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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Montgomery County, Maryland Prime

Some smaller markets become known as the hub of the surrounding rural region. Others make the most of their proximity to a major metropolitan area. Such is the case for Maryland’s Montgomery County.

Located just outside of the nation’s capital, Montgomery County offers easy access to Washington and its attractions, but it also has its own venues and attractions.

“Planners will be pleased with the diversity of amenities,” said Kelly Groff, president/CEO of Visit Montgomery. “And the proximity to Washington is a big asset. I don’t think people realize just how close we are.”

The county is served by the Washington Metro’s Red Line, which gives visitors a convenient alternative to driving into the city. The Smithsonian Institution, the Kennedy Center, war memorials, other national monuments, the White House and U.S. Capitol are all near-by.

Formed in 1776 and named after a Revolutionary War general, Montgomery County’s best-known towns and cities include Rockville, Silver Spring, Bethesda, Gaithersburg and Germantown. The county is home to 1.8 million people as well as headquarters for 18 federal agencies. With its above-average standard of living, the area has built and maintained a forward-looking, welcoming environment that attracts some 7 million tourists each year.

The area has a wealth of accommodations and meeting facilities, including 10,000 hotel rooms. “We can accommodate conferences of any size,” Groff said.

A combination of urban and rural features appeals to a variety of visitors, according to Groff. About a third of the county’s 450 square miles is zoned for agriculture.

“Attractive farming areas are complemented by heritage sites,” she said. “And there are great biking opportunities.”

Groff said that fall and spring are especially popular times for visitors. She also noted that a progressive outlook is the norm.

“I’ve been here 20 years and everything continues to evolve,” she said. “In the process, the area has benefited from good planning.”

Major Event Space

The 436-room Bethesda North Marriott Hotel and Conference Center has 13 meeting rooms with 50,000 square feet of space. A large ballroom can accommodate up to 3,000. The property operates as a public-private partnership.

The conference center at the Universities at Shady Grove can accommodate up to 500 guests. Including its complex of academic buildings, the campus has more than 300,000 square feet of meeting space available. Much of it is classroom space, but there is also an 8,700-square-foot ballroom, a 305-seat auditorium and breakout rooms.

The National 4-H Conference Center in Chevy Chase has 40,000 square feet of meeting space in up to 41 rooms, as well as hotel accommodations.

Country-Style Options

Smokey Glen Farm, on 30 acres near Gaithersburg, handles groups from 50 to 6,000. A dining pavilion and options for covered and open seating are available. Guests have access to softball fields, volleyball courts, a miniature golf course and a hiking and mountain bike trail.

The expansive High Point Farm, just north of Germantown, accommodates from 10 to 10,000 guests and features six event sites of five to eight acres each. Guests enjoy pavilions, volleyball courts, horseshoe pits, and basketball courts. Corporate groups can book athletic packages and a designated recreational team-building area.