People are staying closer to home these days, but there’s still lots to do in the region. 9 ½ hours is a feature with suggestions for local day trips.

The center square of Takoma Park
This art deco clock tower dominates the center square of Takoma Park

Takoma Park, a historic community that straddles the District of Columbia border, was founded in the late 19th century as a railroad suburb. Home buyers took a short-line trip from the swamps of the District of Columbia into a tree filled, elevated oasis.

Developer Benjamin Franklin Gilbert built summer bungalows as getaways, and year-round residents soon flocked to the community. Commercial areas grew around the railroad station.

A decidedly progressive political ethos developed in Takoma Park early on, and remains. Residents are famously involved at the local, state and national levels, and Takoma Park is known to take positions that sometimes subject it to ribbing elsewhere in the Maryland, earning it the nickname of “The People’s Republic of Takoma Park.”

Walkable, compact and unique in Maryland, Takoma Park is a perfect place to spend a chunk of your day.

Morning Activity

Sligo Creek Trail is a landmark feature of Takoma Park. It’s nine scenic miles long, wooded and just a little hilly — ideal for running, walking, and biking. The southern end of the 10-mile trail traverses Takoma Park. 

Sligo Creek Trail
Sligo Creek Trail snakes through Takoma Park.

Breakfast and Coffee

There are several good choices for your morning caffeine and calories. 

One is the Takoma Beverage Company, 6917 Laurel Avenue, which opened in 2017 and offers a great selection of coffee and other drinks, as well as breakfast sandwiches and bowls.

It’s located close to the Takoma Metro station, as is one of the Washington region’s Busboys and Poets, also nearby.

The sights

Stroll through the city to view architecture and shops, and you’ll find creative touches on every block, from homeowner-installed sidewalk stones to giant animal sculptures in front yards. You’ll also see a series of signs that comprise an Urban Poetry Trail. The trail is a collaborative project between the Friends of the Takoma Park Library and the Montgomery College School of Art and Design. The current installation is called “Spring for Poetry,” and graphic arts students designed posters of poems that are installed throughout the city.

You may also find a statue of Roscoe the Rooster; the community erected the monument in honor of a rooster who wandered the city streets from 1989 to 1999, and could never be caught.

Front yard artwork in Takoma Park
Many residents of Takoma Park add interesting details to their homes.

History and Architecture

Takoma Park was incorporated in 1890, and by 1913 had become the largest city in Montgomery County. In 1904, Takoma Park became home to the world headquarters of the Seventh Day Adventist Church which maintains a regional hospital, college and several churches and other local facilities in the city. 

Early residents included Benjamin Y. Morrison, a renowned horticulturist and landscape architect who planted hybrid azaleas that can still be found across the community.

In the 1960s, a future mayor and civil rights activist, Sam Abbott, led a campaign to halt construction of a federal highway through the community. This controversy raised the profile of Takoma Park, which newspaper commentators delighted in describing as “The People’s Republic of Takoma Park” and “The Berkeley of the East.”

The National Register Takoma Park Historic District was designated in 1976. The district includes a rich variety of American architectural styles from the late 19th to early 20th centuries.

Local Commerce

Takoma Park boasts funky shops befitting a community that prides itself on sustainability and individuality. Bespoke Not Broke, at 7042 Carroll Ave., is a consignment shop that specializes in upscale clothing. Carroll Avenue also has several galleries and other unique stores.

Happy Hour and Meal

Republic restaurant at 6939 Laurel Avenue in the heart of downtown features plush sofas and wallpaper and an outdoor alley, with brunch mimosas and happy hour cocktails.

The city contains a variety of vegan and ethnic options, such as Seoul Food, a Korean fusion restaurant; and several others. A full listing can be found at the drink and dine page of Main Street Takoma’s web site.

Getting there

Takoma Park straddles the D.C.-Maryland line, is served by various bus routes and the Takoma station on the Metro’s Red Line.

2 replies on “Walkable and Slightly Weird: 9 1/2 Hours in Takoma Park”

  1. Hey there. I was curious to know what your sources were. It seems that some Takoma businesses are always getting all the attention, like the cool kids in high school, while some other Takoma businesses, some real staples of the community, like ones that have been around since the 80s, are left unmentioned. I liked your description of our Takoma Park, but was curious to know if this was a result of Internet research not showing some of the places that we consider the real gems of Takoma, or the result of a visit where you wrote on the places that struck your attention or if it was an interview with someone from Takoma Park that shared only certain information. Obviously you can’t mention every single place but I wanted to inquire because it seems like article after article it’s a trend that the older businesses get left out. Please pardon me if this question is too much of an intrusion to your creative process. 🙂

    1. Hi Kristen: Just seeing this comment so sorry for the delayed response.
      It’s a great question. We “visited” as reporters, parked as close to a central point as we could, and spent a full day walking around, eating, drinking, browsing, etc. We took notes and photos of things that caught our eye.
      Then we came back and did Internet research. For this article, we did not conduct interviews — but certainly could have.
      Please feel free to share what you think was omitted — which older businesses, as you say, deserve some love. Put it in the comments; we can consider wrapping into the article. That’s the beauty of online publishing.
      Thanks for reading and for your question — not intrusive at all!

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