Founded as a farming community called Log Town in 1765, Gaithersburg chugged into a lively industrial center at the end of the 19th century, thanks to the arrival of the B&O Railroad. Today, MARC trains still stop at the city’s restored 1884 redbrick station. It’s also worth pausing in quaint, adjacent Olde Towne for old-timey charms.
Old Towne Cafe
226 E. Diamond Ave.
Customers have slurped a lot of milkshakes on the long, orange Formica bar at this time-capsule diner. Built as a soda counter for the neighboring Diamond Drugs in the early 20th century, it's now run by husband-and-wife team Ali and Afsaneh Akbar. "People come here for the memories," Ali Akbar says. Besides nostalgia, the place also plates breakfast and lunch fare, including BLTs, house-made chipped beef and pancakes.
Olde Towne Thrift Shop
212 E. Diamond Ave.
In an era of "curated" vintage everything, this throwback thrift store offers cheap tag-popping in a decidedly unfancy space. A rifle-through might turn up $25 1970s Ferragamo loafers, a $50 pink velvet wing chair or quirky mismatched wine glasses. Check the racks outside for the latest arrivals.
Fat mariachi guitars and flashy blue Gibson six-strings hang from the walls, and garage-band-worthy drum sets crowd the floor at this third-generation emporium. Currently selling strong? "Ukuleles, because they're so easy to play," says Tony Litz, son of Victor Litz, who founded the business in 1961. The spot also rents instruments and teaches lessons, including summer rock camps for kids, which sometimes serenade customers.
Local history exhibits - mostly aimed at children - fill the restored brick freight house at the B&O Railroad Station. And although the mock Victorian bank and general store intrigue, it's the two vintage train cars and 1918 steam locomotive anchored outside that are the headliners. "Lots of people visit when the museum is closed just to look at the cars and watch the other trains roll by," says Karen Yaffe Lottes, program coordinator forthe museum.
An impressive 1903 redbrick storefront holds this popular brewpub. Roomy, saloon-like surrounds - a brass ceiling in the main bar, exposed brick walls - set the scene for multiple beers on tap, tavern chow and live music on weekends. "This building has always been a real anchor for Gaithersburg," says general manager Chuck Blessing. "It's been everything from a restaurant to a general store to a meeting hall."
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