20 Best Things to Do in Ellicott City, MD

downtown Ellicott City, MD
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Ellicott City, Maryland, is a town that people usually pass along U.S. 29 when they head further east.

This small city has a population of around 73,000 residents and is comprised of a lot of hidden attractions, both natural and artificial, waiting for you to explore.

Established as a city in 1772, Ellicott features a lot of historical sites and acres of lush green vegetation.

Baltimore is the nearest major city to Ellicott, which only takes a 25-minute drive east.

Meanwhile, it's a 46-minute drive south of Washington, a 2.5-hour drive south of Philadelphia, and a four-hour drive northwest of Pittsburgh.

Its accessibility is one of the good reasons you should visit there soon, but you'll be surprised by the good things waiting for you there.

To mention some, Ellicott City is where the first federally funded significant thoroughfare in the country ran through.

Plus, it's home to the oldest railroad station in the United States.

But there are a lot more things you can do here.

To guide you, here are the 15 best things to do in Ellicott City:

Experience Colonial Life at Thomas Isaac Log Cabin

Log cabins were the primary housing structures in the Colonial Era.

However, not many still stand today, except the Thomas Isaac Log Cabin in Ellicott City.

If you're curious how people went with their everyday lives back then, make sure to visit the Thomas Isaac Log Cabin.

Entrance of Thomas Isaac Log Cabin
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Once you step inside the log cabin, you'll instantly be transported back to the 1800s because of its well-preserved interior and artifacts.

Tours are available the entire year, so you won't have difficulty understanding the cabin's details.

The Thomas Isaac Log Cabin is at 8398 Main St, Ellicott City.

It's open every weekend from 1 pm to 4 pm.

Taste Delicious Middle Eastern Food at Nora's Kabob

Ellicott City is also home to various international cuisines, such as Nora's Kabob in Ellicott's old historic downtown.

Taste delicious kebabs, gyros, falafel, hummus, and mirza cooked and prepared the authentic middle-eastern way.

Locals and visitors alike love to have lunch and dinner here because of its good food and cozy interior.

Nora's Kabob is at 9338 Baltimore National Pike in Ellicott City.

It's open the entire week from 11 am to 8 pm.

Revisit History at the Baltimore and Ohio Ellicott City Station Museum

Facade of Baltimore and Ohio Ellicott City Station Museum
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Also known as B&O Ellicott City Station Museum, this place is a National Historic Designated Landmark.

It means that this place should be preserved and maintained for its historical significance in the country, being the oldest railroad station.

Constructed in 1831, the station was part of the B&O Main Line railroad as part of the development of Ellicott City.

The railroad station operated until 1972 after being decommissioned.

Old train engine at Baltimore and Ohio Ellicott City Station Museum
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The railroad station was then converted into a historical museum dedicated to educating the public about the history of America's early transportation system.

The museum has a collection of old train cars made from wood and metal, as well as an extensive collection of artifacts from its early days.

The B&O Ellicott City Station Museum is at 3711 Maryland Ave, Ellicott City.

You can visit the B&O Ellicott City Station Museum from 10 am to 3 pm; it is closed every Monday and Tuesday.

Signage of Baltimore and Ohio Ellicott City Station Museum
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Shop at the Long Gate Shopping Center

In the heart of Ellicott City is a spacious mall called Long Gate, where you'll find a diverse collection of boutiques, shops, and restaurants.

If you have a sudden urge to shop for something you want, Long Gate is one of the most recommended shopping centers in Ellicott City.

You'll find everything you want from food, clothing, electronics, houseware, arts, and books in Long Gate.

After shopping, relax at the mall's patio with some refreshing drinks to cap off your day.

Long Gate shopping center is at 4380 Montgomery Rd, Ellicott City.

The mall is open the entire week from 10 am to 9 pm.

Taste Ellicott's Finest Spirits at the Ellicott Distilling Co.

Ellicott City was formerly an agricultural mill town in the 1700s before it focused on the railway industry.

With that in mind, the Ellicott Brothers founded the city's first distillery shortly after establishing the mills.

Today, people see the legacy that the Ellicott Brothers left for the present generation, the Ellicott Distilling Company.

Today, it produces some of Maryland's finest spirits through its micro-distillery, where visitors taste what they best offer.

Plus, they have a dedicated tavern to enjoy their bottles of spirits further.

Get to taste their famous Caribbean Rum, London Dry Gin, Barrel-Aged Brandy, and flavored vodkas.

The Ellicott Distilling Company is at 8090 Main St. in Ellicott City.

Honor Firefighters at the Firehouse Museum

Ellicott City has its firehouse museum dedicated to informing the public how the men and women in service portray their role as firefighters.

It's effortless to find and visit the museum since it sits in Ellicott's historic city center district.

There, you'll be amazed at how firefighters hurdled the challenges they've faced in the early 20th century.

Front view of Firehouse Museum
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Also, you'll witness how they've innovated through the years.

There are tons of fantastic photographs, firefighters' antique gear and equipment, artifacts, and other memorabilia of Ellicott City's fire department established in 1889.

To visit the museum, it's at 3829 Church Road, Ellicott City.

The Ellicott Firehouse Museum is open from 1 pm to 4 pm except on Fridays.

Shop for Antique Finds at the Antique Depot

This antique shop is just a stone's throw away from the B&O Railroad Station Museum, where you'll find a wide array of rare antique collections of housewares, furniture, and other stuff.

Even the museum's building is already an antique structure.

The building is the former historic Dorsey Livery Stable that was constructed in 1873.

It was later transformed into a hardware store in the 20th century before its present state in 1989.

Enjoy four levels of different antique dealers who have their distinct collection of midcentury houseware decors and a lot more.

To visit the Antique Depot, it's at 3720 Maryland Ave, Ellicott City, MD.

It's open the entire week from 10:30 am to 6 pm.

Discover Ellicott's Art Community at Stone House Collective

The Stone House Collective sits at the heart of Ellicott City's old downtown district.

The building housing this art gallery/store is the former Caplan's Department Store in the early 1900s.

With this in mind, when you're in Ellicott, make sure to drop by the Stone House Collective to further learn about the city's rich history and discover the local art community there.

It has three stories with an extensive collection of top-notch and unique vintage furniture pieces, housewares, decors, artworks, clothing, and accessories.

Stone House Collective is one of Ellicott City's primary art attractions because of its beautiful collection that you can purchase and take home as a souvenir.

The Stone House Collective is at 8129 Main St.

The store's business hours are from 11 am to 6 pm and is closed every Monday.

Channel Your Spirituality at the Shrine of St. Anthony

Scenic view of Shrine of St. Anthony
Debbieswagner, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This religious shrine is to honor St. Anthony, built within St. Joseph Cupertino Friary.

The 320-acre friary is home to the Conventual Franciscan Friars, which also serves as their ministry.

If you're a catholic, it's a must-visit place since it's where you'll find a statue of St. Maximilian Kolbe that was blessed by no less than the late Pope John Paul II.

Stunning architecture of the Shrine of St. Anthony
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Explore the friary's halls and grounds and enjoy its peaceful ambiance.

The friary also offers masses and has visiting hours for the public.

The Shrine of St. Anthony is at 12290 Folly Quarter Rd, Ellicott City.

Statue at Shrine of St. Anthony
Debbieswagner, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Get Mesmerized at the Forget-Me-Not Factory

The Forget-Me-Not Factory is a beloved local shop at 8044 Main St in Ellicott City for its unique and magical shopping experience.

The shop specializes in peculiar, nostalgic, but very fun-looking costumes, toys, figurines, pieces of jewelry, and many things you can buy as souvenirs.

Also, the Forget-Me-Not Factory is one of Ellicott's oldest and most prominent stores in its old downtown area.

Each of the three store levels offers a wide array of things that follow Halloween, Easter, and Christmas themes.

Forget-Me-Not is open from 11 am to 6 pm and is closed every Monday and Tuesday.

Start Your Day With a Hearty Breakfast at Eggspectation

Serving the locals and visitors of Ellicott since 1993, Eggspectation didn't fail its regular patrons until today.

The restaurant is known for its menu.

People love this restaurant for its straightforward way of cooking and preparing their food using fresh ingredients.

Don't miss ordering their all-time favorite steak, eggs benedict, and pancakes.

Plus, they also serve mouthwatering burgers, sandwiches, and other delicious comfort food.

Eggception starts serving their delicious meal from 7 am to 7 pm the entire week.

Uncover Historical Treasures at the Museum of Howard County History

Dedicated to educating and preserving the rich history of Howard County, the museum is enjoyable to explore.

There, you will find lots of historical treasures and artifacts that will tell the story of Howard County's remarkable history.

Museum of Howard County History
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The artifacts there date back to the first European settlers who started a new life in the area.

From there, you'll learn how Howard County and Ellicott City transformed into an industrial and automotive city.

The museum at 8328 Court Avenue in Ellicott City is open on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 1 pm to 5 pm.

View of Museum of Howard County History
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Fill Your Tummy With Delicious Mexican Food at Pachanga Cocina Mexicana

This Mexican restaurant at 10291 Baltimore National Pike #B opened its doors in 2007.

From then on, it became a beloved Mexican restaurant for both locals and visitors in Ellicott City.

Owned by Gilberto Cortes and Fernando Duran, these restaurateurs specialize in serving affordable and family-friendly Mexican dishes.

Their restaurant has a laid-back ambiance.

Don't miss their famous Mexican food, such as burritos, tacos, enchiladas, fajitas, and chicken mole.

Pair them with their homemade sangria and margaritas.

The Pachanga Cocina Mexicana is open the entire week, from 11 am to 9:30 pm.

Do Outdoor Activities at the Centennial Park

Ellicott City's Centennial Park covers a total of 337 acres of lush green vegetation and a massive 22-hectare artificial lake in the middle of it.

The place is popular among locals and visitors for outdoor activities, such as hiking, jogging, biking, and fishing.

Centennial Park's artificial lake has plenty of fish, such as bass, trout, tiger muskies, and sunfish.

Don't worry if you have no fishing gear with you since there are rentals there you can hook up in the park.

Plus, the Park has boat rentals if you want to fish in the middle of the lake.

Or perhaps, relax and unwind while strolling around the park, teeming with birds and white-tailed deer freely roaming the Park.

Ellicott City's Centennial Park is at 10000 Clarksville Pike.

Take Photos at the Historic Patapsco Female Institute

Aerial view of Patapsco Female Institute
Nicole Glass Photography / Shutterstock.com

Ellicott City has a wide array of historical sites and museums.

One of the most famous historical sites you should visit is the Patapsco Female Institute.

It's a former school exclusive for women which operated from 1837 to 1891.

Today, the Patapsco Female Institute serves as a venue for different occasions and performances at its open-air theater.

It's also a favorite spot for history buffs and photographers for its fantastic city view and well-preserved structures.

The Patapsco Female Institute is at 3655 Church Road in Ellicott City.

It's open every weekend from 1 to 4 pm.

Explore Patapsco Valley State Park

Hiking trail at Patapsco Valley State Park
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Situated immediately to the southwest of Baltimore, Patapsco Valley State Park is a beautiful public leisure area that spans 32 miles of Patapsco River shoreline.

After the construction of Bloede's Dam in 1906, the area's forests and waterways needed protection.

Thus, in 1907, the Patapsco State Forest Reserve was created as a park.

Scenic view of a small fall at Patapsco Valley State Park
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The McKeldin Area is one of many built access areas that provide visitors with recreational possibilities, including horseback riding, mountain biking, and hiking.

The state park also has a disc golf course and public fishing spots. Hollofield Area has a 73-site campsite and a lovely valley viewpoint.

At the same time, the Daniels Area, near the historic mill town of Daniels, is great for fishing, swimming, kayaking, and canoeing.

Orange Grove and the Grist Mill Trail also have two historic swinging bridges that date back to the early 20th century.

Fallen tree along a trail at Patapsco Valley State Park
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Pet Farm Animals at Clark's Elioak Farm

Maryland Route 108 lies the beautiful historic property Clark's Elioak Farm.

The Clark family has owned this land since 1927.

The name "Silty Clay Loam Farm" reflects the soil type often seen in the steep northern Piedmont Plateau regions.

It was once home to an enchanted forest theme park open for much of the 20th century.

However, it closed in 1995, but with restoration, it became renowned as the new home of Clark's Elioak Farm.

Nowadays, guests may enjoy the farm's maintained fairytale-themed displays, the petting zoo and country store, and the challenging pine tree maze all year round.

Observe the Wildlife at Font Hill Wetland Park

The gorgeous Font Hill Wetland Park was created in 1997 as Maryland's first state, county, and private cooperative wetland project.

This picturesque park is ideal for studying wetland ecosystems in their natural setting, featuring three connected ponds and a boardwalk system for observing animals.

Visitors may enjoy scenic boardwalks through scenic marsh regions with native trees and cattails.

There are about 150 animals on display in the park, including several kinds of damselflies and dragonflies.

Visitors can unwind at one of several public fishing piers or wildlife viewing spots.

Hop in Trolley Line No. 9

Electric streetcar tracks were laid down between Ellicot City and Catonsville in the 1890s.

To build these rails, a route between the bluffs was carved by hand from massive granite mounds of over 100 feet in height.

The train may no longer be in service, but this spectacular route still stands as a testament to the beauty of the past.

The trolly track, which passes over granite cliffs, a boardwalk, then uphill into the woods, is now a popular path in Ellicot City.

Take the ascent of Trolley Line No. 9 all day long and rest under the shaded trees.

When you reach the 1-mile mark, take the short detour to the Banneker Historical Park and Museum.

Buy Some Knickknacks from The Forget-Me-Not Factory

The Forget-Me-Not Factory is a Main Street institution that customers and its proprietors adore.

Considering that the Forget-Me-Not Factory occupies one of the oldest and most significant buildings in the city's historic district, this is not too far from reality.

The store's three stories are jammed with various merchandise, including costumes, jewelry, dragon figurines, toys, and more.

Is a fortune-telling arcade game what you seek?

You can locate one at Forget-Me-Not Factory.

A visit to this whimsical factory will be one you won't forget with its oddities and nostalgic discoveries.

Final Thoughts

Ellicott City's collections of historical, natural, and artificial attractions make it a go-to place for a day trip to escape the stressful city life of Philadelphia, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and Washington D.C.

Ellicott City should be on your bucket list this year or the next because of its unassuming charm full of surprises.

For sure you'll explore more when you get there, so enjoy!