining Baltimore & Ohio stations in Maryland.

Montgomery Preservation Inc. rescued and restored this famous property in 1945 because of its importance to the community’s history.

The former Victorian train depot was demolished in 1945 to make way for the current structure, notable for its slate-hipped roof, fan-light dormers, and granite window sills, based on the Colonial Revival style.

The waiting room furniture from the 1940s, such as a vinyl-covered banquette, metal chairs, luggage racks, and the recessed fluorescent lighting fixtures, have been restored.

Besides being a historical landmark, the Silver Spring Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Station is also one of the best places to catch a train into D.C.

Visitors can also tour the station to learn more about its rich history.

Discover Different Species of Plants in Brookside Gardens

Scenic view of Brookside Gardens
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The Brookside Gardens, located at Glenallan Avenue, is a public garden within Wheaton Regional Park.

The gardens themselves are free to see every day.

However, some annual events may charge a price.

For instance, the gardens hold a “Garden of Lights” exhibit with a light show during the Christmas season.

A wooden bench under a tree at Brookside Gardens
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You can stroll the different gardens while getting familiar with the hundreds of plant species categorized according to types, such as the Japanese Garden, the Butterfly Garden, and the Rose Garden.

You can also head inside the on-site conservatory, home to different species of plants from across the world.

The gardens are also popular wedding venues.

The Brookside Gardens is one of the best things to do in Silver Spring if you’re looking to appreciate nature.

A pathway lined with beautiful trees at Brookside Gardens
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Enjoy the Great Outdoors at the Wheaton Regional Park

The Wheaton Regional Park is perfect for those who love the outdoors.

Wheaton Regional Park, situated in a forested section of Silver Spring, offers a variety of recreational and educational options on its 536 acres.

The Regional Park is home to Shorefield Area, where visitors are encouraged to do horseback riding, hiking, and biking on its paved and natural surface trails.

You can head to Pine Lake and relax while fishing or picnicking, as picnic tables and grills are available in the Shorefield Area.

When you’re ready for more excitement, visit the Adventure Playground, which features climbing structures, swings, enormous slides, and a sandcastle.

A tour onboard a replica of the 1863 C.P. will fascinate the entire family.

It's an antique Herschell Spillman Company 1915 turn-of-the-century musical carousel.

You can take a picturesque journey through park forests and pastures on the Huntington engine train.

The park is open all year and is excellent for a family day out or a day spent with friends.

Check Out the Silver Spring Civic Building

Exterior of Silver Spring Civic Building
Farragutful, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Silver Spring Civic Building at Veterans Plaza is a top event venue in Downtown Silver Spring that offers an attractive setting.

Located just minutes from the Nation’s capital and several nearby hotels, the Silver Spring Civic Building merges modern elements with natural design.

It offers room for business meetings, private parties, wedding ceremonies, and receptions.

The lovely Veterans Plaza is right outside the front door, providing outdoor space for concerts, festivals, and live entertainment.

The Silver Spring Civic Building has become the hub of its community activities, with the massive Great Hall as its centerpiece.

It also features several breakout rooms available for smaller groups.

If you’re looking for a top event venue in Silver Spring, the Silver Spring Civic Building is a great option.

Explore the American Film Institute Silver Theatre and Cultural Center

Exterior of American Film Institute Silver Theatre
Kate Mereand from Silver Spring, MD (Washington, DC), United States, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The American Film Institute Silver Theatre and Cultural Center is a three-screen movie theater complex in downtown Silver Spring.

This center showcases the diversity of American and international films.

It explores all forms of the moving image in the digital age, showing a variety of niches, such as independent, foreign, and classic films, and providing a forum for new filmmakers.

The American Film Institute Silver Theatre and Cultural Center also houses the AFI Docs film festival, dedicated to documentary films, and features premieres, panels, and special events.

The American Film Institute Silver Theatre and Cultural Center is a great place to catch a movie if you’re looking for something outside of the usual blockbuster fare.

If you’re a fan of films, the American Film Institute Silver Theatre and Cultural Center is a great place to visit.

Enjoy the Dog Parks in Ellsworth Urban Park

This gorgeous 3.6-acre park is only minutes from downtown Silver Spring, with a great playground area and tennis courts.

The Ellsworth Urban Park also boasts of a dog park where your furry friend can run and play.

The park also has a picnic pavilion where you can enjoy a meal with family and friends.

The Dog Park at Ellsworth Urban Park has two distinct, completely enclosed, ADA-compliant exercise areas for dogs under 20 pounds.

Healthy, well-socialized canines over 20 pounds can play there from sunrise to sunset every day.

Each dog park features a drinking fountain, hose bib, artificial grass play mound, benches, shared shade structure, trash receptacles, and covering materials.

The Maryland National Park and Planning Commission acquired the park in the 1970s.

Discover the Wonders of Nature at the Sligo Creek Trail

Daytime view of Sligo Creek Trail
Bohemian Baltimore, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Sligo Creek Trail is a 10.2-mile rugged surface trail and one of the county’s oldest.

It's also the most heavily trafficked Park amenity, providing recreation for people of all ages.

The Sligo Creek Trail runs along the Sligo Creek Parkway from Wheaton Regional Park to Prince Georges Plaza.

It's also a great place to take a walk, run, or ride your bike and enjoy the scenery of Sligo Creek.

Sligo Creek Park also has nine parks linked with the Sligo Creek Watershed, one of the trail’s many unique features.

Playgrounds, a recreational facility, tennis and basketball courts, picnic spots, and softball/baseball fields are all available along the trail.

The Sligo Creek Trail is a great place to enjoy the great outdoors and get some exercise while taking in the sights of Sligo Creek.

Attend a Concert at the Fillmore Silver Spring

Entrance of Fillmore Silver Spring
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The Fillmore Silver Spring is an intimate live music venue in the heart of downtown Silver Spring, Maryland.

The state-of-the-art theater opened in October 2011 and has hosted a wide range of musical acts, comedy shows, and other special events.

For more than a decade, the Fillmore Silver Spring has provided dynamic, first-class music, and entertainment to Silver Spring’s Arts & Entertainment District.

The Fillmore Silver Spring is the winning combination of rock and elegance, traditional and cutting edge, with its original hand-painted murals, beautiful hardwood floors, classic rock posters, and stunning crystal chandeliers.

Exterior of Fillmore Silver Spring
David Wilson from Oak Park, Illinois, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Visitors will marvel at the unique style and timelessness of the Fillmore Silver Spring.

The spacious main lobby alone features industrial fixtures and floor-to-ceiling deep red curtains.

The Fillmore Silver Spring has a 2000-people capacity and features a general admission floor, mezzanine level, and a VIP section.

The theater also provides an exceptional culinary experience, a state-of-the-art sound and lighting system, luxurious interiors, and competent personnel.

Wander the General Getty Neighborhood Park

The General Getty Neighborhood Park is a small but lovely park directly adjacent to Georgia Avenue.

Completed in 1998, the park features several amenities for families to enjoy.

These amenities include a picnic area, playgrounds, tennis courts, gazebo, and semicircular trellis around garden beds, which is the park’s unique feature.

The large grassy areas and paved roads are ideal for running or learning to ride a bike, while the outdoor game-table area is ideal for chess, checkers, and other tabletop games.

The General Getty Neighborhood Park has two substantial play structures for older children and beginner climbers, providing entertainment for children with different skill levels.

The pirate ship attraction is as incredible as it appears, as it contains a modest upper deck space where children can steer the ship and a lovely play area underneath.

The park is also pet-friendly, with a paved pedestrian route around the playground’s perimeter, popular for dog strolling.

It even has a unique doggy drinking fountain.

Visit the National Museum of Health and Medicine

Exterior of National Museum of Health and Medicine
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The National Museum of Health and Medicine has collected and shared knowledge about the history of medicine and American military medicine for over 150 years.

It was once inside downtown Washington, D.C.

The National Museum of Health and Medicine relocated to Silver Spring and became one of its most unique museums, accommodating 24 million medical objects.

The collection provides rotating public exhibits that include anatomical and pathological specimens, ancient instruments, and essential historical medical records.

You will find unique anatomical specimens like the bone pieces and hair from Abraham Lincoln’s head and the bullet that took his life in the museum.

Many artifacts from the American Civil War are also in the collection.

You can find medical devices, and a rare human skull from a soldier wounded in the head, with a bullet cleaving the skull plate in half.

If you are interested in American military medicine or the history of medicine, visit the National Museum of Health and Medicine.

Explore the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Exterior of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
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The Gateway to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is an interactive exhibit located in the Silver Spring Metro Center.

It provides an excellent introduction to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the many different career opportunities offered there.

The exhibit is very hands-on, with interactive displays that explain the science behind the agency's work.

Several touch screens provide information on specific topics, such as hurricanes, tsunamis, and climate change.

Hand sculpture in front of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Joao Kermadec / Shutterstock.com

The exhibit’s highlight is the large-scale model of the Earth that shows real-time data on ocean temperature, wave height, and wind speed.

The Gateway to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has five sections: the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Heritage Museum, the Earth Observations, Weather and Climate, Water Area, and News Section.

This exhibit is excellent for anyone interested in science, the environment, or careers in government.

Building sign of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
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Discover the National Park College

The National Park College was formerly the National Park Seminary.

It's a historic site near the Sligo Creek Parkway in Silver Spring, Maryland.

National Park College began as a women’s finishing school in 1894 to provide a classical education to young women to become accomplished ladies.

The elaborate, classically-inspired architecture on campus was created using the Chicago World’s Fair plans.

Until now, it remained unique and eccentric, as the design of the houses includes a Dutch windmill,  a Japanese pagoda, an Italian villa, a Swiss chalet, and an English castle, in addition to different Victorian styles.

The National Park College is on the National Register of Historic Places and is a National Historic Landmark.

The Save Seminary Group conducts guided tours of the grounds and inside a few buildings once a month, which is the only way to see inside most structures.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Bike and Hike at the Matthew Henson State Park

Boardwalk at Matthew Henson State Park
TrailVoice, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Matthew Henson State Park is an excellent spot for all nature lovers.

Its biking and hiking trails are perfect for a day spent outdoors.

Matthew Henson State Park in Silver Spring is a greenway that runs along the Turkey Branch, a tributary of Montgomery County’s Rock Creek.

It offers numerous recreational opportunities.

One of the state park highlights is the Matthew Henson Trail, used for bicycling and trekking.

It's roughly 4.5 miles long and eight feet wide, curving from the picturesque Rock Creek Hiker-Biker Trail to Alderton Road.

There are picnic tables and grills that park-goers can use, making it the perfect spot for a picnic lunch or dinner.

Final Thoughts

Silver Spring is a vibrant and eclectic community that offers plenty of things to do for its residents and visitors.

There is something for everyone in Silver Spring, from arts and culture to parks and trails to shopping and dining.

If you’re looking for a fun day trip or a weekend getaway, add Silver Spring to your list of places to visit.