Bethesda was a quiet suburb until 1984, when the Metro Red Line was extended. This brought an explosion of growth, and many high rise office and apartment buildings were built. Bethesda became the major suburban destination in Maryland for wining and dining, and is much more family-friendly than anywhere in D.C. itself. In 2009, Bethesda was ranked #1 in Forbes' list of most educated towns, #1 in CNN Money's list of highest earning towns, and #1 Total Beauty's Hottest-Guy Cities.
Baltimore-Washington International IATA: BWI, Dulles International IATA: IAD, and Washington Reagan National IATA: DCA airports are all more or less equidistant by taxi from downtown Bethesda, usually taking about 30-45 minutes, although the ride from IAD or DCA becomes much longer during afternoon rush hour, owing to a bad choke point on the inner loop of the Beltway—budget an extra 30 minutes.
If you intend to take public transport from the airport, DCA will be the most convenient, as it has its own Metro stop. From BWI, you would need to either take the train to Union Station in D.C. to connect to the Metro Red Line (there is a bus to the Green Line, but this trip will take a very long time). From IAD, you would take either the Washington Flyer Bus or Metrobus 5A to the Metrorail Orange Line before transferring to the Red Line.
The Capital Crescent Trail  passes through Bethesda, and provides a bike trail from Georgetown to Silver Spring. Between Bethesda and Georgetown the trail is smooth asphalt suitable for rollerblading, while from Bethesda to Silver Spring is currently loose gravel.
Traveling by car is not recommended in Bethesda as parking is very limited on the street and although there are many garages with hourly meters, parking enforcement in the city is aggressive and fines will start at 45$ for an expired meter. Bethesda is a very small city with plenty of sidewalks to get you anywhere you need to go.
Bethesda is not known for its sights; it's known for its restaurants and bars. Nonetheless, you might be interested to see:
The National Institutes of Health, 9000 Rockville Pike (north on Wisconsin), . The mammoth collection of buildings housing the majority of the nation's government bio-research. Consequently, the grounds have been pretty much off-limits to non-employees since the 9/11 attacks and the ensuing anthrax mailings, since there are worries about the security of the bio-weapons research programs here. But the view from Wisconsin Ave of the main building is plenty impressive. If you see a helicopter landing on that main building, it's probably the president or one of the top cabinet officials—this is where they get their repairs.edit
The Madonna of the Trail statue, Wisconsin Ave & Old Georgetown Rd. The Madonna of the Trail memorial was dedicated at Bethesda in 1929 by the DAR. It is one of 12 identical memorials that mark the National Old Trails Road, also known as the Ocean-to-Ocean Highway. The trail travelled through 12 states connecting the Allegheny Mountains to California during our nation's youth. In 1909, the idea of a highway memorial honoring the Pioneer Mothers of the covered wagon days began when a group of women formed a program to mark and locate the Old Sante Fe Trail in Missouri. Their concept led to an Act of Congress that established the Old Trails Road as a National Memorial Highway. Each Madonna of the Trail monument stands 18 feet tall and weighs 17 tons. They are constructed of algonite stone - it's warm, pink tone evoking the color of Missouri native granite. The Madonna of the Trail statue depicts a pioneer woman clasping her baby with her young son clinging to her skirts. Her figural features and stance evokes a feeling of solidarity that will last throughout the ages.edit
Strathmore Hall (The Music Center at Strathmore), 5301 Tuckerman Lane North Bethesda, MD 20852-3385, ☎ (301) 581-5100, . A fantastic hall for seeing concerts because of its state-of-the-art acoustics and great seating. Even the last row has great sound and viewing lines. Check the schedule to find everything from classical music symphonies to rock concerts to kids music performances. The Metro Red Line "Grosvenor-Strathmore" station is adjacent to the facility.edit
Variety of Events, http://www.bethesda.org/. Please be aware that Bethesda hosts many different events throughout the year. I live in the neighborhood and can attest that the street fairs - whether art or food related, are a good time! The Bethesda Urban Partnership (Bethesda UP) sponsors many of these events, which can be found on the posted website. (www.bethesda.org)edit
Summer Concerts, . W noon-2PM (Old Georgetown & Woodmont), Th 6PM-8PM (Woodmont & Norfolk), weekly May-July. Two free concerts every week throughout the summer is a pretty nice deal. Check the website for details on who's playing.Free. edit
Bethesda Outdoor Movies, Woodmont Triangle, Corner of Norfolk & Auburn Avenues. 9PM daily. Five nights of free outdoor movies, usually very family friendly. Check website for exact dates and to see which movies are playing.Free. edit
Taste of Bethesda, . Early October, 11AM-4PM. The taste of Bethesda is the biggest festival of the year, when people from all over the area come to sample Bethesda's restaurant offerings and to enjoy big free concerts. A pack of 4 taste tickets costs $5, and restaurants will give you a food serving for 1-3 tickets. A ton of restaurants participate, and Bethesda's restaurants are good!edit
Apple Store Bethesda Row, 4860 Bethesda Ave, ☎ +1 301 634-0880, . One of the few Apple stores in the DC area.edit
Daddy and Son Camiceria Italiana, 4836 Bethesda Ave, ☎ +1 301 652-0595, . M-Sa 10AM-9PM, Su noon-5PM. The one U.S. location of the famous Italian men's boutique is in Bethesda, and it's a great place to find tasteful, designer silk ties, as well as shirts, slacks, sweaters, etc. Particularly geared towards younger men.edit
Old Bethesda. To the locals, Bethesda is segregated into two sections: Old Bethesda and New Bethesda. Both are worth going to visit, but this is specifically mentioned to say that these areas are peppered with restaurants and boutique shopping. In the new area, these are new, in the old area, these are tried and true. We locals enjoy all of it!edit
Bethesda has about 180 restaurants. It is known throughout the Washington D.C. area for the abundance of restaurants in the downtown area.
Bangkok Garden, 4906 St. Elmo Ave., ☎ +1 301 951-0670, . This Thai restaurant is one of the best in the D.C. area. It has relatively inexpensive food served in a warm, inviting atmosphere.edit
Bethesda Crab House, 4958 Bethesda Ave, ☎ +1 301 652-3382, . 9AM-11PM daily. What better reason to cross the District line into Maryland than a Maryland crab feast! This is not a nice restaurant, it is a crab shack that somehow made its way into Bethesda, with the brown paper on the table, buckets of crabs, tons of Old Bay seasoning, and a lot of messy patrons.$20-40; all-you-can-eat crab feast: $35/person. edit
Jaleo, 7271 Woodmont Ave, ☎ +1 301 913-0003, . Su-Th 11:30AM-10PM, F-Sa 11:30AM-midnight. José Andrés' excursion to Bethesda brings the same excellent modern takes on Spanish tapas and the same excellent sherry and port lists. While extremely popular, this location is big enough where you can get a table without reservations.$20-40. edit
Maki Maki, 8023 Wisconsin Ave, ☎ +1 301 913-9888, . M-Sa 11AM-10PM, Su noon-9:30PM. Just a bit north of the hotbed of restaurants, this unassuming but pleasant and friendly corner sushi bar is excellent. They specialize in creative sushi (or Maki) dishes like the "Red Dragon" (spicy crunchy tuna inside, topped with avocado, tobiko and spicy sauce) and "Fuji Maki" (eel, tobiko, shrimp tempura, Cscumber, tamago, cream cheese & eel sauce). It's also becoming a neighborhood favorite with the many families in the area.$15-30. edit
Passage to India, 4931 Cordell Ave, ☎ +1 301 656-3373, . 11:30AM-2:30PM, 5:30PM-10PM daily. The often fiery cuisine here is some of the best Indian food you'll find anywhere in the metro area, and it's also attractive, rather quiet, and has reliably excellent service. If you are up for a challenge, try to finish one of their vindaloos without asking them to dull down the spice level.$16-30. edit
Raku, 7240 Woodmont Ave, ☎ +1 202 718-8680, . Lunch: M-F 11:30AM-2:30PM, Sa-Su noon-3PM; dinner: Su-Th 5PM-10PM, F-Sa 5PM-10:30PM. Arguably the best Asian food in Bethesda. It's kid-friendly and rather noisy, but the food is made with incredibly fresh, high quality ingredients, and will not likely disappoint. Very popular so make a reservation or get there early.$11-35. edit
South Street Steaks, 4856 Cordell Ave, ☎ +1 301 215-7972, . Su-Th 11AM-9PM, F-Sa 11AM-3AM. Philly cheesesteaks. No, really: authentic Philly cheesesteaks on Amoroso rolls, right here at a sit-down eatery in Bethesda, and they taste like you got them right out of Geno's window in Philadelphia. If you're not from Philadelphia, you can look like you are in the know by ordering a "nine (or twelve) inch whiz wit." Don't worry, they'll understand that, you won't look silly, and you'll get your cheesesteak with the traditional cheese whiz and grilled onions. In addition to legit Philly cheesesteaks and late hours, this eatery draws customers with a bunch of specialty subs, like the missteak, a monstruous sub stuffed with 1 lb steak, 8 pieces bacon, pepperoni, fries, and three types of cheese (feeds up to four).$7-16. edit
Tastee Diner, 7731 Woodmont Ave, ☎ +1 301 652-3970, . 24 hours daily. Looking for the true American diner experience with greasy spoons and waitresses with too much eye shadow? How about cheap eats any time of day or night? Look no further than the tried-and-true Tastee Diner to serve your needs. Indeed, this might be the most dineresque diner in the D.C. area.$3-11. edit
Vace's Italian Deli, 4705 Miller Ave, ☎ +1 301 654-6367, . M-Tu,Sa 9AM-8PM, W-F 9AM-9PM, Su 10AM-4PM. The Bethesda Vace's, like the one in the city, serves the best, most authentic New York style pizza you'll find anywhere this far south. Takeout only.$8-12. edit
Boloco is located on elm street at the corner with bethesda lane. It is a "fast food" mexican grill which has a great variety of different bouritos and mexican food. it is a little bit like chipotle but more healthy and the buritos taste better.
All of Maryland, including Bethesda, is smoke-free in restaurants and bars.
The Barking Dog, 4723 Elm St, ☎ +1 301 654-0022, . Dance floor upstairs.edit
Black's Bar & Grill, 7750 Woodmont Ave, ☎ +1 301 652-6278. M-Th 11:30AM-midnight, F 11:30AM-1AM, Sa noon-1AM, Su noon-10PM. This is one of Bethesda's trendiest spaces, and it's a very nice place for a few drinks with some oysters on the half shell, particularly during happy hour (M-F 4PM-7PM), when there are good deals to be had on both the oysters and the drinks. For wine lovers, either Black's or nearby Grapeseed Bistro & Wine Bar (4865 Cordell Ave) has the best wine list in Bethesda. It can get very crowded around meal times—make reservations.edit
Caddies on Cordell, 4922 Cordell Ave, ☎ +1 301 215-7730, . A sports bar.edit
Flanagan's Harp and Fiddle Pub, . Good Irish pub with all the beer and food you'd expect.edit
Ri Ra Irish Pub, 4931 Elm St, ☎ +1 301 657-1122, . It's a fake Irish pub national chain, but it's nonetheless a great place for a properly poured pint of Guiness, as well as some great oysters on the half shell. The interior is beautiful, and packed with the khaki trousered Bethesda crowd.edit
Rock Bottom Brewery, 7900 Norfolk Ave, ☎ +1 301 652-1311, . Su-Th 11AM-1AM, F-Sa 11AM-2AM. The food is fine, but this small but national chain is best visited for the excellent beers on tap, which can be ordered in sampling glasses. DJs show up F-Sa nights, but this isn't really the sort of place for that. Great people watching from the outdoor seating in good weather.edit
Bowlmor Lanes, 5353 Westbard Ave, ☎ +1 301 652-0955, . M 5PM-2AM, Tu-Th 5PM-midnight, F-Sa 11AM-2AM, Su 11AM-11:30PM. A big, 34-lane upscale bowling alley with two large and popular bars.$26-36/lane per hour, Monday special: $9 all-you-can-bowl 9PM-close. edit
Bethesda Court Hotel, ☎ +1 301 656-2100, . One-and-a-half blocks from the Bethesda Metro station.edit
Doubletree Bethesda Maryland, 8120 Wisconsin Ave, ☎ 301-652-2000, . Located in the heart of downtown Bethesda$100-260. edit
Hyatt Regency Bethesda, One Bethesda Metro Center (7400 Wisconsin Ave), ☎ +1 301 657-1234, . A large Hyatt located right on top of the Bethesda Metro station.$140-260. edit
Bethesda Marriott, 5151 Pooks Hill Rd, ☎ +1 301 897-9400, . Within minutes of downtown Bethesda.edit
Bethesda North Marriott Hotel & Conference Center, 5701 Marinelli Rd, ☎ +1 301 822-9200, . This hotel offers conference space and services for any event. It also offers a fitness center, heated indoor pool, restaurants, the largest ballroom in Maryland.edit
Residence Inn Bethesda Downtown, 7335 Wisconsin Ave, ☎ +1 301 718-0200, . Located near the Naval Medical Center, NIH, FDA and NRC. One block from the Bethesda metro station.$120-240. (38.982963,77.093493)edit
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Bethesda - Washington DC (DoubleTree Bethesda), 8120 Wisconsin Avenue, Bethesda, MD 30814, ☎ 301-652-2000, . checkin: 3:00 PM; checkout: 12:00 PM. Contemporary Bethesda, MD hotel convenient to Washington DC via nearby Metro. Business and leisure travelers will appreciate complimentary Wi-Fi, onsite fitness center and rooftop pool. IACC-certified facility with ample meeting and event space.edit
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