Bethesda was a quiet suburb until 1984, when the Metro Red Line was extended. This brought an explosion of growth, and many high rises were built. Some critics argue that the rapid growth of Bethesda has given it an over-commercialized feel.
Bethesda has its own stop on the Washington, D.C. Metro Red Line at the intersection of Wisconsin and Old Georgetown Avenues, which are in turn the major arteries for getting in by car. Take note, though, that parking is usually only available in the garages, and it's not a cheap place to park—much of the Capital Region's suburban residents come here regularly for dining, so those parking spots are in high demand.
The Bethesda circulator  will take you everywhere you need to go, and for free. It runs every ten minutes M-Th 7AM-midnight, F 7AM-2AM, Sa 6PM-2AM. You'll know it right away since it's mocked up like a trolley. But keep in mind that you can just walk around downtown Bethesda—it's not so big. Traveling around greater Bethesda, on the other hand, is difficult if you don't have a car.
Madonna of the Trail
You don't come here for the sights, you come here for 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.
The Madonna of the Trail statue, Wisconsin Ave & Old Georgetown Rd. The Madonna of the Trail is a sixteen foot monument to the benighted wives who were dragged out west to extreme hardship and poverty in the wild by their adventurous pioneer husbands.
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.
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.
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!
There are many places to shop in Bethesda. Stop by the Apple Store, one of the very few in the capital area, located in the vicinity of the Bethesda Row Theater.
Montgomery Mall - upscale shopping - food court.
White Flint Mall - upscale shopping - food court.
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.
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.
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 RSVP.$20-40.
Levante's, 7262 Woodmont Ave, ☎ +1 301 657-2441, . Su-Th 11:30AM-10:30PM, F-Sa 11:30AM-11:30PM. Great Lebanese cuisine in a restaurant that is always packed like sardines. RSVP is a must.$10-25.
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.
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.
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.
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.
All of Maryland, including Bethesda, is smoke-free in restaurants and bars.
The Barking Dog, 4723 Elm Street, ☎ +1 301 654-0022, . Dance floor upstairs.
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—RSVP.
Caddies on Cordell, 4922 Cordell Avenue, ☎ +1 301 215-7730, . A sports bar.
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.
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.
Strike Bethesda, 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.
Bethesda Court Hotel, ☎ +1 301 656-2100, . One-and-a-half blocks from the Bethesda Metro station.
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.
Bethesda Marriott, 5151 Pooks Hill Road, ☎ +1 301 897-9400, . Within minutes of downtown Bethesda.
Bethesda North Marriott Hotel & Conference Center, 5701 Marinelli Road, ☎ +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.
Residence Inn Bethesda, 7335 Wisconsin Ave, ☎ +1 301 718-0200, . Located near the Naval Medical Center, NIH, FDA and NRC. One block from the Bethesda metro station.$270-360.
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.
The grave of American novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald (The Great Gatsby) at the nearby Saint Mary's Cemetery in Rockville.
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