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Hidden Gems

Discover the best in arts, food, and things to do in Howard County.
By Visit Howard County

Though just a few miles west of Baltimore City limits, Howard County feels a world away, making it an appealing and affordable choice for a rejuvenating day trip with friends, a romantic weekend escape, or a fun-filled family getaway. To learn more about the insider experience, we talked to the team at Visit Howard County who shared the best the area has to offer. Whether you’re looking for new galleries or exhibits to see, food and drink to try, or places to explore, Howard County has something for everyone.

The Arts “A” List

Murals: Stroll down Main Street in Historic Ellicott City and tour the many new murals painted by local artists. First winners of the mural competition organized by The Fund for Arts in Ellicott City, Inc., Antonia Ramis Miguel and Wiley Purkey’s “see-through” work is an ode to Ellicott City’s history. Located on the east wall of the women’s clothing store Sweet Elizabeth Jane, the Ramis Miguel mural transports observers to the past by depicting the Ellicott City Motor Co. in the old Reedy Electric Building during the 1920s.

HorseSpirit Gallery: Robin Holliday opened HorseSpirit Gallery in Savage Mill in 2018. She now represents more than 45 local artists in a large, open space that guarantees visitors room for safe social distancing. The eclectic art collection includes paintings, sculpture, photography, glass, mosaics, and other mediums of arts. The new location also hosts visual-arts workshops in its art loft for beginners to the more advanced.

The Merriweather District: Having recently opened in Columbia, this new cultural collective covers .35 acres of mixed-use development with chic shopping venues, trendy restaurants, sleek residences, and open grassy areas. Visitors can take advantage of the walkability of the area and visit the many establishments in one visit. You can also explore the new Color Burst outdoor exhibit at the Chrysalis performing arts center, home to urban art sculptures and live musical acts. Plus, be the first to experience the new ColorBurst Park, a perfect place to spend the day with friends and experience local pop-up happenings.

Can’t-Miss Culinary Experiences

Umi Sushi: A cornerstone of Historic Ellicott City’s Main Street, Umi Sushi incorporates a modern twist on authentic Japanese cuisine. Enjoy a unique outdoor experience with a scenic view overlooking the Patapsco River. Plus, they’re well known in the area for their excellent service and friendly staff. Delivery and curbside pickup are also available.

Ma’s Kettle Restaurant: This iconic eatery established in 1976 is a Savage staple. The quaint shop specializes in BBQ and other homestyle meals with ever-changing daily specials. It has outdoor seating available for socially distanced dining or take-out to savor their home cooking in your own home.

Periodic Table Restaurant and Bar: One of Columbia’s newest restaurants, the Periodic Table Restaurant and Bar is a must-visit. The American cuisine with international flare is paired with the perfect complementary cocktail, beer, or wine. Plus, this restaurant has something for everyone with their vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options. Take advantage of their outdoor seating or carryout and have a picnic at one of the Merriweather District’s open-area lawns.

Rathskeller: Inspired by the elegant cellar bars of Germany, the Rathskeller in Elkridge will transport you to central Europe with its modern street food, cocktail program, and hand-selected wine lists. Open for just two months before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Rathskeller is now fully operational and prepared to bring you an authentic German experience complete with fresh schnitzel, bratwurst, beer, German-liqueur cocktails, and more.

Your Howard County To-Do List

Scott’s Cove in Scaggsville: Offering scenic views of the Patuxent river and the wildlife that thrives in the area, this park is perfect for hiking, kayaking, and other outdoor activities. Hike along the water trail or set up at the picnic tables for an afternoon lunch. Recreational and playground areas are also great spots to bring the kids. Boating access is available to launch canoes or kayaks. This state park is ideal for a day trip and taking in the great outdoors with birdwatching, fishing, and other activities. 

Centennial Park: With more than 337 acres of fun, Centennial Park in Columbia is a great way to spend the day with friends or family. The man-made lake is a one-stop recreation destination with fishing and boating access. Bike and walking paths, picnic pavilions, baseball fields, basketball courts, playgrounds, and plenty of wide-open green spaces are also open to the public.

Patapsco Valley State Park: This park boasts more than 200 miles of recreational opportunities such as hiking, fishing, camping, canoeing, horseback and mountain bike trails. Pavilions are also available for individual or group use throughout the park. Must-see spots include the Cascade Falls Loop Trail and the Swinging Bridge in Orange Grove.

Savage Park & Trail: A mini but mighty park, the Savage Park offers three miles of leisurely hiking trails, multiple sports fields, a playground, and picnic pavilion. This park is all-ages friendly so whether you’re looking for somewhere to bring the family for the day or searching for a spot to start up a rec league with friends, it’s just the place.