Finding Fun in the Maryland Suburbs

Finding Fun in the Maryland Suburbs
maryland suburbs
The Pop Shop – a great little place to visit in Frederick, Maryland.

During a recent post, I dropped a reference to visiting the Maryland suburbs. I've counted up all the time I've spent in that area for work and family visits … the total stands right around seven months. That's a good chunk, and I still find little to love about it. I can never find a decent espresso drink out there, and good breweries or restaurants are also way too scarce. It seems like everything is a Starbucks or a Chili's. Good news, though – I actually found a few cool things in the Maryland suburbs this time. I'm going to focus on two new towns I hadn't visited before … and actually liked.

Ellicott City

I've spent very little time near Baltimore. Most of the in-laws seemed clustered around Rockville, until the sister-in-law and her husband got a place closer to Baltimore. About 10 minutes down the road from it, we found a cool little town called Ellicott City.

It has a river, a railroad and a bunch of nicely kept brick buildings. One of these fine buildings is home to the Ellicott Mills Brewing Company. Unfortunately, it specializes more in German-style beers, and they didn't have an IPA or a stout. They still served a fine plate of fries and a nice late-night chocolatey dessert, along with some great advice about other local pubs and breweries that are worth a visit.

English: David J. Brantley Maryland Suburbs
A view of the main drag of Ellicott City. English: David J. Brantley (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We visited the next day for breakfast, where we had some nice egg sandwiches at Bean Hollow. If you know the difference between a dry cappuccino and a wet cappuccino or know what a macchiato really is, Bean Hollow's coffee won't impress you. This is a frequent problem in Maryland. We took some time to wander the streets – Ellicott City is full of antique shops and other kitschy stores. It's definitely a fun place to spend the better part of a day. Just beware all the paid parking.


After a few days, Sarah and I just wanted to get OUT of the sterile, endless tract of laboratories and chain restaurants that define Rockville and Gaithersburg. So we took a 30-mile drive to Frederick. Before we arrived, the terrain actually started to roll and have a countryside flavor to it.

maryland suburbs
The Community Bridge mural in Frederick. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We found a place to park, and started to wander the downtown Frederick district. It's full of cafes and shops, much like Ellicott City. But it's a lot bigger, and a bit less rustic. The North Market Pop Shop was one of my favorite finds – think of it as a microbrew store for high-end sodas; I drink a soda only every few months, usually because I find a place that offers something with real sweeteners instead of high-fructose corn syrup.

There's also a cool knife shop called Edgeworks, which offered a better selection than anything in my home city of 4 million people. We also struck out coffee-wise in Frederick, though. Again on the plus side, I found a very fun record store (yes, real vinyl) called The Record Exchange. I picked up some coasters made from old Iron Maiden albums!

If you need to kill a day, Frederick is definitely a good place to do it. It's a pleasant change from the typical Maryland suburbs.

One last thing: I have to imagine that some of the less-business focused areas in the Maryland suburbs have to be awesome on Halloween. That area just as a great Ichabod Crane colonial feel to it. I could see kids having a great time hitting the streets and scaring each other out there.



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Mentioned in this post
  1. Ellicott City
    City in Maryland

    Ellicott City Maryland
  2. Rockville
    City in Maryland

    Rockville Maryland
  3. Gaithersburg
    City in Maryland

    Gaithersburg Maryland
  4. Frederick
    City in Maryland

    Frederick Maryland


  1. Trevor Stasik

    I spent a weekend in downtown Baltimore in the Inner Harbor a few years ago. At the time, it was really nice with a great craft brew place. I forget what the name of the place was, but I remember hearing that it closed their doors, so I guess it doesn’t matter. I’m sure there are new places there to get some food and drink. Anyway, the view was pretty and it was relatively safe. Good for a weekend trip.

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