But then there's Route 1. Sure, it's tawdry, punctuated by fast-food joints, motels, auto parts stores and a stream of stoplights. But sometimes, tacky scenery beats boring endless expanses of scrub woodlands for those who lurch along I-95 or the parkway between the two cities.
The stretch of Route 1 also known as Baltimore Avenue that runs from Hyattsville to College Park offers plenty of places to eat, most of which are reasonably priced, good book shops and a clothing store with dirt-cheap name-brand clothes.
The town is also home to the world's oldest continuously operating airport, adjacent to a respectable aviation museum.
South of College Park is Riverdale, named after the gracious stucco-covered brick mansion in the center of the sleepy village. The social and civic center of town seems to be a cozy cafe/used-book store famous for its annual fall pet costume contest.
Don't have a pet to dress? Drive two miles south to Hyattsville, where Franklin's general store carries the most realistic stuffed Labradors imaginable.
It would be impossible to pass through without seeing a Terrapin, one of the 35,000 students at University of Maryland, College Park. The 1,500-acre campus plopped in the middle of town is a well-spaced complex of redbrick buildings. In warm weather, students play sports on the capacious lawns that slope down to Route 1 from the west.
Chartered in 1856 as Maryland Agricultural College, the university is famous for a few things beside athletics. Jim Henson, the Hyattsville native who created the lovable Muppets, earned his degree here in 1960. Students commissioned the life-size bronze statue of him chatting with Kermit the Frog on a bench outside the Stamp Student Union.
Then there's the other claim to fame: ice cream. True to its agricultural roots, the university makes its own ice cream in vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, butter pecan and cookies 'n' cream.
So the next time you're chugging along Route 1, stop in Turner Hall (the visitor center), get a scoop or a root beer float and sit on the lawn to watch the games.
Can't do that on the interstate now, can you?
Riversdale House Museum has had a wide variety of tenants since Flemish emigre Henri Stier began building it in 1801. The most notable ones were Stier's grandson Charles Benedict Calvert, who founded what is now the University of Maryland, and Hattie Caraway, first woman U.S. senator. (4811 Riverdale Road, 301-864-0420)
Get it iced, hot, mixed in a smoothie or Jell-O in a wild variety of flavors from lychee to taro (7418 Baltimore Ave., 301-864-8920, www.teabay.com)
The English Tea House and Cyber Cafe serves tea more traditionally. Customers can choose from more than 100 blends, served in the tranquil, dark-hued tearoom or on the charming patio. (4513 College Ave., 301-887-1777)
The Bagel Place is a lively, bright joint with the best bagels outside Manhattan. The 18 varieties are dense enough to be chewy without destroying dental work. The cheerful staff spreads on a judicious but not messy slab of cream cheese. (7423 Baltimore Ave., 301-779-3900)