Growing up in the heart of suburbia, I never appreciated my hometown as much as I do today. But once I looked past the surplus of grocery stores, banks and chain restaurants, I was able to uncover the hidden gems of Montgomery County, Maryland.

It may seem strange to consider my “hometown” a county, but I never allowed the boundaries of the city listed on my address [Brookeville] to confine me. Brookeville is one of many towns included in Montgomery County. It may not have much to offer other than beautiful houses and the fact that it was the capital of the United States for one day during the War of 1812, but it is where my childhood home resides. A piece of my heart will always belong to it.

Like most teenagers, my friends and I were always on the hunt for things to do. The easy answer was to take the metro into Washington D.C., however, some of my favorite memories come from our adventures closer to home. Here are my top four spots in “MoCo.”

Favorite place to eat: Sister’s Sandwiches & Such

Eating healthy, fresh food outside of my own kitchen sometimes seems impossible. That all changed in June 2010 when two local sisters opened Sister’s Sandwiches & Such in a historic building known as Higgens Tavern. The building, located in Olney, Maryland, was once a trading post built in the 1820s. Now, the two-story house that could not look more out of place in front of a modern shopping center, holds mouth watering soups, salads, sandwiches and cookies along with locally-made crafts for sale. The petite yellow house creates a warm, homey environment and allows for seating inside and outside. On a warm, sunny day I take my delicious salad [Vinny’s salad to be specific] overflowing with diced gouda cheese, candied pecans, Granny Smith apples and a scoop of chicken salad onto the porch or front patio. Nothing gives summertime vibes better than enjoying a fresh salad outside with friends or family.

Favorite place to get some fresh air: Great Falls

From first glance, I may not look like the outdoorsy type. Yes, I own hiking boots! Yes, half of my wardrobe is athletic wear [some of it is Lululemon sorry, not sorry]! I may not love bugs, but I am a girl who loves an adventure. I have found that surrounding myself in nature is the best way to clear my head. There are many good hiking trails in Maryland that draw me along with many locals and tourists outside. Great Falls Park is located along the Potomac River and holds my favorite trails, known as the Billy Goat Trails. The views of the rapids and various waterfalls surrounded by greenery never get old. From rock-hopping to tiptoeing through the mud, the well-marked trails hold many exciting twists and turns. No matter the occasion, I always leave with sweat on my brow and a smile on my face.

Favorite sweet spot: Jimmie Cone

I pride myself on enjoying the little things in life, so when my sweet tooth calls I do not ignore it. Most days, I can satisfy it with fruit or a Kind bar, but sometimes it requires the real deal. By this I mean ice cream from my favorite local ice-cream parlor. Located in Damascus and Mt. Airy, Maryland, Jimmie Cone is a highly visited soft serve ice-cream shop. With its outdoor seating, it has become a summer bucket list destination for many Maryland locals since 1962. Every summer I make the trip for a classic vanilla with rainbow jimmies on a cake cone. Their menu holds many other appealing options like snowballs and sundaes that look so tempting to try. The real question is, what will I get this year?

Favorite yoga studio: The Spring Yoga & Natural Health Center

I grew up on sports like gymnastics and dance. While I believe yoga is beneficial for everyone, I can see why it was especially easy for me to incorporate the practice into my life. The Spring Yoga & Natural Health Center is a short five-minute drive from my house and offers endless wellness practices. They have something for everybody, but aerial yoga is what caught my attention. The class size is small and the instructors are so kind and helpful. We went through various poses that included hanging upside down, standing on the hammock, laying in the hammock and using the hammock for support during different stretches. The idea to sign-up started as just a fun thing to do with a friend, but we both left with the intention of going back. If you are ever in town and need to get your body moving, then these classes are a simple online signup away!

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