9 Washington D.C. Suburbs With the Best Downtowns
The suburbs have a lot of perks, but many lack the excitement of bustling neighborhoods and city centers. However, these nine suburbs offer the best of both worlds, with some of the best downtown areas the DMV area has to offer.
The fun Rio Washingtonian Center in Gaithersburg includes a theater, shopping, and dining all along a boardwalk overlooking a large pond. This area is great for first dates. Stop by early for a paddle boat ride, snag some food at one of the many different restaurants, and if things are going well, finish up the night with a movie.
Old Town Alexandria brings together the variety of a classic downtown environment and the cozy atmosphere of a small-town green. Think Stars Hollow, but kicked up a notch. The last time I visited Old Town, I grabbed dinner with some girlfriends at Vaso’s, walked through some shops, and then finished the night with a cupcake from Alexandria Cupcake.
Eden Center in Falls Church might feel like a stretch, but hear me out. This outpost for all things Vietnamese has become a cult favorite for residents. Here you’ll find restaurants dedicated to all varieties of Vietnamese cuisine, cafes and lounges, smaller retail shops, and grocery options. It may not be the first choice for a night out, but in terms of getting all of your weekend errands taken care of, this can be a one-stop shop.
The closest to a traditional city center, Downtown Silver Spring has anything and everything you could possibly need. One of the best parts of this suburban downtown is how closely tied to the community it is. You can frequently catch a local artist’s work, some outdoor music, or run into your neighbors walking around the shops. It’s one of the best examples of the small town/big city mix.
While the Historic District may seem like primarily a tourist destination—and not without reason — it’s also a popular day-trip spot for locals. Many come to the area for long weekends. Its calm but the active downtown area is perfect for residents to wonder about. Family-friendly spots and events make for a perfect day, that eases its way into an exciting and bustling night for those looking for a bit more fun.
I’ll admit adding Downtown Frederick to this list came from my long-lost undergraduate spirit. During my time at Mount St. Mary’s University, I spent many weekends walking around this small but interesting area. The dining here offers quite a bit of variety, and shops sell some gorgeous artisan works. One of my favorite dates I went on with my now fiance included a stroll along Carroll Creek. This quaint downtown community will always have a place in my heart.
Another perfect example of mixing city life and small-town life is National Harbor. Complete with a Ferris wheel, this area is chock-full of dining options and peppered with retail, making it a fun place to escape to or live in. The massive MGM Casino is close enough to drive to in minutes, but far enough away that it doesn’t loom over the area or change the atmosphere.
Just outside of Vienna is Tysons Corner Center, a massive mall across two buildings. However, that’s not all that the area has to offer. Not only does the area have additional shopping and dining outside of Tysons Corner Center; it also has a perfectly positioned Metro with direct access to Downtown D.C. And they aren’t stopping there. The Tysons Partnership aims to drastically change the area by 2050, adding huge amounts of new construction, residences, and jobs, according to its website.
The Gateway Arts District spans more than a few neighborhoods in Maryland, just across the border from northeast D.C. Hyattsville is one of the towns that has experienced great growth around this newer arts scene. The creatives among us will love wandering among the many art centers and studios, grabbing a cup of coffee at a small cafe, and hunting down the countless pieces of public art available.