Showing posts with label Montgomery County Maryland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Montgomery County Maryland. Show all posts

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Montgomery County Maryland--A Multi-Faceted Vacation Destination

The beautiful Strathmore Music Center in North Bethesda Credit: Strathmore
Those who are always on the lookout for things to do during a three-day weekend may wish to consider visiting Montgomery County, Maryland. Just recently, I spent some time there exploring the area--more specifically North Bethesda near Washington, D.C., along with Rockville, Gaithersburg, Williamsport, Potomac and finally Dickerson, Maryland. This relatively small area offers so much to do during a long weekend that you'll find yourself wondering how you'll fit it all in.

If you enjoy shopping and having access to a variety of restaurants, I suggest staying in the heart of the action in the Pike and Rose neighborhood in North Bethesda. The deli below caught my attention and gave me a chuckle.

Call Your Mother, a Jew-ish Deli

For accommodations, I can recommend the Canopy by Hilton. It's comfortable, well-appointed and is within walking distance of a bevy of boutique shops and high-end retailers. Plus, I love this little nook, which is tailor made for writers.
Canopy by Hilton in N. Bethesda is made for writers.

The Canopy's onsite restaurant "Hello Betty" serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and offers a large selection of seafood, ranging from crab cakes, to scallops, stuffed flounder, grouper and more.

Hello Betty is an onsite restaurant at Canopy by Hilton

For a change of scenery and an after-dinner drink, I recommend walking across the street from the Canopy to Julii for a blackberry blossom cocktail, which was not only beautiful, but also delicious.

Julii's bar is beautiful and they make a great cocktail.

A friendly bartender made me this delicious and gorgeous Blackberry Blossom.

For those with kids in tow, there's a family fun destination just steps from Julii in the same Pike & Rose neighborhood called Pinstripes, which offers bowling, bocce and made-from-scratch Italian American Cuisine. Menu items include pizza, burgers, salads, pasta and more.

Pinstripes offers food and fun for the entire family.

Another area chock full of restaurants, shops and family fun is the Rockville Town Square. There you'll find the Maryland Women's Business Center (MWBC) Shop Local retail business incubator where makers can test out the market for their goods prior to purchasing a brick-and-mortar store. Jewelry, art and women's accessories are just a few of the things you'll find there.
MWBC Shop Local features local makers.

When I visited the town square area, children were enjoying cooling off in the park on a hot day while parents sat nearby to watch.

Kids cool off on a hot July day at Rockville Town Square.

VisArts features a gallery and offers classes to the community.

Restaurants, like Thai Chef, are in abundance at Rockville Town Square.

A mural outside Dawson's Grocery.

In addition to restaurants, shops and a park complete with water features, Rockville Town Square also touts Dawson's, an upmarket grocer and natural foods shop. In addition, an art center called VisArts engages the community by offering classes and art exhibits. The vibrant and colorful area is a must-see stop for anyone visiting the Rockville area.

Down the road a bit in Bethesda is a music center called the Strathmore, which almost always elicits oohs and aahs from first-time visitors and is pictured at the top of this post. (Photos alone don't do it justice.) The performance space, which seats 1776 attendees, is not only known for its beauty, but also for its education programs and state-of-the-art acoustics where nary a bad seat is to be had.

Two upcoming events in December 2023 include the Manheim Steamroller Christmas and the Hip Hop Nutcracker.

An onsite special events space at the Strathmore.

Located a little further afield is the National Historic Park at the C&O Canal, which attracts approximately five million visitors per year.

Markers at the park tell the story of the Great Falls and the C&O Canal Company, which encountered obstacles in connecting the Potomac and Ohio Rivers. Because the Potomac plunges 41 vertical feet at Great Falls, six locks were created to safely drop the boats past the river. 

Back in the 1870s, the area was popular with Washingtonians who were eager get away and enjoy the scenery. The lock keepers house was enlarged twice to accommodate the hotel and tavern that you see here.

Great Falls Tavern
Further on down the road a bit in Potomac is Swains Lockhouse (Lockhouse 21), named for the family which inhabited the structure for a century (until 2006). Recently it has been rehabilitated by the C&O Canal Trust, in partnership with the C&O Canal National Historical Park--a project that took three years (2016-2019). 

The Swain lockhouse, exterior.

The Swain history is key to the canal history in that the family helped build the canal and went on to own 15 boats, while serving as lock tenders until the canal closed to boat traffic in 1924. They later opened a stand to rent boats and offer tours to visitors.

The interior of the Swain lock house.

What's even more interesting about this lockhouse in particular, and the lockhouses in the area in general, is that the C&O Canal Trust rents them out. Prices vary according to the desired degree of rusticity. 

Located even further afield is the historic Comus Inn in Dickerson, Maryland, which dates back to 1862. Open Wednesday through Sunday, the Comus Inn is a wonderful place to take the entire family (including your four-legged friends) to enjoy the great outdoors, the scenic views, live music, board and lawn games and more.

Comus Inn exterior, Credit: Comus Inn

The menu at the Comus Inn is both upscale and casual and is overseen by culinary director Sammy Demarco, who has worked in kitchens around the world.

Comus Inn Interior, Credit: Comus Inn

Dining room entrees include items like Forest Mushroom Pappardelle, grilled Bronzino, blackened salmon and sirloin steak. At the beer hall and garden, guests can belly up to picnic tables and enjoy more casual items like burgers, pizza and nachos.

Additional Accommodations

Beyond the Pike & Rose neighborhood, there are other highly rated hotels with rooms at various price points.

The Best Western Premier Rockville Hotel and Suites offers an outdoor pool, an exercise facility and the best cheesecake that you'll ever eat at its onsite restaurant Bogart's.

The DoubleTree by Hilton in Gaithersburg took advantage of the downtime wrought by COVID 19 to renovate their event spaces, which now total 16,500 square feet and include a 5,000 square foot ballroom. They offer free Wi-Fi, an expanded fitness center and a heated indoor pool. A newly designed onsite restaurant and bar known as Knife & Fork offers upscale fare and a sports-bar like lounge.

The Gaithersburg Marriott Washingtonian Center offers a fitness center, Wi-Fi and is a short walk to Rio Lakefront for shopping, dining and entertainment. Their on-site restaurant, The Bench, offers lakeside seating with American fare like salmon, filet mignon and crabcakes.

These are just a few suggestions for an elongated weekend of shopping, exploring and enjoying live entertainment in the Montgomery County area, which is close enough to D.C. to add even more sightseeing to the itinerary, that is if you can find the time.