10 Best Downtowns in the DC Suburbs

Mar 21, 2019

Craving a ‘burb with a bustling downtown? Start here.

Looking for DC suburbs with a bustling nightlife or other centrally-located go-to for food, fun, and tons of family activities? Chances are, you’re looking for a suburb with a great downtown.

While, often, suburban downtowns leave much to be desired—we’ve seen tons of dry cleaner/pizza shop/grab-and-go “downtowns” in the Washington DC suburbs and beyond—some are truly city-level. And if you’re craving a little urban in your suburban, start with these downtown towns.

#1. Georgetown, DC

DC’s historic Georgetown neighborhood could easily stand its own against any downtown anywhere. Not only does it boast unparalleled charm—it’s DC’s oldest neighborhood, after all—but the streets are lined with Michelin-star restaurants, high-end shopping, fitness studios, cafes, and coffee shops and, literally, everything you could possibly want. And because it’s on the waterfront, this downtown offers sweeping views and a vibe that’s one part posh, one part cool and casual.

#2. Gaithersburg, MD

Downtown Gaithersburg is the place to be in the DC suburbs. The Rio Washingtonian Center is jam-packed with a theater, shopping, restaurants, bars, entertainment and more, all lining an amazing boardwalk and pond. This spot is definitely ideal for date night, family night, or entertaining out-of-town guests—your choice!

#3. Silver Spring, MD

Silver Spring looks and feels like a classic city center—and you’ll no doubt bump into at least a few friends and neighbors while you’re here. Here, you’ll find the basics—shopping, dining, entertainment and even a summery splash pad—plus tons of local flair, including area artist showings, outdoor music, pop up performers, and other community activities.

#4. Bethesda, MD

There’s a reason so many locals and tourists flood downtown Bethesda daily. This historic strip is a thriving go-to for food, entertainment shopping, and culture. During a quick stroll, you’ll encounter everything—think 200 restaurants and eateries, 20 art galleries, two theaters, and shopping that rivals any big city.

#5. Alexandria, VA

Neighborhoods.com compares Old Town Alexandria to the Gilmore Girls’ Stars Hollow “kicked up a notch”—and we get it. This Washington DC suburbs downtown is as quaint and cozy as it is modern and lively. Grab a drink, a bite and, of course, save room for a cupcake at Alexandria Cupcake.

#6. Hyattsville, MD

If you crave a more artsy downtown, Hyattsville is for you. Smaller than some of the other DC suburbs on this list, downtown Hyattsville is part of the Gateway Arts District and includes tons of amazing eateries, public art displays, studios, and shops.

#7. Frederick, MD

While this one often flies under the radar, our advice is simple: check out this downtown! Because it’s a college town (Mount St. Mary’s University calls Frederick “home”) there’s a built-in vibrancy and cool factor that comes with having tons of Gen Z’ers within a few blocks. Swing by Carroll Creek, grab a bite—the restaurant scene is surprisingly eclectic—or do some shopping at the small boutiques and locally-run stores lining downtown. You’ll immediately see the appeal—and the fun—in this cute, quaint community.

#8. Chevy Chase, MD

Chevy Chase is a popular commuter town—but it also boasts a great downtown, ideal for residents who want to get out, while staying local. The core commercial area in Chevy Chase runs along Connecticut Avenue—locals refer to it as, simply, “The Avenue.” Here, you’ll find local shops and businesses, restaurants and cafes and more. An easily walkable area, Connecticut Avenue attracts both locals and visitors, especially on nights and weekends.

#9. Rockville, MD

Rockville Town Square anchors Rockville’s main commercial and activity hub. Here, you’ll fund nearly 50 restaurants, shops and even a gallery. Town Square is also home to events and activities throughout the year, including family-friendly and seasonal programming. Outside of the downtown, there’s a real mix of urban and suburban, which tends to draw DC families looking to get away…but not too far.

#10. Chevy Chase, MD

Ashburn’s “new downtown” centers on One Loudoun, a high-end shopping and dining destination. From Trader Joe’s to Alamo Drafthouse to gyms, sushi bars, breweries and more, you’ll find everything at One Loudoun. They also host events throughout the year, including holiday-themed programs and family-friendly activities.

There are hundreds of towns to choose from. How do you figure it all out? You simply don’t, without getting a Suburban Jungle Strategist to help you through it all. Schedule here for your strategy session with our innovative suburbs strategy team. All services are completely free.

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