Columbia, MD Waterfront

Karmen Osei/Howard County Tourism & Promotion

2021 Top 100 Best Places to Live In America Sponsored by: See homes for sale on Movoto by OJO

liv score
How We Calculate Our Data
Civics 81
Demographics 77
Economy 61
Education 55
Health 59
Housing 56
Infrastructure 43

#15. Columbia, MD

The 105,000 residents of Columbia, MD, can thank founder James Rouse for their city’s high quality of life, bountiful family-friendly amenities and robust economy. In 1967, Rouse decided to build an entire city from the ground up, ushering in a new era of planned communities. Located between Washington D.C. and Baltimore, Columbia continues to be “a garden for growing people,” in Rouse’s words, thanks to its abundant parks and open spaces, cultural centers and community events.

Top Colleges/Universities: Howard Community College & Johns Hopkins University Columbia Campus

Top Industries & Employers: Health care, research and development, telecommunications

Weekend Plans: Spend the day exploring the 18 acres of Robinson Nature Center, then catch a show at the center’s full-dome planetarium or head to Merriweather Post Pavilion for an outdoor concert.

Favorite Place to Feast: Victoria Gastro Pub, a popular and welcoming pub with out-of-this-world duck-fat French fries and an expansive craft beer selection.

Beloved Beverage: Hysteria Brewing Company’s Tipping Point, a wheat beer that earned a gold medal at the 2019 Maryland Craft Beer Competition.

Outdoorsy Activity: Plan a picnic, hop on your bike or just go out for a walk on Columbia’s 114 miles of pathways and sidewalks. The 3.4-mile loop around Lake Elkhorn is particularly scenic!

Rooftop Bar: There aren’t many rooftops in Columbia, but the massive colorful patio at The Ale House Columbia is the place to be when the weather’s nice.

Why Your Pet Will Love It, Too: After burning off some steam at the Columbia DogPark, your pooch will love spending the day with you at Columbia’s many dog-friendly craft breweries, including Black Flag Brewing Co. and Sapwood Cellars.

Remote Work Perk: As a remote worker, you’ll get all the quality of life benefits of living in a mid-sized community while easily being able to venture into Washington, D.C. or Baltimore as needed. 

One More Thing … Columbia has had lots of famous or influential residents, including Oprah Winfrey (who lived there in the 1970s and 80s when she worked at WJZ-TV in Baltimore), Alexis Ohanian (co-founder of Reddit and Columbia native) and Cristeta Comerford (the first woman to hold the position of White House executive chef since 2005).

– Sarah Kuta

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