Olney, along with its smaller neighbors Sandy Spring and Brookeville, lies in the northeast of Montgomery County, Maryland. All three are quiet, wealthy towns and exurbs of Washington, D.C., home to a good-sized Quaker population, and with a more rural, slow-paced character than other suburbs of D.C.
This area's first European settlement was a Quaker community in Sandy Spring in the early eighteenth century. Nearly one century later, a Quaker couple of the names Thomas and Deborah Brooke founded both the town of Brookeville and the village of Olney (named after the hometown Ms. Brooke's favorite English poet, William Cowper). During the first half of the nineteenth century, Sandy Spring in particular was an important stop on the Underground Railroad, as the Quakers (the Society of Friends) were devoted abolitionists and early proponents of racial equality in America. Long a sleepy agricultural area, Olney in the second half of the twentieth century outgrew its neighbors by a large margin, becoming an home for affluent D.C. commuters.
Car is the only way to travel in this area, and MD-97 (Georgia Ave) is the principal north-south route cutting through both Olney and Brookeville, and coming up from Washington, D.C. via Wheaton/Aspen Hill. The most prominent east-west route is MD-108 (Olney-Latonsville Rd/Ashton Rd), which connects with I-95 via MD-32 (Patuxent Fwy).
A few bus routes will get you here from D.C., but you will likely need someone to pick you up by car once you get there.
The Z2 Metrobus runs straight from the Silver Spring Metro Red Line station to the intersection of MD-97 and MD-108, traveling mainly along New Hampshire Ave. The Y2, Y7, Y8 Metrobus routes travel to the same intersection, and also just beyond to Montgomer General Hospital, but do so from the Glenmont station (last stop on the Metro Red Line), traveling along Georgia Ave.
- Sandy Spring Museum, 17901 Bentley Road, Sandy Spring, ☎ . M,W-Th 9AM-4PM, Sa-Su noon-4PM. Designed after the fashion of an eighteenth century Sandy Spring farmouse, the museum is charming, with exhibits on local history, space for catered events and meetings, and frequent events (especially in the summer), largely jazz and classical performances, art shows, and lectures. The museum shop is neat, with an assortment of locally made crafts and art.
- Olney Theatre, 2001 MD-108, ☎ . Olney is lucky to have such a nice theater, specializing in twentieth century American theater, but also featuring from time to time contemporary works, concerts, and a Shakespeare summer festival. Dramatic performances generally run about $50/ticket.
- Sandy Spring Meeting House, 17715 Meetinghouse Rd (Just off MD-108). If you have ever wondered what Quakerism is about, attending a meeting couldn't be easier. The best Meeting for Worship for a visitor is on Sundays at 11AM (except the first Sunday of the month). Just go in a few minutes beforehand, take a seat, and be prepared to sit for about a half hour in silent reflection. (Quakers do not dress up for worship, so it's fine to come as you are.) The locals are a friendly bunch who are more than happy to answer any questions you have afterward. The Meeting House itself is a pretty, historic, brick building dating back to 1817.
- Under the Sun emporium, 905 sandy spring road (east on 108 to Sandy Spring), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Mon,Wed,Thu,Fri 11-7 Sat 10-6, Sun 12-5 closed Tuesday. A true emporium offering a little bit of everything...antiques to unicycles! Crystals,stones,tapestries, incense, boho clothing,toys, kites and lots of cool stuff!
- Inn at Brookeville Farms, 19501 Georgia Ave (MD-97), Brookeville, ☎ . Lunch: Tu-F 11:30AM-3PM; dinner: Tu-Th 4:30PM-9PM, F-Sa 4:30PM-10PM, Su 4:30PM-7PM; brunch: Su 10:30AM-2:30PM. Easily the most charming restaurant for at least 20 miles in any direction, housed in an absolutely beautiful 100 year old Brookeville farmhouse. The inn specializes in Maryland and regional cuisine focusing on local ingredients, updated to contemporary American standards of fine dining. Popular for events, especially weddings. For an exceptionally romantic evening, reserve the private room for two! $30-45.
- Olney Ale House, 2000 MD-108, ☎ . Su,Tu-Th 11:30AM-10PM, F-Sa 11:30AM-11PM. A local institution with the "feel of a traditional Irish pub and the historic American roadhouse." A great place for a casual dinner or some great sandwiches and a couple beers. $7-20.
- Ricciuti's, 3308 MD 108, ☎ . M-Th 11:30AM-9PM, F-Sa 11:30AM-10PM, Su 5PM-10PM. A marvelous upscale but casual Italian-American restaurant with a penchant for local, organic ingredients, and lovely indoor or outdoor seating areas. To bring down the price a bit, try one of their delicious wood-fired pizzas. $20-40; prix fixe: $30/three courses.