The main reasons to visit are antique shopping at Antique Row, to see the enormous Mormon Temple, and one great pizza place. Aside from that, it's just a quiet suburban town with some odd quirks. Sections of the "Town of Kensington" are really beautiful, with big old Victorian homes set in a nice community by parks and Antique Row—looking much as it did when Kensington was a summer getaway from the big city.
Usually a quiet little suburb, Kensington made national news in 2001 when the city council banned Santa Claus from the neighborhood, citing the separation of Church and State. How on earth can this be possible, you ask? Some of the townspeople objected to having the local fire department flying around the neighborhood with a religious figure in tow, tossing candy to kids, so the town council banned Santa Claus from his usual fire engine tour of the town. Following national media attention, there was an enormous Santa Claus protest, where dozens of Santa Clauses arrived on motorcycles to assure Kensington that St Nick would indeed be coming to town!
The main arteries leading north from Washington, D.C. and the Beltway are Connecticut Ave and Wisconsin Ave. Connecticut Ave runs straight through the center of Kensington. Turn right at Strathmore/Knowles Ave and follow it to the end to get to Antique Row.
Despite being so easy to see from the Beltway, the Mormon Temple is somewhat difficult to find because there is no direct way to get there from a Beltway exit. The easiest and most navigable path is to take Connecticut Avenue to Beach Drive eastbound and, when it ends, make a left turn on Stoneybrook Drive.
Uber is a popular method of transport in Kensington for those without a car.
MARC operates service to/from Union Station in Washington DC on the Brunswick Line. The train also stops in Frederick, Gaithersburg, and Germantown. The train station in Kensington is on Antique Row. Trains are not frequent and usually only run during rush hour.
The bus fares are $1.75 and can be paid using a SmarTrip card.
The center part of Kensington is small and compact enough to be easily walkable. Other parts of Kensington are easiest to get around by card. RideOn Bus 4 has stops at Antique Row, the Mormon Temple, and the center part of Kensinton. The National Park Seminary is not connected by public transportation.
- 1 LDS Mormon Temple Visitor Center, 9900 Stoneybrook Dr. 10AM-9PM daily. The Mormon Temple is by far and away Kensington's most significant attraction. Most people only see it from the Beltway, where it rises high above the treeline, looking similar enough to the Emerald Palace in the Wizard of Oz. It inspired a local graffiti artist to paint "Surrender Dorothy" on the overpass on the Outer Loop. (The temple is actually white, though.) It's not possible to enter the Mormon Temple itself unless you are a Mormon and hold a church-issued permit known as a "Temple recommend". However, the grounds are pretty, and there is a Visitor Center open to all and they've done a nice job with it. It hosts regular events (see website for calendar) and movie screenings throughout the day every day of the year, in addition to a permanent multimedia display. The building itself and the grounds surrounding it are immaculate and pretty. The season to visit the Mormon Temple is around Christmas. The light display is truly spectacular, especially given that the grounds and temple are impressive enough to merit a visit without the display. The light display runs throughout Advent, and is absolutely worth seeking out if you are in the area. In addition to the light display, the Visitor Center shows its best face, with more than a dozen large, decorated Christmas trees, international nativity scenes, and a live outdoor nativity scene. It's a great place for all ages, and is certain to stir a little of the Christmas spirit. Free.
- 3 Rock Creek Trail, Rock Creek Park. The 14-mile trail is a paved multi-use path that runs along Rock Creek. It is often used by bicyclists, runners, walkers, pets, and baby strollers. Take the trail north from Kensinton to go to Lake Needwood Regional Park, where a person can rent canoes during the summer. Take the trail south from Kensington to go to Beach Drive in Washington, D.C., which leads to the Smithsonial National Zoo and the National Mall. There are some signs on the trail, but not quite enough, and it can sometimes be a bit unclear how to stay on the trail. Free.
- 1 Kensington Antique Row, Howard Ave (East of Connecticut Ave) (Take a right off of Connecticut Ave after the Knowles Ave intersection onto East Howard Ave). The largest and oldest antiquing center in the Washington DC metropolitan area. Items for sale include everything from furniture to books. On-street parking, as well as shop parking is usually no problem.
- Lord & Taylor, formerly an anchor of the now demolished White Flint Mall.￼
- 1 China Gourmet, 3739 University Blvd W, ☏ . M-F 11:30AM-3PM, 5PM-10PM, Sa noon-10:30PM, Su noon-9:30PM. A run-of-the-mill Chinese restaurant, which, while having nothing-special food, is a nicely furnished place to sit over a meal. There's a well-stocked bar in the back. $8-16.
- 2 Continental Pizza, 10532 Connecticut Ave, ☏ . M-Sa 10AM-8:30PM. Continental is a hole-in-the-wall, with a unique-style, delicious pizza on the cheap. People drive from way out of town to get it. The steak and cheese sub is likely the best in the metropolitan area, and the fries are thick and smothered with Maryland's famous Old Bay. Cash only. Large pizza with toppings: $8.
- 3 The Dish & Dram, 10301 Kensington Pkwy, ☏ . Food made with fresh ingredients. Extensive whiskey menu.
- 4 Frankly Pizza, 10417 Armory Ave (Antique Row), ☏ . Brick-oven pizza. Seating either indoors or on their outdoor patio.
- 5 K-Town Bistro, 3784 Howard Ave (Antique Row), ☏ . Fine dining in a casual, comfortable restaurant. International menu.
- 6 JennyCakes Bakery, 10419 Armory Ave, ☏ . Cupcakes, cookies, and other tasty treats.
- 1 Java Nation, 10516 Connecticut Ave, ☏ . Coffee, beer, and sandwiches.
- 2 Knowles Station Wine & Co., 10414 Detrick Ave, ☏ . Sun-Thu 10 AM - 10 PM, Fri-Sat 10 AM - 11 PM. Wine, snacks, appetizers, salads, sandwiches
The two natural destinations coming from Kensington, aside from heading back into Washington, D.C., are the dining and nightlife scenes in Silver Spring and Bethesda.
- Silver Spring is easy to get to by car (via the Beltway to the Georgia Ave exit) or Ride On Bus #5
- Bethesda is easy to get to by car via Wisconsin Ave south, or by Ride On Bus #34
|Routes through Kensington|
|Springfield ← Bethesda ←||W E||→ Silver Spring → Greenbelt|
|Martinsburg ← Rockville ←||NW SE||→ Silver Spring → Washington, D.C.|