South of the University of Maryland at College Park, Hyattsville is a diverse, politically-liberal suburban city in the Gateway Arts District.
Formed along the Rhode Island Avenue corridor, the Gateway Arts District is a long-term revitalization plan, in which public-private partnerships offer low rents and studio space for artists.
The upshot for Hyattsville is a bohemian community, nurturing artists and community-oriented businesses. These are as varied as a meadery, or a craft brewery serving hearing-impaired people.
In the same spirit, Hyattsville is at the nucleus of the Anacostia Tributary Trail System, with trails shooting off in all directions along the branches of the river and Sligo Creek.
1. Downtown Hyattsville
Hyattsville’s sense of creativity is obvious on main drag along Route 1, where there’s a string of galleries, artists’ studios, yoga/dance studios, boutiques and a number of art-oriented independent stores for art and craft supplies.
You can shop for used books, fabrics, homewares, handmade jewelry, yarn, organic groceries, fashion, bicycle accessories, the list goes on.
When it comes to cuisine the choice dances from southern-style seafood to West African, BBQ, Thai, contemporary Indian, Caribbean, Mexican, Ethiopian, Salvadoran and Dominican, all a reflection of Hyattsville’s inclusive community.
Seventeen of the twenty murals commissioned by the city can be seen on or near Route 1, and you can download an interactive map for a walking tour of these transformative works.
2. Pyramid Atlantic Art Center (PAAC)
Located in Hyattsville since 2017, the PAAC is a non-profit contemporary arts center, founded in 1981 by artist and curator Helen C. Frederick.
The center features a gallery space named for its founder, with exciting themed and solo exhibitions. There are all kinds of artist opportunities at the PAAC, from residencies, internships and juried exhibitions.
Also here are several art studios, among them a print shop, papermaking studio and bindery. On the education side, the center hosts demos and talks, workshops, classes and studio happy hours for members.
3. Anacostia Tributary Trail System
In Hyattsville you might notice just how easy it is to get around on foot or by bike. This has a lot to do with a giant system of paved hiker-biker trails, converging at a zero milepost in Hyattsville’s Port Towns area.
True to its name, the network follows the tributaries of the Anacostia River, which meet at Hyattsville’s southern boundary to form the river’s main stem.
In Hyattsville you can follow the Northeast and Northwest branches, and get onto the three-mile Anacostia River Trail, which will take you to the fantastic Bladensburg Waterfront Park.
There’s also almost nine miles of trail along Sligo Creek, which feeds the Northwest Branch on the west side of Hyattsville. Added to all that is the Rhode Island Avenue Trolley Trail, on the former route of Streetcar 82 through College Park and Hyattsville.
4. University of Maryland (UMD)
Hyattsville’s north end extends to the main campus of the largest university in both Maryland and the Washington, D.C. area.
The campus is on an enormous scale, and at its heart is McKeldin Mall, officially the largest quad of any university in the United States at nine acres.
Even if you’re not a prospective student, there are plenty of reasons to keep UMD in your plans.
For live culture and entertainment there’s a lot happening at the labyrinthine Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, the largest single building ever constructed in Maryland, and housing a variety of performance spaces including a 962-seat concert hall and a 626-seat proscenium theatre.
You’ve also got Big Ten sports, courtesy of the Maryland Terrapins, with particularly strong women’s and men’s basketball teams, playing at the Xfinity Center, which would rival an NBA arena and has an electric atmosphere that needs to be experienced.
5. Riversdale House Museum
You can tackle a fascinating but also troubling piece of local history at this grand Georgian mansion built at the very start of the 19th century.
Riversdale House once held sway over a 739-acre plantation, founded by Flemish aristocratic émigré Henri Joseph Stier who had fled the French Revolution.
He soon returned to Belgium, and it was his daughter Rosalie who completed the mansion and ran the plantation.
Her son was U.S. Representative Charles Benedict Calvert (1808-1864), who would establish the predecessor to the University of Maryland on part of this property. Rosalie Stier Calvert’s personal letters have been preserved and open a window on life at the mansion and plantation.
There are lots of threads to the history of Riversdale House, from the lives of the enslaved laborers to Rosalie, a rare woman property and business owner.
The house is a living attraction, with workshops, educational programs, special events and docent-guided tours all year.
6. College Park Aviation Museum
The other reason to keep College Park in your plans is because it has the oldest continuously functioning airport in the world.
Visiting this place will take you back to the very dawn of military aviation, when, in 1909 Wilbur Wright was commissioned by the government to teach the first military airmen to fly.
This groundbreaking chapter in world history is retold by the College Park Aviation Museum, which was open but undergoing a long-term renovation when we wrote this list.
On show are full-size reproductions of early aircraft, like the 1910 Wright Model B, two of which were purchased for College Park Airfield in 1911.
There’s also a replica of the Blèriot Type XI that made the first heavier-than-air crossing of the English Channel in July 1909.
Interactive exhibits record the many “firsts” that happened at the airfield, as well as the development of significant aircraft like the Ercoupe, important African-American aviators, and the ins-and-outs of early pilot training.
7. Bladensburg Waterfront Park
This popular Prince George’s County Park is immediately south of Hyattsville on the Anacostia riverfront.
You can get there with ease via the trail system, and it’s a trip well worth making in the summer when you can take part in water activities here.
You can rent kayaks, canoes and rowboats for the water, while bikes and trikes are available if you want to explore the trails on both banks of the river.
There’s history here too, as the Battle of Bladensburg (1814) was fought at this location during the War of 1812. The American defeat led to the capture and burning of Washington, and there are interpretive signs recounting the battle.
The river is tidal at this point, and during low water it’s not unusual to see terns, gulls and waders pecking around.
8. Vanadu Art House
On an otherwise ordinary suburban street in Hyattsville there’s something that looks like it might have come from another dimension.
Vanadu is the long-term work of artist and conservator, Clarke Bedford (b. 1947). In the 2000s he set about transforming his house and several vehicles, cladding them with recycled metal and repurposed decorative elements.
These pieces undergo an intricate process, in which they’re painted in layers and then aged with carburetor cleaner for a strange, timeless appearance.
The cars were the first to be given this treatment, and the house soon followed in 2007. For all the chaos there’s a satisfying uniformity to Vanadu, and it’s a measure of Hyattsville’s nonconformist personality that Bedford has never faced any objection to his masterpiece.
9. David C. Driskell Community Park
One of the many public parks connected to the Anacostia Tributary Trail System is this peaceful space previously known as Magruder Park.
There’s an interesting story behind the name change. Magruder Park was created in the 1920s, after a deed officially gave the land to the city on the proviso that it only be used, “…for the Caucasian inhabitants only of the said town of Hyattsville.”
While removing that segregationist language from the deed, the city also set about renaming the park by vote.
The winning figure was David Driskell (1931-2020), one of the world’s authorities on African American art, and Distinguished University Professor of Art, Emeritus, at UMD.
It’s poignant to remember that Driskell would have been unable to play here as a child. In terms of facilities, the park has open fields, tennis courts, two half courts for basketball, a baseball field, playground and sizable pool, open in the summer.
10. Busboys and Poets
Hyattsville has one of nine locations for this chain of progressive restaurants/cultural hubs born at 14th and V Streets, NW DC in 2005 as a reaction to the Iraq War.
Busboys and Poets is difficult to define, offering a restaurant, bar and bookstore, but also standing as a community gathering place. This spot opened in Hyattsville in 2011 and is at home in the city’s burgeoning literary and artistic communities.
There’s a lot to love, from a book club to author events, open mic poetry nights, a storytelling series for children and ample space provided at the bookstore for local writers.
For an idea of what’s on the menu, lunch and dinner entrees include blackened salmon, beans & wild rice, fried catfish with collard greens, crab cakes and cage-free fried chicken.
11. Hyattsville Armory
A prominent landmark downtown, opposite Busboys and Poets, is this castle-like National Guard armory building completed in 1918.
This was the first of its kind in Prince George’s County, and its Medieval appearance is typical for military facilities in the early 20th century.
The Hyattsville Armory was built from native Maryland granite, with ashlar limestone for its windows and doorways.
On the parapet above the main portal is a limestone relief of the State Seal of Maryland. The building has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1980 and is on a block slated to be transformed by the Hyattsville Canvas redevelopment project.
12. Maryland Meadworks
Hyattsville has a growing craft beverage scene, and for something a little unconventional there’s even a meadery. Maryland Meadworks was founded by Ken Carter, who has more than four decades of brewing experience.
For the uninitiated, mead is made by fermenting honey blended with water, and different flavors are created by infusing fruits, spices, hops, grains or other natural flavors like coffee or tea.
There were six meads on tap at the time of writing, among them the hoppy Bitter Bee, the smooth Mead Marian and Dragon’s Breath, infused with habanero peppers.
Maryland Meadworks partners with the local Shortcake Bakery for food, selling delicious Jamaican patties, brownies and blondies.
13. Streetcar 82 Brewing Co.
On the beer side of things there’s a craft brewery near the Hyattsville District Court Building on Rhode Island Ave.
Streetcar 82 Brewing Co is named for the old streetcar line that, until 1958, ran along Route 1 between Washington, D.C. and College Park. That sense of place is important to the founders, who all went to Gallaudet University in Washington.
On tap there’s a choice of beers for all palates, whether you go for hoppy (Fancy Nancy IPA), crisp (The Colonel Pilsner), tart (Poolside Service Sour) or malty (Paddy Workin’ on the Railway Irish Red Ale).
All three founders are hearing impaired, and Streetcar 82 is another local business offering an inclusive environment for all communities.
14. Downtown Hyattsville Arts Festival
There’s never a bad time to be in Hyattsville, but one of the best is mid-September for this annual street party taking up several blocks downtown.
This is the largest arts festival in Prince George’s County, attracting thousands of people to the city.
There’s usually a wide spectrum of exhibiting artists and artisans, for painting, photography, graphics/printmaking, glassblowing, jewelry design, ceramics, textiles, fashion, mosaics and many more disciplines.
These are combined with a tempting choice of food vendors, a number of participating craft breweries and a main stage with an eclectic bill of music acts.
15. Mall at Prince George’s
There’s a large enclosed mall in Hyattsville, on Hwy 410 and served by Prince George’s Plaza Metro station.
The Mall at Prince George’s dates back to the late 1950s when it was an open air shopping center, and became enclosed in the late 70s.
When we made this list many malls were in a downward spiral, but this spot still had decent occupancy rates.
A few of the national and international stores on hand were H&M, Claire’s, Macy’s, Victoria’s Secret, GameStop, Foot Locker, Kay Jewelers and Old Navy.
The food court was also in good shape, with ever-presents like Sbarro, Charleys Cheesesteaks, and branches of Chipotle Mexican Grill and McDonalds.