Hidden Gem Just Outside the Beltway – Kensington Book Festival

Sunday morning we awoke to a glorious spring day, the kind ideal for top-down motoring.  The weather was perfect to follow through on our commitment to visit two author friends at The International Day of the Book in Kensington, Maryland. Our pale skin was craving some sun, so we threw on some shorts, slathered on some SPF 30, and headed north from our Alexandria home.

Fortunately, traffic on the DC Beltway was relatively light and we soon exited onto Connecticut Ave. You could easily miss Kensington as just another leafy suburb, but we had looked at a map before leaving and knew to turn onto Armory Street to find parking. We found a spot on the street (watch for No Parking and Permit Only signs) and walked a short two blocks to the festival.

Our first stop was a small crafts display where we found the perfect cufflinks to complement my wedding suit. Made from old bowling balls, flecks of gold in the blue/green urethane sparkled in the sun.

The book festival (www.dayofthebook.com) didn’t disappoint. Tents lined two sides of Howard Street along the old B&O Railroad with local authors at the ready to talk about their books and why they wrote them, and they were certainly willing to sign a copy! Unexpectedly, there were several offerings of children’s books and games, making this a true family affair.

We said hello to friend and former colleague Steve Piacente, author of Bella and Bootlicker, (www.GetBella.com) and his wife Felicia. Incredibly, Judy’s friend John DeDakis, writer of Fast Track, Bluff, and Troubled Water, (www.JohnDeDakis.com) was in the booth directly across from Steve’s. I got to meet him, then we introduced them. Ahh, friends in high places!

From left: Steve Piacente, Greg (aka FedFlack), John DeDakis, Judy.  Photo courtesy Felicia Piacente
From left: Steve Piacente, Greg (aka FedFlack), John DeDakis, Judy. Photo courtesy Felicia Piacente

We strolled through the displays and bought a delicious frozen custard at one of the food trucks conveniently parked nearby. The vendor pleasantly pointed out, “This is the real thing … all natural.” We savored the confection and then spent a good hour exploring Kensington’s other hidden treasure: antique shops. All along Howard Street , you can shop for antique (and 50s/60s not quite antique) wares from estate jewelry to truly vintage and reproduction furniture. One lesson learned …  look up! Many of the stores had vintage lamps and chandeliers for sale; one (www.sageconsignment.com) even offered authentic reproductions of virtually every style of light ever produced (okay, that’s a stretch, but the catalog was an inch thick).

In the “you never know what you will find when you browse” category, Judy found a vintage bar set straight out of Mad Men at the Antique Market II. The price was right so it now sits perfectly in our globe bar next to the Woodford Reserve bourbon.

We took a different path to the car so that we could enjoy the charm of Kensington’s nicely restored Victorian and Craftsman style homes. This was the perfect place for architecture geeks like us!

From virtually anywhere in the metropolitan Washington area, Kensington is less than a half-hour’s drive away. Check it out the next time you need to get out of the house for a few hours on a sunny day.

© The World A to Z, LLC 2014

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