Columbia, MD

Population: 103,439 livability score shield

Key findings

  • Columbia has a Livability Score of 72/100, which is considered excellent
  • Columbia crime rates are 16% lower than the Maryland average
  • Cost of living in Columbia is 9% higher than the Maryland average
  • Columbia real estate prices are 26% higher than the Maryland average
  • Rental prices in Columbia are 27% higher than the Maryland average

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      Columbia, MD

      Columbia is a city in Maryland that is known for its excellent quality of life and friendly suburban atmosphere. Nestled between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., Columbia is close enough to the action while being secluded enough to give residents the peace and quiet that they want. Columbia is regarded as one of the East Coast’s best planned communities and is home to around 100,000 residents.

      With its consistently hot real estate market and decent cost of living, Columbia draws a wide variety of people who wish to call the community home. Even though the cost of living is higher than most parts of the U.S., it’s still possible to find a reasonably priced home that’s suitable for single individuals, large families or retirees.

      When living in Columbia, MD, residents can utilize the city’s public transportation network by riding buses that are operated by the Maryland Transit Authority and the Regional Transportation Agency of Central Maryland to various points throughout the city and neighboring communities as well as to locations in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. Interstate 95 along with Maryland Routes 100, 175 and 32 are often used by drivers to get to and from locations in the area.

      The seasonal conditions in Columbia are similar to those found along many other parts of the East Coast. Winters in Columbia are often cold and snowy with the coldest temperatures sometimes fallowing below zero. In the summer, residents can expect to see temperatures in the 80s throughout much of the season with sunny and muggy conditions. The city is one of the best places to see the colorful fall foliage during the autumn.

      Columbia is also home to several schools that feature a wide range of academic programs to shape young minds. Clemens Crossing Elementary School and Atholton Elementary School are among the top-rated public primary schools. Students who are getting closer to their college years can attend Atholton High School or Hammond High School. Students can pursue higher learning at Howard Community College or other vocational schools in the community.

      In addition to being a great place to live, Columbia boasts a variety of attractions and other ways to have fun. The Columbia Association oversees many of the city’s community centers, which include public pools, skating rinks and sports parks. Lake Elkhorn and Wilde Lake are great places to go boating and fishing. Shops selling clothes and other useful merchandise can be found inside The Mall in Columbia. Merriweather Post Pavilion regularly features outdoor music concerts and other fun events during the summer. The city also plays host to annual events like the Columbia Festival of the Arts, Columbia Symphony of Lights, and Wine in the Woods.

      Top Rated Schools in Columbia

      Name Grades Students Proficiency
      River Hill High9 - 121,15789%
      Clarksville Elementary SchoolKG - 543286%
      Clarksville Middle6 - 855285%
      Pointers Run Elementary SchoolPK - 576878%
      Atholton High9 - 121,47874%
      Clemens Crossing Elementary SchoolKG - 555068%
      Waterloo Elementary SchoolPK - 563561%
      Thunder Hill Elementary SchoolKG - 554460%
      See all Columbia schools

      Columbia Reviews

      Write a review about Columbia Tell people what you like or don't like about Columbia…
      Extreme vandalism and theft.
      Attractions4/10
      Community5/10
      Nightlife1/10
      Dining5/10
      Shopping4/10
      I have lived in Columbia for 3 months, it was recommended by multiple people when we found out we were moving to the area. We live in a seemingly quiet cul-de-sac with an entrance to the trail network that we have previously enjoyed taking our dogs on. We recently had our vehicle broken into, door window was completely smashed and belongings were scattered across left out in the rain. Turns out our vehicle was not the only one. There were 6 on our street, 5 on the next, and 3 on another. We were informed by other neighbors that this was not the first time (would've been nice if we had known prior). When the cop arrived he was disinterested in and seemed annoyed that he was there. He did inform us that there were more than the number that we had given him and that wasn't including the other side of the community which got hit hard as well. He also told us we would've been better off if we did not lock our vehicle and that it was just kids being kids. For the thousands of dollars of property damage on our street alone (not including stolen items) I felt like more could've been done especially if they are aware that this is a reoccurring issue. It's a shame because Columbia does have a variety of amenities but not of that matters if you don't feel safe in your own neighborhood.
      6 0
      Fraud
      Attractions?/10
      Community?/10
      Nightlife?/10
      Dining?/10
      Shopping?/10
      I lived in Columbia for more than 10 years. While there are many friendly, pleasant, and neighborly people in Columbia, a significant proportion, perhaps a majority, are arrogant, self righteous, narrow-minded, and entitled. Columbia was founded as an experiment in new town living in the 60s and attracted many idealists with progressive view points. There was a significant sense of community and inclusiveness. At least that's the story. When I lived there, within the last few years, that's curdled into a sense of propriety and significant separation. New comers are looked down upon and ignored. If you didn't move to Columbia in the 70s or earlier (a group that refers to itself as "pioneers") your opinion is worthless. The pioneers consider Columbia to be theirs. As one of them told me once, "you have to understand. We are always watching and we see everything". While there is a degree of diversity, classism renders that nearly valueless today.Falling home values in most of Columbia, has never recovered from the real estate crash, have added to the tension as the pioneers have seen increases in home prices dwindle,mleaving them with less to cash out. Changes to the down town area, which benefit corporations in ways in which old socialists who have worked for government all their lives cannot hope to understand, are fueling this growing sense of entitled anger. The whole community reeks of smoldering discontent. I drive to Annapolis to shop, although Columbia is much closer. I go there only when I absolutely must.
      5 0
      Diverse, expensive, good schools and lots of shopping
      Attractions7/10
      Community8/10
      Nightlife7/10
      Dining7/10
      Shopping8/10
      I was born and raised in Columbia. I graduated HS in 1998 and the majority of my graduating class went to college or joined the military. The school system here is pretty decent. I would feel safe sending my kids (if I had them) to Howard County Public schools. There are private schools around here as well and they all have great reputations.

      Columbia has alot of government workers living here due to the close proximity to Washington DC/NoVA/Baltimore. Thre are plenty of jobs, you may not want to do them (fast food, waitressing, sign spinning, cleaning, retail) but there are opportunities for those who don't have college. There is a great community college, HCC, that I graduated from with a Registered Nurse AA. Columbia is pretty liberal, but if you look hard you can find the Right wingers. There is a magnet for your car that says "Choose Civility" meaning that we as Howard Countians should think about others, make the right decisions, be courteous, etc. I personally have one that says "Choose Insanity, Live in HoCo." I always have to be different!

      The Columbia Mall is top notch with great shopping. There's the usual Target, Walmart, Old Navy, and drug stores as well as the local grocery chains of Wegmans, Giant, Safeway, and Harris Teeter. The restaurants are pretty decent, the chains and the independents. There is plenty of things to do on the weekends especially for young kids/families. There
      is always complaints that there isn't anything to for teenagers to do but I don't think teenagers know what they want to do in the first place! The mall and movies (2 theaters at that), lots of sports. TONS of sports and county run activities. Lacrosse and soccer are pretty important around here. There is also Merriweather Post Pavillion which is a concert venue that has history going back to the late 60's. Great place to see an outdoor show.

      Housing is not cheap. I'm not going to lie, but its going to break your bank unless you make a decent salary or have roommates. My rent is $1400 for a 1 bedroom with a den near the mall. Its a nice complex; there are some areas that have section 8 housing that are really not safe. There's alot of car thefts/petty theft in these areas and it is a shame because James Rouse (the founder of Columbia's concept) didn't intend for it to be like that. If you want to buy a house, a condo will start at $150,000-300,000. A townhouse $190-400,000 and a single family home can run $250,000 to 700,000 with the median somewhere around 350-400,000. Property taxes are high from what I understand but we are a "rich county." Personally I don't think I want to pay that much for a house in Columbia when I can go to a different county in MD and pay less. But Columbia is accessible to major highways and is central between DC and Baltimore. Traffic is typical during rush hours, a little congestion but we are between 2 major cities with lots of highways so thats to be expected. And our roads are maintained well, no crumbling bridges or miles of potholes.

      There is a strong Volunteer Fire Dept as well as Professional FF's as well as a great Police Department. They take good care of us and the community. There are community "laws" that make you follow the rules as far as stuff like you can't just paint your door pink and your house purple; you have to have the neighborhood approve it. There is a Columbia Association that runs the pools, gyms, and other stuff. We even have a few man-made lakes with trails to ride/walk/run on. Rumor has it we are getting a dog park next year; Columbia is very dog friendly.

      This is definitely a decent place to raise kids if you can afford to buy here. Living here single has its perks but its pricey to rent apartments without roommates. Downtown Baltimore is better for the single life in my opinion.

      And last but not least Howard County General Hospital...its a decent hospital. I worked there for 18 months and I would trust the doctors and nurses with my loved ones and myself. There is an abundance of top notch doctors in the area; they are also affiliated with Johns Hopkins. Other great hospitals and medical facilities are close by in Baltimore.

      For older folks or retired folks this is probably not the best area unless you have alot of money. Its very pricey for 55 and Up housing/nursing homes/assisted living. They are good facilities but if you don't have $7k a month for one person, you won't be able to retire and live near here.

      So if you take anything from this rambling of mine its that Columbia is aesthetically pleasing, well mannered, and hard working people. The local government is pretty liberal but that is Maryland overall.
      2 -2
      Columbia, MD - A Nice Place To Stop
      Attractions5/10
      Community6/10
      Nightlife7/10
      Dining7/10
      Shopping8/10
      Columbia, MD has all of the ingredients to make an excellent place to live or visit however it doesn't quite utilize them in a way that makes it successful! I was slightly impressed with Columbia when I passed through in May of 2009 but I can't say I'd ever move there!

      The downtown Columbia area is nice and consists of many fancy businesses, shopping and restaurants which give it is a semi-modern feel. I suppose the first problem I had with Columbia is that there really arent' many things to do! There aren't really any special attractions! Visitors can go enjoy a nice day in the park since Columbia does have some wonderful outdoor areas.

      In addition the local shopping is pretty decent, plenty of shops and an outstanding mall that offers plenty of selection and even decent dining! Outside of the mall there are also plenty of good places to get high quality food or just a quick and delicious meal! Columbia is in the process of redeveloping downtown and I look forward to see how it might turn out! For now I would recommend Columbia as a day-stop; great to visit the mall and eat.
      0 0
      Source: The Columbia, MD data and statistics displayed above are derived from the 2016 United States Census Bureau American Community Survey (ACS).