Is Downtown Bethesda the Next Aspen?

For the past few centuries, the largest estates, a well-trained staff, and expensive amenities have defined luxury. But that definition is changing. More recently, convenience and location have become synonymous with real luxury. In wealth-centric New York City, residents strive to be closer to Manhattan and the associated opulence that comes with this crowded city center. Traveling farther west, residents and visitors of the popular resort town of Aspen find luxury within a small yet extravagant area of shops and entertainment. These affluent residents recognize the authority of the street address, not in the size of the house.

This trend is spreading across the United States, bringing the allure of luxury back to downtown areas. In the past ten years, Bethesda has been on top of this trend, on its way to becoming the Aspen of the East Coast, according to a recent Fortune magazine article. The city center is located just northwest of the nation’s capital and only eight miles from the White House.

So what puts Bethesda on the map as the next Aspen? For starters, its highly successful residents. According to the 2000 census, Bethesda is the best-educated city in the United States among cities with at least 50,000 residents. The city also boasts a high median income, with families earning $168,385 per year.

Many residents commute to the capital for lucrative government jobs or positions with Fortune 500 companies. Lockheed Martin, a global security and aerospace company located in Bethesda, employs over 9,200 Maryland residents. With an average salary of  $101,860, companies like Lockheed Martin directly contribute to the high median income in Bethesda. Overall, Maryland’s aerospace and defense businesses generate more than $35 billion in economic activity, making it one of the top ten states for gross domestic product per capita.

And what do successful, well-educated residents attract? A bevy of top-rated restaurants, indulgent shopping, and well-maintained connections to nature right near the city. It’s how Bethesda has redefined luxury downtown living. Check out these prime spots and see how “Aspenization” has made downtown Bethesda one of the finest and newest must-live cities in the United States.

Enjoy The Best Selection of Restaurants

Try Black’s Bar & Kitchen for the best American seafood in downtown Bethesda. Opened by restaurateur and renowned chef Jeff Black, Black’s innovative menu uses organic, local ingredients to create regional favorites, like mouthwatering Chesapeake Bay oysters and locally sourced fish entrees.

Find upscale Mediterranean dishes at Robert Wiedmaier’s Wildwood Kitchen, located in Bethesda’s Wildwood Shopping Center. If you are looking to treat yourself, guests rave about the lamb meatballs main course, followed by chocolate mousse for dessert. The decadent meals at Wildwood Kitchen redefine luxury cuisine for the Bethesda area.

If you are looking to satisfy a craving for sweets, check out Georgetown Cupcakes, which serves up a special daily cupcake, along with classic decadent favorites like red velvet and chocolate ganache.

Extravagant Shopping, Spa Services, and Food on Bethesda Row

With dozens of luxury boutiques, upscale chain stores, relaxing spas, and restaurants on Bethesda Row, visitors find all their needs met in one centralized location. Some of the best places to shop on Bethesda Row include an Apple store, Calypso St. Barth, and The North Face. Relax with a spa day that includes massages and other spa services at Bluemercury, Aveda, or the Spa @ Equinox.

Finish your shopping and spa trips with a visit to one of more than two dozen restaurants located on Bethesda Row. For a quick bite around breakfast, try Bethesda Bagels, a delicious yet affordable bagel shop on the Row. For lunch and dinner, visit one of the many popular dining spots like Cava Mezze Grill or Redwood Restaurant and Bar.

Bike Downtown Bethesda on the Capital Crescent Trail

The Capital Crescent Trail winds through eleven miles of the Northwest District of Columbia area. The popular biking trail provides a paved yet scenic commute for seven miles between Georgetown and downtown Bethesda. Gravel lines the final four miles of the trail that span Bethesda to Silver Springs. This beautiful trail lets residents and visitors stay connected to nature in a large urban center.


Although there is no short supply of luxury shops, restaurants, and residential areas, Bethesda has a demure charm that offsets any expectation of egotism. The enchanting atmosphere welcomes visitors and hints at the genteel heritage found south of the city. Just eight miles from the nation’s capital, downtown Bethesda combines an intelligent, affluent population with lavish shops and world-class food—ample justification for crowning it the Aspen of the East Coast.

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