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Howard County, Maryland: Memorable experiences await just outside the Capital Region

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With its location between the nation’s capital and Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, Howard County is an ideal spot for a group getaway. The central Maryland county, fondly referred to as the “green in between,” offers visitors various experiences at a relaxed pace.

“Howard County offers affordable hotels, group-friendly restaurants, world-class shopping in Ellicott City’s historic district and kid-friendly attractions and activities,” said Sally Slater, director of sales at Visit Howard County. “Howard County specializes in agricultural farm land, visual and performing arts, history and signature festivals with fun to be had by all! With its central location between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, you won’t miss a thing!”

Don’t miss a visit to Columbia, a planned community created in the 1960s and developed by The Rouse Company. Columbia is made up of 10 self-contained villages, parks, shops, restaurants and entertainment venues. Several man-made lakes offer recreation and beautiful views.

Groups visiting Howard County will find a historic, yet hip, area to explore. Historic sites, outdoor activities, agritourism locations, art venues, shopping destinations and culinary hot spots easily fill a group itinerary, and then some. Here are some tour stops to get the group started.

Old Ellicott City 

B&O Railroad Museum, Howard County, Maryland

Photo: Karmen Osei/Howard County Tourism & Promotion B&O Railroad Museum, Old Ellicott City, Md.

Nestled in the Patapsco Valley, Old Ellicott City is a five-block historic district lined with shopping and dining destinations. The city, founded in 1772, is built into the granite of the Patapsco Valley, resulting in hilly streets that only add to its charm.

That charm was tested in 2016, when destructive and fatal floodwaters ripped through the heart of the city in a matter of minutes. The city remains in a rebuilding phase, as damage was estimated in tens of millions of dollars.

Despite reconstruction that lingers in Old Ellicott City, visitors still can enjoy all it has to offer. In addition to chic antique shops, scrumptious restaurants and upscale boutiques, the city is home to the B&O Railroad Museum, the oldest surviving railroad station in America. Hourlong guided group tours are available at the museum.

Patapsco Female Institute Historical Park 

Howard County, Maryland

Howard County, Maryland

Located at Old Ellicott City’s highest point, the hilltop Patapsco Female Institute Historical Park contains the Greek revival ruins of Patapsco Female Institute, which was founded in 1837. Once an elegant finishing school for young women, the building’s stabilized remains are now open for tours and special events. This year, tours run April through October.

“Groups can get a docent-led tour of the ruins and grounds to learn about the many lives this site lived before it became a ruin,” said Caitlin Chamberlain, heritage programs and facilities director at Howard County Recreation & Parks. “Groups can also feel free to bring lunch and eat at a picnic table under the tent or take some additional time to stroll through the ruins and the grounds during the open hours.”

The ruins are the setting for Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s outdoor summer performances. The Baltimore-based theater company is known for producing entertaining and high-energy performances, in hopes of changing how people think about Shakespeare.

ManneqART Museum 

Plastic bags, duct tape, playing cards and coffee filters are just a few of the materials artists have used to create wearable ManneqART artworks. At the ManneqART Museum in Laurel, more than 50 different life-size artworks are on display. MannneqART is an international arts and education nonprofit that inspires creativity, teaches problem-solving skills and rewards excellence in “Sculpture on the Human Form.” Groups can browse the museum, meet founder and designer Lee Anderson, and participate in workshops.

The Vintage BMW Motorcycle Museum at Bob’s BMW 

The Vintage BMW Motorcycle Museum at Bob’s BMW, Howard County, Maryland

Howard County, Maryland: Memorable experiences await The Vintage BMW Motorcycle Museum at Bob’s BMW, Jessup, Md.

Groups can explore 4,200 square feet of BMW history at The Vintage BMW Motorcycle Museum at Bob’s BMW in Jessup. Bob Henig, owner and “Chief Fingerprint Remover” leads groups though the showroom, which displays more than 75 vintage and classic BMW motorcycles, side cars, memorabilia and art.

Henig’s collection includes factory-original BMWs from as far back as 1925, a still-new, 45-year-old R75/5, and motorcycles ridden by legends. Display cases showcase parts, accessories, memorabilia and racing awards.

“Tour groups, especially those with interest in motorcycles and the sport from a historical point of view, will love visiting the Vintage BMW Museum at Bob’s BMW,” Henig said. “There is more to see than can be taken in during a 90-minute average visit.”

Tours typically start at Bob’s BMW dealership, which also displays pieces of Henig’s collection.

For more information, contact Howard County Tourism, call 410-313-1900 or visithowardcounty.com/motorcoach.

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About Author

Courtney Birchmeier, Editor in Chief

Courtney Birchmeier oversees the editorial department at Group Tour Media. With half a decade under her belt in the group travel industry, she's eager to connect tour operators and group leaders with new destinations. It's a great day at the office if her dog, a chow/lab mix named "Kiwi," is in tow. In her free time, she enjoys reading (for fun, with no red pen in hand), sampling craft beer (New Holland Brewing's "Dragon's Milk," anyone?) and adding new destinations to her travel bucket list (like Salzburg, Austria).   

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