As the last school bell of the day rang at Northwood High School, my friends and I would rush outside to the bus stop. We had just one place in mind to spend our remaining hours of sunlight — downtown Silver Spring.

The downtown area hosts murals, festivals and a nearly 100-year-old restored movie theater just 20 minutes from the University of Maryland’s campus. As a teenager, I spent endless hours walking its streets. Thousands of students at this university are from Montgomery County, which hosts Silver Spring, yet so many of the area’s gems go unvisited. 

[Diamondback Day Trip: Hyattsville’s hidden gems]

Destination: Downtown Silver Spring, Maryland

Travel time: 20 to 50 minutes

Travel options: Bus, train or car

Though it only takes about 20 minutes by car, both trains and buses go to Silver Spring. Taking the C2 bus is my recommendation — I’ve been taking the route since I can remember, and it will take you right outside downtown Silver Spring’s main hub. If you visit on a weekday, you’re likely to meet a lot of middle and high school students on their way there. 

There’s also the option of taking the Metro from College Park to Silver Spring, but that would require you to transfer train lines. I don’t entirely recommend it — the buses are quite easy to use.

Food options

There are a number of fast food and chain restaurant options downtown, but I recommend visiting some unique spots in the area. For one, Kaldi’s Social House serves breakfast, lunch and dinner meals all less than $20. The restaurant, which also has an Arlington, Virginia location, is a fan-favorite for its sandwiches, roasted potatoes and coffee. It also offers a few vegetarian and gluten-free meal options.

When I go home, my family will sometimes go out to weekend brunch at La Malinche, a Spanish and Mexican tapas restaurant, to celebrate the end of another semester. This is more of an expensive outing, with a $41 all-you-can-eat brunch for the entire table on weekends. I’m a huge fan of the empanadas as well as the mejillones— steamed mussels with lemon.

[Plan your next Baltimore outing with this travel guide]


Each day comes with new events and surprises downtown — especially in Veterans Plaza. Some high schoolers skateboard and hang out on evenings without sponsored events, but on the weekends, there’s no shortage of activities. 

More than 30 vendors sell fresh produce and goods each Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Silver Spring’s Freshfarm Market. I personally enjoyed browsing the market on an early summer afternoon before heading to my next destination. 

After browsing the market, you can catch a movie at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center. In middle school, my class would take field trips to watch a documentary in the nearly 100-year-old restored theater. But the AFI doesn’t just show new movies — it sometimes reruns older series such as the Star Wars saga. 

Right across the street from the AFI is The Fillmore Silver Spring, a popular concert venue that has featured artists such as TV Girl, Jacob Sartorius and Ariana Grande. Upcoming performances at the venue include The Boulet Brothers’ Dragula season five post, Trixie Mattel and Tori Kelly.


Downtown also hosts a number of unique, local businesses such as the Record Exchange. Uniquely decorated with vinyl flooring, the second-hand record store offers not only vinyls, but video game consoles, DVDs, VHS tapes and posters. I used to spend hours browsing the aisles for the next CD to play in my car and DSi games to add to my collection.

There’s also a mall across from Veterans Plaza that hosts stores such as Five Below and Michael’s. The mall, named Ellsworth Place, hosts fun food options including Kung Fu Tea and Ben and Jerry’s.

While there’s no shortage of fun activities and treats, I adore walking the streets downtown to see the murals and statues. This unique, artistic scenery is just a short bus ride away from College Park and definitely worth the trip.