15 Best Places to Live in Maryland

Written by Darren Griffiths
Updated on
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Maryland is the ninth smallest state in the U.S., but it varies wildly in terms of everything – the demographics, the weather, its geography, social-economic status, and so on.

Small it may be, but the Old Line State is one of the busiest states due to its prosperous tourism trade and diverse economy. Indeed, it is often jostling for the richest state’s top spot, and its residents enjoy some of the biggest incomes in America. The cost of living in this Mid-Atlantic state is high, with above-average costs for rent and other outlays.

Maryland is drenched in history, and the state of many firsts continues to be a leader in the 21st century. If you are considering a move here, you can revel that the livability doesn’t get any better than this. The state, whose nicknames include Little America, has the perfect mix of a low unemployment rate, diversity, star attractions, and outstanding schools for young families.

Virtually every space is worthy of being called home, from the magnificent peaks of the western mountains to the natural beauty of the Chesapeake Bay area – with the cleanest and nicest beaches in the U.S. to boot.

If you plan to settle in Maryland or move intra-state, here are our 15 best places to live in Maryland that could constitute a perfect home.

1. Columbia

Columbia, MarylandSource: Jon Bilous / shutterstock

Known as one of Maryland’s finest communities, Columbia is the sixth most-desirable community according to Money Magazine. Columbia has become one of the top neighborhoods for safety, economic growth, development, activities, and more!

Indeed, Niche.com ranked it the fourth best place to live in America in 2017 and the third best place to raise a family.

Residents who live in Columbia have access to shopping, schools, and parks. If you found yourself walking in Columbia today, you’d be walking on the sidewalks conveniently located throughout the city, making it an easy bike commute whether traveling to school or work.

Entertainment & Activities

In addition to its thriving residential neighborhoods, you’ll find exceptional entertainment suitable for residents of all ages! Whether you’re bringing the family out or hosting a business partner, you’ll find several entertainment options available at Destination Downtown Columbia.

During the summer, Downtown Columbia has an electric atmosphere where you’ll find yourself participating in summertime fun! So whether you want to vibe to an outdoor concert, take an outdoor fitness class, visit a movie theater, hike on a walking trail, or dine at a restaurant, you can find it here.

  • Merriweather Post Pavilion: Regional music venue
  • Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods: Arts and cultural park
  • LakeFest: Festival of arts
  • The Mall in Columbia: Shopping mall with over 200 stores
  • Reckless Shepherd Brewpub: Restaurant/brewpub with live music
  • Robinson Nature Center: Nature education facility
  • Blandair Regional Park: Playgrounds with fields for sporting events

2. North Potomac

North Potomac, MarylandSource: sevenMaps7 / shutterstock
North Potomac

If you’re looking for a small and vibrant suburb of Maryland, look no further than North Potomac. This suburban area developed its name straight from the Potomac River. Over the years, it has become the sixth richest suburb in the entire country. 

Niche, the analytics company, named North Potomac the second-best place to live in Maryland in 2023, dropping only one spot since 2017.

The suburbs of North Potomac are family-friendly, include plenty of activities, have excellent public schools, outdoor recreation opportunities, and have easy commuting access.

While living in North Potomac, you’ll find many restaurants, coffee shops, and nature parks. If you’re contemplating moving here with your family, you’ll be happy to know that their public schools have an A+ rating, so educational concerns are something you don’t need to worry about here.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in or near North Potomac are:

  • Great Falls: Natural Landmark
  • Glenstone Museum: Arts and culture
  • O’Donnell’s Market: Family-owned restaurant
  • Billy Goat Trail: Hiking trail
  • Founding Farmers: Farm-to-table meals
  • Falls Road Golf Course: Golfing
  • Olmsted Island: Wildlife attraction

3. Bethesda

Bethesda, MarylandSource: Jon Bilous / shutterstock

Situated near the nation’s capital, Bethesda is an upbeat urban suburb home to many restaurants, shopping retailers, and art venues. According to Niche, Bethesda is ranked as the fifth best place to live in Maryland in 2023.

Known as one of the most highly-educated communities in the United States, the public schools in Bethesda have an A+ rating, making it more than ideal for families seeking this urban community.

In this community, you’ll find ethnic restaurants, the best shopping, and trendy populated areas. If you’re into cultural arts, Bethesda’s Art and Entertainment district is loaded with artists, art venues, unique galleries, and public art that covers the streets.

Entertainment & Activities

With its cultural scene, electric nightlife, delicious food options, and ample nature parks, Bethesda is a great place to call home. Some of the best things to do in Bethesda are:

  • Positano Ristorante Italiano: Stand-up comedy and restaurant
  • Glen Echo Park: Arts center
  • Blues and Jazz Supper Club: Music venue
  • Carderock: Recreation Area
  • Strathmore: Concert Hall
  • Bethesda Row: Shopping hub
  • Taste of Bethesda: Festival
  • Tastee Diner: Jukebox diner

TIP: You may also like my guide on the most amazing hidden gems in Maryland.

4. Olney

OlneySource: Farragutful / Wikimedia

Over the recent years, Olney has experienced a transformation like no other. Located just twenty-five miles north of Washington D.C., you’ll find mouthwatering restaurants, parks, shopping, and much more! Olney is one of Maryland’s most sought-out neighborhoods among families.

This Maryland town is one of the best employed in a jobs-rich state. Its school district is also highly rated, whether it’s the public high schools whose graduation rate stands at 96%, or the elementary level which Grove Elementary, a holder of the Blue Ribbon School for Excellence Award, well represents.

Education matters aside, Olney is also a cultural melting pot, not just in terms of its high diversity but also for its strong attachment to the arts. The area also has green spaces and parks for exercise and family days out.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Olney, Maryland are:

  • Olney Theater Center: Indoor events, field trips, classes, and classic shows
  • Olney Public Library: Library
  • Brew Belly: Bar/Restaurant
  • Corned Beef King: Restaurant
  • The Winery at Olney: Winery
  • Cherrywood Park: Nature park

5. Gaithersburg

Gaithersburg, MarylandSource: Jon Bilous / shutterstock

Gaithersburg, Maryland is known for its diverse communities and is conveniently located between Bohrer Park and Seneca Creek State Park. If you’re an outdoor enthusiast considering moving to Gaithersburg, you’ve chosen the right place.

In this family-friendly community, families experience year-round entertainment from art, concerts, outdoor activities, and so much more! As one of the best places to live in Maryland, Gaithersburg always has something to fill up your weekend plans.

Entertainment & Activities

Gaithersburg, Maryland contains many attractions for residents of all ages. From outdoor nature parks, art galleries, farmer’s markets, and museums, it’s worth calling home. Some of the best things to do in Gaithersburg are:

  • Blackrock Center for the Arts: Performing Arts Center
  • Bohrer Park: Community Park
  • Butler’s Orchard: Farm and market
  • Seneca Stream Valley Park: Nature park
  • Hunt View Riding Academy: Horse riding school
  • Tactical Laser Tag: Laser tag

Also read: Best national parks to visit in the US

6. Urbana

Urbana, MarylandSource: gotbob / Flickr

Urbana, located in Frederick County, is one of the best places to live in Maryland. With the combination of its rich history and home developments, there’s a reason they consider this town eclectic! Urbana is the perfect mixture between a small suburban town and farmland.

When venturing into this gorgeous community, you’ll come across the Villages of Urbana. Within the Villages of Urbana, there are many different types of homes and architecture, perfect for families considering this quiet town to call home.

With its small-town atmosphere, if you’re the outdoorsy type, you’ll love the outdoor environment this community brings. In addition, you can also find comfort in knowing that Urbana holds some of the best schools for children. Located along the Potomac River, Urbana is one of the best places to call home!

Entertainment & Activities

Since Urbana is a small town, you won’t find many attractions in this community, however, if you travel nearby, you can find additional attractions just fifteen to twenty minutes away.

  • Catoctin Mountains: Mountain range
  • Cunningham Falls State Park: Nature park
  • Downtown Frederick: Shopping and restaurants
  • Dunkin Coffee Roasters: Coffee house
  • Weinberg Center for the Arts: Performing arts center
  • Jojo’s Restaurant and Tap House: Taphouse

7. Travilah

Travilah, MarylandSource: leklund / Flickr

Located just outside of Potomac, Travilah is often considered one of the best places to live in Maryland.

The caveat is that you must be well-loaded to put down roots here as this classic American suburb is one of the most expensive places to live in the Free State.

Houses here are extremely expensive, which explains why the area is a big draw for well-paid professionals such as medical doctors and lawyers.

Entertainment & Activities

While there isn’t much to do in one of the richest communities in the state; there are several attractions you’ll find nearby that make it excellent for families.

  • Greenbriar Local Park: Playground and park
  • Glenstone Museum: Museum
  • Monster Mini Golf: Golfing for kids
  • ZavaZone: Trampoline park

If you can afford it, there are few better places in America to call home.

8. Rockville

Rockville, MarylandSource: Joseph Sohm / shutterstock

If Travilah sounds way out of your reach and you still want a nice place to set up your home without the hefty cost of living, Rockville fits the bill perfectly.

The town sits only 15 miles from Bethesda, ranking highly in every aspect. Its public schools are among the best in the state; the crime rate is extremely low; the nightlife is pulsating (it’s one of the best suburbs for millennials in the Old Line State); and the quality of life is right up there with the very best.

Entertainment & Activities

If you’re a family considering Rockville as a place to call home, there’s plenty to do when residing in Rockville. If you think this town consists of only shopping and apartment units, we have a treat for you! In Rockville, Maryland you’ll find:

  • World of Beer: Brewery
  • Lake Needwood: Nature park
  • Croydon Creek: Nature center
  • Rockville Town Square: Shopping and dining
  • Color Me Mine: Paint your own ceramics
  • Dawson’s Market: Restaurant 
  • Earth Treks: Bouldering
  • Japong Bakery: Japanese bakery
  • Go Ape Zipline and Adventure Park: Adventure park for kids
  • Rockville Little Theatre: Local shows

9. Havre de Grace

Havre de Grace, MarylandSource: Jon Bilous / shutterstock
Havre De Grace

Series lovers will recognize Havre de Grace as an episode in the critically acclaimed Boardwalk Empire which ended on a rather somber note.

But there is a community in Maryland that also goes by the same name. It is a suburb in Baltimore, the largest city in Maryland, and you will find it in Harford County.

Its location on Chesapeake Bay means it witnesses its fair share of tourists each year, and one of its biggest attractions includes the historic Skipjack Martha Lewis, which was once part of the Chesapeake Bay oyster fleet and one of its few remaining working dredge boats.

More than that, what endears many to the shores of Havre de Grace is its low cost of living which is uncharacteristic of the affluent state. But that doesn’t mean the quality of life is compromised. Not at all.

Entertainment & Activities

From waterfront fun to delicious seafood, Havre De Grace doesn’t disappoint when welcoming new families to the neighborhood. Some of the top things to do in Havre De Grace, Maryland are:

  • Chesapeake Excursion: Learn to sail
  • Havre De Grace Maritime Museum: Museum
  • Bulle Rock: Golf club
  • Havre De Grace Promenade: Shopping and dining
  • Pirate Fest Weekend: Festival

Also see: Best Small Towns to Visit in Maryland

10. Ellicott City

Ellicott City, MarylandSource: ESB Professional / shutterstock
Ellicott City

Ellicott City is another suburb in Baltimore that has it all going for it. It is a town full of pride and dripping with charm and unique character, and it is little wonder Niche ranks it the fifth best place to live in Maryland.

Education, low crime rate, diversity, health and fitness, outdoor activities and nightlife make up the perfect combination of desirability features that Ellicott City checks off.

In Ellicott City, you’ll find over 70 boutiques, shopping galleries, dining, and more! With so much to do, picking Ellicott City for your new home won’t disappoint and will keep you busy. So what are you waiting for?

Entertainment & Activities

Grab the moving boxes and explore unique shopping, historical landmarks, excellent dining locations, and hidden gems in this picturesque town. Some of the top things to do in Ellicott City, Maryland are:

  • Patapsco State Park: Nature park
  • Historic Ellicott City: Boutiques
  • B&O Ellicott City Station Museum: Railroad Museum
  • Little Market Café: Dining

11. Chevy Chase

Chevy Chase, MarylandSource: thisisbossi / Flickr
Chevy Chase

Next up on our list of the 15 best places to live in Maryland is Chevy Chase, a small town located in, you guessed it, Montgomery County!

This is one of the friendliest towns in the Free State, and as small as it is, Chevy Chase offers plenty to do with the bonus of not traveling a great distance to access it: malls, amazing restaurants, movie theatres, museums, and natural parks.

When they are not enjoying the outdoors, the residents of Chevy Chase are taking their kids to some of the best schools in the state. Expectedly, the high quality of life comes at a cost. Rent alone is very high, with the median home value reaching almost a million. Of course, that is great news for homeowners – buyers, not so much!

Entertainment & Activities

In this small town, you’ll find several attractions that include theaters, art galleries, restraints, shopping, and more! Some of the top things to do in Chevy Chase.

  • Woodland Nature Sanctuary: Nature park
  • Clyde’s: Restaurant (hamburger joint)
  • Meadowbrook Park: Nature park
  • Merritt Gallery: Art gallery
  • Wisconsin Place: Shopping
  • The Capital Grille: Fine dining
  • The Collection: High-end boutiques

12. South Kensington

South Kensington
South Kensington

South Kensington is another small town in Maryland that is no stranger to praise. It has found itself in many best places to live lists, including CNN Money. AreaVibes.com also declared it the most livable place in Maryland and for good reason.

The area scores highly in the outdoor activities category, thanks to six nearby parks, various shopping options, restaurants, and coffee shops.

Parents will appreciate the high-performing schools in South Kensington which churn out some of the best minds in the state, and kids who might want to go back to work in their hometown will be completely aware of the great employment opportunities in the area which contribute to the high household income levels.

Entertainment & Activities

From its charming shops to gorgeous parks and playgrounds, you and your family will have plenty to do in South Kensington, Maryland. 

  • Clum-Kennedy Park: Nature park
  • Howard Avenue Park: Nature park
  • Farmer’s Market: Market
  • Antique Row: Shopping
  • Potomac Sweets: Dining
  • Noyes Library: Library

13. Towson

Towson, MarylandSource: Jon Bilous / shutterstock

Towson is a town in Baltimore County near the big city. The public schools in this area are considered not only among the best in the Free State but also the whole country. There is a public university (Towson University), but this is more than just a simple college town.

Towson offers its residents a lot to do outdoors, including an array of restaurants and bars, malls and shopping centers within walking distance, a movie theatre, and, of course, the Loch Raven reservoir where you can go hiking or mountain biking.

Entertainment & Activities

Known as a charming community, Towson is accessible from Baltimore via the light rail service. By having convenient transportation methods, residents have access to plenty of attractions. Some of the top things to do in Towson are:

  • Cinematic Towson: Movie theater
  • Towson Town Center: Shopping mall
  • Lake Roland: Nature park
  • SECU Arena: Basketball games
  • Towson Tavern: Dining
  • Johnny Unitas Stadium: Watch football
  • About Faces Day Spa & Salon: Massage and facials
  • C&R Pub: Dining

14. Clarksburg

Clarksburg, MarylandSource: Lissandra Melo / shutterstock

Clarksburg is one of the best places to live in Maryland by a stretch. It is a bit pricey, though, with high rents and above-average home prices. But what is also high is the amount that each household takes home.

The high incomes explain the smorgasbord of restaurants in Clarksburg, not to mention a grocery store and a Dunkin Donuts branch. There is also a karate center in the area, with plenty of trails that allow for lots of recreation.

There is little not to love about Clarksburg.

Entertainment & Activities

Considered one of the best places to live in Maryland, Clarksburg hosts several lovely parks, recreational areas, and hiking routes. Some of the top things to do in Clarksburg, Maryland are:

  • Clarksburg Village Center: Shopping
  • Dowden’s Ordinary Special Park: Nature park
  • Arora Hills: Local park
  • Ovid Hazen Wells: Recreational Park
  • Froggy Hollow Trailhead: Hiking
  • Little Bennett: Golf course

15. Burtonsville

Burtonsville, MarylandSource: sevenMaps7 / shutterstock

Rounding us off is Burtonsville, a small town that is just minutes away from Washington D.C. Houses are more affordable here than in most other places on this list.

Most folks in the area wouldn’t trade their town for anything because Burtonsville witnesses no crime. That’s a biggie, especially for families with kids who are also privileged to have access to some of the best schools in Maryland.

Burtonsville may be small, but it has one of the most diverse populations in Little America. Still, they have managed to live together harmoniously, as is evident in the strong sense of community that contributes to this idyllic town’s character. One of the notable annual events is Burtonsville Day, a day held in honor of the town’s founder, Isaac Burton.

It sees the residents come together with games, crafts, petting zoos, and events all over town, exhibiting an almost palpable feeling of kinship that lasts well past the big day.

Entertainment & Activities

As one of the best places to live in Maryland, you’ll find several things to do in Burtonsville.

  • Fairland: Recreational Park
  • Marilyn J. Praisner Library: Library
  • Horowitz Center: Performing arts
  • PLNT Burger: Dining
  • Doodlehatch: Interactive Art Museum
  • Brookside Gardens: Nature park
  • Spicknall’s Farm Market: Family-run farm stand

15 Best Places to Live in Maryland:

  • Columbia
  • North Potomac
  • Bethesda
  • Olney
  • Gaithersburg
  • Urbana
  • Travilah
  • Rockville
  • Havre de Grace
  • Ellicott City
  • Chevy Chase
  • South Kensington
  • Towson
  • Clarksburg
  • Burtonsville