Top 10+ Exciting Things to Do in Columbia, MD

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Columbia view in Maryland

Nestled between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., Columbia, MD, is a vibrant and diverse community offering a diverse array of activities and attractions. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, a history buff, an art lover, or someone looking for a lively nightlife scene, Columbia has something for everyone. From scenic parks and tranquil lakes to cultural landmarks and bustling shopping centers, this planned community is brimming with opportunities for adventure and relaxation. Dive into our guide to discover the top things to do in Columbia, MD, and create lasting memories in this charming locale.

Key Takeaways:

  • Outdoor Activities: Enjoy scenic parks, nature trails, and lakes that offer a picturesque escape and recreational opportunities.
  • Cultural Attractions: Visit museums, art galleries, and historical sites that provide a rich tapestry of Columbia’s heritage.
  • Nightlife and Entertainment: Experience vibrant nightlife with bars, live music, and theaters.
  • Shopping and Dining: Indulge in diverse dining options and explore unique shopping centers and boutiques.

Outdoor Activities in Columbia, MD

Columbia, Maryland, is renowned for its natural beauty, with scenic parks and trails that offer a picturesque escape for nature lovers. The picturesque parks in Columbia provide not only stunning visual appeal but also a variety of recreational opportunities, promoting a healthy and active lifestyle for both residents and visitors.

Parks and Nature Trails: Robinson Nature Center

Columbia, MD, is rich in picturesque parks and nature trails that cater to all types of outdoor enthusiasts, offering both visual appeal and a variety of recreational opportunities. Here are some highlights:

  • Centennial Park: A 325-acre park featuring a 2.4-mile paved trail that circles the lake, offering scenic views perfect for walking, jogging, and biking. The park includes picnic areas, playgrounds, boat rentals, and fishing spots.
  • Patapsco Valley State Park: Spanning 16,000 acres along 32 miles of the Patapsco River, this park offers hiking, fishing, camping, and picnicking. Notable trails include the Cascade Falls Trail, which leads to a picturesque waterfall.
  • Lake Elkhorn Park: This park offers a 37-acre lake with a 2-mile loop trail, ideal for walking and birdwatching. The park features picnic pavilions, a playground, and fishing piers.

These parks provide a range of amenities, including restrooms, picnic tables, and shaded areas, making them ideal for family outings or a peaceful day in nature.

Lakefront Activities

Columbia’s lakes offer a variety of water-based activities that cater to all ages and interests:

  • Lake Kittamaqundi: Located in downtown Columbia, this 27-acre lake offers paddle boating, kayaking, and fishing. Boat rentals are available at the dock, and the surrounding area features walking paths, picnic spots, and seasonal events.
  • Wilde Lake: A serene spot for canoeing, kayaking, and fishing. The lake is surrounded by a scenic trail, perfect for leisurely walks or bike rides. Rentals for canoes and kayaks are available, especially during the warmer months.
  • Lake Elkhorn: Known for its excellent fishing opportunities, Lake Elkhorn also provides paddleboarding and kayaking activities. The lake’s peaceful environment makes it a favorite for relaxation and nature observation.

The best times to visit Columbia’s lakes are from late spring to early fall, when the weather is warm, and the water activities are in full swing. Rentals are typically available on weekends and during peak seasons, ensuring visitors can easily enjoy a day on the water. The combination of natural beauty and diverse activities at these lakes creates an unforgettable experience for all who visit.

Cultural and Historical Attractions

things to do in columbia

Columbia offers a diverse range of cultural and historical attractions, including art exhibits, workshops, and dining options that cater to visitors of varying interests, styles, and ages.

Museums and Historical Sites

Columbia offers a rich tapestry of cultural and historical attractions, with several must-visit museums and historical sites that create lasting memories. Here are some of the notable museums and historical sites worth visiting:

  • Howard County Historical Society Museum: Located in Ellicott City, this museum offers a fascinating glimpse into the area’s past with exhibits on local history, including artifacts, photographs, and documents. Guided tours are available, providing in-depth insights into Howard County’s heritage.
  • Robinson Nature Center: This environmental education center features interactive exhibits about the local ecosystem, planetarium shows, and live animal displays. The center offers guided nature walks and educational programs for visitors of all ages.
  • African Art Museum of Maryland: Dedicated to showcasing the art and culture of Africa, this museum features a diverse collection of artifacts, textiles, and contemporary art pieces. Visitors can enjoy rotating exhibits and special events highlighting various aspects of African heritage.

Art Galleries and Theaters: Columbia Art Center

Columbia’s vibrant arts scene is evident in its numerous art galleries and theater venues, offering a diverse range of art exhibits and workshops. Here are some key spots to explore:

  • Columbia Art Center: This community-focused art center showcases works by local and regional artists. The center offers rotating exhibits, art classes, and workshops, making it a hub for creative expression and learning.
  • Toby’s Dinner Theatre: A unique venue combining dining and entertainment, Toby’s offers Broadway-style musicals and plays along with a buffet dinner. The intimate, in-the-round seating provides a fantastic theater experience. Check their schedule for ongoing shows and ticket information.
  • Rep Stage: Located on the campus of Howard Community College, Rep Stage is a professional regional theater that presents contemporary and classic plays. Their productions often feature thought-provoking themes and exceptional performances. Visit their website for information on current and upcoming shows.

These cultural and historical attractions provide enriching experiences for visitors, offering a deeper understanding of Columbia’s heritage and artistic vibrancy.

Nightlife and Entertainment

nightlife and entertainment in columbia

Columbia offers an unforgettable experience with its vibrant nightlife and entertainment options. From live performances at the iconic Merriweather Post Pavilion to trendy bars and restaurants, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Whether you’re looking to dance the night away or relax with a cocktail, Columbia’s nightlife scene has it all.

Bars and Nightclubs

Columbia, MD, boasts a lively nightlife scene with a diverse array of bars and nightclubs to suit every taste. Here are some popular spots to check out:

  • The Ale House Columbia: Known for its extensive beer selection, including local craft brews and international favorites, The Ale House offers a vibrant atmosphere with live music on weekends and special events such as trivia nights and beer tastings.
  • Second Chance Saloon: This local favorite features themed nights, live music, and karaoke. It’s a great spot for casual drinks with friends and enjoying a lively, welcoming environment.
  • Nottingham’s Tavern: A bustling venue with a sports bar vibe, Nottingham’s offers pool tables, darts, and a dance floor. The bar frequently hosts DJ nights, live bands, and themed parties, making it a go-to spot for entertainment.

Live Performances and Shows: Merriweather Post Pavilion

For an unforgettable experience, Columbia offers a range of venues showcasing music, theater, and dance. Here are some highlights:

  • Merriweather Post Pavilion: One of the top outdoor concert venues in the country, Merriweather hosts performances by top artists across various genres. The venue’s show schedule is packed with concerts from spring through fall, with ticket prices varying by event.
  • Columbia Orchestra: Providing high-quality orchestral music, the Columbia Orchestra performs a variety of classical and contemporary works. Check their website for concert schedules and ticket information.
  • Toby’s Dinner Theatre: Combining a buffet dinner with Broadway-style musicals and plays, Toby’s offers an intimate theater experience with in-the-round seating. Current and upcoming show schedules can be found on their website, with tickets including both the performance and dinner.
  • Cazbar: This vibrant restaurant offers a unique dining experience with authentic Turkish cuisine and live belly dancing performances. Cazbar’s lively atmosphere makes it a popular spot for a memorable night out.

These venues provide a range of entertainment options, ensuring there’s always something exciting happening in Columbia, MD. Whether you’re in the mood for a quiet drink, a night of dancing, or an evening of cultural enrichment, Columbia has something to offer.

Shopping and Dining: Unparalleled Retail Experience

Shopping and Dining in Columbia

Columbia offers a wide array of delectable restaurants that cater to every palate, making it a prime destination for food enthusiasts. From casual eateries to fine dining, the variety ensures that there is something for everyone. The Mall in Columbia not only provides a diverse selection of captivating shops but also creates an unparalleled retail experience that caters to every style and taste, ensuring a memorable visit for all.

Shopping Centers and Boutiques

Columbia offers a variety of shopping experiences, from large shopping centers to unique boutiques:

  • The Mall in Columbia: This major shopping destination features the latest fashion trends with a wide range of retailers, including department stores like Nordstrom and Macy’s, as well as specialty shops such as Apple, Lululemon, and Sephora. The mall also offers a diverse range of dining options, a movie theater, and seasonal events.
  • The Shops at Wilde Lake: A charming shopping area that offers a mix of retail stores, services, and dining options. Specialty stores include David’s Natural Market, offering organic and health foods, and The Clothing Boutique, which features unique fashion pieces and accessories.
  • Historic Savage Mill: A historic cotton mill turned shopping complex, Savage Mill is home to an array of antique shops, art galleries, and specialty boutiques. Visitors can find unique items, from handcrafted jewelry to vintage furniture, as well as enjoy dining at the onsite restaurants.

These shopping centers and boutiques offer a mix of well-known brands and local products, making them ideal for both everyday needs and unique finds.

Top Restaurants and Cafes

Columbia’s dining scene offers a diverse array of options to suit every palate:

belly dancing cazbar restaurant
  • Cazbar: This Turkish restaurant is not only known for its authentic cuisine but also for its lively belly dancing performances. The vibrant atmosphere and delicious dishes make Cazbar a standout spot for both food and entertainment.
  • The Iron Bridge Wine Company: Known for its fine dining and extensive wine list, this restaurant offers a cozy, sophisticated ambiance. The menu features contemporary American cuisine with seasonal ingredients, perfect for a special night out.
  • The Turn House: Located at the Hobbits Glen Golf Club, The Turn House offers farm-to-table cuisine in a warm, inviting setting. The menu includes a variety of dishes made with locally sourced ingredients, providing a fresh and flavorful dining experience.

Seasonal and Annual Events

seasonal and annual events in columbia

The seasonal and annual festivals and fairs in our region are a must-visit, offering a unique blend of cultural experiences and entertainment. From the vibrant spring flower festivals to the festive winter markets, these events showcase the best of our local traditions and community spirit.

Visitors can engage in interactive family-friendly activities, explore natural scenic areas, and enjoy luxury accommodations, all designed to create lasting memories.

Festivals and Fairs

Columbia, MD, hosts a variety of must-visit festivals and fairs throughout the year, celebrating its vibrant community and diverse culture:

  • Columbia Festival of the Arts: This annual event spans several weeks in the summer, featuring a mix of music, dance, theater, and visual arts. Highlights include live performances, art exhibitions, workshops, and family-friendly activities.
  • Wine in the Woods: Held every May at Symphony Woods, this popular festival offers wine tastings from Maryland wineries, live music, artisan vendors, and gourmet food. It’s a perfect event for wine enthusiasts and those looking to enjoy a festive outdoor atmosphere.
  • LakeFest: Part of the Columbia Festival of the Arts, LakeFest takes place at Lake Kittamaqundi and features live entertainment, an arts and crafts show, food vendors, and a fireworks display. It’s a fun-filled weekend for all ages.

These festivals and fairs provide a fantastic opportunity to experience the local culture, enjoy live entertainment, and participate in community activities. They create lasting memories through unique experiences and attractions that leave a lasting impression on visitors.

Holiday Events

Columbia celebrates holidays with a variety of special events and activities that bring the community together, making them a must-visit for anyone looking to enjoy the festive season:

  • Symphony of Lights: This spectacular drive-through light display runs from late November through early January at Merriweather Post Pavilion. Featuring over 100 light displays, it’s a beloved holiday tradition for families and friends.
  • 4th of July Fireworks: Columbia’s Independence Day celebration at Lake Kittamaqundi includes a stunning fireworks display, live music, and food vendors. It’s a great way to enjoy the holiday with the community.
  • Halloween Festivities: Various parks and community centers in Columbia host Halloween events, including trick-or-treating, costume contests, and haunted attractions. These events cater to both families and adults looking for spooky fun.
  • New Year’s Eve Celebration: Downtown Columbia’s Lakefront hosts a New Year’s Eve party with live music, food trucks, and a midnight fireworks show. It’s a lively way to ring in the new year with fellow residents and visitors.

These holiday events add to the festive spirit of Columbia, offering activities and celebrations that cater to all age groups and interests. They create lasting memories through unique experiences and attractions that leave a lasting impression on all who attend.


Columbia, MD, is a vibrant community where you can create lasting memories through unique experiences and attractions. Whether you’re exploring scenic parks and tranquil lakes, delving into the local history and arts scene, enjoying a night out at lively bars and theaters, indulging in a diverse array of delicious dining and shopping experiences, or celebrating at one of the many seasonal events, Columbia offers something for everyone. This charming locale provides endless opportunities for adventure, relaxation, and cultural enrichment. Plan your visit to Columbia, MD, and discover all that this dynamic community has to offer.


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