The Best Places to Live in Maryland for Families, Professionals, and More

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There are many reasons, besides just crab cakes and football (to quote “Wedding Crashers”) that people love to live in Maryland. Its proximity to Washington, D.C. means that jobs are plentiful, but the state has many of its own perks: fantastic education, gorgeous parks, and, yes, excellent seafood. 

The best places to live in Maryland for families, young professionals, and seniors range from bayside towns to bustling urban enclaves. 

A lot of people moving to the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia region (the “DMV,” to locals) may wonder how to choose between Maryland and Northern Virginia (once D.C. has been understandably ruled out for its lack of space and high property costs). Differences in income, property, and sales tax shake out to be about even, and both have some of the country’s best public schools. Political affiliation can be a deciding factor for many, as can certain laws, such as gun restrictions. Historically, Maryland is a bit more progressive than its neighbors, especially those to the south.

If you do choose to settle down in the Old Line State, look no further than this guide to learn the best place to live in Maryland for families, professionals, and seniors.

The best places to live in Maryland for families

Even in a state as small as Maryland, there are countless towns and cities. Here are some of the best places to buy a home in Maryland if you’ve got kids in tow. Families with children of all ages will benefit from the excellent schools, activities, safety, and green spaces the following towns hold.

Columbia

The words “planned community” can conjure up images of stodgy, boring, and close-minded residences. In Columbia, though, the intentionality of the town is made known through its ease of use. Shops and restaurants dot the downtown, where walkways carve space for pedestrians to stroll and mingle. Nature centers and a scenic lake provide both activity and leisure to folks of all ages. Music lovers will rejoice at their proximity to Merriweather Post Pavilion, a renowned outdoor venue that draws world-famous acts. Columbia sits about 40 minutes from D.C. and 20 minutes from Baltimore, making it a suburban hub for families with needs in either. Best of all for families with kids, three of the top schools in Maryland are located right here.

Bethesda

Bethesda is home to some of the best public schools in the country, as well as one of the most highly educated overall populations, with almost 84% of residents over 25 holding Bachelor’s degrees. This shouldn’t come as a shock, given that top employers here include internationally known health institutes and hotel headquarters, such as the National Institutes of Health and Marriott. It’s not all books and studies, though! When you and your family need to unwind, there’s much to do. Downtown Bethesda is home to a dizzying number of restaurants, shops, galleries, and movie theaters. If you’d rather get your heart rate up through a brisk walk than by savoring a steak, a walk on the Capital Crescent Trail, which leads all the way to beautiful Georgetown, should be to your liking. 

Potomac

If the location and amenities in Bethesda sound nice, but you crave a bit more wide open space for stretching your legs, Potomac might just be the best place for you and your family to call home. As opposed to a mix of both commercial and residential properties, Potomac puts the emphasis on the latter, with sweeping lawns and palatial single-family homes. Instead of a bustling urban-suburban hybrid, Potomac residents get to enjoy peaceful walks along such paths as The Billy Goat Trail. Don’t get the wrong idea, though: families here still get access to fabulous schools and central shopping districts. This lifestyle comes at a price, of course, with median home prices hitting over $1 million.

Olney

If Potomac is still a bit too fast-paced for your family, but you want to maintain a swift commute to D.C. and access to Montgomery County’s excellent schools, you should take a look at the more affordable Olney. Here, small-town charm meets modern growth. Locals catch a play at the renowned Olney Theater House, then grab a beer across the street at the decades-old Olney Ale House. On weekends, there’s something for everyone (from skaters to swimmers to dogs!) at Olney Manor Park. 

Gaithersburg

Another popular Maryland locale for families with kids is Gaithersburg, which, like many other contenders, boasts easy access to D.C. and top tier schools. A variety of neighborhoods here, including some that are planned, mean that there are options for families who can’t necessarily spring for that large property just yet. Even if you opt for an area with row houses or condos, you’ll have access to everything you need. Shops and restaurants dot every area, no matter how self-contained. Large parks and a lake front provide space for outdoor time, if you’re itching for some family activity. 

Chevy Chase

Right next to Bethesda is Chevy Chase, a small suburb that spills into the nation’s capital itself. Restaurants and shops abound, and if you’re interested in the latter, you might be thrilled to find yourself walking along a corridor of luxury boutiques one afternoon after dropping the kids at school. Cyclists and pedestrians will enjoy the many tree-lined sidewalks and bike paths helping them avoid car congestion, whether for commute or leisure. Another plus for this cozy, bustling town is the public transit: Just need to hop on the red line to get to the heart of D.C.. But then again, why leave?

Urbana

Just outside Montgomery County sits Urbana, which was recently named an “oasis of affordability.” This planned community sprang up quickly and has grown even faster, with its single-family residences, pedestrian pathways, swimming pools, club houses, and farmers markets offering exactly what most families wish for, and more. Schools are within walking distance of many homes and Old Town Frederick provides a living history lesson on weekends. If you want a beloved suburb with a small-town feel, definitely look into this amenity-packed enclave.

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The best places to live in Maryland for young professionals

If you’re a young professional, you might be interested a bit less in excellent public high schools and be more curious about exciting nightlife and weekend activities. Art museums, live music, scenic and challenging hikes, and cute shops should keep you entertained anytime you’re off the clock. The following Maryland cities are some of the best places to live if you’re looking for an abundance of things to do after hours and on long weekends. 

Towson

Just outside Baltimore, a city known for its charm, is another charming place to settle down: Towson, a university town with excellent nightlife, large parks, and a range of residence types. Someone who desires a walkable, urban area after a day of commuting by car should check out the Towson Town Center, which boasts restaurants featuring countless global cuisines. If you don’t mind getting in the car to bop around, neighborhoods near Lake Roland Park will offer a more suburban feel, and more green space to keep the dog-walks interesting!

Rockville

If your professional ties root you closer to D.C. than to Baltimore, give Rockville a shot. Here, the Metro (D.C.’s main transit system, for anyone not in-the-know) is just two blocks from the town square. Speaking of the town square, Rockville’s is impressive. Trendy restaurants sit right next to fast casual ones, and quirky independent boutiques neighbor more practical shops, so you can get all your errands done in one fell swoop. When you need to get out of the urban center, parks like Cabin John offer immersive natural space, skating rinks, baseball fields, and truly much more. Condos and townhomes might be the most attractive option for young professionals looking to buy here, but new homes in just-built subdivisions could also be a tempting option.

Silver Spring

If meeting new people and participating in vibrant nightlife is a priority, you’ll probably fall for Silver Spring, a social destination even for city-dwellers. The iconic AFI movie theater screens some of the best indie and arthouse films around, and The Fillmore is a top destination for nationally-known music acts. Sandwich these outings with dinner or drinks at one of the many excellent local restaurants and you’ve got enough outings for as long as you choose to live in this lively suburb. If daytime activities are more your speed, the farmers markets, shops, and public art provide plenty to do before the sun goes down. But of course it’s not all fun and games in Silver Spring: this town offers quick Metro access to D.C. come Monday morning. Plus, if you’re more in need of a “starter home” while you get your footing and find community, Silver Spring offers plenty of condos and smaller residences to fit your finances.

Baltimore

This diverse and famously charming city has seen a recent uptick in millennial residents. Arts and entertainment have long been prioritized here, and that’s still true today, with live music venues like Ram’s Head bringing major acts to the Eastern seaboard. Baltimore boasts an above-ground light rail, plenty of affordable and central housing, and easy travel to nearby cities. For a young professional looking to meet new people and establish a professional and personal network, Baltimore is a great option.

Frederick

If you don’t require a quick commute to D.C. or Baltimore — and if you prefer staking your ground a bit further from the urban center — you should consider Frederick, which sits about an hour away from both. It would be best to have a car here, so you can scoot from a historic home tour to a state park and then back downtown for dinner at a hip restaurant. If you’re outdoorsy, you’ll be thrilled at the quick access to both the Potomac River and the Appalachian Trail. If this is one of your first home buying experiences, don’t worry--you don’t have to go all in on a colonial mansion! Row houses, condos, and smaller homes are also available in this idyllic city. 

The best places to live in Maryland for seniors

If you’re a senior looking for a cozy place to settle in for this new chapter, Maryland has some of the best places to live. Whether your priority is a large lawn for grandkids to play, a tight-knit community of like-minded retirees, or, well, watersports, Maryland has somewhere for you and your loved ones.

Travilah

Travilah, a small town near Potomac, offers access to all of the aforementioned suburban amenities, but in a cozier setting. Nestled along the river, residents here can enjoy a more rural lifestyle, a large property, and a refreshing lack of hustle and bustle.

Bel Air

With its historic architecture, lampposts, and lush parks, Bel Air is a perfect town for seniors seeking a second act full of comfort and small-town quirks. Walking along Main Street, you’ll find a number of restaurants and independent shops, and a quick jaunt will take you to any number of parks, where events like kite festivals and 5Ks provide joyful, healthy weekend activity. There is a range of property available in Bel Air, so whether you desire a cozy condo or a luxe home for hosting Thanksgiving, you’ll be able to find just what you’re looking for. 

Annapolis

If the last time you thought about Annapolis was in a grade school history class, it’s time to revisit. Seniors will fall in love with this historically significant city, with its views of the Chesapeake Bay, cozy taverns, fresh seafood, and emphasis on waterfront activities. Take a boat out, see a free concert, visit the Naval Academy, or just lounge at home enjoying the vista. Annapolis is a beautiful, lively, and charming place to call home. You’ll be able to find whatever you’re looking for here, be it a large brick home or a condo with a view.

The best places to live in Maryland near D.C.

For many moving to Maryland, the priority in finding the best place to live isn’t in the amenities the chosen town has to offer but in how close it is to Washington, D.C. Below are some cities that offer the best Maryland has to offer when the most important thing is getting away! These cities offer short commutes, some even aided by public transit.

Bethesda

While one of the most expensive places in Maryland to put down roots, Bethesda is hard to beat in terms of access to D.C., quality of the schools, and restaurants. Many residents here stay for life, with good reason. Take one walk down “Bethesda Row” and you’ll see why — families and young professionals alike have found balance here. 

Urbana

If affordability is a priority and you’re willing to commute to D.C. for work, Urbana could be a great option. This burgeoning community has become a haven for its residents, catering to wide-ranging needs. 

Silver Spring

Silver Spring sometimes seems to masquerade as D.C.’s fun cousin. Living here is a great option for folks who want to soak up every bit that a city has to offer, from schools to cinemas. The fact that there is a Metro station here only adds to the excellence.

Chevy Chase

Chevy Chase is somehow both cozy and luxe: upscale shops are nestled on leafy streets and strip malls house mind-blowing restaurants. If you want to be steps away from D.C. but have your own corner of the world, Chevy Chase is a lovely option.

Maryland may be just a small swath of the United States map, but it packs plenty within its state lines. Families, young professionals, seniors, and anyone looking to live near Washington, D.C. will have numerous fantastic options when looking for the best place to buy a home.

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