Centennial Park in Ellicott City
WINNERTop 100 rank: 8
Compare Columbia to Top 10 Best Places
One of the nation's oldest settlements (it was founded in 1772), Ellicott City snuggles up to one of its newest, Columbia (a planned community conjured up out of 14,000 acres of farmland in 1967). This duo remains a perennial contender on our Best Places list thanks to its mix of charm, comfort and careful zoning.
Historic Ellicott City's steep Main Street is lined with antique shops and teahouses, while Columbia, a cluster of nine residential villages around a town center, is home to offices of such high-powered tech companies as Arbitron, Merkle and Northrop Grumman. No wonder residents' median household income has risen more than 20% since 2000.
Though traffic can be a headache, it's easy to escape it: More than a third of Columbia's acreage has been set aside as open space, including a 950-acre nature preserve, a skateboard park and three lakes.
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