The Getaway
Maryland's Coolest Small Towns: A Must-Visit List

Life in the Old Line State immerses you in the cultures of both the American North and South. While some would suggest, this gives Maryland an identity problem, lovers of the northernmost Southern state probably disagree heartily. Its proximity to major cities like DC and New York makes most of its towns very attractive places to live. These small towns in Maryland are melting pots in their own right, pleasing everyone from scholars to baseball fans.

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01 Watch the Minor Leagues in Waldorf

If it's an afternoon at the Minor Leagues you're after, Waldorf's got you covered. Home to the Maryland Blue Crabs, many city residents spend the better part of an afternoon at the Regency Furniture Stadium. For adults, it's a chance to live vicariously through their favorite ball player. For the kids, it's a day filled with merry-go-rounds at Pinch's Playground. It's a totally American way to spend the day.

02 Listen to a concert in Gaithersburg

Building and colorful trees in Gaithersburg, Maryland. AppalachianViews/ Getty Images

An evening in Gaithersburg equals all kinds of dizzy fun if you end up at RIO Washingtonian Center for the night. Old-fashioned carousels introduce kids to the carnival while the grown-ups imbibe Tschaikovsky at an open-air concert on the pier. For adventures of a more savory kind, saucy cheese dip at The Melting Pot and mile-high burgers at Barking Made offer tickets to adventures of the culinary kind.

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03 Learn about science in Silver Spring

Row of colorful, red, yellow, blue, white, green painted residential townhouses, homes, houses with brick patio gardens in summer krblokhin/ Getty Images

Silver Spring is one of the places on the planet where you can learn about the difference between the weather and the climate. We're talking here about the Gateway to NOAA (or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). From the clouds above to the oceans below, this museum teaches you more about what makes the weather churn. However, if atmospheric science isn't your thing, then explore more agricultural pursuits by visiting Heyser Farms for some homemade cider.

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04 Go ice skating in Rockville

The Red Brick Courthouse was built in 1891 and is the third courthouse to stand in this location. DenisTangneyJr/ Getty Images

From the inside out, Rockville has something to offer. For the literary-minded, it's comedy tonight at the F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre. For more natural pursuits, Lake Needwood looks especially inviting when autumn begins to pull her finery from the closet. Public ice skating arenas, nature reserve parks, and even the grounds of the Montgomery County Historical Society satisfy your need for an open-air wander.

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05 Wander the woods in Potomac

Buildings along the Potomac River waterfront at night, in National Harbor, Maryland. AppalachianViews/ Getty Images

Potomac offers proof positive that wooded areas co-exist peacefully alongside urban sprawl. Just 32 minutes separate this Maryland town from Washington, DC, but with spots like the Billy Goat Trail Olmsted Island, you'd never know it. If all of this weren't enough, Potomac sits just across the river from Wolf Trap, one of the nation's premier outdoor amphitheaters. It's just a short drive over the river to Virginia and an evening of heavenly music.

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06 Live a fairy tale in Ellicott

Former mill town now antique center, Ellicott City, Maryland, USA Walter Bibikow/ Getty Images

On a day trip through Ellicott, it's possible to catch sights of Humpty Dumpty sitting on his wall, a mouse-drawn carriage, and a live version of the Three Billy Goats Gruff. It all happens at Clark's Elioak Farm, a petting zoo and a storybook brought to life. If you're visiting the city sans kids, a tour of Ellicott Distilling Co. and Manor Hill Brewing may be more to your taste.

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07 See a puppet show in Bethesda

Bethesda is an unincorporated, census-designated place in southern Montgomery County, Maryland located just northwest of Washington, D.C. DenisTangneyJr/ Getty Images

Despite having a population of only about 60,000, Bethesda offers some big-city entertainment. If your creative thinking needs sparking, spend an evening watching life-sized puppets at Imagination Stage, or become a real-life Miss Marple for a night at Escape Quest escape room adventures. Finally, if it's a high-class experience you crave, combine food and funk at the Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club.

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08 Become multicultural in Germantown

bavarian folk dance at Beer Fest sebastian-julian/ Getty Images

If you're looking for a multicultural experience, you'll get it in Germantown. While fewer than half of the people here are English-only speakers, Spanish, not German, counts as the most spoken second language here. In keeping with its international flavor, some of the town's most interesting activities allow you to see the world through another culture's eyes, starting with the Lancaster County Dutch Market.

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09 See dinosaur bones in Laurel

If you're traveling with dino-loving kids, a stop at Laurel's Dinosaur Park is in order. This real-life fossil den encourages kids—and kids at heart—to crawl through giant eggs, wiggle through rib cages, and run from imaginary T-Rexes in the space of an afternoon. An early 1990s find of an Astrodon femur introduced locals to an adventure that got its start during the Cretaceous period and has been going ever since.

10 Eat dessert in Urbana

If DC has the beltway, Urbana has the tech equivalent. Called the Corridor, this fast track to tech jobs accounts is one reason the city's population exploded. Since the turn of the twenty-first century, its resident numbers jumped from about 600 to over 10,000. But this town represents more than just STEM jobs. With restaurants serving chocolate desserts that Rocher would envy, Civil War battle sites, and a low crime rate, Urbana offers well-rounded living for anyone who feels tempted to stay.

11 Be contemplative in Spencerville

Imagine living in a place so rural the mail doesn't even come to your house. Just how would you get a postcard from faraway friends? If you live in Spencerville, do what the locals do. Drive to the post office once a week. Walks through the woods with pauses to gaze at fruit-punch sunsets are often the only thing on the agenda. However, when you're ready to kick up a bit of dirt, a horseback ride at the Woodland Horse Center is sure to satisfy you.

12 Throw an axe in Elkton

When you come across the greenery of Pine Valley Christmas Tree Farm and the comforts of area craft breweries, it's easy to forget that George Washington stayed in Elkton before fighting the British in the Battle of Brandywine. Thankfully, you won't find many battles in Elkton today unless you spend an afternoon at the local hatchet-throwing outfit, You Bet Your Axe.

13 Take a literary cruise in Columbia

Columbia is a census-designated place in Howard County, Maryland, United States, and is one of the principal communities of the Baltimore–Washington metropolitan area. DenisTangneyJr/ Getty Images

In Columbia, to get to where you're going, it's entirely possible to drive over Hobbit's Glen on your way to Deep Calm and past Crazy Quilt Court before you arrive at your destination. If you get the feeling that this city loves art and literature, you'd be right. This kind of autobahn book tour is enough to make you ravenous. Should that happen, a cheese and charcuterie plate followed by creme brulee at the Iron Bridge Wine Company sets you right.

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14 Visit Havre De Grace's Lighthouse

Concord Point lighthouse. shot from a drone and out over the water. during daylight. John Ward/ Getty Images

Concord Point Lighthouse offers history buffs a reminder that not that long ago, seafaring enemies could destroy a town's buildings but not its spirit. Havre De Grace's beacon-of-light story centers around lighthouse keeper John O'Neill, who tended the edifice on the day the British rowed into town and torched everything. Learn more about that fateful event by touring the tower and the keeper's house, which is open on Saturdays and Sundays from early spring until late fall.

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15 Visit Washington's headquarters in Cumberland

Cumberland is a U.S. city in and the county seat of Allegany County, Maryland. DenisTangneyJr/ Getty Images

Cumberland's location gives you a good jumping-off point to sites of interest on the Eastern Seaboard, including the Appalachian Mountains. Meandering creeks and whitewashed farmhouses hidden behind banks of reedy grasses call back to a simpler era. Once upon a time, this city was the stomping grounds of America's first president. You can learn more about the mark he made here by taking a visit to George Washington's Headquarters, a museum located in the downtown district.

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