Laurel gets a bit of a bad reputation for being the dingy older brother to Columbia, MD. This Baltimore and DC suburb, however, has a lot to offer you – and if you’ve never visited, you’re missing out.
In addition to some of the best restaurants in the area, Laurel (located in Prince George County) is a great place to raise a family, has lower rent and property values compared to other places in surrounding cities (still looking at you, Columbia, MD), and is close to anything you really need – it’s 25 minutes from downtown Laurel to downtown Baltimore, and just 35 minutes to Washington, DC.
So, don’t discount Laurel, Maryland just yet! If you’re looking for the best things to do, we’ve got you covered.
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Check out Main Street in Laurel MD!
Laurel’s Main Street, mostly located between 7th Street and Route 1, is incredibly walkable, and is lined with small, locally-owned shops and restaurants.
Coffee Shops in Laurel, MD
Ragamuffins Coffee House is on Main Street itself and Sip at C Street is a block off the beaten path, but both have excellent locally roasted coffee and espresso – and Sip at C Street has some amazing pastries baked in-house.
If you’re more interested in smoothies or ice creams, High Five has some of the best acai bowls in town.
Restaurants on Main Street
For a great dinner with drinks, check out Red Hot and Blue, a locally-loved barbecue restaurant on the corner of 7th and Main.
Shopping in Laurel
Thinking of shopping? Main Street has The Crystal Fox, a fun shop containing tarot cards, crystals, incense, and more. Gladley’s Candy Kitchen and Sports Card Heroes are also fun spots to stop in and browse.
The Laurel Museum
The Laurel Museum on Main Street, is a community-based, community-supported museum that is dedicated to preserving the history of Laurel. If you’re in the area, stop and check it out this highlight of the historic district.
Festivals in Laurel MD
Just like any good small town, Laurel has some great festivals each year. The best is the aptly-named Main Street Festival, where the city closes all of Main Street to host.
Local vendors and stores set up stalls along the street, and there is wide variety of food, music, and activities for children. It’s a great way to find a new favorite local business or stuff your face with Laurel’s favorite foods.
Riverfest is also a great time to visit Laurel, and takes place in Riverfront Park in the same stretch of Main Street. The festival celebrates the Patuxent River, which runs just behind Main Street, and local vendors line up to share artisanal wares or services.
Laurel has lots of green space!
The aforementioned Riverfront Park is 30 acres of parkland that runs along the Patuxent River downtown. It’s one of the most beautiful and scenic parts of Laurel. Grab a coffee on Main Street and then spend some time on the paved walking trails.
Granville Gude Park
Granville Gude Park is attached to Laurel Lake, the biggest lake in the area. It’s right along Route 1, so impossible to miss, and features plenty of walking paths to enjoy the water, as well as a park area and playgrounds for kids.
Dinosaur Park in South Laurel is a fun stop for kids who want to be a paleontologist when they grow up (what kid doesn’t?!).
There is an area where visitors can join the search for fossils, and plenty of displays and informational signs talking about the discoveries made in the area.
Patuxent Research Center
If you’re looking for something even more secluded, don’t miss the Patuxent Research Center and the surrounding hiking trails.
The South Tract area has a visitor’s center which will teach you all about the natural wildlife, while the North Tract is a little more secluded. It’s easy to forget you’re so close to a major city when you’re walking these unpaved trails outside of the city limits.
Laurel has lots of shopping
Laurel Towne Centre
If you haven’t been to the new Laurel Towne Centre, you’re going to be quite surprised! Located along Route 1 where the old mall used to be, the city of Laurel has done a lot to renovate the area.
Instead of a falling-down dead mall (it was bad), a new, shiny shopping complex sits. Watch a movie in the brand-new Regal theater with reclining plush seats, eat lunch at Blaze Pizza, Nando’s Peri-Peri, or (my favorite) Kogi Underground, and all you can eat Korean BBQ restaurant.
Go shopping at Ulta, Old Navy, DTLR, or grab a massage at Massage Envy.
Laurel Thrift Shops
If you like antiquing or thrift shopping, be sure to stop in 2nd Ave Thrift on 198, or Prime Thrift Laurel and the big Salvation Army, both off of Route 1.
Total Wine & More
If you’re into mixology, be sure to swing by Total Wine & More before heading home. This warehouse-sized wine and liquor store has literally anything you could ever want… and if they don’t have it in-store, they will happily order it for you.
Sound like a weird destination? I know people who drive from Baltimore, DC, and beyond to stock up because of the great selection and prices.
Bet on the ponies at Laurel Park
A staple in Laurel is Laurel Park, with the attached racetrack. This thoroughbred racetrack, which opened over 100 years ago, has put millions of dollars into the park in the last 20 years to renovate it and bring it into the new century.
If you’ve never been to a horserace, it’s a fun way to spend an afternoon and maybe even win some money!
Dig into the Restaurants in Laurel MD
I might be biased, but I think Laurel has some of the best hidden-gem restaurants in the area. In addition to locally-owned chains like Red Hot and Blue or Ledo’s Pizza, there is the classic Taqueria Los Primos on Route 1 that has regularly been featured on food shows for their amazing authentic tacos.
Cajun Seafood Boil next door is also great, and if you want local seafood, be sure to check out Mid Atlantic Seafood up the road, with a huge selection to choose from.
Kingsway has some amazing traditional West African food, and Pongall Biriyani and Indian Grill have halal meats and great South Indian dishes. Negril in the Laurel Shopping Center has the best Jamaican food in the area, and Palacio de Peru is a relatively new addition to the area with really excellent Peruvian chicken.
Finally, if you find yourself in Laurel on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday, don’t leave without stopping at the Dutch Country Farmers Market off 198. Only open three days a week, you have a chance to buy locally grown, produced, or made fruits, vegetables, meat, cheeses, ice creams, and in-store baked pies, cakes and treats.
Be sure to grab a pretzel log on your way out – I could live on the cinnamon sugar pretzel sticks,and the steak and cheese pretzel logs. The fudge is killer, too.
Colonial History at Montpelier Mansion
If you’re a big history buff, be sure to swing by Montpelier Mansion while you are in Laurel, MD. Built between 1781 and 1785, the Montpelier Mansion is a five-part Georgian-style plantation house that now serves as a reminder of the past, and a house museum.
In 1970 the home was declared a National Historic Landmark.
The museum not only shares information about the four generations of the Snowden family that were so integral to the area and its development, but has a lot of information on both the enslaved individuals who lived on-site and the freed slaves who came from here.