College Park, Maryland, is the center of collegiate life for the main campus of the University of Maryland and its 39,000 students and 10,000 academic and administrative staff. As with any large university, there’s almost always something happening, whether it’s education, entertaining, or energetic and whether it’s sports (go TERPS!), lectures, concerts, or other activities. To accommodate the students, faculty and visitors, there are many restaurants, shops, and bars adjacent to the 1,339-acre campus.
There’s another side to the city, often referred to as a “Smart Place to Live,” one that offers events and activities to locals and visitors. Although you can find a guide to tour you around the campus, you’re on your own to explore the city, so here are some suggestions.
Many people come to College Park to explore the family and military history at the U.S. National Archives. Among other things, the Archives keeps the records of the John F. Kennedy Assassination, Army unit records from World War I, and Navy unit records from World War II.
Check in at the four-star The Hotel at the University of Maryland, opened in 2017, with plenty of meeting and event space, sleek rooms, an indoor pool and fitness center, spa, and restaurants, (including Bagels ‘N Grinds, Potomac Pizza, the lobby bar, and OMG–Old Maryland Grill), and a view of the Washington Monument from the rooftop function area (at least on a clear day). It’s probably a good space to catch the fireworks demonstrations from the National Mall and maybe even some local neighborhood festivities. You won’t see the ground-level works, but you’re sure to catch an eyeful of the aerial ones.
Take a drive through the campus and see the statue of Jim Henson and Kermit the Frog, outside the Adele H. Stamp Student Union building in memory of Henson, creator of the Muppets who was graduated from the University in 1960.
Spend Friday night catching a show or lecture at the glorious Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center on the university campus. The six main venues–Cafritz Foundation Theatre, Dance Theatre, Dekelboun Concert Hall, Gildenberg Recital Hall, Kay Theatre, and Kogod Theatre–and the other performance venue–Grand Pavilion, Leah M Smith Hall, Theatre Courtyard, Piano Room, and Ulrich Recital Hall–mean you can see and hear the best of today’s performing artists and tomorrow’s stars.
Have breakfast at Bagels ‘N Grinds, then head to the campus and the grounds of the Memorial Chapel. Dedicated in 1952 to the members of the University community who had given their lives in various wars, all 14 recognized religious bodies on the campus hold services and events here. That includes religious services, weddings, concerts, lectures, and other special events. Outside, there’s a medieval-style labyrinth to walk, relax, meditate, and a journal in case you would like to leave a note.
When you want something physical to do, take your choice of swimming (summer) at the Ellen E. Linson Splash Park or ice skating at the Herbert Wells Ice Rink (winter) across the street from the Calvert Road Community Park where you can play golf Frisbee, picnic, frolic on the playground and otherwise enjoy a few minutes in this tranquil park setting. Another option is to play tennis at the nearby CPTC (College Park Tennis Club) which is home to the JTCC (Junior Tennis Championship Center) tennis center. You need to know a member to have a guest pass or take a private or group lesson, but rain or shine, tennis players can pretend they’re Frances Tiafoe or Denis Kudla lobbing and volleying before you smash the competition. The center has 32 courts (the most in the Washington, D.C. area) with a selection of indoor and outdoor, hard and clay (the only red clay courts in the mid-Atlantic area) surfaces. Yes, this is where Tiafoe learned the game when his father was the head of maintenance. Kudla also trained here.
Have dinner at the College Park Grill, in the Cambria Hotel, which opened in August 2018, four blocks north of the south entrance to the University. This casual fine-dining restaurant and bar opens for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It was created by Bagels ‘n Grinds owner, Adam Greenberg and Chef Brad Barr. The menu is highlighted with prime steaks, wood-fired pizza, and BBQ ribs that are tasty and fall-off-the-bone tender. Live light jazz music is offered nightly. Free parking.
On Sunday morning, grab a fast bite at Bagels ‘n Grinds (remember that they have flagels –flat bagels–and seasonal bagels available on the weekends, so it’s almost like a new restaurant to you).
Nearby is the College Park Aviation Museum, a 27,000-square-foot collection of aviation memorabilia. Why here? Because this is where Wilbur Wright taught flight instructions in 1909. The facility is the oldest continuously operating airport in the world (yes, the world!) and you can watch planes taking off and landing. Bring the family because there’s something appropriate for all ages. In pleasant weather, it’s a perfect location for a picnic lunch.
Then, enjoy your safe trip home and start making plans for your return visit.