The Potomac name brings to mind a few things. Television’s “Real Housewives,” for one. Perhaps horse country, for those who’ve lived here awhile. There are also the opulent mansions populated by the likes of Wonder Woman (actress Lynda Carter has lived in Potomac for decades). But whatever you associate this area with, count on one thing: The topography is beautiful. Potomac straddles the banks of the river it’s named after, and the origin of that name is derived from the Algonquin word Patowmack, referring to the region as a “great trading center” by the tribal nations who hunted its shoreline. The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal was built along the Potomac River to transport goods from Cumberland to Georgetown. Potomac’s natural wonders include a lengthy stretch of the C&O Canal Towpath and the wildflower meadows of the Glenstone museum. The community also caters to the sporting life, with equestrian farms and three golf courses. Potomac has been home to a king (Hussein of Jordan), champion boxers, the Marriotts and the Kennedys. You’ll see that the community’s trading heritage remains alive and well today in Potomac Village, with an array of dining options and retailers.
Some longtime residents describe Strosniders Hardware as magical. That’s because the family-owned shop has been a staple in Potomac for 30 years (the original location in Bethesda opened in 1953). Hardware is only a portion of what’s crammed onto the shelves of this retro shop, which stocks goods ranging from gardening tools to designer paint, and seasonal decor to pet toys. 10110 River Road; strosniders.com
Lock 72 Kitchen & Bar in Potomac Village pays homage to the historic lockhouses just a few miles away. Owner and chef Robert Wiedmaier (who operates Marcel’s in D.C.) established this cozy dining room and clubby bar to serve up a mid-Atlantic-inspired menu. Wiedmaier, who grew up in Belgium, does mussels and frites with equal verve as crabcakes and steak. 10128 River Road; lock72.com
When the last thing you want to do is think about making dinner, turn to the glass cases at The Market at River Falls. They sell a wide array of droolworthy housemade dishes, but are especially known for their chicken noodle soup, beef kebabs and creamy mac and cheese. Offerings are rotated seasonally; in the fall, find root vegetables prepared every which way. 10124 River Road; marketriverfalls.com
The hot, savory pies at Potomac Pizza have been a neighborhood staple since 1978. And just because it’s old school doesn’t mean the restaurant hasn’t kept pace with more adventurous toppings. Sure, you can order pepperoni, but don’t miss the broccoli or spinach ricotta, and the gluten-free crust receives raves. 9812 Falls Road; potomacpizza.com
It may seem unlikely that a world-class art museum is nestled into the forests and hills of Potomac, but Glenstone is all that and more. Whether you’re into exhibits by the likes of Ellsworth Kelly or Faith Ringgold, or looking for a romantic stroll among installations by Andy Goldsworthy and Jeff Koons on the bucolic grounds, Glenstone is a must-see. 12100 Glen Road; glenstone.com
The Indigenous people of the region were the first to walk trails that made hiking in Potomac a modern phenomenon. Begin your trek at the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center and head to Olmsted Island to behold the extraordinary power of water as it crests over boulders in the Potomac River. Boardwalks over the rapids lead to the mightiest of these cascades, Great Falls, with a spectacular 76-foot drop over less than a mile. The sound of the water crashing over the jagged rocks resembles a freight train. 11710 MacArthur Blvd.; nps.gov/grfa
The babbling fountains and rustic stone walls of Old Angler’s Inn provide ambience for what has been a Potomac institution since 1860. While it’s currently only a restaurant, the historic inn predates the Civil War. Today, people walk up from the towpath to grab a post-hike meal, meet for brews in the beer garden, and settle at indoor tables beside a crackling fireplace. While Old Angler’s spent decades serving classic Continental fare, the menu has modernized with the likes of beef harvest bowls and shredded Brussels sprouts salad. 10801 MacArthur Blvd.; oldanglersinn.com
C&O Canal Trust Park After Dark is an annual fundraiser to support the C&O Canal Historical Park. Located at historic Great Falls Tavern, the celebration from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Sept. 17 includes live music, food vendors and s’mores around the campfire. canaltrust.org
The annual Potomac Day at Potomac Village, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 21, kicks off with a parade featuring local equestrians and a float contest. Afterward, the children’s fair opens with rides, games and food vendors. potomacchamber.org
This story appears in the September/October issue of Bethesda Magazine.
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