A suburb of Washington, D.C., that features many gracious old buildings, Bethesda, Maryland, has developed into a bustling spot with a variety of restaurants, watering holes, shops and eclectic galleries.

Many of Bethesda's best restaurants are in the "grid," a six-block area between Old Georgetown Road and Woodley Avenue. There you'll find everything from inexpensive ethnic eateries to upscale dining to sports bars.

Located 35 mi/55 km southwest of Baltimore, Bethesda is also home to the National Institutes of Health, the federal agency responsible for health research. The NIH has an interesting visitors center with a slide show, films and a model lab.

Just west of Bethesda are the Great Falls of the Potomac River. You'll get great views of the falls from the Virginia side of the river, but there are hiking paths and areas to explore on the Maryland side as well.

Another worthwhile option is to take one of the old canal-boat trips that leaves from the Great Falls Tavern in Great Falls. Nearby, in Glen Echo Park, is the Clara Barton National Historic Site, dedicated to the heroic nurse who established the American Red Cross.

Just outside of D.C. in North Bethesda, the Music Center at Strathmore presents performances by artists from nearly every genre, from folk and jazz to pop and show tunes. Strathmore also features concerts by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the National Philharmonic. It's at 5301 Tuckerman Lane. Phone 301-581-5200.

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