Set between Baltimore and Washington DC, Columbia was designed to be the ideal community – and it lives up to that promise. Founded in 1967, its innovative master plan rejected typical suburban sprawl and encouraged economic and racial diversity. Today, it regularly appears on America’s “top places to live” lists.
Its 10 villages were designed to resemble small towns with plenty of housing, shopping, education and recreation options. Strip malls and garish signs of any kind are forbidden, while parks and green spaces take precedence. At Columbia's center is manmade Lake Kittamaqundi, a placid gem reflecting the blue Maryland sky. The surrounding county is the second most affluent in the US.
The commercial center is The Mall of Columbia, with over 200 stores and dozens of restaurants. But you can find more intimate eateries in each of the 10 villages. For nightlife, a smattering of bars – including some on the lake – serve great microbrews and host regular live music. Top bands play the Merriweather Post Pavilion amphitheater, an early Frank Gehry project.