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Talk to me about Bethesda, MD

post #1 of 41
Thread Starter 
Oh boy. My DH dropped a bomb on me. Looks like we may be moving to Bethesda from San Jose, CA. We have been here for 5 years and I just now feel like I am getting settled, making friends and what not. And now, there is an incredibly awesome opportunity in Bethesda.

To be honest, I am scared to death. I just found a Naturapath here. I have an awesome VBAC supportive OB (because I desperately want a VBAC next time). We like our pedi. I have made some wonderful friends with the Holistic Moms group that just started. And I am working on being a LLL leader. AND, my sister moved out here last year from TX. We finally live in the same spot. Although we both knew that at some point, our lives could change and one of us could move, but not so soon dang it!

I need to know that I will be able to find similar in Bethesda. I need to know that it will be ok. I need to know more about the area. I feel so comfortable now that this scares me. I know nothing about MD!

Ok, yes, I am crying right now. Because my DH is in MD for work and I am here trying to process all this by myself.

Thanks.....
post #2 of 41


Bethesda is very nice. It has a different atmosphere than the Bay Area (I used to live there.) It's much more East Coast feeling -- lots of brick buildings and little shops. Bethesda has the Metro train running through it -- you can easily get to DC. It's also very close to lots of great shopping, Whole Foods stores, etc.

Great schools. Doesn't look like your child is school aged, but the public schools in Bethesda are some of the best in the country. I would say it's a little more buttoned up than the Bay Area, but MD is a very liberal state, and you won't have any trouble with things like NIP (in my experience).

This area has TONS of trees. When I moved here I just could not believe how many trees there were. Bethesda is a high end suburb of DC, and it's very nicely kept and tends to be quite wealthy.

Summers are hot and humid with lots nice thunderstorms. We have an early spring, a nice fall, and a fairly mild winter. (We get snow 3-4 times a year, average temps are in the upper 30s/low 40s.)

Bethesda is the best-educated city in the country. There are more people with graduate degrees per capita than anywhere else. Something like more than 50% of adults in Bethesda have a Master's or higher.

There's a year round farmer's market in Bethesda. Lots of cute restaurants and activities for the kids.

Have you been to DC, at least? You will be amazed at the FREE museum options. The Smithsonians are amazing, even the zoo is free.

I would encourage you to visit. I was nervous about moving here, and loved it as soon as I got off the plane.
post #3 of 41
Also, Bethesda is expensive. But your part of the country is very expensive as well, so I doubt there will be sticker shock.
post #4 of 41
My sister lived near Bethesda for years - she lived in an area called Garrett Park. It's mostly Victorian homes near the train tracks. It's a very nice area. I am not sure about the things you are asking for, but the area is very diverse and I am sure you will find things you are looking for.
post #5 of 41
Hey, we just found out we are moving back there too!
I think you will love love living in Bethesda. I am almost 100% positive you will also be able to find a like minded community. Bethesda is a bit more yuppie family-ish than Berkeley, say, but you will still be able to find the holistic, LLL culture. Just, the east coast version. Plus sometimes you'll get snow! I am pretty sure once you get settled, you won't want to move.

Downtown Bethesda is wonderful if you like to be able to walk to everything: a great second hand book store, Barnes and Noble. Lots of good restaurants of all different ethnic varieties. Quartermaine for coffee (and of course Starbucks, or Caribou if you like those). A great bagel store Bethesda Bagel, whose owner came from NY. My favorite place for bread is Spring Mill, which grinds its own flour. When it had first opened up (the Bethesda branch was the first one), one morning I knocked on their door at 5 am and asked if I could watch. This was during my bread crazy phase. They let me watch, help mix and form, and sent me home with two bags of goodies after opening. :

The library is wonderful, very well stocked, very intelligently run. My dad thinks their Chinese books selection is one of the best (and my parents used to live in SoCal).

There is a lovely path that runs right through Bethesda and then hooks up with the C&O canal path, called the capital cresent trail. Well lit, great all year round. You can bike from downtown Bethesda to the heart of Georgetown via the trail faster than it would take to drive. I used to jump on this trail everyday for 30 min of fresh aired bike ride. On July 4th, when all the farther out suburbanites are traffic jammed on the road, you can put your LO in/ on your bike and be aaat a great spot to watch the fire works in just 20 min.

There is a great Y on Old georgetown Rd that has a year round outdoor pool. If you like it more elite, there are plenty of health clubs or country clubs. Lots of kiddie programs all over town. There is also a large Jewish community (no idea if you are, just throwing it out). We currently live in mid-coast Maine which is considered pretty crunchy, liberal. But b/c of the amenities in Md we are : to be moving back to the area.

Pleas feel free to PM me if you have any other ? about neighborhoods, etc. I think I know every MLS, MRIS listing by heart.
post #6 of 41
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the replies! It sounds a lot better than I imagined. I am originally from the South and so I am nervous to be possibly going back to the east coast. California was such a relief since it was much easier to find like minded people. I didn't realize MD was a liberal state as well!

I am still in sticker shock in CA! We have to rent because we just could not understand why in the world people would spend 40-50% of their take home pay for a house! And now, people still think there is something magical about CA and that housing prices are really not going to fall too low.

We knew we would need to move at some point. But we thought it would be some place with a low cost of living and so it would be easy for me to not work. Now, Bethesda, I am not so sure. They haven't thrown out any numbers, but it would be a definite promotion, maybe even be considered a leadership position (which I can only hope that means more money). Right now, we make about the same.

It just so hard to change things when things are good, ya know?

Year round farmer's market sounds really good. I love those here.

Is there good camping?

I had so many plans to do with my sister and her kids during this summer, maybe we can still do all of that before we have to leave. I think that will be the hardest part, leaving my sister and my 2 wonderful nephews.
post #7 of 41
I live in Rockville (just north of Bethesda) and this is really a great area to be in. I lived in Houston for 7 years and couldn't wait to get back here (though I do miss Houston too!)

The metro makes for easy access to DC - picnic lunches on the mall, walks around the zoo...

If you like camping - great places not too far away for that. Shenandoah National Park is only about 1.5 hours away and a great place to go - it's one of our favorites. There's also Great Falls, which is REALLY close.
post #8 of 41
Thread Starter 
Camping! We love to go camping! I was pretty excited about camping in CA but then I realized how absolutely popular that is to do and it is expensive to camp out here! Not only that, for the good spots, you have to make reservations for months in advance. It is beyond crazy

We will probably be looking to like in the Rockville to Germantown area. I am still in shock about all this.

Are any of you involved in any mom groups? I need to find some like minded women in real life.

I am feeling a little better and more encouraged. I just told my sister about all of this and she took it well. I feel like I am deserting her though. And that is not a good feeling. I love having her nearby!
post #9 of 41
Germantown is a totally different feel than Bethesda. It's entirely new developments/cookie cutter townhomes and McMansions. Lots of strip malls. ZERO walkability -- you have to get on the freeway to go anywhere. It TOTALLY lacks the charm of Bethesa, although it's definitely less expensive. Rockville might be a better compromise -- it still has the Metro, and a cute, nice downtown area.
post #10 of 41
Thread Starter 
Good to know! I would prefer the less cookie cutter type area. Access to the Metro would be good too. We like to take the train from our area to San Francisco.

I'll have to look more into Rockville..... Thanks!

Any other areas to look into? What about Silver Springs and north of that? I may not be working so we will have to watch our finances. But I am looking into a home based business (which I have no idea where to start with that!).

Just for my curiosity, is Norther VA out of the question? My husband does not like to commute more than 30 minutes. We have always tried to live close to work.

You guys are wonderful! If this actually happens, I will definitely try to organize a get together
post #11 of 41
If he's working in Bethesda, NoVa is out. So is Germantown, if he's unwilling to drive more than 30mn. Traffic is horrible here.

Silver Spring is more affordable, and also has some cute, less expensive areas. The schools are not as good as Bethesda/Rockville -- more poverty. Silver Spring definitely lacks the cookie cutter look of Germantown, but you would really be pushing the 30mn boundary. It would depend on the part of Silver Spring (Which is huge, geographically.) What looks like 10 miles on a map would probably take you 30-40 mn to drive.

Garrett Park, as the PP mentioned, is cute, but there's not much there in terms of rentals. Another area to check out is Kensington. That would be a decent commute to Bethesda.

If you're willing to live in DC, you'd be doing the reverse commute into Bethesda in the morning, so you could check out some adjacent NW areas in DC.

DC has some stunning areas, and a lot of really really bad areas, so I would never rent something sight unseen in the District, even with pictures. You need to drive around the neighborhood and check it out. District schools are also quite bad.
post #12 of 41
You might also like Takoma Park and Silver Spring - a tiny bit more affordable and very liberal. It really depends on the neighborhoods you look at. Of course, now it seems like you can get much better deals on houses than you could in the past 6 years. I would think any part of lower Montgomery county would be fine. BTW, I had a VBAC in Silver Spring. The four schools in Silver Spring that are north of Randolph Road score as well as the rich side of the county on test scores for elementary schools. There is also a large homeschooling community as well as other alternative school options.
post #13 of 41
Thread Starter 
Hum, I wonder if my husband can flex his hours like he does here. He is usually at work by 6:30 am! I usually can drag myself out of bed by 7

We have some pretty horrible commute times in some parts of this area. Same with when I lived in Atlanta. I was actually looking at being close to decent backroads.

I would definitely not rent sight unseen. Is that something common in that area? That is pretty crazy. I am too dang picky. But it is fun looking at houses. We think we may be able to actually buy something. Our rule is that the payment must not be more than rent in the area. We have a house my husband bought in Phoenix when he just got out of college and we have good tenants. We may be able to refinance the house to get a decent down payment. I want to keep expenses as low as possible so I have more options. Because the hiring environment is not looking that good and I have been there and way done that!

Any good websites for renting houses? Craigslist is big out here but I did not see much on it out there. Any thoughts?

I can not thank you all enough. You guys are really helping me feel better about all of this....
post #14 of 41
I recommend Craigslist as well. The market has slowed down a lot, so now is a good time to buy if you can get the financing.
post #15 of 41
Check where your DH would be working in Bethesda - if he works right off the beltway or 270, he'll have an easier commute to other areas. I used to work in North Bethesda and lived in Silver Spring (no -s) and it was a 20 minute commute most days at 7 am, occasionally longer when traffic was bad. I like areas of Silver Spring, Takoma Park, Kensington and Garrett Park to live, from experience).

I enjoy living in Maryland - I grew up here - although there are negatives, I have found a lot of support and fun here!
post #16 of 41
Thread Starter 
My husband will be working in this triangle formed by 270 and 495. It looks like we may be able to buy, we have to see what the relocation package has in it (sometimes they help with fees and points). But, I think I would prefer to buy, the rent looks only slightly less than here, but the housing is so much cheaper. Decisions, decisions. This is going to be stressful, I can tell

Would all these places be ok for the commute my husband will have?
post #17 of 41
That is a really good place to work, IMO, because it is easy access. I'd say Silver Spring would work, commute-wise, if you are close to a beltway exit. Depending on your price range, you should have many choices of where to love. Do you prefer the older neighborhoods, and if so, what age house? There is a large variety in the area. Do you want a close knit neighborhood, or something extremely walkable, or close to a neighborhood school? Do you need something near a specific kind of market (organic, ethnic)? If you don't mind sharing, what price range might you look at?
post #18 of 41
Yes, it would be helpful to know price range

Bethesda is a little on the polished side of things. It is very upscale and feels kind of stuffy to me sometimes. Obviously it is chock full of stores and shopping and restaurants and anything you can imagine service-wise.

I could imagine someone who is crunchy coming to the DC area being more satisfied in someplace like Takoma Park, parts of Silver Spring, or even someplace like Brookland DC. It would especially make sense to look in these other areas if you were thinking of spending in the $400-$600K range on a house. If on the other hand you really have $700-$1MK to spend on a house, what the heck, check out some Bethesda neighborhoods and you might find a really fabulous home.

No matter what, you are going to find like-minded people around here. There are very strong natural birth, breastfeeding, homeschooling, etc., communities around here. All of that would be particularly concentrated in Takoma Park (in my opinion) - but you will also find like-minded people all over. It's a relatively liberal area. For VBAC most women have greatest success with a homebirth midwife. But that's a whole 'nother conversation.
post #19 of 41
Thread Starter 
Price range. Well, it kinda depends on the interest rates and if they will actually do 4% interest rates. That would be cool. I would say we could afford about $1500 a month. So no, I can not afford 700K or even 400K (unless those interest really take a dive!). I wish! We would have bought a house long ago (but then, we would be screwed because of the housing market and have to definitely say no to this move because of it). We are going to look at both options and see what that looks like. It would also depend on if we can refinance the AZ house we have as well as the relocation package (some times they pay for closing costs, realtor, etc.).

Honestly though, I have no idea! Utilities here run low because a)you normally do not need air conditioning in the summer and b) "winter" is kinda like fall for you guys. I gave away all my winter jackets from Atlanta. Today, it is "cold" with a high of 54F. And it does not truly rain here. So I figure out utility bills will be higher. But, then again, maybe not because our per unit cost may be higher than out there. But then gas prices will be cheaper out there. Possibly even food prices.

I prefer a house with character. I don't care how old it is, as long as it is structurally good and the utilites are working. I would be a little scared to buy an older house for that reason, but I would easily rent an older house (we are in a house from the 50s right now and I grew up in a house built in the 30s).

Having lived in a rural area or suburbs, I am used to driving my car 10+ miles to things (so living close to specific things is not a requirement). Although, in CA, we have only put 10K miles on our main car. Which has been nice.

And the VBAC conversation will probably be held sooner than later. I want about 3.5 year age difference between the kiddos and my son is getting close to 1.5 years old. 1 year of pregnancy/TTC and we should get busy in a year! DH will love to hear that (he already asked if I was going to want to get pregnant quickly if I was a SAHM I have already warned him that my VBAC may have to turn into a HBAC and he looked a little scared (the last delivery scared him pretty bad - especially since I was really sick and was close to ICU territory 5 days later due to complications).

post #20 of 41
There won't be much close to Bethesda in the Less-than-$350k range - that close to DC if you see something lower, generally there is something up - house needs repair, not so great schools, house is on a huge hill or busy street ect. That's not to say you won't find something, but it will be more work - jumping on a deal or waiting out a shortsale.

I like the neighborhood I grew up in, in Silver Spring - if you use Redfin, type in 20901 woodmoor or 20901 Indian Spring Village. It is at the corner of 29 (colesville rd) and 193 (University Blvd). It is very convenient to the Beltway, and has a pretty active Moms group (Moms of Woodmoor yahoo group)

Just my preference

As far as a VBAC or HBAC, I think they would depend who you go with for a provider. I don't think a VBAC is too hard to come by, and there are great resources to help you out.
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