Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in Germantown, MD

  • Published 2023/02/04

Germantown is a census-designated community in Montgomery County, Maryland.

Germantown is an underrated tourist attraction, a community brimming with unusual historic areas and outdoor hotspots.

There are many things to do here, many of which are free.

From incredible ruins to scenic lakes and creekside trails, Germantown has a little bit of everything for every outdoor adventurer.

There are also a few urban attractions, adding good variety to your trip.

The free things to do in Germantown, Maryland, are abundant.

Check out this list for a comprehensive guide.

Take Photos of the Earthoid Water Tank

Daytime view of the Earthoid Water Tank

grandbrothers /

The Earthoid Water Tank is a must-see when visiting Germantown, as it’s easily a unique water tank.

Found along the edge of Germantown’s Montgomery College, Earthoid Water Tank is a sphere tank painted to mimic planet Earth.

Standing at 100 feet with a capacity of two million gallons, the community still actively uses it as a water tank.

Close view of the Earthoid Water Tank

grandbrothers /

Earthoid Water Tank was a project of the college, commissioning artist Peter Freudenberg to paint the massive structure.

Because of its uniqueness, this water tank has become a symbol of community and environmental conservation.

Aerial view of the Earthoid Water Tank

Nicole Glass Photography /

Trek the Black Hill Trail

Black Hill Trail is one of the most popular outdoor spots in Germantown, known for its scenic trails feature lush vegetation along the shores of a sizable creek.

Also called the Black Hill Bike Trail, this path is famous among locals for biking, jogging, and enjoying the Little Seneca Creek along the way.

Terrains here vary; some have thickets of wooded areas, while others have open fields.

Still, one of the best experiences you’ll have here is seeing the gorgeous waters of Little Seneca Creek—a must for landscape and nature photography.

The Black Hill Trail merges with Crystal Rock Trail until it reaches Black Hill Regional Park, under the neighboring community of Boyds.

You can begin your trek through Crystal Rock Trail along Crystal Rock Trail Drive.

See the Historic Waters Mill Ruins

Stop by the Waters Mill Ruins during your trek along the Black Hill Trail.

One of the three impressive ruins of Germantown, Waters Mill Ruins is formerly a grist and sawmill built in the late 1800s by the Waters family.

While the mill stopped operating before the 20th century, the location saw a notorious local crime that involved the murder of three people via dynamite explosion.

There’s a little historical marker here that you may want to read, briefly explaining the background of Waters Mill Ruins.

While there’s not a lot to see, the desolate aesthetic of the ruins is an excellent addition to your exploration of Black Hill Trail.

Take a Stroll at Germantown Town Center Urban Park

Aerial view of Germantown Town Center Urban Park

Nicole Glass Photography /

One of the best places in the community’s urban district is the Germantown Town Center Urban Park, located along Pinnacle Drive.

It’s one of the central landmarks of this humble community.

The park is also within walking distance of many other fantastic places, such as the Black Rock Center for the Arts and Germantown Regional Library.

Within the park, you can do several recreational activities.

The park opened in 2015 and became one of the cleanest areas in Germantown.

The most common activities are volleyball, frisbee, kite flying, and picnics.

If you want to access Germantown’s business district, you can also start your walk from Germantown Center Urban Park.

Explore the Clopper Mill Ruins

The Clopper Mill Ruins are one of the most unique attractions in Germantown, thanks to its eerie history.

Located in the wilderness of Seneca Creek State Park, Clopper Mill Ruins was once a grist mill built in the late 1700s before a fire destroyed it in 1947.

However, this isn’t why the ruins are famous.

When President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865, one of the assassins failed to kill then Vice-President and trusted Lincoln ally, Andrew Johnson.

The suspect, George Atzerodt, fled to his property in Germantown and spent a few nights at this abandoned mill to hide.

Moreover, Clopper Mill Ruins is one of the best adventures for thrill-seekers, mainly because it’s difficult to access due to its location.

Experience the Little Seneca Lake

The waters of Little Seneca Lake

Nicole Glass Photography /

Little Seneca Lake is one of the best outdoor attractions in Germantown, along the border of the community and its neighbor, Boyds.

The lake is directly connected to Little Seneca Creek and two other bodies of water found in Montgomery County: Cabin Branch and Ten Mile Creek.

While it’s mainly used as a water reservoir, Little Seneca Lake is a popular tourist attraction because it’s a fantastic place for boating, fishing, and strolling.

Aerial view of Little Seneca Lake

Nicole Glass Photography /

There are a lot of nature trails here that are free to use, providing you with some of the best views of the lake.

If you don’t mind spending a couple of bucks, you can rent several types of boats as well to experience the waters first-hand.

Visit the American Zen College

Another unique place to visit without any charge in Germantown is the American Zen College, located along Germantown Road.

American Zen College is a pioneer of Zen Buddhism in Maryland.

Still, they’re best known because of its 30-foot pagoda that houses Buddha’s remains after South Korea donated it.

This makes American Zen College one of the only two places in the U.S. with a pagoda, the other being Lu Mountain Temple in California.

While you won’t see the remains, you can still explore the American Zen College grounds.

Not only is it beautiful, but it is also serene, giving you a sense of inner peace.

There are many Zen programs here, so if you’re interested in your overall well-being, contact the college ahead of your visit.

Spot Wildlife at Gunners Lake

Another scenic spot in Germantown is Gunners Lake, a popular spot for swimmers and anglers.

Unlike Little Seneca Lake, Gunners Lake is much easier to access on the community’s border, as it’s right in the heart of Germantown.

Gunners Lake is a haven for outdoor photographers, home to many birds like ducks, wigeons, and mallards.

The sizable Gunners Lake is a popular loop trail for joggers since it spans around five miles.

Gunners Lake is a no-brainer addition to your itinerary as one of the prettiest places in Germantown.

Check Out the BlackRock Center for the Arts

Aerial view of BlackRock Center for the Arts

Nicole Glass Photography /

Just a stone’s throw away from the Town Center Urban Park lies BlackRock Center for the Arts, the cultural epicenter of the community.

While BlackRock Center for the Arts is brimming with all sorts of events year-round, visiting the galleries is one of the best free things you can do here.

The galleries each contribute exhibits that change throughout the year, most of which are free to enter.

During your visit, check out what’s brewing in BlackRock Center for the Arts.

Many galleries here have artworks from a mix of emerging and established artists from the Mid-Atlantic Region.

Play Sports at Clearspring Local Park

Clearspring Local Park is a great destination to break a sweat because of its several fun amenities.

There are open fields where you can play soccer and baseball and playgrounds for toddlers.

There are also basketball courts and some walking trails where you can spot wildlife like birds.

The place also has a quaint ambiance, making it great to do picnics or spend some downtime during the afternoon or early morning.

Clearspring Local Park is an excellent addition to your travel plans; find it along Scenery Drive.

Hike along Seneca Greenway

Trail of Seneca Greenway

G. Edward Johnson, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If the Black Hill Trail isn’t enough to quench your thirst for an outdoor adventure, the Seneca Greenway is another fantastic place for you to check out.

Along the far southern end of Germantown’s urban districts, Seneca Greenway lets you experience the rustic wilderness of Seneca Creek.

The creek, coupled with the lush vegetation here during spring and summer, is one of the best outdoor spots in Maryland.

Seneca Greenway trail lined with trees

G. Edward Johnson, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In other months, Seneca Greenway also transforms with its foliage.

While it’s far from the urban districts of Germantown, the trail is maintained correctly and even has parking.

Take the Family to Ridge Road Recreational Park

Ridge Road Recreational Park is another community park you can consider visiting.

It’s a vast park with a little bit of something for everyone, such as a dog park, sports amenities, and picnic grounds.

The dog park distinguishes it from other community parks, as you can let your pets loose.

There’s also a hockey and roller skate rink unique to Ridge Road Recreational Park.

Close to the heart of Germantown, Ridge Road Recreational Park is a great place to spend an afternoon with the family.

Explore the Black Rock Mill Ruins

Exterior of the Black Rock Mill Ruins

Aneta Kaluzna, CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

Unlike the first two ruins, the Black Rock Mill Ruins show more of the area’s history.

Another former grist mill, Black Rock Mill Ruins’ walls and general overall structure are still preserved, dating back to its construction in 1815.

While it has been passed down to several business owners, Black Rock Mill was eventually given to the Maryland Forest and Park Service.

The agency enhanced it to make it a good tourist attraction.

The great thing about these ruins is that they’re intended to be seen, so you won’t have a hard time visiting them.

They are located along Black Rock Road by Seneca Creek.

There are even information boards and parking available, making this one of the best spots to visit in Germantown.

Bring the Kids to Waring Station Local Park

If you have toddlers with you, visiting the Waring Station Local Park is a nice treat for them during your stay.

What makes this park unique is the playground design inspired by a pirate ship.

Not only is it a fun way to take some energy off the kids, but it’s also a cute photo opportunity for the family.

Waring Station Local Park is just a stone’s throw away from Gunners Lake, so you can easily add this to your itinerary.

You can access the park along Stoney Bottom Road.

Spend Quiet Time at the Germantown Library

Aerial view of the Germantown Library

Nicole Glass Photography /

Germantown Library is for you whether you have an affinity for libraries or need a quiet indoor space to work.

It’s a spacious public library with all sorts of books.

Well-lit with a pleasing ambiance, Germantown Library is a fantastic place to relax and explore its various facilities.

If you’re bringing your kids, their kiddie room will keep them occupied for an hour or two.

Tucked in a quaint corner near the Town Center Urban Park, the Germantown Library’s surrounding area is an excellent place to stroll during a clear day.

Final Thoughts

Germantown may be a small community in Maryland, but it’s teeming with all sorts of hidden gems and urban attractions for you to see.

Give Montgomery County a chance.

Enjoy the free things to do in Germantown, Maryland!

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