Silver Spring is a Maryland suburb of Washington, DC and is convenient for visits to DC, Baltimore, Annapolis, and Northern Virginia. Many historical landmarks are easily accessible within a 2 hour drive including national monuments, the Captial of the US, Civil War battlefields, homes of early presidents, and natural landmarks such as the Chesapeake Bay.
All Aboard to Silver Spring
If you have a car, Silver Spring, Maryland is only a 15-minute drive from the hubbub of downtown Washington (take 16th St. all the way). This makes it an attractive place to live for those who work in DC. It is also a good option for travelers who need to be in DC but don’t want to pay sky-high DC hotel prices.
The trip to Silver Spring from Reagan National Airport (DCA) and Washington Dulles Airport (IAD) is about 45 minutes. You can cut transportation time by 10 minutes if you fly into Baltimore Washington International (BWI).
Here are instructions for using the METRO to get to Silver Spring from Reagan Airport, which should take you about 35-40 minutes. It might be more of a hassle than getting a cab, but it is certainly cheaper. The total cost is $3.10.
After picking up your luggage at the baggage claim area on the ground floor, take the escalator up one floor (to the level you arrived on) and look for the Metro sign. Take the “skywalk” across the road to the Metro station. Buy a fare card from the vending machine (marked “Farecards” or “Passes/Farecards”). Put your money in the slot and press plus or minus (+/-) until the screen shows the value you want. Press the “push for farecard” button and remove the card from the slot. Don’t forget your change, which comes out near the bottom of the machine. Go up the escalator to the train platform. Use your card to get through the gate.
Take the Yellow line to Mt. Vernon. At Gallery Place/Chinatown you will need to transfer to the Red line. When the train stops, go upstairs to the Red line to Glenmont (if the train is marked “Silver Spring,” that’s also good). There are two exits at Silver Spring – Georgia Ave. and Colesville Road. If you don’t want to be stuck crossing a busy highway, use the Colesville Road exit.
Voila. That’s all there is to it.
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Heigh Ho Silver
Why is Silver Spring called Silver Spring? Because of the spring, of course.
It goes back to 1840, when Elizabeth, the daughter of Francis Preston Blair, was riding her horse in the great outdoors. There were no cell phones to occupy a person’s mind in those days, so she pulled out a letter. It turned out to be a love letter from the man she would marry. Overcome by emotion, Elizabeth fell off her horse, whose name was Selim, and the horse ran off.
Selim was discovered drinking from a sparkling, mica-flecked spring. Papa Blair, a newspaper editor, bought up the surrounding land and built himself a summer house to escape the steamy heat of Washington. Seems he really went all out. The house had 20 rooms, 4 baths, 9 fireplaces, 2 kitchens, and a wine cellar.
Today the spring (or what’s left of it) is in the middle of Acorn Park. You will know you’re in the right place when you see a gazebo in the shape of a giant acorn, sitting on a stretch of grass right off the East-West Highway. Inside are four benches where you can sit, partially sheltered from the elements, and have a little picnic.
On a brick wall facing the park is a 5-panel mural by Mame Cohalan illustrating scenes from the history of Silver Spring.
The imprint of the Blair family – Francis Preston and his children, and especially Montgomery, who served as U.S. Postmaster General under Abraham Lincoln – is very visible all over Silver Spring. Their names live on in streets (Blair Road, Blair Mill Road), buildings (Blair Mill Towers apartment complex) and schools (Montgomery High School, Montgomery College).
In 1950, the Blair mansion was torn down and replaced by the Blair Station Post Office. In 2003, despite an outcry from the Silver Spring Historical Society, this building was demolished, too.
- National/State Park
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Get on the Van and Go
Question: WHAT'S PURPLE AND YELLOW AND RUNS ALL OVER?
Answer: THE VANGO SHUTTLE
When you visit Silver Spring, Maryland, you can’t miss it. This bright purple van with yellow stars on it whizzes around the streets every 8 minutes – and it’s free. I don’t know what the locals use it for, but personally, I would hop on and take it as far as it goes for a nice tour of Silver Spring without burning a hole in my pocket or overtaxing my leg muscles.
The VanGo, inaugurated in 2002, runs every day from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. In case you didn’t get it, the name VanGo is a play on the name of the artist, Vincent Van Gogh, with the purple and yellow color scheme inspired by his famous painting “Starry Night.”
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For Film AFIcionados
The American Film Institute's new AFI Silver Theatre in downtown Silver Spring is a lovingly restored Art Deco building housing three theaters, all showing carefully selected classic, documentary and repertory films, many of which are playing nowhere else in the country.
Recent highlights have included a 70mm film festival, the inaugural SilverDocs documentary festival in conjunction with nearby Discovery Communications, and the entire Cremaster cycle.
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