If you’ve only driven past Ellicott City, Maryland rolling down Route 40, you probably think it’s another Baltimore suburb area with chain restaurants, big shopping plazas, and lots of boring buildings.
But Ellicott City has more personality than you might realize! From its historic district to a vibrant nightlife, excellent shopping, the Baltimore & Ohio railroad, and more, it’s time to give Ellicott City a chance.
Whether you’re looking for something to fill an afternoon, or a whole weekend, Ellicott City has a lot to offer!
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Historic Ellicott City is where it’s at!
If you’ve never spent time in Ellicott City before, I encourage you to carve out an afternoon and wander around the downtown historic main street area that stretches several city blocks and across the Patapsco River.
You may have heard of this area due to the back-to-back devastating floods that took out many stores in recent years. Don’t let that fool you – this area has come back stronger after the Ellicott City flood, and thanks to a little help from Gordon Ramsey, the residents and the state, it is better than ever before.
Ellicott City Bars
If you’re looking for a fun bar scene, The Phoenix is a neighborhood staple with live music, karaoke nights, and a great beer and wine selection.
La Palapa Grill & Cantina is also a must – some people swear they have the best margaritas in Maryland… that comes after several of them have been ingested, of course.
Ellicott Distilling Co is a small distillery right on Main Street, and was the first legal distillery in the city after Prohibition.
Historic Ellicott City Restaurants
If you’re not looking for nightlife, check out Tersiguel’s French Country Restaurant for a date night, or grab lunch at Syriana Café and Restaurant, which serves some of the best Middle Eastern food in Ellicott City.
For a sweet treat, don’t miss Sweet Cascades, which has amazing hand-made chocolates. If you want something spicy, try the Chocolate Ghost Pepper Sea Salt Caramels… they’re amazing, but pack quite a punch!
Ellicott City Shops
While you’re walking around, be sure to check out Antique Depot or Attic Antiques if you like hunting for treasure. Antique Depot is my favorite, on the corner of Maryland Avenue and Main Street – it’s two floors, plus a basement, full of treasures. Sometimes I leave with nothing… other times, a whole trunk full of goods.
Archive Music has a great selection of vinyl records, both new and used, and Gramp’s Attic Books smells like old books and home.
Historic Ellicott City Coffee Shops
Round out your visit with coffee from Georgia Grace Café or Little Market Café, and ice cream at Moorenko’s Ice Cream.
Ellicott City Tours
If you want to get a little spooky, be sure to stay until dark for the Haunted Main Street Tour, too! Reservations are required, but with a town that has a history that spans over 250 years, you’ve got to imagine there are some ghosts roaming the streets… right?
Sounds weird, but Ellicott City grocery stores are great!
Hear me out; I know this isn’t normally something you would visit on a trip, but Ellicott City has some really fun grocery stores. Because Ellicott City has a relatively large Korean population – according to official records, about 24% of the population is of Korean descent – there are some amazing Asian grocery stores.
The new H Mart on North Ridge Road is the biggest and the best, but there are also two Lotte Plaza grocery stores as well, both on Baltimore National Pike (Route 40).
At any of these stores, you can get a variety of fresh produce, fresh fish and meats, as well as imported snacks, beauty products, and more.
It’s so much fun to wander down the snack aisle and make lunch out of chips and cookies, or pick up packs of exotic and extra-spicy ramen noodles.
These grocery stores also have small restaurant areas with pre-packaged, pre-prepared foods, which are great for a quick bite in the middle of the day.
Ellicott City Parks
Patapsco Valley State Park
Despite being so close to Baltimore and DC, Ellicott City has some amazing outdoor areas, my favorite being Patapsco Valley State Park. With over 16,000 acres of land stretched across eight areas, including 32 miles of the river, there is something for everyone.
Cascade Falls trail
My favorite trails include Cascade Falls, an easy 2-mile hike featuring a waterfall, Old Main Line and Daniels Loop Trail, a little more challenging at 5 miles, and the Patapsco Valley Ridge Trail, at just over 4 hours.
If you’re not much of a hiker, the Number Nine Trolley Trail is 3 miles, but includes over a mile of paved trail. Many of the trails in the park can be connected for a longer trip if you want to stay outside for a few more hours!
Check out more waterfalls in Maryland
Centennial Park is also on the border of Columbia and Ellicott City, and has plenty of green space and playgrounds.
Meadowbrook Park has baseball fields and tennis courts if you’re into outdoor activities.
Font Hill Wetland Park
Font Hill Wetland Park has a lake, and lots of protected wildlife nesting areas. It’s great in the spring and early summer to see baby birds, like ducks and geese!
Clark’s Elioak Farm
Clark’s Elioak Farm is an essential stop if you have kids! The farm store is great for fresh meats and veggies, but the real winner is the Enchanted Forest, with the gingerbread house, Mother Goose home, and more. Plus, there is a petting zoo.
Pop in during the summer months for sunflowers, or go in the fall to pick pumpkins and join in on a hayride!
Ellicott City museums worth the trip
Ellicott City Firehouse Museum
If you like small-town-style museums, there are a few worth checking out – including the Ellicott City Firehouse Museum, a tiny stop just off Main Street. In addition to a great model train set, the museum looks at just how challenging it was to fight fires and keep the area safe during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
B&O Ellicott City Station
If you love trains, the B&O Ellicott City Station is the oldest remaining passenger train station in the United States, and one of the oldest in the world. The museum attached to the working station is small, but includes the original freight station with car house, as well as items from the original trains that ran through the B&O railroad station in 1831. It’s a fun piece of history!
Don’t forget about Restaurants in Ellicott City
Ellicott City has some amazing restaurants if you know where to look. Avoid all the chain restaurants – there is a lot more to see and eat.
Honey Pig, located along Route 40, is a staple for residents, offering nearly 24/7 Korean BBQ. Sushi Q has the best sushi in the area, but UMI Sushi is a close second in my book.
Downtown Ellicott City Restaurants
Pure Wine Café is in downtown Ellicott City and has a great wine selection with small plates, and Hot Pot Hero is a fun stop if you’ve never tried hot pot before.
Manor Hill Tavern is certainly upscale, but it’s an impressive date night spot if you’re looking to make a good first impression!
Coffee Shops in Ellicott City
Don’t leave Ellicott City without getting coffee and a pastry from Tous Les Jours (pronounced two le joux), located just off of Route 40. This Korean-French fusion bakery has an incredible selection of house-made pastries, bread, and more, from sweet and savory.
I’ve never heard of anyone not liking what they got, and their menu is diverse enough you can try something new every time and never be bored.
Across the street is Shilla Bakery, another amazing bakery and pastry stop if you love sugar.
Ellicott City Ramen
Finally, if you’re in the mood for ramen, be sure to check out Uma Uma. The original ramen shop in the area, Uma Uma boasts authentic ramen with great flavor. Other options include Matcha Time Café, though their ramen menu isn’t consistent, and Rainpia, if you’re interested in Korean stews instead!
Ellicott City Events
- Main Street Marketplace (seasonal)
- Courtyard Concerts (seasonal)
- Paint It! Ellicott City (June)
- Central Maryland Classic (June)
- Annual Chocolate Ball: Hocus Pocus Masquerade (October)
- Midnight Madness (December)