British explorer John Smith mapped his first voyage up the Potomac in 1608, his ship blocked by Great Falls, a 350-foot-wide, 75-foot-high cascade that spans the width of the Potomac. In 1785, George Washington began construction on a canal that would bypass Great Falls to bring coal from western Maryland to Georgetown. A new light rail was built in 1906 to connect an amusement park in Great Falls to Washington, DC. The popular tourist attraction operated until 1972, when Hurricane Agnes destroyed the carousel. Today, Great Falls Park remains a favorite place for picnicking and hiking, but there’s more to enjoy among the rolling hills and dales. While development persists throughout the region, Great Falls clings to its rural heritage by preserving Georgetown Pike, a historic byway. So take a ride to Great Falls for a day of surprising discoveries.
1. A local institution, the Old Brogue Irish Pub is the perfect spot to watch Major League Soccer with like-minded fans. The restaurant offers a mix of specials, like prime rib night on Wednesdays and fried chicken nights on Thursdays. But every day is a good day to try the fish and chips or traditional Irish breakfast of beans, tomato, eggs, and ham. 760 Walker Rd.
2. The frosty confections at Great Falls Creamery keep the lines long throughout the year, even in the colder months. The ice cream and sorbets are made from natural ingredients with a variety of traditional and innovative flavors. While the lineup changes seasonally, look for s’mores, pumpkin, and cinnamon this time of year. 766-C Walker Rd.
3. Ask a local about Mookie’s BBQ, and they’ll wax poetic about the burnt ends. If you’re unfamiliar with this delicacy, burnt ends are “meat candy,” created by cooking brisket low and slow and then cutting off the pointy ends (or deckle). Mookie’s serves up smoked meats with sauces that enhance the flavor, accompanied by cornbread, collards, and baked mac and cheese. 1141 Walker Rd.
4. Pio Pio Peruvian Cuisine is best known for its exceptional ceviche. Chef and owner Danny Pain attributes his imaginative recipes to his mother and grandmother, and his best reference is having a huge following among Latin American expats. His prowess is on display when you order the appetizer platter. 762-A Walker Rd.
5. Located in the courtyard of the Great Falls Village Centre, the fashion boutique Vivid Chill is inspired by the colors found in owner Marika Tsombikos’ Aegean homeland. She selects the vibrant apparel, jewelry, skin care, and home accessories for their emphasis on sustainability and quality production. 752-C Walker Rd.
6. If you like graceful and exclusive merchandise, you’ll love BedHeaders Home. The owner has curated a collection that will enhance your style in your home and on your person. Quality gifts? You’ll find lotions and candles by Aussie-glam Glasshouse and serveware by Lynn & Liana. 9895 Georgetown Pk.
7. The Artists’ Atelier in Great Falls Village exhibits fine art created by 10 local artists. Walk through this co-op gallery to immerse in sites around the DMV (by photographer Walt Lawrence and painter Joyce Lee) and around the world (by Roberta Beasley and Jill Banks). The studio also hosts classes and workshops. 756 Walker Rd.
8. The circa-1811 mill on the Colvin Run Mill Historic Site was owned by the Millard family and their 20 children. Within the property is the miller’s house, a general store, the mill, and a nature trail. The 20-foot waterwheel is powered by Difficult Run, and still churns out grits, cornmeal, and stone-ground wheat flour. Events include cider making, holiday festivities, and wood carving. 10017 Colvin Run Rd.
9. The customers at Señor Ramon Taqueria & Bites Grilled Cheese Bar are all smiles. This taco and sandwich shop is a welcome addition to the neighborhood and caters to hungry families and hikers. If you’re familiar with Leesburg, you’ve probably tried these two hot spots, but in Great Falls, they’ve combined forces to serve authentic Mexican street food and American cuisine. Don’t miss the happy hour bargains on the margaritas. 9900 Georgetown Pk.
10. The gems at this upscale store might surpass your pay scale, but it’s worth gazing at the exclusive designs on display at Adeler Jewelers for inspiration. Some Adeler family creations are worn by stars like Jennifer Lopez and Danica Patrick. 772 Walker Rd.