Bauer Drive Local Park & Mattie J.T. Stepanek Park

The secret is out: Pickleball is everywhere. But some courts around here are better than others—and Bauer Drive Local Park in Rockville has some of the best. Opened in October, it’s one of the county’s newest pickleball sites (also the largest), with six dedicated courts. Another top pick: King Farm’s Mattie J.T. Stepanek Park in Rockville. The park’s four well-kept courts have been popular with fans of the sport for several years.

Both venues are outdoors, well lighted and free, with no membership required. They’re also drop-in style, so players can come alone or with a friend. Plus, the courts in both places are designed specifically for pickleball, so there’s no need to bring your own net—or compete with tennis players for court time. (Most other pickleball courts around the county, whether outdoors or inside a rec or community center, are tennis courts painted with pickleball striping to make them dual purpose.)

Like tennis, the sport involves volleying a ball back and forth over a net. But in pickleball, the courts are smaller so the game is faster paced, with less running and more socializing. “It’s an easy sport to learn,” says Olney resident Rob Campbell, a U.S. Capitol Police officer and district ambassador for the USA Pickleball Association. “An 80-year-old or a 70-year-old can be just as advanced as somebody in their 20s.”

Bauer Drive Local Park, 14625 Bauer Drive, Rockville,; Mattie J.T. Stepanek Park, 1800 Piccard Drive, Rockville,