Category Archives: Nearby attractions

Sandy Spring Museum to host Cokie Roberts

Roberts Capital DamesThe Sandy Spring Museum will host Cokie Roberts, nationally recognized political commentator and prolific author, on Tuesday, February 23 at 7:30 p.m.  Roberts will be discussing her recently published book, Capital Dames: The Civil War and the Women of Washington, 1848-1868, and will be available to sign copies.  In this engrossing and informative companion to her New York Times bestsellers Founding Mothers and Ladies of Liberty, Cokie Roberts marks the sesquicentennial of the Civil War by offering a riveting look at Washington, D.C. and the experiences, influence, and contributions of its women during this momentous period of American history.

With the outbreak of the Civil War, the small, social Southern town of Washington, D.C. found itself caught between warring sides in a four-year battle that would determine the future of the United States. After the declaration of secession, many fascinating Southern women left the city, leaving their friends—such as Adele Cutts Douglas and Elizabeth Blair Lee—to grapple with questions of safety and sanitation as the capital was transformed into an immense Union army camp and later a hospital. With their husbands, brothers, and fathers marching off to war, either on the battlefield or in the halls of Congress, the women of Washington joined the cause as well. And more women went to the Capital City to enlist as nurses, supply organizers, relief workers, and journalists. Many risked their lives making munitions in a highly flammable arsenal, toiled at the Treasury Department printing greenbacks to finance the war, and plied their needlework skills at The Navy Yard—once the sole province of men—to sew canvas gunpowder bags for the troops.

Cokie Roberts chronicles these women’s increasing Continue reading →

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Is Rockville one of America’s Snobbiest Cities?

Movoto Snobbiest Cities 2014According to the criteria used by Movoto Real Estate, Rockville, Maryland ranks among the top ten snobbiest small cities in America.  Palo Alto, California (in Silicon Valley) tops the list with our neighbor down the Pike, Bethesda, coming in second.  Is that good or bad company?  According to Movoto:

Tied with Encinitas [California], this Maryland locale had some seriously snooty stats keeping it in the ranking for best hometowns for the highbrow. For starters, locals can send their little ones to elite private schools, the fifth most per capita on our list. And once Junior has accrued all this handy knowledge,they can flex their artistically-inclined minds at one of the numerous art galleries or museums in the area.  More than that, people who live here are likely to continue on to academic greatness, with over 61 percent of the population gaining at least a college degree. With all of that education and study going on, is it any wonder that the elite locals make an average household income of almost $90,000?

California has the greatest number of snobbiest small cities (five, all of them along the Pacific coast)  and Maryland has the next most frequent number (two, both along the DC coast).  The ranking is based on median home price, median household income, percent of population with a college degree, number of private schools per capita, performing arts per capita, art galleries per capita, and fast food restaurants per capita (the fewer the better).  Of course, there’s nothing scientific here and these “top ten” rankings are just different ways to think about places.  Perhaps “snobbiest” isn’t the best term, indeed, Movoto clarifies the definition by describing them as places that are “just more comfortable for what society calls ‘snobby’ folks.”  If not “snobby,” based on our ranking on these criteria, what would you call it?

Brookside Gardens Tops for Spring

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One of the best things in Rockville are the parks.  One of the best things near Rockville are the parks–and one of the best is Brookside, a county-owned horticultural garden just a few miles south of town near Glenmont. It features a variety of garden types, including Japanese, walled, rose, and naturalistic and while it’s fun to visit throughout the year, spring brings out a long display of flowers.  Right now, the daffodils and cherry trees are at peak but will soon be followed by tulips and azaleas.  If you visit on the weekends, I recommend arriving before 11 am (gates open at sunrise).  Don’t forget that enjoying nature isn’t a luxury, it’s essential for mental fitness.

A Farmers Market for Winter opens in Sandy Spring

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You won’t find tomatoes or peaches, but there are plenty of other items available at the new Winter Market in Sandy Spring.  The year, the Olney Farmers and Artists Market has extended the season by moving east a few miles, finding shelter at the Sandy Spring Museum on Sundays from 10 am to 2 pm.

Last weekend I found nearly two dozen vendors selling a variety of produce (mostly squash, greens, carrots, radishes, apples), meat (chicken, beef, lamb), food (tea, sheep cheese, cupcakes, jams, Vietnamese food), plants,  handcrafted goods (soap, jewelry, quilted table runners, pet tags), and firewood.  It was good weather and many vendors were spread outside but during inclement weather, there’s plenty of room inside the museum (plus there are restrooms!).   And at noon, there’s typically a cooking demonstration by a local chef (last Sunday it was the former chef of the White House).

The winter market is every Sunday through April 29, when it shifts to its usual summer location in Olney.  If you’re not familiar with quaint historic Sandy Spring, go east from Olney past the Olney Theater Center and continue on Route 108 until you encounter a tighter cluster of housing and a small commercial district that includes an Urban BBQ (a branch of the Rockville restaurant).  The museum is on the left just past the gas station–if you pass Sherwood High School, you’ve gone too far.  Free parking is available on site.

Is Rockville Walkable? Depends Where You Are.

Walk Score map of Rockville

“Walkability” is an increasingly popular measure of a community’s quality of life.  By enhancing the convenience and ease of walking, it reduces traffic, improves health, increases community involvement, and puts more eyes on the street for safety.  So how does Rockville rate?  Walk Score calculates walkability on a block-by-block basis, generating color-coded maps.  In the map of Rockville, green indicates the areas that are most walkable (such as downtown) and red the least walkable (such as Horizon Hill west of 270).  Around town, they’ve calculated how the following locations fared on a scale of 1-100:

  • 85 Very walkable:  Maryland Avenue and South Adams (West End)
  • 75 Very walkable:  Baltimore Road and Grandin (East Rockville)
  • 66 Somewhat walkable:  Twinbrook Parkway and Viers Mill (Twinbrook)
  • 65 Somewhat walkable:  Fallsgrove Boulevard and Fallsgrove Road (Fallsgrove)
  • 65 Somewhat walkable:  Redland Boulevard and Pleasant (King Farm)
  • 63 Somewhat walkable:  West Montgomery and Laird (West End)
  • 48 Car dependent:  College Parkway and Princeton (College Gardens)
  • 35 Car dependent:  Falls Road and Kersey (Horizon Hill)

I’m sure this will generate controversy and prompt comparisons between neighborhoods (what!? Twinbrook rated the same as Fallsgrove and King Farm? Not possible!) but I’d really like to encourage a discussion about making our community more bike and pedestrian (and sometimes car) friendlier.

What makes a neighborhood walkable?  According to Walk Score, the more of the following characteristics it has, the better:

  • A center: Walkable neighborhoods have a center, whether it’s a main street or a public space.
  • People: Enough people for businesses to flourish and for public transit to run frequently.
  • Mixed income, mixed use: Affordable housing located near businesses.
  • Parks and public space: Plenty of public places to gather and play.
  • Pedestrian design: Buildings are close to the street, parking lots are relegated to the back.
  • Schools and workplaces: Close enough that most residents can walk from their homes.
  • Complete streets: Streets designed for bicyclists, pedestrians, and transit.

The City of Rockville recently received federal funds to develop “complete streets” near the Twinbrook and Rockville Metro stations, so scores for those locations (and pedestrians using those locations) should improve as a result.  Any suggestions to make your  neighborhood more walkable?  Should walkability be a goal for Rockville?

Live Music in and around Rockville

One of the gazillion bands performing at Hometown Holidays, 2011

When Rockvillians are looking for live music, their tendency is to look south towards Silver Spring, DC, or, heavens! across the Potomac.  Well, those are great places–who can argue with the concerts at the Kennedy Center, The Fillmore, 9:30 Club, Wolftrap, or the Birchmere.  But there are plenty of great places for seriously good music in and around Rockville if you know where to look and when to show up.  In no particular order, here’s my list of concert venues and presenters of good live music:

  1. The Institute of Musical Traditions may be based in Takoma Park but it holds a concert series of Celtic, folk, bluegrass, and Creole music at St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church (they call it Rockville, but it’s south of White Flint on Old Georgetown Road, so perhaps North Bethesda or South Rockville).  Takes a break during the summer.  Tickets run $15-20.
  2. Unplugged on the Rooftop, a Tuesday night concert series in Town Square featuring a mix of established and undiscovered local bands, such as The Digits and Meredith Seidel.   Admission free, cash bar.
  3. Wine Down is a Thursday night series from June through August that features live acoustic music while sampling wine and food from the nearby restaurants.  Free.
  4. Friday Night Live starts the weekends from May through September with free outdoor concerts (mostly rock from the 80s and 90s) in Rockville Town Square on Friday nights.
  5. Focus Music presents concerts of acoustic traditional and contemporary folk music at three locations around DC, including the Unitarian Universalist Church in Rockville.
  6. Folk ‘N Great Music hosts intimate house concerts every other month on a Saturday evening (yup, in houses around Rockville and it’s the very first unionized house concert series in the US).  Next concert in June.  Reservations required, donations encouraged.
  7. Maryland Summer Jazz Festival, now in its eighth year, includes public concerts and a jazz camp in July.  Not exactly sure of the location but I suspect it’s somewhere in the south end of Rockville judging from the list of sponsors.
  8. Rockville Concert Band, Potomac Valley Youth Orchestra, and other musical groups perform at the F. Scott Fitzgerald Theater in Rockville’s Civic Center Park throughout the year.  Admission fees vary and most recommend reservations.
  9. Also in Civic Center Park, Glenview Mansion hosts monthly concerts on Sunday afternoons in its conservatory.  Admission free.
  10. Music Center at Strathmore is certainly of the region’s crown jewels and just ten minutes from my house.  It has two venues:  the large new concert hall and the intimate music room in the historic mansion.  Both present amazing performances by some of the leading artists in the country as well as being a home for the National Philharmonic (Rockville’s own Piotr Gajewski is conductor), Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and Washington Performing Arts Society.
  11. Hometown Holidays, a regional event hosted by the City of Rockville, takes place over Memorial Day weekend with something like forty free concerts on eight stages (this year’s headliner is country singer Easton Corbin), along with lots of food, craft booths, and of course a parade.

Wow, there’s plenty here in Rockville to keep your feet tapping all year but I’d love to make it a dozen.   If I missed a local concert venue or presenter (local means within two miles of the Red Brick Courthouse), please share it in the comments below.

Enjoy Spring at Brookside Gardens

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If you enjoy gardens, there’s no better place around here than Brookside Gardens, a fifty-acre horticultural showplace maintained by Montgomery Parks (aka Maryland-National Capitol Park and Planning Commission).  It’s a wonderful place to enjoy all year but especially in the spring when blooming azaleas pack the woods are packed and tulips fill the beds (although with today’s brisk winds, who knows what will survive).

Brookside is free and open from sunrise to sunset, but on beautiful days you’ll want to arrive well before noon to find a parking spot.  It’s only 10-15 minutes away from Rockville but it can be a bit hard to find the first time since it’s tucked inside a residential neighborhood .  To get there, go straight down Viers Mill Road towards DC, turn left on Randolph Road (at the Korean Korner) and after you cross Georgia Avenue (where the Kensington Volunteer Fire Station is located), look for Glenallan Avenue and turn right  into the neighborhood and follow it around to the entrance to the Gardens.  A great place to get away, take kids, or enjoy with guests, and if you’re really into gardens, they offer classes and a library in the visitor center.

New Blog for Rockville: Patch

Rockville Patch

In addition to Rockville Central and Rockville Living, Rockville Patch provides another online source of news and information about our fair city.  Patch is based in New York City and operates throughout the country, working in communities of 15-100K population that are “underserved by media and would benefit by having access to local news and information about government, schools and business”.  Each “Patch” is run by professional editors, writers, photographers, and videographers who live in or near the communities they serve and for the Rockville version includes nearly two dozen editors and contributors, including Sean Sedam, Lauren Sausser, Jillian Badanes, and Nathan Carrick (in case you run into them at an event).  They’ve been operating in Rockville since October 2010 and recent posts include a review of Zio’s Restaurant, a video on the Comptroller’s visit to Best Buy to promote Maryland’s tax-free weekend, and images from around town.  It seems to have already attracted the attention of the usual online community activists, including Temperance Blalock, Theresa Defino, and Joe Jordan (on Red Gate Golf Course, no surprise), so you’ll see some familiar faces.

Fabulous Fall

Fall is one of my favorite times of year and each year I nearly run off the road when I’m stunned by a brilliant tree.  So for everyone’s safety, I head to Lake Frank, a reservoir off Avery Road just east of Rockville, to walk the paths and take it all in as slowly as I can.  Here are some shots from today’s afternoon stroll.

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Great Places to Take a Date in Rockville?

With Valentine’s Day coming up, Washingtonian magazine has just listed the 158 great places for a date but Rockville barely gets a mention.  The only places that made the grade are:

Really? Really?  Are there no other great places to get a drink, listen to music, see a show, go dancing, have fun, enjoy a meal, do something different, or even pop The Question in Rockville?  Here are my suggestions:

  • Lots of romantic restaurants in town, including La Tasca or Cava (fun to share small dishes of food)
  • Take a stroll along Rock Creek (trailhead at Linthicum Street and Marcia Lane in Twinbrook)
  • Go rock climbing on the indoor wall at the Civic Center Park.

Any other suggestions to help out the romance-impaired?