45 Minutes from DC: A Review of the Frederick, MD Area
My tastes are perhaps embarrassingly old for someone relatively young. My favorite musical is Yankee Doodle Dandy with James Cagney portraying the American playwright, actor, and producer, George M. Cohan. One of Cohan’s famous songs from a musical by the same name is “Forty-Five Minutes from Broadway.” It’s chorus goes, “only forty-five minutes from Broadway / think of the changes it brings; / For the short time it takes / What a diff’rence it makes / In the ways of the people and things.” Just 45 minutes up the I-270 corridor the greater Frederick, Maryland area is a completely different world from the hustle and bustle of D.C. while still being close enough for a family trip or daily commute.
Let’s handle the downside of the tradeoffs first.
If you are working at Fort Detrick, you have a quick 15 minute commute.
But, if you’re heading into D.C. the commute is not your easy quarter-mile walk to the Metro and short ride into the city from Arlington, Alexandria, Bethesda or Silver Spring. It requires a bit more planning. My title is a little deceiving. It is forty-five minutes from my house in Urbana, MD to D.C. … when there is no traffic. Unfortunately, the I-270 corridor during rush hour will add twenty to thirty minutes to your commute.
I give myself two hours to commute to the Pentagon, but it usually only takes me an hour and a half. I have about a 20 to 30-minute drive to Shady Grove Metro Station at the end of the Red Line. The WMATA (Metro) schedule has the commute from Shady Grove to Pentagon Station clocking in at 59 minutes.
Needless to say, you aren’t working in D.C. and living in the greater Frederick area for the easy commute.
If your choice to live in Frederick is not for the easy commute, the tradeoff is the lifestyle. Some people LOVE the city and that is great. For you, paying a premium for a duplex and the soothing sounds of the local train rumbling by at 3 a.m. fulfills all of your lifelong dreams.
For others, the city is nice to visit but best kept at a distance. If you would rather have half a football field between you and your neighbor, measure your property in acres rather than square-feet, and see more corn fields than sky-rises - then Frederick is more your style.
For me, the decision to live up here was three-fold. First, my family is from this general area so being near family was an important factor. Aside from that it was about raising my kids in a place where there was room to run with a large yard and no need for bars on the windows or even locks on the doors. The final reason was bang for the buck. For the same BAH you get three times the house square-footage and property acreage. The schools are top-notch in an already highly rated state for public education and the property taxes are much friendlier (if you are buying).
You can still take the short commute into the D.C. on the weekend to see the sights of the city, but there is also so much to do right in your backyard.
The Local Attractions
Left photo via Visit Frederick
The I-270 corridor has a lot to do such as the Clarksburg Outlets, but for the purposes of this I will stick to the Frederick area. Here are some of my favorites:
Monocacy Crossing Restaurant
This cute and quaint restaurant is unassuming from the outside, but leaves nothing to assumption in their quality of food and service. Like most other things about the area that I love, it is off the beaten path - just five miles south of Frederick. Their self-described elegant casual dining style and business casual dress code makes this comfortable enough for a spur of the moment experience and simultaneously formal enough for a special night out. Their master chef, Rich Regan, is phenomenal and offers the best that American contemporary cuisine has to offer. Try their pork tenderloin with sage-cider sauce and scalloped potatoes; you won’t regret it!
Historic Downtown Frederick
All the feels of M Street in downtown Georgetown without the traffic and noise, Historic Downtown Frederick offers over 200 specialty shops and restaurants. It is great for Holiday shopping, a night out with your spouse or significant other, or a Saturday with the kids. My favorite things about Downtown are seeing the beautiful houses with turret peaks popular in mid-19th century Queen Anne-style architecture and then stopping into Brewer’s Alley for a 1634 Ale and some boneless Old Bay wings.
The Great Outdoors
You like the outdoors? Take your pick of activity. How about baseball? Catch a Frederick Keys Minor League Baseball game with double the fun of an MLB game at a fraction of the price. Do you like fishing? Head on down to the Monocacy River and catch a Perch, Bluegill, or Bass. Deer hunting more your style? Check out the Frederick Municipal Forest. Take the family out for a weekend in the woods at Little Bennett Campground. I personally love hiking up Sugarloaf Mountain for the great views. You like golfing? Check out one of the over 26 golf courses near Frederick such as Whiskey Creek and other championship greens.
My personal favorite is, after fishing and swimming in the Monocacy River, walking around the Monocacy Civil War Battlefield. And if you want more Civil War History, Gettysburg is just 40 minutes north and Antietam is a mere 40 minutes west.
Only 45 minutes from D.C., think of the changes it brings. For the short time it takes, what a diff’rence it makes in the ways of the people and things!
about the author
Doug Meyer is a husband, and a father to two fierce and enthusiastic little girls. He is an active duty infantry officer in the U.S. Army and currently a master’s candidate at the Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy. Doug is the founder and curator of The Company Leader, an online forum focused on sharing leadership lessons from the tactical level of war. He is also a member of the Military Writers Guild.