Destination Main Streets

Bethesda, Maryland

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Bethesda is one of Maryland's largest downtowns with its large concentration of high-rise office and residential towers. This was helped by the Washington, DC Metro system with its Red Line running underneath Bethesda, giving the area the transit needed to build the dense and walkable community located there today. However, in years past, despite a plethora of shops and restaurants spread throughout town, Bethesda seemed to lack a strong core of activity, making the area eerily quiet on weekend afternoons.

That changed a few years ago with a major redevelopment project along Bethesda and Woodmont Avenues. Called Bethesda Row, it has brought more retail, restaurants, and entertainment to the area. But more importantly, it has created a critical mass needed to give the area that vibrant feeling of an active downtown. A much deserved accomplishment for one of the most affluent areas in the state. Bethesda's shops and cafes tend to be high-end. But the density of the area provides shoppers with a wide variety of choices from specialty boutiques, to art galleries, to familiar chains. Although the main concentration of stores are in Bethesda Row, there are still dozens of others found around the area, especially in the Woodmont Triangle community just north of Bethesda Row.

Bethesda has plenty to do and see to fill an entire afternoon or maybe an evening. Many of the shops are open late on Fridays and Saturdays, which along with hundreds of restaurants, help give Bethesda its reputation for an active nightlife. And if you are looking for more places to explore, head south on Wisconsin Avenue where you will find Georgetown, the ultimate Washington, DC Main Street. Bethesda is located in Montgomery County, Maryland and is about 38 miles away from Baltimore, Maryland and only a couple miles away from the Washington, DC line. By car, you can reach the heart of Bethesda by heading for the intersection of Bethesda Avenue and Woodmont Avenue. Or by transit, take the Red Line to the Bethesda Station. Other nearby Main Street areas in Montgomery County, include the antiques district of Kensington.

Photo Gallery Tour

We'll start our tour of Bethesda Maryland at the intersection of Bethesda Avenue and Woodmont Avenue.  You can find shops, restaurants, and other businesses all throughout Bethesda, but the city's primary Main Street is on Bethesda Avenue, which is part of the Bethesda Row development.
We'll start our tour of Bethesda Maryland at the intersection of Bethesda Avenue and Woodmont Avenue. You can find shops, restaurants, and other businesses all throughout Bethesda, but the city's primary Main Street is on Bethesda Avenue, which is part of the Bethesda Row development.
Bethesda is one of the largest downtowns in the state of Maryland when you factor in the size of its office market, although the city is not an official municipality.  When Washington, DC's Metro subway's Red Line was built underneath downtown Bethesda, it allowed for denser development and more walkable, pedestrian-friendly development.
Bethesda is one of the largest downtowns in the state of Maryland when you factor in the size of its office market, although the city is not an official municipality. When Washington, DC's Metro subway's Red Line was built underneath downtown Bethesda, it allowed for denser development and more walkable, pedestrian-friendly development.
This Barnes & Noble on the corner or Bethesda and Woodmont Avenues has since closed.  It will be replaced with an Anthropologie store.  An Amazon Books is slated to open at 7117 Arlington Road.
This Barnes & Noble on the corner or Bethesda and Woodmont Avenues has since closed. It will be replaced with an Anthropologie store. An Amazon Books is slated to open at 7117 Arlington Road.
Shops and boutiques, including chain stores occupy the bottom floors of office buildings at the intersection of Bethesda and Woodmont Avenues in downtown Bethesda.
Shops and boutiques, including chain stores occupy the bottom floors of office buildings at the intersection of Bethesda and Woodmont Avenues in downtown Bethesda.
The Capital Crescent Trail cuts through the heart of Bethesda and is used by hikers and bikers.  It is a rails to trails project built on the former rail bed of the Georgetown Branch of the B&O Railroad.
The Capital Crescent Trail cuts through the heart of Bethesda and is used by hikers and bikers. It is a rails to trails project built on the former rail bed of the Georgetown Branch of the B&O Railroad.
We head west on Bethesda Avenue, past the many high end boutiques.  Bethesda is one of the wealthiest and most-educated towns in the U.S.
We head west on Bethesda Avenue, past the many high end boutiques. Bethesda is one of the wealthiest and most-educated towns in the U.S.
More shops, salons, and other businesses along Bethesda Avenue.
More shops, salons, and other businesses along Bethesda Avenue.
A sign for Bethesda Row, the name of this mixed used development in the heart of Bethesda, Maryland.  The area always had an abundance of high-rise offices, shops, and restaurants but never a true Main Street until the Bethesda Row development was built.
A sign for Bethesda Row, the name of this mixed used development in the heart of Bethesda, Maryland. The area always had an abundance of high-rise offices, shops, and restaurants but never a true Main Street until the Bethesda Row development was built.
Across the street are more shops and restaurants, including sidewalk cafes.
Across the street are more shops and restaurants, including sidewalk cafes.
A Williams-Sonoma is typical of the high-end chains you will find in Bethesda.  Much of Bethesda's success is owed in large part to its proximity to several major corporate campuses and the National Institutes of Health main campus and the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
A Williams-Sonoma is typical of the high-end chains you will find in Bethesda. Much of Bethesda's success is owed in large part to its proximity to several major corporate campuses and the National Institutes of Health main campus and the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
As we continue heading west on Bethesda Avenue, we find more shops and eateries, including a location of Georgetown Cupcake.  Georgetown is just a few miles south in Washington, DC.
As we continue heading west on Bethesda Avenue, we find more shops and eateries, including a location of Georgetown Cupcake. Georgetown is just a few miles south in Washington, DC.
More shops along Bethesda Avenue.  Bethesda gets its name from a local church, the Bethesda Meeting House, which in turn took its name from the Jerusalem's Pool of Bethesda.  In Aramaic, "beth" means "House of Mercy" and in Hebrew "beit ḥesed" means "House of Kindness."
More shops along Bethesda Avenue. Bethesda gets its name from a local church, the Bethesda Meeting House, which in turn took its name from the Jerusalem's Pool of Bethesda. In Aramaic, "beth" means "House of Mercy" and in Hebrew "beit ḥesed" means "House of Kindness."
Across the street is the Upstairs at Bethesda Row Apartments.  On the ground floor are more shops and restaurants.  Inside the breezeway, is Bethesda Lane, which contains a pedestrian mall with more shops and restaurants.  We'll head over there in a few minutes.
Across the street is the Upstairs at Bethesda Row Apartments. On the ground floor are more shops and restaurants. Inside the breezeway, is Bethesda Lane, which contains a pedestrian mall with more shops and restaurants. We'll head over there in a few minutes.
But before we head across we'll finish up checking out the shops on Bethesda Avenue.
But before we head across we'll finish up checking out the shops on Bethesda Avenue.
The Apple Store makes a bold statement on Bethesda Avenue.  Just try not to look directly at it.
The Apple Store makes a bold statement on Bethesda Avenue. Just try not to look directly at it.
The corner of Bethesda Avenue and Arlington Road.  This is the far western end of the Bethesda Road development.
The corner of Bethesda Avenue and Arlington Road. This is the far western end of the Bethesda Road development.
We head back to those apartments we were looking at a few minutes ago.  This is Bethesda Lane, a pedestrian walkway within the Upstairs at Bethesda Row Apartments development.
We head back to those apartments we were looking at a few minutes ago. This is Bethesda Lane, a pedestrian walkway within the Upstairs at Bethesda Row Apartments development.
Here is another view of Bethesda Lane.  You can see there is plenty of room for outdoor cafes.  Also notice the lights strung across the tops of the buildings.  It probably gives the area a festive feel at night.
Here is another view of Bethesda Lane. You can see there is plenty of room for outdoor cafes. Also notice the lights strung across the tops of the buildings. It probably gives the area a festive feel at night.
Some more boutiques on Bethesda Lane.
Some more boutiques on Bethesda Lane.
At the back end of Bethesda Lane we come to Elm Street.  A directional sign lists the various businesses and where to find them.  As you can see there are more shops and restaurants along Elm Street.  We'll now head east on Elm Street making a loop.
At the back end of Bethesda Lane we come to Elm Street. A directional sign lists the various businesses and where to find them. As you can see there are more shops and restaurants along Elm Street. We'll now head east on Elm Street making a loop.
Here is the back side of the Upstairs at Bethesda Row Apartments.  At the bottom center of the picture is the breezeway where we just exited.
Here is the back side of the Upstairs at Bethesda Row Apartments. At the bottom center of the picture is the breezeway where we just exited.
This is a view of shops, eateries, and other services on Elm Street.
This is a view of shops, eateries, and other services on Elm Street.
More shops, restaurants, and other businesses along Elm Street.  Elm Street runs one block north of Bethesda Avenue.
More shops, restaurants, and other businesses along Elm Street. Elm Street runs one block north of Bethesda Avenue.
We continue heading east on Elm Street.  Here we see a stretch of side walk cafes on Elm Street.
We continue heading east on Elm Street. Here we see a stretch of side walk cafes on Elm Street.
More businesses on the ground floor of office buildings on Elm Street in downtown Bethesda.  A parking garage can be seen in the background to the left.
More businesses on the ground floor of office buildings on Elm Street in downtown Bethesda. A parking garage can be seen in the background to the left.
We make it to the corner of Elm Street and Woodmont Avenue as we continue our circle around the Bethesda Row development.
We make it to the corner of Elm Street and Woodmont Avenue as we continue our circle around the Bethesda Row development.
Here is the view of another corner at the intersection of Elm Street and Woodmont Avenue.
Here is the view of another corner at the intersection of Elm Street and Woodmont Avenue.
Now we head south on Woodmont Avenue.  Currently, we are on the eastern side of the Bethesda Row development.
Now we head south on Woodmont Avenue. Currently, we are on the eastern side of the Bethesda Row development.
More shops, restaurants, and other services along Woodmont Avenue in Bethesda, Maryland.
More shops, restaurants, and other services along Woodmont Avenue in Bethesda, Maryland.
Across the street, high-rise offices curve with the shape of curving Woodmont Avenue.  Much of the high-rise development came to Bethesda after Washington, DC's Metro subway's Red Line station was built in the area allowing for high density transit-oriented development.
Across the street, high-rise offices curve with the shape of curving Woodmont Avenue. Much of the high-rise development came to Bethesda after Washington, DC's Metro subway's Red Line station was built in the area allowing for high density transit-oriented development.
We have completed our loop of the Bethesda Row area and we are back at the intersection of Woodmont and Bethesda Avenues.  This is Bethesda Row Cinema.  It opened in May 2002, and is part of the nation's largest "art-house" movie theatre chain.
We have completed our loop of the Bethesda Row area and we are back at the intersection of Woodmont and Bethesda Avenues. This is Bethesda Row Cinema. It opened in May 2002, and is part of the nation's largest "art-house" movie theatre chain.
Let's take a look around the rest of downtown.  This is the Bethesda Station on the Metro Red Line.  After this came through it allowed for higher density and a more walkable, pedestrian friendly downtown.
Let's take a look around the rest of downtown. This is the Bethesda Station on the Metro Red Line. After this came through it allowed for higher density and a more walkable, pedestrian friendly downtown.
Here are some more of the high-rises you will see in downtown Bethesda.  The area is one of the largest downtowns in the state of Maryland, despite not being an incorporated municipality.
Here are some more of the high-rises you will see in downtown Bethesda. The area is one of the largest downtowns in the state of Maryland, despite not being an incorporated municipality.
Here are some more mid-rise office buildings, this time along Wisconsin Avenue, which is actually the main highway through the area.  Wisconsin Avenue is Maryland State Road 355 and it connects Frederick, Maryland to the north with Georgetown in Washington, DC to the south.
Here are some more mid-rise office buildings, this time along Wisconsin Avenue, which is actually the main highway through the area. Wisconsin Avenue is Maryland State Road 355 and it connects Frederick, Maryland to the north with Georgetown in Washington, DC to the south.
This is one of the Madonna of the Trails monuments.  This is the first in the series.  There are 12 in all, and they were installed in all twelve states along the National Old Trails Road, which extended all the way to Upland, California.  This one was dedicated by Harry Truman in 1929.
This is one of the Madonna of the Trails monuments. This is the first in the series. There are 12 in all, and they were installed in all twelve states along the National Old Trails Road, which extended all the way to Upland, California. This one was dedicated by Harry Truman in 1929.
We'll end our tour with one last view of Wisconsin Avenue.  As you can see, there are shops and businesses along this highway as well as other parts of downtown Bethesda.  But again, it was not until Bethesda Row was built that downtown Bethesda had its Main Street.
We'll end our tour with one last view of Wisconsin Avenue. As you can see, there are shops and businesses along this highway as well as other parts of downtown Bethesda. But again, it was not until Bethesda Row was built that downtown Bethesda had its Main Street.

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Bethesda Row
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