Step off the Metro at Silver Spring station and you’re soon greeted by the towering AFI Silver movie theater, with the Discovery Channel’s headquarters right around the corner. A pocket of city style within otherwise suburban Montgomery County, Silver Spring is home both to family-owned businesses and nationally recognized brands. On one side of the street you’ve got an assortment of local Thai and tapas spots, while right across the road there’s a Red Lobster and Panera. Over the past decade, downtown Silver Spring transformed from a couple of street blocks to a prime destination that continues to grow.

Housing options
As redevelopment continues fanning out through the downtown area, new apartment complexes right by the Metro are on the hunt to fill vacancies. These apartments, such as Portico (1203 Fidler Ln., 301-830-8672), Eleven55 Ripley (1155 Ripley St., 301-259-3605) and some prewar buildings like Montgomery Arms (8615 Fenton St., 301-495-0892), tend to be on the cheaper side compared to similar D.C. neighborhoods. Expect rents at about $1,100-$1,600 for a studio and $2,000-$3,000 for a two-bedroom. Condos downtown generally fall in the mid-$200,000s to $400,000. Single-family houses in the Silver Spring area range from around $400,000 to $1 million, depending (among other things) on the distance from the downtown.

Getting around
The Paul S. Sarbanes Transit Center, positioned in the heart of the downtown area, is home to Metro’s Red Line and the MARC station, as well as stops for a few dozen bus routes. Bike-share stations are scattered in eight locations downtown, but even if you choose to go without wheels, the downtown area is walkable.

Silver Spring has a rocky history with shopping complexes. In the 1940s, the Silver Spring Shopping Center was one of the most popular retail locations in the area until a new mall opened in nearby Wheaton and siphoned off business. Developers tried again in the 1990s with an idea for a $585 million “megamall,” but funding fell short. Finally, over the last 15 years, the redevelopment of downtown Silver Spring with a mix of businesses, the reopening of the AFI Silver theater and the construction of Veterans Plaza brought foot traffic back to the area.

Weekends downtown can get crowded, with locals stopping by to get a tattoo, have shoes repaired or buy a new outfit. In addition to the big names along the main drag like H&M and DSW, you can find local gems like Alliance Comics and the record-and-coffee shop Bump ’n Grind just a few blocks away.

Every Saturday morning, the Freshfarm farmers market posts up on Ellsworth Drive downtown (911 Ellsworth Drive). The market brings more than 45 farmers from the DMV area, including Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Open year-round (10 a.m. to
1 p.m. during the winter months and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. the rest of the year), the market offers not only fresh food staples but also beers and wines made right in Maryland.

Down the road from the farmers market, there’s a Whole Foods (833 Wayne Ave.) and a Giant (1280 East-West Highway).

The Eats
The downtown Silver Spring area boasts a restaurant, diner or cafe around nearly every corner. Grab gyros at the Big Greek Cafe (8223 Georgia Ave., 301-587-4733) or taste tapas plates at La Malinche (8622 Colesville Rd., 301-562-8622). In fact, you can find Thai, Japanese, Ethiopian and Burmese cuisines within a five-minute walk. Classic national brands like Chipotle (907 Ellsworth Drive), BurgerFi (8504 Fenton St.) and Ben & Jerry’s (903 Ellsworth Drive) line the streets too.

Parks and rec
Silver Spring might have a different name today without Acorn Park, where in 1840, journalist Francis Preston Blair came across a spring spotted with mica. He bought a large portion of the land and the name “Silver Spring” stuck. You’ll find this tiny park at the intersection of East-West Highway — look for the gazebo shaped like an acorn in the middle.

If you’re looking for a larger area to wander, Sligo Creek Park is over 10 miles long and follows the Anacostia Tributary Trail System. It stretches from Prince George’s County all the way to Wheaton Regional Park.

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