What are the three best things about living in Bethesda? You’d be hard pressed to find a local resident who wouldn’t mention proximity to our nation’s capital and its endless cultural offerings. But that doesn’t mean Bethesda is a mere satellite of Washington DC. However convenient, there’s no need to jump on the metro and head south. Engaging, exciting Bethesda events are ample during this—and any other—summer.
Whether you prefer to sit back and take in a ballgame, spark a child’s imagination, or learn more about the area’s history (many outsiders are unaware that Bethesda is a census-designated place, not a city, for example), Bethesda has something for you to enjoy.
If you’re not in Bethesda this summer, here’s what you’re missing:
Bethesda Big Train
When: Home games from May 30 to July 24
Where: Shirley Povich Field, 10600 Westlake Drive, Bethesda, MD
Cost: $9 for adults; $7 for students and adults over 65; $5 for children ages 6 to 12
Phone: (301) 365-1076
For many, summer means baseball. And while the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals offer international superstars and inspiring stadiums within a short commute, summer collegiate baseball at Shirley Povich Field provides a convenient, relaxing, and economical alternative.
The Bethesda Big Train and their stadium, the result of a community collaboration that began in 1997 with the goal of improving youth sports field in the county, has a history of success. The team won a national title in 2011 and has finished among the top three teams in the league in each of the last ten seasons.
That success has been built on the strength of its talent, and nine alumni have made it to the “Big Show.” Though they may be a few years away from Major League Baseball when taking the mound or stepping into the batter’s box at Povich Field, players for the Bethesda Big Train provide an early glimpse into the future.
When: 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on June 3
Where: Elm Street and Woodmont Avenue, Bethesda, MD
Contact Phone: (301) 215-6660
Imagination Bethesda has delighted youngsters for more than two decades, since 1994. The event, which is sponsored by the Bethesda Urban Partnership, is a street festival that blends performances from musicians and entertainers with hands-on arts and crafts activities for children.
Tents operated by volunteering local businesses offer everything from musical theater to the creation of bead bracelets, pastel drawings, and math puzzles. With a decidedly educational bent, performers run the gamut from “Bach to Rock” to “¡Uno, Dos, Tres con Andres!”
For the under-twelve crowd, there’s more than enough to do. For adults, the event supplies a perfect summer afternoon to enjoy the outdoors and spend quality time with children or grandchildren.
Food vendors include ice-cream maker Haagen-Dazs and Smoothie King, among others.
AFI DOCS Film Festival
When: June 17–21
Where: AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center, 8633 Colesville Road, Silver Spring, MD
Cost: Individual tickets available to AFI members; festival passes from $180 to $500
Phone: (301) 495-6720
The American Film Institute sponsors its annual documentary film festival for five days each June. While many films are screened at venues throughout Washington DC, the institute’s home base in Silver Spring—the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center—is also a screening location. The venue, a 32,000-square-foot restored icon originally built in 1938, is well worth a visit.
A unique feature of the festival is its powerful audience members. On account of the festival’s prestige and location, spectators with national influence, from prominent private citizens to Supreme Court Justices, are regular attendees. The event highlights the potential impact documentary films can have.
Dozens of feature-length documentaries are supplemented by a roster of shorts. Individual tickets are available to AFI members. (Anyone can join the non-profit organization, with membership starting at $60.) Committed festival watchers can purchase passes to gain access to an unlimited number of films.
Heritage Days Weekend
When: 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. on June 27–28
Where: 35 sites throughout Montgomery County
Phone: (301) 515-0753
Heritage Days represents a county-wide effort by Montgomery County to show off the rich and varied heritage of the area. In its 11th year in 2015, the event highlights 35 locations from Silver Spring to Clarksburg, as well as sites in Bethesda.
While every visitor will need to pick and choose their favorite spots, one of the more prominent locations, Josiah Henson Park, is located in Bethesda. The park was part of the farm that enslaved Rev. Josiah Henson during the late 1700s and early 1800s. His autobiography became the basis for Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the highly influential novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe.
Other highlights include the Beall-Dawson House, an 1815 dwelling in Rockville that serves as the modern-day home of the Montgomery County Historical Society and happens to be celebrating its 200th year in 2015. Located on the same site is the Stonestreet Museum of 19th-Century Medicine. Clara Barton’s final home, a National Historic Site, is another noteworthy venue, located in Glen Echo.
Those interested in transportation history will make an effort to stop by the National Capital Trolley Museum in Colesville. Visitors during Heritage Days have the opportunity to ride vintage streetcars along a two-mile stretch of road. Others may prefer a peek into early American education at the Seneca Schoolhouse Museum in Poolesville, a one-room schoolhouse built at the close of the Civil War that operated until 1910.
Supplementing these myriad options are hands-on activities for children, live musical performances, and food and drink vendors.
Montgomery County Agricultural Fair
When: August 14–22
Where: Montgomery County Fairgrounds, 16 Chestnut Street, Gaithersburg, MD
Cost: $10 for adults; children under 11 free
Phone: (301) 926-3100
The Montgomery County Agricultural Fair, a community staple since 1949, offers Bethesda residents a chance to take a short drive and immerse oneself in the still-robust Maryland farming community.
One of the state’s largest community fairs since its inception, the Montgomery County Agricultural Fair offers the traditional trappings, like agricultural judging of everything from beeswax to Christmas trees, as well as horse exhibitions and musical performances. Modern additions like tractor pulls and hog races ensure something to interest any visitor, at any age.
Summer is a great time for a vacation, but it’s worth remembering that, in order to be stimulated and entertained, it’s not necessary to go more than a few miles from home. Bethesda events provide a mix of active and passive participation, most of which are suited for any age range.
Day trips to historic sites can be capped off with a baseball game on a warm evening. A single summer can include taking in a documentary on farming and a chance to see community farmers’ best work. In the end, it’s why Bethesda is a perfect fit for so many—a plethora of options outside your door and infinite possibilities just a few miles away.