Ellicott City

Despite nature's best efforts, Ellicott City, which was founded in 1771 as Ellicott Mills, stands today with all the old-country charm of its early days.

Preservation is key to the community of Ellicott City, and restoring historic landmarks is something the residents believe in. Indeed, the town itself seems to want to be preserved, having survived three major fires and two major floods. Despite those potential disasters, Ellicott City thrives. New businesses have taken the place of burned-down ones on Main Street, and a railroad bridge at the end of the street is marked with lines that document the floods.

Residents of the town, which is the seat of Howard County, have an unusually strong sense of community for this day and age. Also, the town often plays host to a weekend crowd of antique shoppers who come to peruse the many boutiques of the old town.

Aside from the diversity of bars, restaurants and antique shops, Ellicott City offers quite a few buildings that are antiques themselves. Among these are the B&O Railroad Station Museum, the Patapsco Female Institute and just about every building on Main Street, from the pubs to the fire station -- almost all of which are rumored to be haunted. To that end, Ellicott City offers what is purportedly one of the best ghost tours in the state, which runs from April to December every year.

Not quite haunted but still historical in its own right is the remains of The Enchanted Forest amusement park, which sits behind the shopping center of the same name. Once a popular destination for families, the park closed its gates in 1997, and a society has been formed to preserve what remains of the park for future generations.

This tenacious little town on the Patapsco River was used for part of local directing legend John Waters' movie Cry Baby, played host to the wedding of baseball legend Babe Ruth and, in 2006, was named the fourth best place in the country to live by CNN/Money and Money magazine.
Location: Eastern Howard County

Schools: Centennial High School, Howard High School, Mt. Hebron High School, Bonnie Branch Middle School, Burleigh Manor Middle School, Dunloggin Middle School, Ellicott Mills Middle School, Folly Quarter Middle School, Patapsco Middle School, Bellows Spring Elementary School, Centennial Lane Elementary School, Hollifield Station Elementary School, Ilchester Elementary School, Manor Woods Elementary School, Northfield Elementary School, St. John's Lane Elementary School, Triadelphia Ridge Elementary School, Waverly Elementary School, Worthington Elementary School

Highlights/Landmarks: B&O Railroad Station Museum, The Hauntings of Ellicott Mills Ghost Tour, Main Street, the Patapsco Female Institute