Return to family fun with a weekend in Montgomery County, Maryland

From history to hiking, this Maryland destination has something for everyone

With vaccinations steadily underway and covid numbers down, summer 2021 may finally allow for a joyful, long-awaited return to travel and family fun.

After a year of sheltering in place, DMV residents are eager to pack their suitcases again. But many aren’t starting with their bucket list or the far-flung vacations they had to postpone. Instead, they — and a reported 61% of Americans — are prioritizing trips to reunite with family and friends, opting for more local overnight stays and weekend trips.

For D.C.-area folks craving a no-stress weekend getaway, there’s no better destination than Montgomery County, Md.

“Our close proximity to Washington, D.C. means that families don’t have to travel far to experience everything Montgomery County has to offer,” said Cory Van Horn, director of marketing for Visit Montgomery, MD. “Our extensive network of scenic roads, highways and public transportation make it easy for families to travel to multiple attractions in a weekend.”

From outdoor events and historic exhibits to top-tier cuisine and a variety of lodging, here’s a glimpse of what you can experience during an unforgettable family weekend in Montgomery County.

Soak up local arts and culture

Get a dose of culture by planning a visit to Montgomery County’s Sandy Spring Museum. Over the years, the museum has evolved from a traditional history museum into a vibrant participatory cultural arts campus, with the majority of exhibits, programs, and events created and led by community members or groups. The museum offers an array of activities like monthly bluegrass jams, book clubs, writing circles, art workshops for adults and children, film screenings, discussions, language classes and more, according to the museum’s marketing director, Lauren Peirce.

While the exhibits have reopened and in-person programs are now being integrated, Peirce recommends families visit the museum’s online programs and events calendar for up-to-date details. This summer, patrons will be able to view multiple exhibitions, including “I Am More Than My Hair” (through Sept. 5), a collection of 20 tactile portraits by local artist Alyscia Cunningham and “Inspired by Malcom: A Passion for Shino” (June 11 through Sept. 5), a shino glaze exhibit featuring 47 artists from around the country.

With reconnection on the minds of many, Montgomery County’s Olney Theatre Center has also been hard at work to plan creative ways to bring its community back together. “We are actively working to show every family that they are welcome,” said Kevin McAllister, the theater’s Director of Curated Programs. “We realize that families come from different cultures, shapes, orientations — there will be space made for any and all to come and connect.” Along with plans to host performances in the realms of jazz, children’s programming, hip-hop, spoken word and more, Olney is also hosting a free outdoor series where people can enjoy a packaged meal or bring their own picnic lunch, lounge on the grass, and enjoy concessions from local vendors while taking in a live show.

For those looking to take in the local scene through shopping, Van Horn recommends checking out the Pike & Rose and Westfield Montgomery malls in Bethesda, the Rio Lakefront Shopping Center in Gaithersburg, Bethesda Row, Downtown Silver Spring, and Clarksburg Premium Outlets. If families are looking for boutique shopping, “definitely head to Kensington Antique Row or Main Street Takoma Park,” he said.

A dose of the great outdoors

If your idea of a fun weekend involves plenty of time spent in fresh air and sunshine, you’re in luck. From parks to plays and everything in between, Montgomery County has no shortage of outdoor offerings.

Hikers, bikers and equestrians can enjoy over 250 miles of trails around the county, including options for every skill level. Nine unique golf courses and a Topgolf in Germantown provide plenty of putting opportunities, and three national parks combine nature with history.

The Josiah Henson Museum and Park is another popular destination for history buffs. Along with the ADA-accessible park, it was recently revamped and features a new 3,000-square-foot visitors center. The grounds include the Riley-Bolten House, former home of plantation owner Isaac Riley who was Reverend Henson’s enslaver.

“The Riley-Bolten House is not your typical historic house museum,” said Shirl Spicer, museum manager for Montgomery County Parks. “Part of our mission is taking the charge to continue pushing for the racial and social equity that Reverend Henson began in his life journey.”

Inside, patrons can experience multimedia and interactive exhibits that take you through the life of Reverend Henson through original illustrations done by African-American artist Kyle Baker. Booking tickets online in advance is recommended.

Families looking to add outdoor time to their weekend itinerary can pencil in Brookside Gardens and Locust Grove Nature Center. Spicer also recommends spots like the Woodlawn Manor Cultural Park in Sandy Spring, the Underground Railroad Experience Trail and the 100-acre Agricultural History Farm Park, the latter which features farm animals, trails and an interactive garden.

If all that exploring is making stomachs growl, Van Horn recommends enjoying a picnic in the park. “There are nine Montgomery Parks that feature areas where you can order takeout from nearby restaurants and have it delivered to your spot in the park,” he said. “Nearly all of our farm breweries and wineries are family friendly for all ages. You can reserve picnic tables, bring food and enjoy a pint at nearly 20 locations along the Tastemakers Trail.”

From dining to dreamland

If you’d rather go the traditional route for your meals in Montgomery County, the wealth of local eateries are sure to please everyone in the family. “There are a number of wonderful locally owned restaurants for all palates: El Andariego, Sardi’s Smokehouse, GrillMarx, Olney Grille, Wasabi Zen, and Silo Falls, to name a few,” said Peirce. “If you’re looking for something sweet, Passion Bakery has delicious pastries, and The Family Room has ice cream by the scoop from South Mountain Creamery.”

And the fun doesn’t have to stop when it’s time to turn in. Montgomery County has plenty of impressive lodging options depending on your family’s needs. The Inn at Tusculum Farm in Laytonsville is a historic home built on over 500 acres of land. It offers a variety of packages that include amenities such as hybrid bikes, farm tours and a private theater.

Olney Inn Bed & Breakfast’s claim to fame is that one of their spacious bedrooms once accommodated the 32nd president of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt (the room is now named after him). Summertime guests can expect amenities that include an outdoor pool and hot tub, smart TVs, a welcome tray and pet-friendly accommodation options as well.

“Montgomery County offers a wide range of experiences that appeal to kids, parents and grandparents,” said Van Horn. “Now more than ever, families are looking to take a break from their digital devices and reconnect beyond the screen.” Luckily, a weekend spent in scenic Montgomery County can offer all of that — and so much more.

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