Best Places to Live

Columbia, MD

Population: 106,585
Karmen Osei

When it was founded in the 1960s, Columbia was one of the first planned communities in America. Today, it’s a thriving city of more than 100,000 residents located between Baltimore and Washington, D.C. Columbia, and the surrounding Howard County, has a strong economy and a friendly business climate for everything from healthcare technology to defense-adjacent companies. It also offers many family-friendly amenities, such as 3,600 acres of open space and 95 miles of trails, tons of parks and playgrounds and more.

Top Industries and Employers: Healthcare, software development and engineering are some of the driving industries in Columbia.

Best Coffee Shop: Mad City Coffee, a beloved Columbia shop with great sandwiches, too.

Best Local Beer/Brewery: Black Flag Brewing Company, which makes flavor-forward, small-batch beers in addition to its signature brews.

Must-Have Meal: The wood-fired rotisserie chicken at Stanford Grill, a popular local favorite hangout with live jazz.

Best Meetup Spot (When Meeting Up Is a Thing Again): Victoria Gastro Pub, which has a great happy hour and tasty snacks like a bucket of duck fat fries.

Creative Hub: Columbia Art Center, which hosts a range of exhibits, literary readings, salons, classes and workshops for people of all ages.

Favorite Weekend Activity: Spend the day as a family at Robinson Nature Center.

Free Way to Have Fun: Walking the trail around Lake Kittamaqundi, where you can also catch free movies and concerts during the summer.

Local Dream Job: Festival organizer for Books in Bloom, an annual event celebrating the joy of reading with award-winning authors, panel discussions, readings, workshops and more.

Read More: 
Why You Should Move to the Greater Baltimore Area
Best Places to Live in Maryland
Three Cheers for Craft Beers in Greater Baltimore 

- Sarah Kuta

"Employment opportunities and the quality of life are two major factors that attract workers and families to the area. Among the founding principles for the Columbia community was that it be 'a garden for growing people.' And to ensure that the features of this principle were in place from the beginning, ample recreational, cultural and environmental amenities are found throughout the community."


David Greisman
Senior Manager of Media Relations, Marketing and Communications, Columbia Association

Columbia, MD Ranking Data