Set ten miles east of central Washington, D.C., New Carrollton is a suburb just within the Capital Beltway, which arcs around to the east.
New Carrollton is mainly residential, but with a busy commercial corridor on its south side, along Annapolis Road (Route 450).
The eastern and northeastern Washington suburbs are easily reached from this town, and there’s a lot to see in neighboring communities like Greenbelt, College Park and Bladensburg.
Within 15 minutes you can discover a whole catalog of museums, historical sites, parks, arenas, stadiums, cultural venues and important landmarks.
1. NASA Goddard Visitor Center
Too close to pass up, the one of NASA’s major space laboratories is no more than a couple of miles from New Carrollton.
In short, the Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) is the largest organization of scientists and engineers in the country devoted to expanding our understanding of the Earth, the Solar System, and the Universe through observations from space.
Among GSFC key missions are the Hubble Space Telescope and its successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, launched in 2021.
You can find out about these extraordinary operations at the visitor center, with interactive exhibits looking at communication in space, the sun, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), along with static displays of rockets from past missions on the grounds.
2. New Carrollton Community Day
An annual tradition in New Carrollton that goes back decades is Community Day, which normally happens at Beckett Field in September.
Rain or shine, the event gathers together the city’s businesses, services and local organizations, and is attended by government figures like Lieutenant Governor of Maryland (Boyd Rutherford at the time of writing).
There’s also live music, fun contests like pie-eating, and many food vendors and crafters. Community Day offers plenty for children to get up to, with games, inflatables, rides, entertainers, a climbing wall, face painting and a petting zoo.
3. Greenbelt Park
On New Carrollton’s north side is one of the largest expanses of parkland within the Capital Beltway.
Greenbelt Park’s origins reach back to the 1930s, and is one parcel of a literal greenbelt that was intended to surround the newly established city of the same name.
As it is, this national park is on almost 1,200 acres, either side of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.
The visitor facilities are on the west side of the highway, with an affordable 172-site campground that is open all year, and an extensive trail system through the woods, including a 5.3-mile perimeter trail.
4. Annapolis Road
Almost all of New Carollton’s commerce is concentrated in the very south of the town, at the intersection of Annapolis Road and the Capital Beltway.
The former is lined with shopping centers and dining establishments for miles to the east and west. In New Carrollton you’ve got branches for Lowe’s Home Improvement, K&G Fashion Superstore, Value City Furniture and Forman Mills.
Dining options are especially varied: You’ll come across a few regional and national chains like Mid Atlantic Seafood, Jersey Mike’s, Wendy’s and Bojangles, but there are also local spots for Salvadoran and West African food.
5. Bladensburg Waterfront Park
At the head of the main branch of the Anacostia River there’s an attractive park managed by Prince George’s County.
At Bladensburg Waterfront Park you can explore the river in every sense, taking to the water in a rented kayak, canoe or rowboat, or embarking on an interpretive riverboat tour.
This stretch of river is the site of the Battle of Bladensburg (1814), a damaging defeat that led to the British burning of Washington.
There are interpretive signs throughout the park, while the trails connect to the Anacostia Tributary Trail System, heading along the river’s various branches and creeks for miles.
6. College Park Aviation Museum
Just on the other side of Greenbelt Park from New Carrollton is the oldest continuously operating airport in the world.
College Park Airport was established in 1909 by the United States Army Signal Corps, as a place for aviation pioneer Wilbur Wright (1871-1948) to teach the world’s first military pilots to fly his Wright Type A biplane.
These early years of military flight are detailed at the College Park Aviation Museum, which has a small lineup of replica aircraft from that period.
There’s a 1910 Wright Model B, a 1911 Curtiss Model D and a 1912 Blèriot XI, to go with a variety of other aircraft including a 1932 Monocoupe 110 and 1936 Taylor J-2 “Cub”.
The museum recalls many of the “firsts” that took place at the airport, and preserves the exact 1924 Berliner Helicopter No. 5 that made the world’s first vertical flight here.
7. University of Maryland, College Park
The largest university in Maryland and the DC area is a stone’s throw from New Carrollton, and has plenty to hold your interest, even if you’re not a prospective student.
For one thing, the sheer size of the campus can’t be overstated. This contains the gargantuan Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, the largest single building ever constructed in Maryland, but also a world-class arts destination for music, dance and theatre performances.
The quad at McKeldin Mall is also gigantic, and the largest to be found at any university in the country. For collegiate sports, the Terrapins are in the Big Ten Conference, and have especially strong women’s and men’s basketball teams.
These teams play at the Xfinity Center, Maryland’s largest arena at 17,950, and famed for its steep west end, known as “The Wall”.
8. Murugan Temple of North America
Serving the large Tamil population in the area, Lanham is the site of the first temple in the United States to be dedicated to the deity, Murugan (the god of war).
This magnificent Saivite Hindu complex was more than a decade in the planning, and finally being completed in 1999.
Worshippers from across the region, and even as far away as Canada, visit for major festivals, in which there’s a grand procession of Lord Murugan and Valli Devasena (his consort).
In normal circumstances the temple is welcoming to the public, and it’s worth timing your visit for lunch when you can head to the canteen, loved for its Tamil specialties like dosa and parotta.
9. Riversdale House Museum
Close by in Riverdale Park is the historic property where the institution that would become UMD was established.
Once the centerpiece of a 740-acre plantation, Riversdale House was built between 1801 and 1807 for the Flemish émigré, Henri Joseph Stier, Baron de Stier, who had escaped the French Revolution.
Stier soon returned to Belgium, and his daughter Rosalie Stier Calvert (1888-1821) oversaw completion of Riversdale House and ran the plantation.
This aspect of Riversdale House’s history is recounted at the house museum, with the help of preserved correspondence that gives an insight into the day-to-day, and important and moving details about the enslaved people who lived and worked here.
Rosalie’s son, Charles Benedict Calvert (1808-1864), founded Maryland Agricultural College on part of the property in 1864. Look out for regular docent-guided tours, special events, education opportunities, and workshops all year round.
A few short minutes by car along the Capital Beltway and you’ll be in a town that looks like nowhere else in the DC area. Greenbelt was planned and built in the 1930s as an experimental cooperative community.
The townscape is laid out as a Utopian Garden City, with abundant green space and a swirl of quiet, pedestrian-friendly roads centered on the main community buildings and shopping area.
The Roosevelt Center here is one of the oldest purpose built shopping centers in the United States, and still has cooperative businesses like the Greenbelt Co-op Supermarket and Pharmacy, and the New Deal Cafe.
There’s simple but elegant Art Moderne architecture all around, and the foremost example is the Greenbelt Community Center (1937), clad with Social Realist art and housing an exhibit about the history of the city (amongst many other local amenities).
11. Old Greenbelt Theatre
The only non-profit cinema in Prince George’s County is one of the linchpins of the Roosevelt Center in Greenbelt.
This Art Deco masterpiece opened in 1938, and was designed by the same architects as the Greenbelt Community Center.
As with almost all local cinemas of this scale, the Old Greenbelt Theatre hit hard times by the 1970s, but is now in the care of a non-profit organization and was given a thorough renovation in 2014-15.
Aside from the sumptuous decor, a wonderful feature is the 40’ CinemaScope screen, and as well as a 4K digital projector there’s also a pair of preserved Simplex XL 35mm projectors.
Come for first run movies, new art-house films, family screenings and a variety of special events throughout the year.
12. Buddy Attick Lake Park
This attractive public park is embedded in Greenbelt’s townscape and is connected via trails to places like Roosevelt Center.
From New Carrollton you can get to Buddy Attick Lake Park in less than ten minutes along the Capital Beltway. Much of the land is taken up by scenic lake, which has a multi-use trail along its wooded shores.
For amenities, there are separate play areas for children aged 2-5 and 5-12, a basketball court, a picnic area and grills for cookouts in summer.
If you’re here to do some fishing, bluegill, rainbow trout and largemouth bass are the species most commonly landed here.
13. Bladensburg Dueling Grounds
There’s exciting if dark history at a hollow on the north side of Fort Lincoln Cemetery. In the first half of the 19th century this place became the Bladensburg Dueling Grounds, the scene of more than 50 duels contested by the gentlemen of Washington, D.C..
The first of these took place in 1808, between U.S. Representative Barent Gardenier of New York, and U.S. Representative George W. Campbell, from Tennessee.
Gardenier was wounded but survived to be reelected. Many others were not so fortunate in the 60 years before the final duel was fought here just after the Civil War.
In 1838, the death of U.S. Representative from Maine Jonathan Cilley, a reluctant participant, caused an outcry. This led to a federal law prohibiting the giving or accepting challenges in the District of Columbia, even if the duel took place outside the district.
14. Beckett Field
The venue for New Carollton’s Community Day is a well-appointed park, conveniently close to where Annapolis Rd crossed the Capital Beltway.
As well as Community Day, Beckett Field hosts a number of other events like the Spring Festival in April, National Night Out in August, and a bike rodeo for smaller children in May, sponsored by the New Carrollton Police Department.
On an ordinary day, the park is a place for active recreation, with facilities for baseball/softball, basketball, soccer and football. If you want to relax for a bit you’ll find benches on the edges in the shade.
The newly renamed Washington Commanders play their home games at this 80,116-seat stadium that was constructed in 1997 and sits ten minutes away on the Capital Loop.
Before renovations in 2010, FedExField had the largest seating capacity in the NFL. But despite its impressive size, a mix of factors like transport issues and crazy concessions prices have made FedExField unpopular with fans.
The stadium has never received the affection of its predecessor, the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, and there are constant rumors of a future relocation.
Thanks also to the Burgundy and Gold’s long-term on-field difficulties, sellouts are increasingly rare, and if you want to experience some NFL action then tickets can be surprisingly cheap, especially later in the season.
Over the last 25+ years FedExField has staged numerous concerts, by the likes of The Rolling Stones, Beyoncé & Jay Z, Bruce Springsteen, Metallica and Guns N’ Roses.