By Alex Perdikis
Livability.com’s “Best Places to Live in Maryland” illuminates just how much the nation’s 9th smallest state has to offer. Replete with history and culture, communities surrounding the D.C. area offer respite from the capital’s hustle and bustle, recreation of all types, killer cuisine and all the makings of a high quality lifestyle.
Without further ado, let’s take a trip to the five best places in the Old Line State. And we’ll find out just why they can boast about of their top-notch livability. There’s no shortage of excellent reasons for these livability rankings, so a summary will have to do. That is, until you take your next vacation, or perhaps move, to Maryland!
Just a commuter-rail ride away from the nation’s capital, Bethesda is nationally known as one of the richest and most highly educated cities in the United States. It’s not only at the top Livability.com’s list of the best places to live, but it consistently ranks high on the livability list of other online sources. This city is home to major employers and singular institutions, such as the National Institutes of Health, Walter Reed Military Medical Center as well as the headquarters of Lockheed Martin.
Over half of Bethesda’s approximately 62,000 residents have postgraduate degrees. Additionally, the town is known for its excellent educational system, especially Walt Whitman High School, which ranks #55 in U.S. News & World Report’s top high schools.
Despite the prowess of its institutions and businesses, this community is also known for its small-town-feel. Neighborhoods surround the downtown core. Families picnic or exercise in local green spaces or explore Glen Echo Park, a renovated amusement park that boasts two children’s theaters with drop-in classes. It would be remiss not to mention Bethesda’s unmistakably fine, diverse cuisine. Foodies tout the older, established parts of Bethesda as home to its best restaurants.
Not only does Silver Spring make Livability.com’s list of the best places to live in Maryland, it made its 2015 list of the top 100 places to live nationally. No wonder: Silver Springs has a highly educated, diverse population of 72,000. According to Livability.com, the city is “46 percent Caucasian, 27 percent Latino and 26 percent African American, adding up to an exciting mix reflected in every aspect of the city.” Silver Spring also boasts a vibrant arts and cultural scene. It is undergoing major growth in its infrastructure and, in particular, its housing sector.
Although Silver Spring is less than 10 miles from D.C., residents and visitors have plenty of opportunities to become immersed in something other than politics in this Mid-Atlantic tech hub. Moreover, Silver Spring residents have witnessed a dramatic development in the downtown arts center, a resurgence in shopping and international cuisine, the renovation of the historic Silver Theatre and the refurbishment of the city’s Civic Center and Veteran’s Plaza. The latter have become the crown jewels of the city, successfully hosting festivals and events that really bring the community together.
Rockville, also a suburb of D.C., has no shortage of admirers. It’s another Maryland city that makes both Livability.com’s list of the top 100 best places to live nationally (for the third year in a row!!) as well as Maryland’s top 10 best places to live. Additionally, for both 2015 and 2016, Livability.com has ranked Rockville one of the top 10 Best Place to Raise a Family. Other online sources also have ranked it one of the best family-friendly communities in Maryland.
Like Bethesda and Silver Spring, Rockville is located in Montgomery County, which is nationally recognized for its extraordinary high schools. For example, Rockville is home to Wootten High, which has twice earned the Blue Ribbon and consistently ranks as one of the Washington Post’s top 100 high schools. The post-secondary educational choices in Rockville draw the best and brightest, and are truly reflective of the city’s diversity. Rockville is also home to the renowned the Montgomery County campus of Johns Hopkins University, and campuses of Montgomery College, University College, and the University of Maryland.
Scoring second highest on Livability.com’s diversity index, Rockville’s diversity is key to its appeal to many families. The city is home to one of the largest Chinese communities in Maryland, and is also the center of the D.C. area’s Jewish population. Like Silver Spring, Rockville is still growing, while maintaining a high quality of life for its older residents. Since 2000, Rockville’s population has increased by 30 percent to more than 60,000 residents. Both Rockville’s biomed and tech industries as well as its proximity to D.C.-area job opportunities continue to attract educated professionals and recent graduates.
Located just outside Baltimore, Towson is known as one of the most affluent cities in Maryland. Its location is prime. With short commutes to D.C. and Baltimore and just a train ride to New York City, Towson offers residents access to big cities, yet provides that small-town-feel when you return home. As Livability.com puts it, Townson’s really got “Something for Everyone.” This made it easy for Livability to rank the city not only one of Maryland’s top 10 but also the nation’s top 100 “Best Places to Live.”
Home to Towson University, the city’s college population of approximately 20,000 contributes to its lively culture. As the county seat of Baltimore as well as the site of Maryland’s Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services headquarters, Townson provides high-paying government jobs. Other factors that contribute to Townson’s livability are its booming retail industry. Towson City Center is the largest indoor mall in Baltimore County. Not only does it supply the municipality revenue, but its residents count it among their choice amenities.
Closer to home, Towson is also recognized for some of the nation’s best elementary and secondary schools. Newsweek ranked Towson High #334 in the nation’s best high schools. Other well-known, excellent secondary schools in Towson have been educating children for over an 100 years. Of course, these schools draw families to town. As for property values, well, you might have guessed, they reflect Towson’s position as one of Maryland’s premier cities.
Planned from scratch, Columbia sets itself apart from many typical D.C. suburbs. James Rouse, Columbia’s original urban planner, envisioned an alternative to the cookie-cutter commuter towns around D.C. Instead, Columbia would be built on the village concept, with homes as well as commercial/industrial areas in each village. Creating a vibrant local economy was what Rouse envisioned. Now, more than 5,000 companies have operations of various sizes in Columbia. The city is home to more than a dozen business and industrial parks, ranging from 24 to 600 acres.
Instead of spending time commuting for work (though Columbia residents do), Rouse’s design allows people to live, play and work in the same town. As an unincorporated area, Columbia has 10 individual neighborhoods that function as self-contained communities in themselves. Each has a unique character and artistic flavor with streets named after renowned works of art and literature or literary figures. In Columbia, public art is important: a sculpture depicting family love, for example, is the centerpiece of a two-acre plaza on The Wilde Lake Village Green.
Columbia is also lauded for its recreational facilities, including three man-made lakes, a sports park, 25 public swimming pools, 93 miles of walking paths, thousands of acres of open space and so much more.
As you might imagine, Columbia also has a reputation for providing education that is nationally ranked among America’s best at both the primary and secondary levels. Not only has Livability.com ranked Columbia among the best places live, but so has Money magazine. And U.S. News & World Report considers it one of the top retirement destinations. But that doesn’t mean that Columbia is a sleepy little town. With 100,000 residents, it is alive and thriving. Plus, Columbia has begun construction of a major Downtown area with mixed-use facilities and plans for at least 5,500 new residential units.
On your next visit to Maryland, be sure take an excursion through some of these suburbs. It will be time well-spent. And you just might find yourself a new place to call home!