Suburban Wonders: Bethesda

Perpetually battling for the title of "Best Suburb," Bethesda has grown into a city with real estate that commands top dollar — and for good reason since it boasts top schools and nice homes.

By: Mary Clare Glover

Who lives here: Traditionally, Bethesda drew families looking for excellent schools. But with Metro’s arrival and the development of the pedestrian-friendly downtown, it attracts young couples and singles, too.

Homefront:
Most houses in Bethesda sell for between $700,000 and $1.8 million, according to Coldwell Banker agent Jane Fairweather. Smaller, older homes can still be found for around $600,000, particularly in such West Bethesda neighborhoods as Wyngate, Alta Vista, and Parkwood.

Popular neighborhoods:
Kenwood is famous for its country club, cherry trees, and grand homes. Brookmont has houses on the Potomac near the DC line. Tulip Hill’s 50-year-old houses sit on big lots. Carderock Springs has contemporaries tucked into heavily wooded yards.

What’s new:
The downtown area of Bethesda Row is adding a complex of stores, restaurants, and apartments. It’ll open next spring.

Local favorites:
Caddies on Cordell, which claims to be “Bethesda’s 19th hole,” is a popular after-work bar for young adults. During summer, baseball fans head out to see the Big Train, a team of college players, at the delightfully retro Shirley Povich Field at Cabin John Regional Park.

Biggest draw: In 2006 Bethesda’s public high schools—Whitman, Walter Johnson, and Bethesda–Chevy Chase—posted SAT scores among the six highest in the county. Top private schools such as Landon, Holton-Arms, Georgetown Prep, and Stone Ridge also call Bethesda home.

Drawbacks:
Residents complain about McMansions and teardowns that don’t fit in the neighborhood. Also, traffic and parking in downtown can be tough at night and on weekends.

Well-kept secret:
Although it’s hard to buy a home in the Whitman school district for less than $750,000, the Bannockburn neighborhood off River Road has houses starting in the mid $600,000s.

Why it beats McLean: House prices are steep but don’t reach the levels you pay in McLean.

On the Web: Bethesda Urban Partnership (bethesda.org); Montgomery County (montgomerycountymd.gov); Maryland Community Newspapers (gazette.net).