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Find Hidden Gems in Howard County, Maryland

In the heart of Maryland, between Baltimore and Washington, DC, experience the best of urban life and peaceful countryside.
Outdoor fun at Terrapin Adventures, Maryland, credit Kenneth Losurdo

Small-town charm, unique shopping and dining, picturesque landscapes and refreshing nature make Howard County a hidden treasure worth exploring. Nestled between Baltimore and Washington, DC, Howard County offers the best of urban life and peaceful countryside.

Eclectic Shopping & Dining Districts

By day, shopping districts offer everything from antiques to artisan wares. By night, restaurants, from casual to world-class, are equally diverse. Stroll historic Ellicott City’s Main Street, where more than 50 boutiques and bistros range from chic to quirky. Browse shops such as La Boutique de Mon Amie and Retropolitan Fine Antiques and Vintage. For dining, try the Little French Market Café or, for something more formal, experience the award-winning Tersiguel’s French Country Restaurant. Take tea at Tea on the Tiber, or have a glass of wine at Pure Wine Café. While in town, stop by the Ellicott City Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Station, America’s oldest surviving railroad station.

A cotton mill in the 1800s, Historic Savage Mill now holds dozens of unique shops, studios, craft galleries, an ice cream parlor and the popular Rams Head Tavern. A Historic National Landmark, Historic Savage Mill retains much of its original architecture, which visitors can view inside on a tour or outside as they walk across the mill’s original iron truss bridge.

For a more mainstream shopping and dining experience, The Mall in Columbia features five major department stores and 200 brand-name retail stores, including the all-American L.L. Bean store. Also find favorite chain restaurants, a 14-screen movie complex, an indoor carousel and a fast-food court.

Blissful Outdoors

Glide over Howard County’s rolling farmland, forests and hamlets in a hot air balloon launched by Friendship Hot Air Balloon Company. For a romantic voyage, choose a sunrise or sunset champagne flight. Back on land, tee off at one of five golf courses, including Turf Valley’s two 18-hole championship golf courses. Or, for a family-friendly game, putt the world’s longest mini-golf hole at Rocky Gorge Golf Practice Range & Miniature Golf.

To experience natural vistas, hike or mountain bike the 170 miles of trails at Patapsco Valley State Park, where you can also horseback ride, camp under the stars and paddle the Patapsco River. For thrills, zoom through the forest on a 330-foot-long zip line, courtesy of Terrapin Adventures, which also offers a giant swing, a climbing wall and a high ropes challenge course.

Peaceful Spots for Relaxation & Reflection

Quiet spaces and tranquil gardens abound in Howard County. Stroll one of the local parks, many of which have trails and soothing streams. Wander the labyrinths at Bon Secours Spiritual Center and Tai Sophia Institute, where wellness and serenity fill the air. Bon Secours’ peace garden offers contemplation spaces and Japanese gardens. Or wander the walking trails and meditation gardens at The Shrine of St. Anthony, a 70-year-old Italian Renaissance-style site modeled after the sacro convento of Assisi, Italy. Known as the Little Assisi in Maryland, this relaxing retreat offers an outdoor Stations of the Cross, prayer benches and a chapel open to all. Scenic woodlands and hills cover much of the 310-acre grounds.

For more information on all the interesting things to see and do in Howard County, go to