Though just a few miles west of Baltimore City limits, Howard County feels a world away, making it an appealing, affordable choice for a rejuvenating day trip with friends, a romantic weekend escape or a fun-filled family getaway when looking for unique things to do. Escape from the typical vacation cliches and check out some of our favorite hidden gems and off-the-beaten-path attractions in Maryland!

Hit the Dining Scene in Ellicott City

Historic Ellicott City is the premier destination for foodies in Howard County, with an abundance of great restaurants, coffee shops, cafes, specialty gourmet shops, and ice creameries. Spend an afternoon or evening dining at Old Mill Cafe, enjoying music and events during the summer months in their charming courtyard. For a sweet treat, head to Park Ridge Creamery, serving handcrafted ice cream made with fresh, local ingredients. Unwind at hidden gem restaurants like Phoenix Upper Main or Manor Hill Tavern, both serving classic gastro-pub fare. Explore even more by browsing listings of Ellicott City eateries–you're sure to find your perfect hidden gem.

Visit the Baltimore & Ohio Ellicott City Station Museum

Head over to the B&O Ellicott City Station Museum to experience the longest-standing railroad station in the country. Here, you’ll enjoy hearing stories about those who helped build and operate the railroad while checking out the historic 1927 Caboose and more.

Explore Koreatown

Discover the large Korean-American community of Koreatown within Ellicott City, and one of the most unique places to visit in Maryland. Head along a 5-mile passageway that features more than 150 Korean-owned businesses, such as restaurants, bakeries, shops, and markets as you take in the sights, sounds, and flavors of Asian culture and beyond.

Honey Pig Koreatown


Clarksville & Greater Ellicott City: Diverse Dining, Unique Farm Experiences

The Common Kitchen is one of the most unique places to eat in Maryland as it offers a food experience with international cuisines and universal favorites unlike any other. A casual environment offering exquisite food. Come in, be comfortable, stay a while, and make this your place too. Over 10 vendors occupy the mixed-used space such as Momo Hub, which serves up traditional Nepalese style dumplings, GuiGui’s Kreyol Flavors, serving the flavors from Haiti in every traditional recipe, and Anh-Mazing Banh Mi, which features authentic Vietnamese Banh mi sandwiches and more.

Clark’s Elioak Farm

Bring the whole family to Clark’s Elioak Farm where there is something to do for everyone no matter how young or old. Experience The Enchanted Forest along with a petting zoo, pony rides, and a farmers market that offers some of the freshest produce this area has seen.

Historic Experiences: Elkridge, Savage & Beyond

Elkridge, Maryland is the oldest settlement in Howard County, founded as Elkridge Landing in 1690. The Elkridge Furnace Inn and Garden House, located in an 18th-century manor home offers a beautiful colonial backdrop for elegant New American dining. 

Historic Savage Mill is a historic cotton mill that sits on the Patuxent River. The beautiful brick mill has been reimagined into a complex of specialty shops and restaurants. Whether you are seeking some outdoor fun at Terrapin Adventures, an outdoor rope and zipline course, or relaxing with a day of antique shopping and coffee and pastries, you will always find something to suit your needs at Savage Mill.

Savage Mill Court Yard

Historic Savage Mill

Prepare for an immersive journey into history at the Waverly Mansion, a hidden gem in Marriottsville. This Federal-style estate, built circa 1756, is steeped in history. It was the cherished home of Maryland's father-son governor duo, Colonel John Eager Howard and George Howard. Step into the beautifully maintained 19th-century interiors and wander the scenic grounds.

Uncover Fun & Excitement in Merriweather District

Downtown Columbia has seen a lot of changes over the past few years, including the development of the Merriweather District. Thirty-five acres of mixed-used development populated with chic shopping venues, trendy restaurants, urban art, sleek residences and open grassy areas where visitors can sit outside, relax in the fresh air and soak up a little sunshine. The district is a popular summertime spot, thanks to the Merriweather Post Pavilion, where plenty of artists and bands play. There are also free concerts during Lakefest and plenty of kid activities and exercise classes all summer long. Venture beyond downtown to Chrysalis for their summer concert series.

So Many Parks to Explore

One of the defining characteristics of Howard County is our abundance of local parks and recreation area, with options for hiking, cycling, paddling, fishing, boating, picnicking, and more. 


Patapsco Valley State Park

Howard County is home to the Patapsco Valley State Park, Maryland's first state park, that welcomes over 1 million visitors a year! There are lovely lakes and award-winning parks all connected by over 100 miles of paved scenic trails that take walkers, runners and cyclists past wildflowers, wildlife and even waterfalls. The Elkridge area of the Patapsco Valley State Park is a highlight of the park, featuring the Thomas Viaduct as well as an ever popular swinging bridge. 

Part of the Patuxent Watershed, Scott's Cove in Scaggsville offers scenic views of the river with picnic tables, recreations and playground areas, boating access and many nearby hiking trails. 

There’s a reason why Columbia’s Centennial Park has won numerous awards for its lush scenery and dedication to nature. Its sprawling 337 acres offers a man-made lake for fishing and boating, a  2.6-mile paved pathway for walking and biking, and many courts and fields to play a variety of sports while here.

The Inn at Mary’s Land Farm

Escape the ordinary this summer at The Inn at Mary's Land Farm, a hidden gem tucked away amidst a sprawling 160-acre working farm. This charming 1835 farmhouse inn offers more than just a place to sleep–its unique farm stay program lets guests experience life on a beyond-organic farm. Learn about regenerative practices, get hands-on with farm activities, and savor delicious, farm-fresh breakfasts.  Relax in a beautifully renovated guest room and soak in the tranquility of the countryside.

Discover Hidden Gems in Maryland’s Howard County

We’ve unveiled some of our hidden treasures for you to explore. From the historic charm of Ellicott City to the natural wonders of Patapsco Valley State Park, Howard County offers something for everyone looking to explore off the beaten path.