Nestled close to the D.C. 16th Street line and stretching North, up New Hampshire Avenue, the multi-ethnic enclave of Silver Spring offers theater, restaurants, and urban hiking for families. Re-live your young adult days and schedule a date night at The Filmore, or hook up the bike trailer and spend a sun-filled afternoon on the family-friendly paths of the Northwest Branch.

Photo: Downtown Silver Spring

#1 You could spend all day downtown.
Whether it’s Summertime at the fountain with your favorite little merpeople, or skating at the open air rink in Winter, Silver Spring’s revitalized downtown district is rich in family fun all year long.  Free outdoor music dominates the warmer months, including the annual Silver Spring Jazz (September) and Blues Festivals (June).  Fall’s Maker Faire on the plaza outside the contemporary Silver Spring Civic Center, is also a big hit.

Insider Tip:  Take a break from the outdoor frenzy, and pop into the art gallery inside the Civic Center at the foot of Fenton Street.


#2 You have a thing for the arts.
When the babysitter checks in, you check out the events calendar at the American Film Institute’s Silver Theater, or across Colesville Road at The Fillmore, where the choice may be a critically acclaimed film screening, or not for G-Rated audiences punk show. At Silver Spring Black Box Theatre (formerly Roundhouse) indulge in the latest tour de force from the resident company, Forum Theatre, a longtime Washington area acting company.

Insider Tip:  Click here to learn more about Forum Theater’s unique pay what you can program available for a show’s entire run.

#3 Nutella for breakfast is no big deal.
Pancakes and french toast are off the griddle when your crew hits Fenton Café for a tasty breakfast treat of either savory (think: chicken and avocado), or sweet crepe creations made with kiddo’s choice of Nutella or other confection.  The European coffees and an kid’s eye view of the crepe makers are also a highlight.

Insider Tip:  While an expanded eating area is anticipated, as of this writing, the cafe is a bit cramped so plan to crepe it up early with the family.

8311 Fenton St.

#4 You (or a neighbor) is a legit craft beer aficionado.
Parents don’t let other parents skip kicking it with pals, when you can bring the kiddo along too.  At Denizens Brewing Co., the all-ages beer garden welcomes families (and dogs) looking to soak up a little sunshine while tasting a few craft hops.

Insider Tip:  Head to nearby Acorn Park with the bright eyed and bushytailed in your party where murals depict the town’s founding, and you might also find the original source of the Silver in the Spring.

1115 East West Highway

#5 You count window shopping as a cardio workout.,
While kiddo samples organic cheese or crunches on fresh picked Jazz (apple that is) at the weekly all-seasons farmer’s market in downtown Silver Spring, you find yourself wandering the pedestrian friendly thoroughfare to check out the retail selection, including DSW and H&M.  Fenton Street Market (FSM)’s arts and crafts vendors sadly are gone, but they are looking for a new Silver Spring area home.

Insider Tip:  Go to the FSM website to join their mailing list for the scoop on this year’s plans.  In the meanwhile popular FSM vendor TuTu’s Storybooks with multicultural children’s volumes not found anywhere else, is online at tutusstorybooks .


#6 You blaze trails (and sidewalks) by bike.
Your bicycle trailer is already hooked up, ready for adventure on the intersecting paths of Sligo Creek and the Northwest Branch.  One of the most immersive natural world respites in the Mid-Atlantic, this trail system is complete with streams, trees, and playground breaks along the way.  With ten plus miles from PG County to Wheaton, many trails are paved (think: stroller-friendly) and accessible to families in surrounding neighborhoods on bikes, or just out for a walk or all day hike.

Insider Tip:  A great short and woodsy walk is between Brookside Gardens and Wheaton Regional Park where you can reward the kids with a miniature train or carousel ride (April-September).

Online:  Northwest Branch Stream Valley Park or Sligo Creek Stream Valley Park

#7 The library is your (and their) happy place.
Artfully arranged munchkin-sized shelves stacked with multiple copies of everybody’s favorites, along with some your little bibliophile has yet to discover, ensure nobody goes home empty-handed from the new Silver Spring library (opened June 2015).  Also featuring a lego play area, and all ages programming for the littlest of patrons on up, this is more than just a place to practice using inside voices.

Insider Tip:  Consider street parking near the intersection of Cedar and Wayne Avenues where you can stop in at Whole Foods for lunch before crossing the street to the library.

Online: montgomerycountymd.go

#8 Brunch is the most important meal on weekends.
You regularly wait in lines longer than the milk, eggs and toilet paper run at the grocery store for a seat by the popular pickle bar at Parkway Deli. With corned beef, blintzes, and matzo ball soup, plus kid favorites like mac and cheese on the menu, this Silver Spring institution is a family’s brunchtime dream come true.

Online: Parkway Deli
8317 Grubb Rd,

Insider Tip:  Parkway has a convenient carry-out counter where you can get a quick fix of prepared foods, or order from the menu.  You can even order from the pickle bar to go!

#9 To unwind you make a bee line for the garden.
You recall baby and me bonding time walking the never-crowded landscaped lanes of Brookside Gardens where the conservatory rivals Federally funded counterparts, with one of the most beautiful and tranquil displays in the D.C. metro area.  Transforming itself seasonally, Brookside is a family haven hosting Wings of Fancy in the Spring with hundreds of butterflies occupying the indoor space, and an over the top train exhibit each Winter.

Insider Tip:  Don’t forget to check out the summer camp offerings at Brookside’s Nature Center through Montgomery County’s Recreation Department

Online:  Brookside Gardens
1800 Glenallan Ave.

#10 Festival hopping is a family affair.
Your weekend calendar is already booked with highly anticipated area festivals representing a multitude of ethnicities from  FestAfrica, an annual gathering in downtown Silver Spring, projecting 8,000 attendees over two days in August, to the blue and gold onion domes of St. Andrews Church as backdrop to the Washington Urkranian Festival on September 17-18 this year.

Insider Tip:  Go to the website Fairs and Festivals for a nine page listing of events in Maryland, and search on Virginia too.

What are some of the other signs that say you’re a Silver Spring parent?

–Carolyn Ross

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