Bethesda and North Bethesda, MD Neighborhood Guide

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We are grateful for the sponsor of this guide: Bright Horizons. Please be sure to check out thorough details about their centers below. We are thankful for Bright Horizons sponsorship, which allows us to continue to bring DC Area Moms resources like this.

What is your favorite thing about raising kids in the Bethesda and North Bethesda, Maryland area?

A mother and son are pictured inside a metro car heading into Washington, DC.
Riding the Metro to head into Washington, DC!

Those three magic words: LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION. Bethesda and North Bethesda are perfectly situated along the Metro’s Red Line with stops located at White Flint, Grosvenor-Strathmore, Medical Center, and Bethesda. I love how easy it is to hop on the metro as a family to enjoy the wealth of activities that occur throughout the year. Since parking downtown is notoriously difficult, having access to the Red Line is a fantastic bonus to this area. Furthermore, I absolutely love living just outside of the city. It’s invaluable to be able to escape the traffic and congestion of downtown while having access to Maryland’s many beautiful outdoor spaces. By living in the Bethesda and North Bethesda area, residents really have the best of both worlds!

Why are Bethesda and North Bethesda family-friendly and unique?

Bethesda and North Bethesda, Maryland are located in the heart of Montgomery County. Here you will find an amazing network of well-cared for and beloved parks, playgrounds, recreation centers, and conservation areas. You can check out the entire parks directory list HERE. Additionally, the Montgomery County Parks Department offers A TON of programs and activities throughout the year for all ages. So whether you are looking for swim lessons for your 4 year-old or a place to go camping over an upcoming holiday weekend, Montgomery County has got you covered! Not only do these recreation areas provide fun and safe places to play; they are also fantastic locations to meet fellow residents and neighbors!

What community events or local attractions are there?

Surrounded by the changing leaves on a crisp fall day, this bright yellow modern sculpture blends seamlessly into its outdoor surroundings at Strathmore.
View of the sculpture garden at Strathmore

Bethesda plans fabulous year-round community events, including the Bethesda Fine Arts Festival, Imagination Bethesda, and Taste of Bethesda. Many of these community gatherings had to be canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19. You can check out all the special events planned for 2022 by clicking HERE.

Additionally, North Bethesda is home to Strathmore, an amazing visual and performing arts center. Their diverse programming has something for everyone in the family! Don’t forget to check out Strathmore Kids, a special selection of performances geared specifically towards your little ones! Strathmore opened AMP in the Pike and Rose neighborhood, which is just down the street from the main Strathmore center. AMP by Strathmore is a smaller, more intimate performing arts venue that is the perfect place to enjoy dinner out accompanied by live musical entertainment.

Why would you recommend Bethesda and North Bethesda, Maryland to families?

  1. Convenience- This area has so much to offer and it’s all just a short drive (or metro ride) away!
  2. Schools- Maryland has an excellent public school system. See more on this topic below!
  3. Community Spaces- As I mentioned above, this area takes pride in its shared spaces (whether outdoors or indoors). Residents have so many fun places to gather, meet neighbors, and make friends.

What nearby schools or childcare places do kids go to?

There are many excellent public schools in the Bethesda and North Bethesda area. If you want to learn more about the public school system, a great resource to check out is the Montgomery County Public Schools homepage. Additionally, you can get more information about any of the individual schools in Montgomery County Maryland by clicking HERE. You also have a wide selection of public and private preschools in this area. One preschool that we are lucky to have in our area is Geneva Day School. Though located just beyond North Bethesda in Potomac, Maryland, many of its young students live in Bethesda and North Bethesda. This school accepts children ages 2 through Kindergarten and has been voted Best Preschool by readers of Bethesda Magazine in 2012, 2014, 2016, 2018 and 2020.

Where are your favorite places to shop in Bethesda and North Bethesda, Maryland?

Rockville Pike (aka 355)

Within North Bethesda, along the busy Rockville Pike corridor, you can find World Market, Trader Joe’s, Carter’s, Pier One Imports, Barnes and Noble, Target and Whole Foods. If you go just slightly north on Rockville Pike (toward Rockville), you can also find The Container Store, The Fresh Market, Staples, Bed, Bath, and Beyond, Michael’s, Petco, and Aldi. And that’s just to name a few! I like to joke that if you can’t find what you’re looking for somewhere along Rockville Pike, then it may not exist!

Pike and Rose

The Pike and Rose neighborhood has many of my favorite shopping destinations: Sur La Table for all your kitchen and cooking needs; Blue Mercury and Sephora for makeup and skin care; Gap (and Gap Kids), H&M, Scout & Molly’s Boutique, and Uniqlo for clothing for the whole family. And if your future plans include exploring the great outdoors, this is also where you will find both L.L. Bean and REI.

At a playground, a toddler sits behind the steering wheel of a large bright red and yellow fire engine.
The Caroline Freeland Urban Park is the perfect spot for kids to run around after exploring the shops at Bethesda Row.

Shops at Wildwood

The Shops at Wildwood is home to our area’s Balducci’s, a high-end specialty grocer. No time to cook dinner tonight? No problem! Balducci’s has an amazing selection of prepared foods that make dinnertime a snap on busy days. You can also grab imported cheeses, fine wines, and other delicious delicacies from this market, making it the perfect stop before hosting a dinner party or entertaining family. The Shops at Wildwood also includes women’s clothing retailer South Moon Under, as well as Red Orchard, a shop where you can find the perfect gift for just about anyone on your list.

Bethesda Row

Bethesda Row is a fun, pedestrian-friendly area of downtown Bethesda where a number of shops and restaurants are located. Some of the highlights include Amazon Books, Anthropologie & Co., Apple Store, Bonobos, Paper Source, Sassanova, and Williams Sonoma. Framebridge, the popular on-line artwork and photograph frame retailer, has also recently opened a brick and mortar store in Bethesda Row! Click HERE to see the full list of shops in this area.

What are some of your favorite places to eat in?

Summer House Santa Monica

Located in the Pike and Rose development, this bright and airy restaurant offers California-inspired American fare. The menu highlights seasonal ingredients that are prepared from their open kitchen. This family-friendly restaurant also has an excellent kids menu that includes favorites such as Mason’s breakfast for dinner and Gavin’s pasta with turkey meatballs (You can check out the entire kids menu HERE).

Seasons 52

Located just off Rockville Pike, Seasons 52 crafts their menu around fresh and seasonal ingredients. One thing I love about this restaurant is that each dish is beautifully prepared. The dishes come out from the kitchen and are a feast for the eyes (as well as your palette). Seasons 52 also offers a wide selection of delicious wines to go with your meal and has a thoughtful kids menu. Hands-down, however, dessert is my family’s favorite part about dining at this restaurant! Rather than offering a dessert menu at the end of the meal, sweet treats are brought directly to your table for easy selection. Each dessert is prepared in a tiny glass cup (about the size of a double shot glass) so you can see it’s decadent layers. My young son loves this presentation and it is always a highlight of our meal!

An exterior view of Julii, an intimate restaurant located in the Pike and Rose development, that stands out architecturally for its use of eye-catching floor to ceiling windows.
Located in the Pike and Rose neighborhood, Julii is the perfect restaurant for a special date night out.

Julii

This brand new addition to the Pike and Rose neighborhood is an absolute must try! Julii is the perfect restaurant for a special date night out. Their French inspired menu includes salmon nicoise salad, duck confit, and new york strip au poivre. In addition to their delicious dinner selection, this restaurant scores high points for ambiance. The walls of the restaurant are actually huge glass windows, so there is a beautiful indoor-outdoor vibe. Remember to book a reservation ahead of time because this intimate dining space fills up fast!

Gregorio’s Trattoria

This is a locally owned restaurant with 3 locations in the DC area. Their newest dining space is now open in Bethesda. The menu features delicious and family friendly Italian favorites, from pizza to all types of pasta dishes. When you dine at the Bethesda location, make sure to check out the gorgeous artwork that hangs on their walls! You may know that I am an art advisor! When Gregorio’s Trattoria opened their newest location, they pulled me in to select the artwork for their walls. We created a wonderful ambiance that is both welcoming and cozy, perfect for relaxing over a delicious meal with friends and family!

What places make Bethesda and North Bethesda, Maryland feel kid-friendly?

Pinstripes North Bethesda

Pinstripes is part restaurant and bar (downstairs) and part up-scale bowling facility (upstairs) with bocce offered on both levels! Pinstripes is a great destination that the whole family can enjoy. Bonus: I love that you can order food and drinks directly at your bowling lane!

Kennedy Shriver Aquatic Center

This is an amazing indoor swimming facility that offers classes for all ages and skill levels throughout the year. Additionally, times are set aside for recreational and lap swimming.  The Kennedy Shriver Aquatic Center also features an exercise room, hydrotherapy pool, diving area, and a giant water slide!

KID Museum

The Kid Museum is a unique play and learning space that offers kids the chance to think creatively, while exploring a wide range of STEM activities. Additionally, this space offers field-trip opportunities, after-school programs, and spring and summer camp sessions. The KID Museum is a must-visit in our area! Want to learn more? Make sure you check out this post: KID Museum

My Gym Bethesda

My Gym is a super fun indoor play space for young kids. The facility offers age and developmentally appropriate classes throughout the week run by their team of excellent coaches! You can also host birthday parties at My Gym and sign-up for summer camp. Another plus? They also schedule regular “Parents’ Night Out” events where you can drop your kids off for a few hours in the evening. North Bethesda resident tip: If you live in North Bethesda, the My Gym Potomac location may actually be your closest My Gym facility. Want to learn more? Make sure you check out this post: Celebrate My Gym Bethesda & My Gym Potomac’s 35 Years at Their Open House

Imagination Stage

Located in downtown Bethesda, Imagination Stage fosters a love of performing arts in young children by offering theatre experience specifically geared towards little ones! In addition to putting on performances that are fun for the whole family, Imagination Stage is also the place to go for acting and musical theatre classes, camps, and birthday parties!

What advice would you give to families who are new to Bethesda and North Bethesda, Maryland?

A toddler age boy pushes his bright yellow bulldozer in a toy stroller as he walks through the Pike and Rose neighborhood.
Make sure you get out and explore the neighborhood!

My advice would be to get out into the community and say hello! Sign up for a class through the county, visit our local parks, and head to the farmers market on the weekends (there are several in this area!). Take advantage of all of the neighborhood events that Bethesda and North Bethesda has to offer and you will be making new friends in no time! I would also recommend getting comfortable riding the Metro and exploring Washington, DC. The best part about living in this area? There is always something interesting to do!

If someone was visiting for a day, what would you recommend they do?

First, I would start the day off by enjoying the delicious weekend brunch buffet offered at Stella Barra, a North Bethesda pizzeria located in the Pike and Rose neighborhood. I know what you’re thinking! A pizzeria for breakfast?! But not to worry! Stella Barra’s brunch buffet menu is filled with all of your favorite morning cravings (you can check out the full menu HERE).

After a delicious brunch, I would take the kids to a local park (such as Arylawn Local Park) for play time! There is nothing better than watching your kids have fun, get exercise, and burn off some energy. When the family is ready to move on, I would head into downtown Bethesda for a light lunch and a little shopping. Try Terrain Cafe, which opened as a part of the new Anthropologie. This area is very walkable and there are stores geared towards everyone in the family!

Next up, I would drop the kids off with a babysitter and head back into North Bethesda for a date-night dinner at Julii. Don’t forget to make reservations ahead of time! Following your meal, I would walk over to the luxury iPic movie theater to enjoy a new release in style Reclining lounge chairs and drink service are offered right at your seat! Not in the mood for a movie? Another option is to walk over to Pinstripes North Bethesda for a game of bowling or bocce.

Finally, I would cap the evening off with a sweet treat from The Baked Bear (also walkable in the Pike & Rose), where you can make your own decadent ice cream sandwich. Yum!

About our Bethesda Neighborhood Guide Sponsor:

Bright Horizons is an Excellent Early Education and Preschool Center Serving Bethesda

Bright Horizons is pleased to announce that a brand new early education and preschool center will be opening in Bethesda in Fall 2021. Bright Horizons at 2 Bethesda Metro will be joining Bright Horizons at Democracy Center to serve families in the Bethesda and North Bethesda area. Visit the center websites to schedule a visit and register your child.

Bright Horizons® is trusted by families around the world to provide care and education for their children. In more than 1,000 child care centers in the United States and beyond, we offer the highest-quality care and learning that delivers both the solution working parents need, and the classroom experiences children deserve to get ready for school and become enthusiastic learners for life.

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