Nearest big city: Baltimore
Drive a few miles west from Baltimore, and you’ll come upon Ellicott City, a diverse and quirky town brimming with history.
The city of 74,000 lays claim to countless glimpses of America’s past, including the country’s oldest surviving railroad station and the well-maintained ruins of the Patapsco Female Institute, an 1800s-era finishing school. Rumor has it that George Washington once stayed at the city’s Wayside Inn, a 200-year-old bed-and-breakfast, too. You can even take a ghost tour to learn more about the town (well, those who haunt it).
Want to stay a while? Home prices were up only 5% in the first quarter of the year (a feat for today’s hot market!), and jobs are projected to jump 13% by 2025. The city’s also just a hop, skip and jump away from busy urban centers like D.C. and Annapolis, too.
If you have kiddos, then look for Barry the Bubble Man. He performs out front of the Forget-Me-Not Factory, a three-story fantasy-themed shopping experience “where fairy dust and bubbles meet.” You can also stop by town in October, when Ellicott City plays host to the Harry Potter-themed Wizarding Weekend on Magical Main.
Be sure and take your camera over to Clark’s Elioak Farm, too. The working farm boasts a petting zoo, pony rides, a produce stand and, most importantly, the fairy forest — a shrine to Enchanted Forest, a now-shuttered fairytale-themed amusement park. The Clarks have restored many of the park’s installations, including the giant Cinderella pumpkin, a life-sized Goldilocks and the Three Bears house, and even the Old Woman’s Shoe (brimming with children, of course). — Aly J. Yale
Ellicott City, Maryland