6 Key Destinations within Maryland Milestones/Anacostia Trails Heritage Area
Don’t have much time to explore our region? Here are six great ways to spend a few hours!
1. Battle of Bladensburg Historic Sites & Anacostia River
Start out with important links to American History at the Bladensburg Waterfront Park (4601 Annapolis Road, Bladensburg, MD; www.pgparks.com). From this starting point, pick the way you want to explore – by foot or by boat? On foot, tour what is left of the Bladensburg Battlefield from the War of 1812 and the Dueling Grounds with our walking tour. We also recommend a walk or drive through Fort Lincoln Cemetery for a view that Commodore Joshua Barney had in 1814 as well as some great sculpture and architecture. Also by foot, you can visit a few reminders of colonial life – “George Washington” House, Magruder House, Market Master, and Bostwick. However, these are all under renovation or in private hands as of Summer 2018. You may also wish to visit the new Battle of Bladensburg Monument, the WWI “Peace Cross” monument, and monuments to those that have fought in other wars.
If you choose to go by boat, rent a kayak, canoe, or take a boat tour to see the Anacostia River as it returns from a polluted river to a gem of the region. Plan on seeing wildlife like bald eagles, herons, turtles, and much more. If you take a kayak or canoe, we recommend visiting Dueling Creek or the Kenilworth wetlands. However, check the tide schedules to make sure you aren’t left high and dry!
Right in Bladensburg is Three Brothers Italian Restaurant. While known locally as a chain, this is the first restaurant and retains some of the great charm – and amazing food! Take a look through the Italian food store too. If Salvadoran is more your style, La Chiquita may fit the bill in Bladensburg.
If you would like to stay nearby, Wyndham Garden Inn is located just next to the Baltimore/Washington Parkway.
2. Gateway Arts District Galleries and Studios
The Gateway Arts District stretches from the Washington, DC line to Hyattsville and includes a variety of hidden gems for artists of all types. We recommend you start in Hyattsville at Pyramid Atlantic Arts Center (4318 Gallatin Street, Hyattsville, MD; www.pyramidatlanticartscenter.org). This newest arts center is focused on paper and book arts. A rotating series of shows in the upstairs gallery meets the funky, cool industrial arts of the paper making. (Don’t forget the Maryland Milestones Heritage Center is located here too!)
You can spend several hours in Hyattsville with great arts experiences. Just across the street from Pyramid Atlantic Arts Center is Vigilante Coffee – a great local coffee shop inside a former Model T dealership. Next door is Tanglewood Works, an “upcycling” art shop; Fleisher’s Jewelry with a wide variety of jewelry; Three Little Birds sewing shop; and Arrow Bicycles. Then cross Baltimore Avenue to Franklin’s Brewery and Store. This long time staple of Hyattsville has a huge menu of brewpub classics, a range of beers made on site, and a funky shop filled with gifts, wines, and toys!
Further down the street (past the courts) is Artist and Craftsman with loads of shopping for the artist on your list. Next door, Streetcar 82 is busy building a new brewery and is scheduled for opening in mid/late 2018.
On the next block is Art Works Now and Pizza Paradiso. Come for the amazing Neapolitan style pizzas and stay for the art. As of early 2018, the gallery and classrooms were still being finished, but the food and beer were amazing!
Finally, just one block further – just before you leave Hyattsville – is Shortcake Bakery. This local bakery has loads of treats and caters to a big cyclist community on the weekend.
If you thought you were done with Gateway Arts District, you would be wrong. While you can spend a whole afternoon in Hyattsville, we recommend you head down US Route 1 (Rhode Island Avenue) toward North Brentwood. The Prince George’s African-American Museum and Cultural Center is located in the oldest African-American municipality in the United States.
Continuing south, the Gateway Arts Center/Brentwood Arts Exchange is a unique place to explore local artists work and see them in action. Rotating shows, programs, and workshops are always on.
Finally, in Mount Rainier check Joe’s Movement Emporium’s schedule. With dance, theater, aerialists, and more always happening, you won’t be disappointed.
One note – we have not listed all the local producing artists and collectives such as Washington Glass School, DC Glassworks, Otis Street Arts Project, Red Dirt Studio, and many more. Check in with Brentwood Arts Exchange or visit the Gateway Arts District website for many more details.
3. City of College Park – The University, Downtown, & Aviation Museum
Most visitors who know something about College Park know about the University of Maryland Terps. Basketball, football, even lacrosse have all been major parts of the UMD story. However, just outside the gates of the university, the City of College Park has been going through a transformation. With new and exciting shops and restaurants, this community is at the heart of our Heritage Area. Even with the great new projects, there is a long and big history for this small town.
Visitors may want to start at the College Park Aviation Museum (1985 Cpl. Frank Scott Drive, College Park, MD; www.collegeparkaviationmuseum.org). This family friendly museum is located on the grounds of the oldest airport in the world (opened by the Wright Brothers!) and includes a variety of exhibits and programs. In 2018, the museum is celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Airmail with special fly-in events. The Museum is located near the WMATA Metro Station on the Green Line.
Back in town, you are spoiled for choices for restaurants. At The Hotel at UMD (a great option for overnight), Kapnos, Old Maryland Grill, Bagels and Grinds, and Potomac Pizza are all upscale choices for great food. We also recommend the Original Ledo’s Pizza, Jason’s Deli, and the Nando’s Peri-Peri. After lunch or dinner, take a walk through the Old Town neighborhood and visit some of the great architecture of College Park.
On campus, there are loads of places to visit – but we recommend starting at the Visitors Center on Baltimore Avenue to pick up a map and some directions. Bikes are available for borrowing if you choose to pedal to explore. We recommend seeing the Campus Farm and then heading to the Stamp Student Union for a bite of campus made ice cream (made from the milk of campus cows!). We think it’s the best ice cream in the state!
4. Historic Greenbelt
If historic architecture and planing is your interest, we highly recommend an afternoon of exploring Historic Greenbelt. Hidden away between modern development, this 1930’s era planned community is one of only three such communities in the United States. Built during the Great Depression as a “green town,” these communities were an attempt to relieve “slum” conditions in major cities. Greenbelt’s location was chosen because of existing government property (Beltsville Agricultural Research Center – which would eventually contribute land for the National Wildlife Visitors Center and Goddard Space Flight Center) as well as the location near Washington, DC.
When you come to visit, start at the Greenbelt Community Center (15 Crescent Road, Greenbelt, MD; www.greenbeltmd.gov). Before going in, be sure to see the great friezes on the front interpreting the preamble of the Constitution. Inside this 1930s era former school, be sure to visit the small museum gallery with a rotating exhibit. Currently the Greenbelt Museum (10A Crescent Road) is only open on Sundays from 1-5pm, but a new expansion is in the planning stages.
While at the Community Center, be sure to pick up a walking tour brochure. Take the walking tour toward Roosevelt Center and see some of the unique style of community making. We love the underpasses and playgrounds mixed into the small homes. Homes were designed so that the “front door” faced the internal paths while the “back door” faced the roads.
In Roosevelt Center, find the Old Greenbelt Theatre to watch a variety of first run, historic, and art house movies. This historic theater is the last of the big single screen movie houses in the region. Before catching that film, maybe grab something to eat at the vegan New Deal Cafe (which also has a strong rotating music program).
Also nearby is NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. The visitor center offers unique science based activities and information about the work NASA and Goddard SFC perform. With a NASA themed gift shop and a “rocket garden” to eat lunch in, the Visitor Center is a great addition to a trip to Greenbelt.
Outside of Historic Greenbelt are several nearby chain options for food and lodging. We recommend Mission BBQ or Silver Diner. Greenbelt Marriott, Hilton Garden Inn, and the Holiday Inn Greenbelt are all great lodging options.
5. Laurel’s Main Street & Patuxent River
Laurel’s Main Street is a unique feature for our region. Just on the edge of Prince George’s County, the city is unlike many of our other communities with its well-defined main street. We recommend starting at the far end of Main Street at the Laurel Historical Society and Museum (817 Main Street, Laurel, MD; www.laurelhistoricalsociety.org). Here you can find out more about the local history of the mills, take a walk to the Patuxent River, and pick up a walking tour brochure.
Heading back toward the central portion of Main Street, check out the great main street architecture. As a former mill town, this was the hub of action. (Just beyond the intersection of Baltimore Avenue and Main Street is a great example of a Baltimore & Ohio Railroad station – and it still serves commuters.) There are several great food options along the way. Red, Hot, and Blue is a local chain with some amazing BBQ. Olive on Main is a local option with Mediterranean and American foods.
However, don’t miss the great options for entertainment. The Laurel Mill Playhouse and Venus Theater produce a range of programs in their small storefront theaters. Venus specializes in women written and produced shows.
Finally, get off Main Street and head down to the Patuxent River. Starting on B Street and wondering all the way back to the Laurel Historical Society, the Riverfront Trail is a great way to connect with nature by foot or on bike.
One more note on restaurants. If you come to Laurel, don’t miss Pasta Plus. This unassuming restaurant serves up some of the best Italian food in the entire region.
6. Any of the Great Trails
One of the best ways to explore our region is by trail. The Anacostia Tributary Trail System; the Trolley Trail; and the Washington, Baltimore, and Annapolis Trail are all great ways to see more of our region.
The Anacostia Tributary Trail System officially starts at the Bladensburg Waterfront Park (which also rents bicycles) where it connects with the Anacostia River Trail going south to Nationals Stadium. The Tributary Trail System has four major stems. Starting in Bladensburg, the Northeast Branch goes toward Riverdale Park and Berwyn Heights before ending at Lake Artemisia and Greenbelt Road. At Lake Artemisia the trail branches to become the Paint Branch Trail which currently leads to Cherry Hill Road, but is being expanded (as of mid-2018) to go as far as Fairland Regional Park. The Northwest Branch heads off toward Hyattsville and Adelphi (eventually ending in Montgomery County near the Capital Beltway). The Sligo Creek Trail branches off near Hyattsville and ends near Silver Spring in Montgomery County.
The Rhode Island Avenue Trolley Trail (known locally as the Trolley Trail) runs parallel to US Route 1/Baltimore Avenue from Hyattsville at Franklin’s Brewery to College Park at Greenbelt Road. The trail continues with a shared use lane all the way to the National Agricultural Library and Sunnyside Road. A portion going south to connect with Charles Armentrout Drive in Hyattsville and the Northwest Branch is in the planning stages as of mid-2018. This trail connects a variety of local options for food and fun. Starting in the Arts District (see above), riders pass through the historic community of Riverdale Park and the Town Center Market (with a wide range of beers on tap). Then, they enter Riverdale Park Station, a new development with Whole Foods, District Taco, Mod Pizza, Habit Burger, and Burton’s Bar and Grill. Further on, the trail rides through Old Town College Park (see above) before finally passing through the Berwyn neighborhood. Don’t miss Fishnet for amazing seafood dishes, just a half block off the trail.
Finally, the Washington, Baltimore, and Annapolis (WBA) Trail starts at Maryland 450 in Glenn Dale and currently ends at the Patuxent River in Bowie. A planned bridge over the Patuxent River is currently funded (mid-2018) and scheduled for 2020 to open. Riders on this trail will not only follow a former “interurban” (streetcar) line, but also pass by the Glenn Dale Hospital. This former sanitarium hosted tuberculosis patients from Washington, DC. Plans are underway to restore some of this site. Riders will also pass the Bowie Race Track, home to a variety of race winners (see more at the Belair Stables Museum in Bowie) and the Bowie State University (a Historically Black College and home to the new Fine Arts Center). While this trail doesn’t currently connect to Old Bowie (or Huntington), consider stopping there after the ride for a visit to the Bowie Railroad Museum, to get something to eat at Old Bowie Town Grill, or an ice cream at Simple Pleasures Ice Cafe. (Riders who are comfortable may choose to use Highbridge/Chestnut Road to get there on two wheels.)