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.
- Sarah Kuta