20 Best Things to Do in Bethesda, MD

Bethesda, MD

Nestled in the heart of Montgomery County, Bethesda is a hidden gem brimming with a kaleidoscope of experiences waiting to be discovered by first-time visitors and long-time locals alike.

Let's begin exploring the best things to do in Bethesda, Maryland!

We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the following individuals for their invaluable contributions to this article: Matthew Dell, Devin Price, Alice Williams, Lori Neely, Helena Justice, Jimmy Diaz and Randall Don.

Spend the Weekend at Little Falls Stream Valley Park

Footbridge at Little Falls Stream Valley Park
blubird / Shutterstock.com

Waking up to the promising glow of a Saturday morning, I decided to spend my day at the Little Falls Stream Valley Park, nestled amidst the folds of a 160-acre woodland.

As the morning sun spilled over the leafy canopy, I felt the calming hush of the scenery seeping into my soul.

The park is a hidden treasure, perfect for a relaxing escape from the daily grind.

I started my day by shooting some hoops at the basketball court.

It was a delightful experience, made all the better by the faint rustling of leaves above and the soft chirping of birds.

Later, I took my bike for a spin around the trails.

I pedaled for miles, soaking in the shifting scenery of verdant greenery and the occasional splash of wildflowers.

The park trails are not just for hiking. They provide an excellent course for biking, too.

The park has picnic facilities and play areas, making it an ideal spot for children and adults.

I noticed families enjoying their picnics under the cool shade of trees while children gleefully made the most of the play area.

During one of my visits, I discovered a borderline marker that marks the division between the District of Columbia and Maryland.

This marker, located behind the east side guard rail of MacArthur Boulevard NW, holds a subtle charm for history buffs and is worth a visit.

Little Falls Stream Valley Park is my cherished spot.

Its serene setting and recreational facilities provide a refreshing retreat for both body and spirit.

Whether you're a sports lover or a tranquility seeker, this park has something for everyone.

Take a Leisurely Stroll Through the Dalecarlia Tunnel

There's something incredibly magical about Dalecarlia Tunnel.

The echo of your footsteps, the age-old walls whispering history in your ears, and the distant sound of whistling bicycles make it the perfect place for a stroll or an invigorating run.

Moreover, the Dalecarlia Tunnel is a historical artifact, a testament to the past.

Built in 1910, it was part of the railroad system. Now, it's a favorite spot among locals and tourists alike.

I've run through this tunnel countless times, and every time feels like the first.

The scenic beauty surrounding the tunnel makes running less of a task and more of a treat.

And, if you ever feel like taking a breather, the tunnel makes for a perfect spot to rest and take some gorgeous photos.

Just remember to watch out for the cyclists sharing the trail.

The sound of a bicycle bell echoing through the tunnel never fails to make me smile.

As a cyclist myself, the tunnel presents a delightful challenge.

It's a joy to ride through it, whistling a tune and hearing it bounce off the walls.

The Dalecarlia Tunnel offers a unique blend of history and nature, perfect for those who enjoy the outdoors.

Whether you're a fan of running, cycling, or just exploring, the tunnel is a place you should visit.

Discover Art at the Ratner Museum

The moment I stepped into the Ratner Museum, it felt like I walked into a grand display of artistic creativity.

It's large enough to house several different exhibits at once, a feast for the art enthusiast in me.

The variety of art types is impressive.

From sculptures to paintings, there was something that could pique any interest.

One of the most significant aspects of the Ratner Museum is its approach to art. It's inventive and educative, breathing life into the old and presenting it as new.

It feels like the museum is a treasure in Bethesda, a sanctuary for all those who may shy away from the typical museum experience.

Here, you are encouraged to learn about the diversity and unity of art and humanity.

The Ratner Museum is also an excellent spot to hold community meetings for almost any event.

It's about engaging with it and understanding its role in representing and shaping humanity.

Enjoy a Magical Experience at the Imagination Stage

I'm a bit of a theatre buff, and a few months ago, I discovered a little gem in our town.

It's called Imagination Stage, and let me tell you, it's every bit as magical as the name suggests.

You're swept into a world of creativity and wonder from the moment you walk in.

The place offers theatre shows for children, not just your run-of-the-mill productions.

They're immersive, engaging, and designed to fire up the imagination.

I took my kids to see a performance of "Corduroy" recently, and it was a hit.

The room was the perfect size, making the children feel part of something special.

I saw their eyes light up, captivated by the imaginative interpretation, the clever set design, and the special effects.

The way their little faces lit up at the sight of a toilet paper tower and a remote control vacuum was priceless!

But that's not all Imagination Stage has to offer.

They also run after-school programs and summer camps.

It's such a positive place to introduce youngsters to the world of drama.

And did I mention there's a gift shop?

It's packed with all sorts of little theatre-themed treasures, making the experience all the more memorable for the little ones.

I plan to take the kids back for more shows this year.

It's become our new favorite family outing, and I have no doubt it'll become a cherished memory for them as they grow up.

Imagination Stage, you've brought the magic of theatre alive for us.

Discover the Locust Grove Nature Center

I'd never tire of stepping into the Locust Grove Nature Center, nestled in the heart of Montgomery Parks.

No matter the season, it always offers a refreshing escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Whether you prefer a leisurely walk in the woods or something more thrilling, like mountain biking, this park has everything to meet your adventurous needs.

I often find myself drawn to the well-maintained trails, each one presenting a new scene of nature's beauty to discover.

A play area adjacent to the nature center also seems to be a hit among the kids.

But the whole park's star must be the Cabin John Trail.

It's a tranquil experience walking down this single-track trail with small hills, and sharing it with runners and bikers only adds to the charm.

One of my favorite spots along this trail is an old sycamore tree about a quarter mile down.

Benches are placed thoughtfully around it, perfect for moments of quiet reflection.

I also love that the park is dog-friendly. My pet and I have explored many trails along Cabin John Creek.

Even in the colder months, when the trees stand bare, the park maintains its charm.

The absence of leaves reveals the creek in full view, and the silence is only broken by the sound of flowing water.

It's hard to believe we're just a stone's throw away from the busy Democracy Blvd or Seven Locks Rd.

The trees do a fantastic job of buffering the noise, making it an ideal peaceful spot.

Finally, I'd recommend checking out the Locust Grove Nature Center's programming.

They offer a wide range of activities and events that cater to all age groups.

I can't wait for the warm weather to return so I can make the most of what this park offers.

Enjoy an Enthralling Evening at Round House Theatre

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

Every time I step into the Round House Theatre, it's as though I'm being transported into a different world.

Located just a stone's throw away from my home, this local gem is my go-to spot for a night packed with drama, entertainment, and cultural exploration.

The recent performance I attended was August Wilson's "Radio Golf," it was nothing short of spectacular.

Likewise, the intimate setting of the theatre allowed for a unique, immersive experience.

Everything was perfect, from the palpable tension in the air to the electrifying performances of the cast.

I still remember the goosebumps from the lead actor's resounding monologue.

It was one of those performances that linger in your mind long after the curtains have fallen.

But it's not just the plays and musicals that make Round House Theatre a community treasure.

My son has had the privilege of attending two summer camps here.

Each time, he returned home brimming with stories of the fun he had and the friends he made.

Seeing my son's transformation, I can vouch for their educational arts programming.

They also offer a "Two for Tuesdays" special.

Above all, I value the Round House Theatre for its commitment to making theatre accessible to the community.

It is a place that takes this goal to heart and follows through.

Each visit leaves me with a sense of gratitude for having such a cultural hub right in my backyard.

Enjoy a Peaceful Retreat at Willard Avenue Neighborhood Park

Every morning, I step into my sanctuary, the Willard Avenue Neighborhood Park and it instantly becomes my favorite part of the day.

Though small, the park is big in heart and offers a serene environment for anyone looking for a peaceful retreat.

Nestled in our area, the park provides a much-needed breath of fresh air and a splash of greenery amid the concrete jungle.

It's the perfect spot for a simple, tranquil walk or a mindful meditation session to start the day right.

I often see little ones gleefully playing on the playground equipment, their laughter echoing throughout the park.

As a basketball enthusiast, I usually join the games, enjoying the thrill and camaraderie it brings.

I highly recommend strolling through Willard Avenue Neighborhood Park whenever you are around.

It's a small haven that offers a momentary escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Take a Stroll through Cabin John Trailhead

I've always had a penchant for the tranquility offered by nature, and nothing encapsulates that better than the Cabin John Trailhead.

I'm fortunate enough to live nearby, a privilege I don’t take for granted.

Wandering through these trails is like stepping into another world entirely.

The trail is perfect for a quick walk, especially in the morning.

I often find myself venturing out just as the day breaks, the dew still fresh on the leaves.

The path is relatively straightforward, making it easy for exercise enthusiasts and casual strollers.

I also appreciate how clean and well-maintained the park is.

Bins are strategically placed along the trail for easy access, allowing everyone to do their part in keeping the park beautiful.

One peculiar park feature that always amuses me is a historic house along the trail.

It's a charming, rustic tower; people often mistake it for a dog run.

While watching the confusion is always amusing, I'd like to remind fellow dog owners to keep their pets on a leash.

It not only protects the house but also ensures that everyone has a pleasant experience on the trail.

Aside from the main trail, there are several other paths to explore, each offering a different perspective of the park.

Whether looking for a short, brisk walk or a longer, more challenging hike, the Cabin John Trailhead has something for everyone.

It's a place of serenity in the bustling city life, and I feel fortunate to have it right on my doorstep.

Enjoy an Enchanting Afternoon at McCrillis Gardens

Something is captivating about McCrillis Gardens.

Nestled in the heart of Montgomery County, this hidden gem boasts an old stone manor house and a five-acre park filled with age-old trees and enchanting shade gardens, McCrillis Gardens.

It's a place I've grown fond of over the years, a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.

It was a crisp, sunny afternoon when I joined a friend for their biannual afternoon tea event.

I remember parking along Renshaw Drive, as there was no onsite parking, and being greeted warmly by the event coordinator.

For a modest $50, you're treated to a fascinating tour of the gardens, weather permitting, followed by a delightful afternoon tea.

The tea itself was an absolute treat.

Provided by Sweet Simplici-Tea in Sykesville, the spread included four types of tea – Earl Grey, English Breakfast, Green Tea, and Raspberry Pomegranate – accompanied by milk, sugar, and honey.

Also, there were delectable tea sandwiches, an assortment of desserts, and a savory scone with clotted cream and jam.

McCrillis Gardens is a charming local haven.

Whether you're an eager botanist or someone who appreciates the simple beauty of nature, these gardens are a must-visit.

And if you're lucky, you might catch the afternoon tea event – an experience that will leave you with a delightful memory.

Spend the Day At Pike & Rose: A Local Perspective

Every day feels like a celebration when you're at Pike & Rose.

Nestled among the hustle and bustle of the city, it's my go-to spot whenever I need a quick retail therapy or a gastronomical adventure.

The scene is a vibrant mix of trendy shops and restaurants, each promising a unique experience that blends local charm with modern sophistication.

When you step into the place, you're greeted with an array of fun and trendy shops, each with its standout offerings.

Despite the upscale aura, the prices remain reasonable, much to my wallet's delight.

And while it's fun to explore the ins and outs of the mall, the restaurants have been the highlight of my every visit.

Each offers a unique ambiance and menu that caters to a diverse palate.

The weekends at Pike & Rose are something of a special occasion.

For instance, the farmers' market is a sight to behold - a melting pot of local produce, homemade goodies, and smiling faces.

I make it a point to stop by whether I need to restock my pantry or want to enjoy the lively atmosphere.

Parking is a breeze, with the first two hours free of charge.

Pike & Rose truly embraces our pet dogs.

A special area looks like a dog park - a perfect spot to let our four-legged buddies stretch their legs and meet new friends.

In the heart of Bethesda, Pike & Rose is a testament to the vibrant local culture.

Whether you're up for a day of shopping, a night of bowling, or a relaxing afternoon at the cinema, this modern mall has got you covered.

Discover Montgomery Farm Women's Cooperative Market

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

I've been visiting the Montgomery Farm Women's Cooperative Market for years.

Nestled in the heart of downtown Bethesda, this gem is a year-round market boasting indoor and outdoor vendors.

They sell everything from crafts to produce and artisanal foods.

Let me tell you about the variety of items available at this market!

My favorite is fresh organic cheese.

This is the place to be if you're into healthy foods like I am.

The produce is new. The aroma is irresistible.

However, the market is not limited to just food items.

You can also find unique jewelry pieces, from lovely rings to necklaces.

And let's not forget about the art!

You can find artists displaying their beautiful creations on a good day outside.

Parking is never an issue here, for there's always plenty of space.

Meanwhile, the location is also perfect - a great outdoor farmer's market in downtown Bethesda.

So, if you're looking for a unique market experience, visit Montgomery Farm Women's Cooperative Market.

It's a place of discovery, great food, crafts, and people. A place that leaves you wanting to come back for more.

Enjoy the Day at Bethesda Outdoor Pool

Have you ever had one of those days where you feel like you're not in the same place you started?

That's exactly how I felt during my last visit to the Bethesda Outdoor Pool.

It began as a typical summer day, a perfect time for a refreshing dip in the pool.

Bethesda Outdoor Pool has always brought back fond memories of childhood summers filled with laughter, splashes, and the smell of sunblock.

Yet, this time, it felt a little different.

The day started smoothly enough. I remember diving into the cool water, and it felt like I was suddenly in another place.

I know it sounds bizarre, but it felt like I had somehow been transported to Brentwood and back again in seconds.

The journey back was quite an adventure, almost like I was driving up the sides of buildings.

Bethesda Outdoor Pool remains a cherished part of my local community.

Roll a Strike at Lucky Strike Bethesda

Living in a bustling city can sometimes be taxing, but having a place like Lucky Strike Bethesda is a natural breath of fresh air.

Nestled on the ground floor of the Montgomery Mall, this mod bowling spot is more than just a place to roll some balls.

Its 12 premium bowling lanes, each fitted with giant TV screens to keep up with live sports action, quickly became my go-to place for a fun night out with friends.

This isn't your standard bowling alley.

It's a lounge, a dance floor, and a regular DJ spot, all rolled into one vibrant venue.

Once the clock strikes 21:00, Lucky Strike enforces a 21+ policy, turning the place into a lively adult playground.

My own experience with Lucky Strike Bethesda was unforgettable.

A few months back, our corporate company decided to organize a party there, and boy, did it exceed our expectations!

Their menu is another highlight worth mentioning. The food was a hit at our party, and everything tasted great.

Although, from personal experience, I'd recommend against trying the fruit punch.

Lucky Strike Bethesda is a refreshing space to visit frequently.

It's where bowling meets fun, music, and an unforgettable experience. If you haven't seen it yet, you're missing out!

Unwind at Hip Flask Rooftop Bar

I must tell you about this incredible spot I stumbled upon, the Hip Flask Rooftop Bar, on the top floor of the Marriott Bethesda Downtown.

From the moment I walked in, I was instantly taken with the venue's unique aesthetic.

Low-lit and oozing with energy, it offers an ethereal view of the city from the rooftop that is quite delightful.

One of the finest things about my experience at the bar was the fantastic tapas-style food options.

I still reminisce about the delectable bruschetta, filled with the freshest ingredients.

Then, I paired it with edamame, another delightful addition to my gastronomic adventure here.

Their cocktails are beyond just drinks; they are an experience in themselves.

Proportioned generously and with an impressive range of styles and flavors, they are truly memorable.

They also had this crafted sweetener donut that was an absolute delight.

The Hip Flask Rooftop Bar is also a music lover's paradise.

I was taken by the great tunes, not too loud, perfect for us patrons who like to chat while sipping on our drinks.

The outside view at night is gorgeous and adds to the overall chill vibe of the place.

You can park on the street or in the hotel garage if you're driving.

Visit Hip Flask Rooftop Bar if you get the chance.

It's one place in Bethesda that's worth your time.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Listen to a Night of Music 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

If you've ever wanted to feel the vibration of music pulse through your veins, you must visit The Music Center at Strathmore.

I've attended countless concerts here, from classical to contemporary, and each experience has been magical.

The acoustics are world-class and something you need to experience firsthand.

Imagine hearing the Baltimore Symphony live in concert and being able to detect the subtle interplay between the loud and the soft notes, even from the back of the hall.

It's a testament to the extraordinary balance that this hall offers.

Another charming feature about this place is its ambiance. Strathmore is indeed lucky to have such a fine venue.

As for the seating, I usually opt for a promenade box.

The view from there is fantastic, and you can appreciate the beauty of the artists and the stage without any obstructions.

Moreover, the feel and look of the venue are pretty elegant, reminding you of the grandeur of performance arts.

The only thing that might need a bit of a tweak is the refreshment line. It can get a bit crowded, but it's a small price to pay for the overall experience.

A final cherry on top is its location.

A short 3-5 minute stroll from the Grosvenor-Strathmore metro station, it is super convenient to reach.

Concert nights don't get any better than this.

The Music Center at Strathmore is an asset to our city, where artists and audiences unite to create unforgettable musical experiences.

And trust me, once you've been here, you'll return for more, just like me.

Experience the Magic of Glen Echo Park

Signage of Glen Echo Park
EWY Media / Shutterstock.com

There's something exceptional about Glen Echo Park.

Nestled in the heart of the greater Washington area, this treasure trove of art, culture, and fun never fails to add a spark of joy to my everyday life.

Its range of activities and picturesque setting make it the epitome of a community space that brings together the young and the old, the artistic and the adventurous.

Stepping into the park, you'll be greeted with a delightful mix of restored Art Deco buildings that are stunning to look at.

My weekend strolls around the park usually involve admiring these architectural wonders and stopping by the kids' camps.

It's a sight to behold when creativity unfurls in these young minds at the art shows.

One of my favorite park spots is the beautifully restored carousel.

No matter how often I've seen it, the sight of children's laughter filling the air as they ride the merry-go-round brightens my day.

And if you're a fan of dance, the Spanish Ballroom is a must-visit.

A building at Glen Echo Park
EWY Media / Shutterstock.com

It's a delight to watch a variety of musical acts and participate in the energetic dances every week.

The park is also home to a charming little playground and delightful gardens for those who prefer a quieter setting.

Likewise, the woodland trails offer a serene retreat to nature lovers like me, while the glass-blowing studios are a hive of activity and creativity.

The park's theater productions are a testament to the vibrant local arts scene.

I've had the pleasure of attending a small wedding held at this location, and I must say, the photographs looked stunning against the colorful backdrop of the park.

This park even has ample free parking, a blessing in the bustling city.

But don't just take my word for it. Come and experience the magic of Glen Echo Park yourself.

Whether you're here for a fun-filled day with the kids or exploring your artistic side, this park has something for everyone.

Carousel at Glen Echo Park
EWY Media / Shutterstock.com

Spend the Day at Norwood Local Park

Imagine a place where you can feel the grass under your feet, hear children's laughter, and breathe the crisp, clean air.

This place is none other than Norwood Local Park.

Nestled in my town, it has always been my go-to place for relaxation and recreation.

A bright sunny day is perfect for a visit to this community haven.

I would typically start my day with a game of tennis in one of its five unlit courts.

The well-maintained courts provide an excellent place to sweat it out with friends.

On the other hand, my kids have their version of fun at the playground.

It’s a sight to behold watching them scamper around the different play structures, their giggles reverberating across the park.

The park is also perfect for dog lovers, with many residents bringing their furry friends for a stroll or a fun game of fetch.

Meanwhile, the openness of the park and the abundance of green spaces let them enjoy their time.

There's also an open field where we sometimes play catch or frisbee.

Afterward, it's always a delight to grab a spot under one of the many trees, lay my picnic spread on the tables, and enjoy a relaxed meal.

Spending the day at Norwood Local Park is nothing short of amazing.

It brings out the child in you and lets you enjoy life's simple pleasures.

The park, with its many facilities and beautiful scenery, embodies the spirit of community living.

Get a Glimpse into Clara Barton's Legacy

Exterior of Clara Barton National Historic Site Clara Barton National Historic Site
EWY Media / Shutterstock.com

It's a quiet Sunday morning, and I walk to the Clara Barton National Historic Site.

Stepping onto the grounds, I can't help but feel a sense of nostalgia and respect for Clara, the formidable founder of the Red Cross.

The historic 1891 landmark house is a silent yet potent testament to her relentless spirit and mission.

Likewise, the first-floor tour is an experience to look forward to, but it's only open on certain days at certain times.

On my last visit, I missed it by a whisker, but the informational booklet available at the site salvaged my day.

Leafing through it, I saw Clara's life and her immense significance in humanitarian aid detailed wonderfully.

Signage of Clara Barton National Historic Site
EWY Media / Shutterstock.com

As I take in the house's grandeur, I can't help but note the signs of disrepair and neglect.

It's heartbreaking to see such a historical gem falling apart despite being under the care of the National Park Service.

I learned that there's a fund-raising underway for a complete refurbishment, and though it may be a while before we see Clara's home in its full glory, it gives me hope.

It's not every day that you get to walk in the footsteps of a woman like Clara Barton.

I can't help but think of how Clara would have felt about it all.

But then again, she was a woman of action, not one to dwell on what's been lost but on how to rebuild and move forward.

Enter the Sanctuary of Brookside Gardens

Scenic view of Brookside Gardens
mLswanson / Shutterstock.com

Every town has its hidden gem; for us, it's Brookside Gardens, a sprawling 50-acre lush green paradise tucked away in the heart of our city.

It's my sanctuary, where I escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

From the moment I step into this tranquil haven, I find myself enveloped in an oasis of calm, surrounded by the beauty of nature.

Brookside Gardens is a testament to thoughtful planning and meticulous maintenance.

Its themed areas whisk you away on a horticultural journey, from the serene Japanese Garden to the vibrant Rose Garden hues and the Butterfly Garden's intoxicating fragrance.

Every season is an explosion of colors, a testament to the diverse plant life nurtured here.

On a chilly day, I love to escape into the conservatory, a tropical sanctuary teeming with exotic plants and a stunning collection of orchids.

Bench along Brookside Gardens
mLswanson / Shutterstock.com

It's like a little tropical vacation right here in our city.

And let's not forget the fruit trees - their blossoms in spring and the fruits in summer and fall are a sight to behold.

But Brookside Gardens is also an educational resource.

At the visitor center, you can learn valuable insights into gardening and conservation.

Whether you're a photographer looking for a picturesque backdrop, a nature lover seeking a serene retreat, or just someone looking to reconnect with the natural world, Brookside Gardens is an absolute delight.

I feel fortunate to have this botanical paradise in our backyard.

You must experience this splendor for yourself, and trust me, you'll want to keep coming back.

Beautiful flower at Brookside Gardens
AJ Packer / Shutterstock.com

Final Thoughts

Living in Bethesda, Maryland, has offered many exciting opportunities to explore and enjoy.

With its rich blend of outdoor activities, arts, history, and community vibes, Bethesda has been a joy to call home.

So, here's to the countless adventures that await in Bethesda, a place that never falls short of showing you something extraordinary.

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