Now that the holidays are over, and the looming Super Bowl doesn't seem to be as big a deal around here as it was last year, you have time to do some exploring in the historic district. Bring the family down to the B&O Railroad Museum, Ellicott City Station, for its Holiday Festival of Trains, which closes on Jan. 26.

It seems to me that more people are getting interested in our country's history, and there is no better place to learn more than at our doorstep at this museum. In commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, the museum is also offering a special exhibit, "The War Came by Train," in place until May 30.


It is the oldest train terminal in America, and the spoon full of sugar that helps this history lesson go down at this time of year is the amazing LEGO train exhibit they have, not to mention the perennially popular Thomas the Tank Engine. Stop in the Freight House and see the carefully wrought diorama of the first 13 miles of track linking Baltimore to Ellicott City, and let the kids explore the restored caboose.

Maybe the staff will even let you ring the bell that announces arrivals and departures — at least it used to, now it's just fun to ring. And be sure to stop in the gift shop for rail-related souvenirs.

Reenactors are always on hand to share stories and answer questions. It's just such a nice place to visit. The museum is always open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. This year it is also open on Martin Luther King Day, Monday, Jan. 26. Also, in a reciprocal deal, up to two adult and two kid members of the Baltimore Zoo get in free in January and February. Don't miss it.

Winter studio

Ellicott City artist Wiley Purkey has opened his winter studio at Perspectives Art Gallery, located at 8191 Main St. His works will be there until March 2, and he will be making frequent personal appearances. Is it too early to shop for Valentine's Day?

Restaurant weeks

We are in the middle of restaurant weeks in Howard County right now. They end on Jan. 27. This is a fine time to check out a new restaurant or to see what new creations an old favorite has to offer. I really like it when restaurants let their chef's creative juices flow and they try things that aren't usually on the menu, just to see what flies.

So far I plan to try a new-to-me restaurant, Grille 620 in Turf Valley, and old favorite, Iron Bridge Wine Company in Columbia. In the historic district, the Diamond Back Tavern and Tersiguel's French Country Restaurant are participating as of this writing, but both are always worth a visit.

The cassoulet at Tersiguel's is especially comforting in this frigid weather. I don't know if it will be one of their restaurant weeks offerings, but even if it isn't, it's an excellent choice.

Sweetheart Dance

The Roger Carter Community Center, at 3000 Miltowne Road off of Rogers Avenue, is hosting a Daddy-Daughter Sweetheart Dance on Jan. 25. Dads with daughters ages 4 to 6 are invited to participate from 4 to 6 p.m., while dads with daughters ages 7 to 11 can join the fun from 7 to 9 p.m.

The cost is $40 per father/daughter couple, $20 for each additional daughter. The event features a live DJ and refreshments including an ice cream sundae bar. Call 410-313-4704 for more information and reservations.

Evening in the Stacks

The Miller Library is host again this year to the "Evening in the Stacks." This popular event will have a "Vintage Vegas" theme this year, so gather your own personal "Rat Pack" and mark Feb. 22 on your calendar.