With easy access to jobs in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., not to mention standout schools that rank among the top in the state, it’s no surprise that Howard County is a magnet for families. But the demands on today’s families often mean free time is at a premium. Luckily, Howard County has plenty of opportunities for family fun seven days a week. From indoor rock climbing and miniature golf to laser tag and pumpkin patches, there’s always something fun nearby for parents and children. For more ideas and a monthly calendar of family-friendly events, visit Maryland Family magazine at www.marylandfamilymagazine.com.
LET THE FUN BEGIN
Why let the kids bounce off the walls at home when they can do it at one of these indoor fun facilities?
> Jump Zone Party Play Center, 7175 Oakland Mills Road, Columbia, 410-309-5966
> Pump It Up - The Inflatable Party Zone, 7184 Troy Hill Drive, Suite H, Elkridge, 410-579-1122
> Earth Treks Climbing Centers, 7125 C Columbia Gateway Drive, Columbia, 410-872-0060. Featuring 15,000 feet of climbing surfaces, 44-foot-high walls, and classes and events for all ages.
> Brunswick Columbia Lanes, 7100 Carved Stone Lane, Columbia, 410-381-7750
> Brunswick Zone, Normandy, 8419 Baltimore National Pike, Ellicott City, 410-465-0355. Each site has 32 lanes of bowling fun.
> Monster Mini Golf, 7351 Assateague Drive, Suite 380, Jessup, 410-579-4653. This monster-themed, 18-hole miniature golf center boasts glow-in-the-dark animated props, a DJ, arcade and event rooms.
> Lifetime Fitness, 7220 Lee DeForest Drive, Columbia, 410-953-0022. This fitness club opens kids’ classes to nonmembers as well, so toddlers to teens can take advantage of classes in climbing to cheerleading and karate to hip-hop dance.
> Great Kids Village, 6570 Dobbin Road, Columbia, 410-497-7529. Kids can drive a fire engine, shop in a child-size grocery store, paint or explore tunnels and slides at this 24,000-square-foot indoor play center.
> The Reaper’s Den, 8919 McGaw Court, Suite 5, Columbia, 410-381-4571. This indoor sports training center includes batting cages and turfed indoor fields, and also hosts parties.
> ShadowLand Laser Adventures, 9179 Red Branch Road, Columbia, 410-740-9100. Up to 30 players of all ages don high-tech suits and hand sets in this 6,000-square-foot, two-level arena filled with mazes and turrets to battle it out with lasers. Special effects, astral music and fog add to the ambience.
> Dancel Family Center Y in Ellicott City, 4331 Montgomery Road, Ellicott City, 410-465-4334. All the exercise classes, swimming and special activities you expect from a community Y facility.
The Columbia Association maintains a number of facilities for members and nonmembers including:
> 23 outdoor pools and 2 mini water parks, 410-312-6332
> Columbia Athletic Club & Indoor Tennis, 410-730-6744
> Supreme Sports Club, 410-381-5355
> The Columbia Gym, 410-531-0800
> Columbia Swim Center & SplashDown, 410-730-7000
> Three outdoor tennis clubs, www.columbiatennis.com
> An ice rink, 410-730-0321
> Columbia SportsPark featuring 18-hole miniature golf and batting cages, 410-715-3054
> Columbia SkatePark, 410-715-3054
> Columbia Horse Center, 301-776-5850
FRESH AIR FUN
> Howard County Conservancy, 10520 Old Frederick Road, Woodstock, 410-465-8877. Families can hike and explore more than 230 acres of preserved natural habitat. And don’t forget to check out the exhibits at the visitors center.
> Clark’s Elioak Farm, 10500 Route 108, Ellicott City, 410-730-4049. The Clark family has farmed in Howard County since 1797. Attractions on their 540 acres include a petting farm, pony rides and hayrides and the restored figures from the Enchanted Forest storybook park.
> Larriland Farm, 2415 Woodbine Road, Woodbine, 410-442-2605. Load up on strawberries, cherries, blueberries, peaches, apples and more at this pick-your-own farm. Come back for the Fall Festival, which features hayrides, a straw maze and pumpkin patch.
> Rocky Gorge 4 Seasons Golf Fairway, Route 29 and Old Columbia Road, Laurel, 301-725-0888. Perfect your swing at the driving range or batting cages, or play a round of miniature golf.
> Terrapin Adventures, 8600 Foundry Street, Savage, 301-725-1313. Whiz through the canopy near Savage Park on a zipline, challenge yourself to a ropes course or glide on a giant swing.
> The Howard County Department of Recreation & Parks (410-313-PARK) maintains nearly 40 parks with trails, courts, playing fields, playgrounds and pavilions (see recreation section). The department also sponsors classes, trips and summer camps for all ages.
> There are more than 90 miles of bike paths throughout Columbia, seven miles of hiking trails in Patapsco Valley State Park (www.dnr.state.md.us) and 10 miles of trails in Patuxent River State Park (www.dnr.state.md.us).
For more cultural and historical enrichment, the county is home to a number of museums families can explore including:
> African Art Museum of Maryland, located in downtown Columbia for more than 20 years, is in the process of relocating. For updates, www.africanartmuseum.org.
> Ellicott City B&O Railroad Station Museum, 2711 Maryland Ave., Ellicott City, 410-461-1945
> Firehouse Museum, Main Street and Church Road, Ellicott City, 410-313-2690
> Patapsco Female Institute Historic Site and Mt. Ida Visitor Center, 3691 Sarah’s Lane, Ellicott City, 410-465-8500Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun