Best Places to Live

Cambridge, MD

Population: 12,534
Photo: David Harp

Eastern Shore traditions endure in Cambridge, MD, where the biggest party of the year is the annual Crab Cook-Off, and watermen still pull up to the docks at J.M. Clayton Co. to sell their catch of the day. Yet, a renaissance is underway in this waterfront town, one of the oldest colonial cities in Maryland, which overlooks the Choptank River near Chesapeake Bay. A mix of private and public renovation projects reinvigorated the tourism industry in Cambridge, while also enhancing the quality of life residents enjoy. Improvements to streets, playgrounds, parks and parking lots helped bring residents and businesses back to the city's downtown area, which thrives with independent shops, boutiques, restaurants and galleries.

Many and varied events bring people to downtown and waterfront parks, including powerboat and sailing regattas, concerts and seafood festivals. The Dorchester Center for the Arts, one of many attractions in Cambridge, features changing exhibits and offers classes and workshops. It's common to find artists perched on piers, painting nautical scenes as fishermen catch catfish, perch and trout from the river. Locals spend leisure time gathered in cozy pubs, soaking in sunshine while walking along the shoreline and playing sports on the city's athletic fields. Seafood pulled from the bay just hours earlier fills the menus at many restaurants in Cambridge like Leaky Pete's Oyster & Wine Bar, Jimmie & Sook's, Snappers and Portside. People can find fresh, local fruits and vegetables, meats, and baked goods at the town's popular farmers market.

Growth rate (2010-12): 1%

Size: 10 square miles

Average commute: 23 minutes