Introduction to Columbia, Maryland
Columbia is an unincorporated planned community located in Howard County, Maryland. It is situated about 20 miles southwest of Baltimore. Neighboring communities include Ellicott City (to the north), Elkridge (to the east), Laurel (to the south), and Gaithersburg (to the west).
The planning of Columbia began in 1963 when creator and developer James W. Rouse acquired more than 14,000 acres in Howard County with the intention of creating a visionary community planned along sociological as well as economic and engineering lines. To help determine how to incorporate the most vital social and institutional components of a new city into a physical environment, the Rouse Company convened a group of nationally known experts in the social sciences who met regularly over a six-month period. What evolved was a development plan focusing on the creation of neighborhood and village centers to preserve a small-town feel while adhering to four main goals: meeting residents basic needs (housing, jobs, recreation, education, health care); respecting the land; providing for growth and improvement; and achieving financial success.Over the past three decades, the population of Columbia has grown more than ten-fold. There are thousands of businesses employing tens of thousands of people. The centerpiece of the community is the Mall in Columbia, which stands today as a large regional shopping mall with five anchor department stores and over 200 smaller stores and restaurants. Although the community has over time gradually acquired many of the characteristics of other contemporary U.S. suburbs, Rouse's vision has remained relatively intact and his experiment can be termed a success. Money magazine in 2006 ranked Columbia (together with Ellicott City, its Howard County neighbor to the north) #4 out of the 100 "Best Places to Live" in the United States.
Things to do in Columbia
In the summer, live entertainment can be found at the Columbia lakefront. Merriweather Post Pavilion, located in Symphony Woods in Columbia's Town Center, offers outdoor concerts performed throughout the summer. Every June, the Columbia Festival of the Arts electrifies the community with featured world-class music performers. "Wine in the Woods" is an annual celebration held in May showcasing wineries from across the state, and featuring live entertainment, food from local vendors, unique arts and crafts, and live demonstrations of food and wine.
For outdoor recreation, Columbia has three lakes (Kittamaqundi, Wilde, and Elkhorn) ideal for sailing, fishing, and boating. Surrounding the lakes are parks equipped with miles of jogging, strolling and biking paths, as well as hundreds of play areas for kids. Also in Columbia are a variety of recreational facilities, including numerous swimming pools (indoor and outdoor), water slides, ice and roller skating rinks, an equestrian center, a skateboard park, a sports park with miniature golf, batting cages, picnic pavilions, running tracks, and numerous indoor and outdoor tennis, basketball, volleyball, racquetball and squash courts.
Columbia's planners were careful to preserve some of the community's historic buildings such as Dorsey Manor, the stone house at Wilde Lake, the Barn at Oakland Mills, Oliver's Carriage House, and Historic Oakland (also known as Oakland Manor), one of the most beautiful and historic buildings in Howard County. Museums and galleries in Columbia include the African Art Museum of Maryland, Columbia Arts Center, and the Howard County Center of African-American Culture.
Sports fans in Columbia can enjoy the very best of professional sports of many varieties in nearby Baltimore, home to the following teams:
- Orioles (MLB baseball)
- Ravens (NFL football)
- Blast (MISL soccer)
- Bayhawks (MLL lacrosse)
- Pearls (ABA basketball)
Baltimore is also the home of the U.S. Lacrosse Museum and National Hall of Fame.