Columbia/Ellicott City, MD
What do you think of Columbia/Ellicott City, MD, the No. 4 city on this year's Best Places to Live list? What makes it a great American town? Are real estate prices reasonable? How are the schools? What activities and events does it offer? Is it a place where you can live a low-stress life? If you don't live there now, would you consider moving there? Tell us what you think. The best replies will be published here, and possibly in a future story on CNNMoney.com.
Posted by CNNMoney.com 1:00 AM 31 Comments comment | Add a Comment

Tell us what you think of the No. 1 city on this year's Best Places to Live list.
Posted By Anonymous : 5:36 PM  

What makes this city a great American town?
Posted By Anonymous : 5:36 PM  

If you don't live in this city now, would you consider moving there? The best replies will be published here.
Posted By Anonymous : 5:37 PM  

The cultural diversity makes Columbia a wonderful place to expose your children to all walks of life. Equal opportunity jobs for the handicapped are readily available and encouraged. The vast ammenities of Columbia allow residents to "one stop shop" right in the town. I never thought I would "love" this place like I do, but the real estate market and the overall upkeep of the Columbia grounds makes it very appealing to all. The schools are noted to be some of the top schools. Of course you will have schools that don't make the top percentile for reading and writing, but it has been documented that the county is working to improve those particular schools. We moved here from NYC, a place that was always on the move. Columbia allowed us to appreciate the slower pace, at the same time provide the same upbeat events on a regular basis. We lived here for the pass year and we can not complain one bit.
Posted By Shawn, Columbia, MD : 12:44 PM  

We moved to the Columbia area a couple of years ago and absolutely love it! Some of the reasons we chose this area are: 1)Convenience - It is centrally located between Baltimore, MD and Washington, DC which makes it an easy commute to major cities 2) Education - The Howard County Public School district is one of the best in the nation (and the top in MD) 3) Diversity - Columbia residents come from a wide variety of cultural, ethnic, and religious backgrounds 4)Community - great for families with plenty of activities for both the young and the old to explore.

In all, Columbia, MD is a great area with many things to offer. Of course, home prices aren't what they were 5-10 years ago; but, it is definitely worth the investment.
Posted By Crystal, Columbia MD : 4:17 PM  

Columbia is just like most DC suburbs: VERY expensive, horrible traffic, obnoxious people, and lots over gov't-related jobs. If you're rich, obnoxious, and love politics, it's a great place to live.
Posted By Joe M, Sterling, VA : 2:29 PM  

Just moved into Columbia from NYC and lovin every minute of it, really nice people, easy going, and a wonderful get away from DC and Baltimore. Not inexpensive...but was it is nowadays.
Posted By Troy L. , Columbia MD : 3:33 PM  

Columbia is great but don't try to find anywhere to eat that isn't a total mob scene on the weekends and oh yeah..good luck finding a gas station.
Posted By Kevin, Crofton, MD. : 4:20 PM  

Columbia is indeed a great place to live. My husband and I have lived here with our children for 13 years. The schools are great, not only for the education they offer, with a variety of programs available, but also for the diverse community that they are being exposed to. The jobe market is plentiful and my commute is only 5 minutes! Everything you need is right here, Libraries and shopping withing walking distance, free concerts are offered all summer long. Three gyms and 22 pools offered through the columbia association. With the close proximity to Baltimore and D.C. museums and sporting events are easily accesible. We feel blessed to live in such a safe and extraordinary community.
Posted By Lisa, Columiba MD : 9:26 AM  

I've lived nearby Columbia most of my life and it is a very nice city. Very well designed. It's easy to get around the roads are built wide enough so that you don't feel like your going to scrape your car on the curb. The Mall is fantastic it's huge, and now with the addition of the Cheescake factory, P.F. Changs and the AMC cinemas it is truly the best mall in Maryland in my opinion.

The other thing that is wonderful about Columbia and Ellicot City is the lakes and trails in the area. Columbia has Wilde Lake which I think is the most beautiful, Lake Kitumaquandi (downtown, and Lake Elkhorn toward the southeast. All manmade, but they don't look it. Ellicott City has Centenial Lake and that's nice too, lot's of tennis courts and parks are scattered around too. And I think the best thing that makes Columbia seem so tranquil is the amount of trees that they saved in this huge developement. They certainly thought ahead when planning and now the area feels like a forest even though it is densely populated.
Posted By Paul Namie, Woodbine, MD : 11:57 AM  

Moved to Columbia from New York suburb 19 yrs. ago. This is now an old town, with the usual problems that the "Town Fathers" try to keep quiet (i.e. crime, etc.). The roads were not built to handle the congestion. D.C. is 31 miles away, but you can't get there in under 50-60 mins. As soon as youngest child is out of the house, we're out of Columbia...don't be fooled...
Posted By Gene, Columbia, MD : 4:04 PM  

Love it, love it! Best place to live in all of MD. Great customer service, amenities are unbelievable, and something to do EVERY weekend in the warm months. For the health concious like myself, best health market in MD and a $20M 24-hour fitness center that is out of this world-- I call it the mothership. Live music to be found all the time, bike trails, fantastic mall, friendly people, I just can't say enough. I'm going into my 6th year there and was only planning to stay for 1.
Posted By Tracey, Columbia, MD : 4:52 PM  

We moved specifically to Columbia after living all over the world and US (Military family). My wife was adamant about buying a house here, and I thank her daily for that. You really have the best of both worlds here - two major cites, with all the cultural events you can handle, and a 10 minute drive to the country - with that side of life.

Best drawing points: Community involvement in quality of life issues and politics - from local level to nationwide; excellent educational services from the best public schools I have ever seen, and clean and well-kept public facilities, with a library system just named #1 in the US.

Drawbacks: Some people can't handle the covenant restrictions on their homes and property (Columbia only); Long commutes to either Baltimore or DC (plans for the DC Metro to extend out here by 2015 are forming); Major traffic tie-ups during commuting rush hours. Sports teams ( major league and major college Baseball, Football and Basketball) could be better, but the venues they play in are great.

We are so impressed we have decided to remain here after my retirement in two years, as there are excellent life style opportunities for the 'Golden Agers'.
Posted By Reed Kohberger, Columbia, MD : 5:52 PM  

Much of what makes a place a "great place to live" is what you bring to it. We've lived in 7 states and Europe, each had great characteristics along with some things we had to "adjust to." A job transfer brought us to MD and we bought a house in Columbia because of the location (for "liveability and for resale), never suspecting at the time that this might be the "last move." Our grade schoolers when we moved here have subsequently learned that growing up in Columbia prepared them well for the challenges that they would face in college (in another state)and life beyond. We have thrived from living, playing, working, studying, worshiping and socializing in a truly diverse community, located where we can experience so much of the country's history and continue to see history being made everyday. Is Columbia a "perfect place" to live? No, especially if your job requires a commute but Columbia provides an environment where you can build your own great foundation and like us establish solid roots. We enjoyed every place that we lived but we are glad that we settled in this great community in this great location.
Posted By Deb, Columbia MD : 1:20 AM  

I went to Howard County Public Schools for most of my life, and I got a great education. I recently purchased my first home, a condo, and it was quite pricey ($250,000 for two bedrooms, one bath), but definitely worth it. Columbia has lots of parks and tons of convenient shopping. It's near major highways with 15-minute access to Baltimore and 45-minute access to D.C. There are also lots of government jobs. The area is safe, clean and well-planned. Ellicott City also offers a historic Main Street, and the nearby community of Catonsville also has historic charm and lots of ethic shopping.
Posted By Elizabeth, Ellicott City, MD : 1:10 PM  

I am entering my junior year of high school and have lived in Ellicott City all my life. It really is a great place to have a family, since it is very safe and has excellent schools. There are lots of different activities offered in school and throughout the community. Everything you need is 5-10 minutes away or less, and there's plenty of everything: schools, libraries, all kinds of stores, etc. I've liked living close to Baltimore and DC and being able to frequently experience the cultural activities they offer. It definitely deserves its ranking on the list, though traffic can be bad.
Posted By Jessica, Ellicott City MD : 10:09 PM  

The diversity in this area is terrific! We're a multi-racial family brought together through adoption. We've lived in this area for the past 11 years because of the diversity, cultural opportunities, and terrific schools. People here embrace diversity and we love the fact that when we walk down the street here, no one seems to notice or care about our family's obvious differences.
Posted By Diane, Ellicott City, MD : 9:15 AM  

I LOVE Columbia! I was born and raised in this magnificent city, 26 years and counting. I have experienced it all and will never move to another city again. After college and a little fun in TX, I returned to Columbia and realized what I was missing. I may have a bias opinion, but no other city comes close to what Columbia offers its residents; Serenades in the Park, Teens on Tour, great schools and libraries, lakes and walking trails, The Mall, a premier location of the city, safety, and diversity. The old saying, "You get what you pay for," says it all!
Posted By Thema, Columbia, MD : 10:49 AM  

Our multiracial family has lived in Columbia for 15 years. The area has many pluses--lots of green space and trees, excellent public schools, and the fact that it is a planned community adds several useful touches. For instance convenient shopping, and cluster mailboxes that invite conversations with your neighbors. I love the fact that the planners insisted that town houses, not tract mansions be built by the many ponds and lakes in Columbia.
Above all we love the fact that the area virtually invented multi-culturalism. In fact, we're so used to having integrated neighborhoods we don't even notice the fact any more.

Drawbacks--commutes to Baltimore or DC are horrendous and traffic is heavy. Most of the housing stock was built in the late 60's and early 70's. It looks a bit dated now, and you will have to learn to love earth tones if you move here. The "Dandelion Police" (our term for the neighborhood associations that have to approve every external change to your property) can be oppressive. Housing is expensive but when compared with suburbs closer to D.C., prices are downright reasonable.
I love living here.
Posted By Laura, Columbia, MD : 1:10 PM  

The traffic is horrible. The community is only good for the obnoxiously wealthy self-centered individuals that make up a great deal of the demographic. The rate of hate crimes in this area is outragious. May want to take a closer look at this community before you decide to move here. There are other areas of Md that are far better such as Carroll County and Frederick County.
Posted By Jeff, Eldersburg, Md : 3:20 PM  

I have lived in Ellicott City for 14 years and love it. We were drawn here due to its proximity to both Baltimore and Washington. We are convenient to everything, the community and people are wonderful, and the schools are excellent. Library system is superb as are the recreational opportunities. The traffic is fine, except when you get close to Balt/Wash during rush hour. The only drawback - Housing affordability is poor due to supply/demand mismatch from growth restrictions. Median home price in EC is much higher than the report indicates.
Posted By Greg, Ellicott City : 3:12 PM  

We lived in the Columbia/Ellicott City area for many years as it grew and prospered. While this area is still very nice, the real gem is just a few miles west: Glenwood and Glenelg in western Howard county. There you have the best of both worlds: farmland, green spaces, quiet neighborhoods, community spirit, new parks and libraries, great schools, and excellent proximity to major routes to work in Washington, Baltimore, Frederick, and Montgomery county.
Posted By Kathy from Wilmington, NC : 2:30 PM  

Hi! I have lived in Columbia nearly all of my life and miss it greatly. I just recently moved to New Haven, CT for college and miss my hometown ever so much. I miss having the mall and movies be a quick five minute drive! I also miss Merriweather, our concert venue only be a short drive away. The homes may be pricey but its the quality that counts. The neighbors are so nice and everyone stops to say "HI" on the street! The traffic ,may be bad but there are plenty on back roads and I dont mind waiting because the trees make a good view in any time of the year!
Posted By Arianne, Columbia, Maryland : 11:28 PM  

I have lived in the Ellicott City area for 10 years, and grew up in a neighboring county of Maryland. My Wife, 2 kids and I love it here. I travel a lot in my job, and I can honestly say that there is not a better place to live. Within a 45 minute drive there is Baltimore, DC and Annapolis, each of which are totally different, fun, historic, and culturally diverse cities. The public school system is outstanding, and there is an abundance of recreation, sports, and things (outdoor and indoor) to do for families. Within a 2 mile radius of our House there are 2 huge public parks, each is almost 100 acres. Within a 2-3 hour drive you can be at the beach, or in the mountains. We get to experience all 4 seasons, in moderation, the crime is low, and there are plenty of services and amenities -- all very close. You defintiely get to "see" your tax dollars at work. The cons are that the traffic can be bad, depending on where you work, and housing is on the expensive side. However, the pros far outweigh the cons, and I can't think of a better place to raise my kids.
Posted By Steve, Ellicott City, MD : 10:58 PM  

I have lived in Columbia for 8 years. We moved here because it was equal commute distance to D.C. and Towson. We have enjoyed the opportunites that this community has to offer for schooling, easy access to shopping areas. We also have interesting community events such as the wine festival. Nice walk and bike paths. I love Centennial Park. i love the area for myself at this time but probably wont say here in my golden years. I like the quiet life.
Drawbacks:Increased conjestion of roadways, Heavy traffic during rush hours for commuting(I usually leave early to avoid some of that in the am). There is a push for increased building in the area since Rouse co. sold the holdings. We may lose that quality of green space if they had their way. The property prices have soared and so not as affordable to live here for those just starting out.
Just check those real estate sites to get a general idea of median cost.
Posted By Sandra, Columbia, MD : 12:17 PM  

I have lived in many places up and down the east coast and have been in Columbia for 7 years. Howard county is an excellent place to raise a family. The taxes are reasonable compared to many northern states, yet government services are top notch. Schools, roads, and police/fire are among the best I have seen anywhere. The managed community guarantees that every residence and business remains well kept. Real estate got a bit out of control over the last few years, but is starting to come back down to earth. Traffic can be a bear if you work anywhere south of Columbia, but the commute to Baltimore is a piece of cake and there are more than enough opportunities there. We love it.
Posted By Chris, Columbia, MD : 4:57 PM  

I lived in Columbia from when I was 11 to when i graduated high school and for intermittent returns in between then and now when I am 24. I have several issues with Columbia compared to other places I have lived. My major one is that you must drive to get anywhere good. There is no good public transportation system. I hate the isolation and discontiguous type of living that driving in separate cars imposes on people. Having a mall as the center of town is part of the whole driving thing that I feel is less fun than a walkable-type town with a downtown and neighborhoods that each have their own business areas. Columbia is a land of shopping centers with big parking lots, many being far apart and only reachable through many-laned roads (making them unsafe and difficult to walk to). This just doesn't appeal to me very much. I don't find it as enjoyable as a place where i can walk to work, stores and to visit friends. There also are not many good places to hang out without spending lots of money. Any kind of bar scene is made impossible by the fact that you have to drive to get anywhere. I like the green-ness of Columbia, but you can't enjoy that part of Columbia as part of your daily routine of going to work, b/c you have to drive to work, so enjoying the bike trails and parks has to be done during set aside leisure time. That said i do plan to move back to Columbia in a year. For me, being near family is the pull, not the quality of life there.
Posted By Jamie, Pittsburgh Pa : 10:56 PM  

I first moved to Columbia in my mid 20's. I bought a great townhouse that was basic in looks, but solidly built (brick) and was so spacious with such good neighbors, that I lived in that home for 18 years. It cost $44,000. On an educator's salary though, after 18 years, I was finally able to buy a nice detached home with a 2 car garage in a newly built part of Columbia. After 7 years there, I moved 3 miles away just outside the Columbia city limits to a spacious home on 3 acres with a pool that is now worth $800,000. Reading the postings about Columbia, I realized why I consider it, and the surrounding areas of Ellicott City and Clarksville "home". I have taken for granted the fact that on some weekends I have been down to DC for a concert on Friday evening and home for the night, then up to Baltimore for dancing on Saturday night for example. Having two such different major cities 45-50 minutes away in either direction is a luxury many people don't have access to. I've gone skiing 2 hours west and to the beach 2.5 hours to the east for most of my life. With Georgetown University, the Smithsonian, the Redskins, etc in DC and with Johns Hopkins University, the Orioles, the Ravens and the Inner Harbor with our National Aquarium in Baltimore, having both so nearby, it's easy to think that these things are available everywhere. CNN Money and my many trips around the country have arrived at the same conclusion that the wealth of opportunities for learning, recreation, employment and urban, suburban and rural living is hard to find in many other places. The fact that two major cities are so close does mean that traffic can be a major issue. If I ever lived anywhere else for any reason, I know that the Columbia area will always be home for me.
Posted By Craig, Clarksville, MD : 11:18 PM  

I moved to Columbia after living in Canton (Baltimore). Prior to this, my wife and I live in San Antonio, Texas. I missed the East Coast and green spaces. Columbia has all of that and the planned community concept is nice. High taxes but the convenience is worth it. We lived in King's Contrivance (1 of the many areas of Columbia) for over 2 1/2 years. It is also a great area for hospitals etc. My daughter was born at Howard County Hospital (excellent staff and support). Although we've moved further south to Prince Georges County (even more space and current boom now), I always enjoy going back to Columbia due to the diversity- I have noticed some increased congestion and some complaints of increased crime due to regentrification from Baltimore (it's happening all over the country).

If you have the cash, I believe that it is worth it. If you like a bit more of a DC suburbs feel, move further south- anywhere along the 50 corridor (DC to Annapolis). We made that move and we're very happy.
Posted By EJ, Mitchellville, MD : 11:41 AM  

Although my college education has brought me out of Columbia, it has definitely shown me how grateful I am to have grown up in such a fantastic town. As many people before me have said, the parks and recreation system is unmatchable and any store or restaurant is within 5-10 minutes. I had a fantastic education in the public school system in the Oakland Mills village, and the communities have great bonds. But the thing that I think really sets Columbia apart from any other town in the country, is the diversity. Before leaving Columbia for college I didn�t even really think that racism still really existed. Everyone gets along so great that to me, racism was something that we read about in our history textbooks, not something we experienced. If only all communities could create Columbia�s culture.

But don�t get me wrong, while it was a great place to grow up and have a family, I can�t say I would recommend it for those b/w 20-30. While there are some bars and the cities are close by, they�re still a significant drive away. Young adults would get bored vvvery quickly here.

But as a city girl myself, give me 5-10 years when I�m trying to begin a family, and I will definitely want to move back to Columbia.
Posted By Sara, New York City : 11:24 AM  

I moved from the Los Angeles area to columbia back in 1987. I was 11 years old and my father had transfered out to Washington DC. His reason for moving here then was the school system. The public schools here are wonderful- a fact I did not see until I moved away from columbia- where at least 60 percent of high schoolers in columbia go on to graduate college, many other places are lucky to have a 60 percent High school graduation rate. Where racism can run quite rampant in other towns, columbia is quite tolerant and very diverse- so diverse that growing up here we often referred to it as "Growing up in the Bubble". While there are plenty of things for the young children and adults to do here, I did find that I was often bored as a teenager- too young to venture into the adult nightlife, but too old to be amused by rollerskating. After living in many other places, however, I have seen that no matter what town you go to in America, the Kroger parking lot will always be full of teens with nothing to do on a friday night. For the twenty-somethin there seem to be more and more things to do these days- or maybe it's just as I am now 29 I can do more of these things that I couldn't do earlier on. Columbia is a great town, and I am glad to say I grew up here.
Posted By Kevin, Columbia, MD : 11:00 AM  

a href="http://money.cnn.com/blogs/bplive/popup.html?postID=115220570897321325&isPopup=true" onclick="window.open('http://money.cnn.com/blogs/bplive/popup.html?postID=115220570897321325&isPopup=true', 'bloggerPopup', 'toolbar=0,scrollbars=0,location=0,statusbar=1,menubar=0,resizable=0,width=375,height=480');return false;">Add a Comment
« Back to Blog Main
To send a letter to the editor about Best places to live, click hereTop of page

Previous posts
Archives

Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer LIBOR Warning: Neither BBA Enterprises Limited, nor the BBA LIBOR Contributor Banks, nor Reuters, can be held liable for any irregularity or inaccuracy of BBA LIBOR. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.
Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer LIBOR Warning: Neither BBA Enterprises Limited, nor the BBA LIBOR Contributor Banks, nor Reuters, can be held liable for any irregularity or inaccuracy of BBA LIBOR. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.