Maryland is a fairly small state, but according to the 2020 census, it has the 18th largest population in the country, as well as many notable large cities. Maryland is a Mid-Atlantic coastal state that borders Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Washington, D.C.
Additionally, Maryland’s advantageous location on the Chesapeake Bay gives it many outdoor recreation and leisure opportunities. Whether you want to dine on blue crabs by the bay, learn about Civil War stories where the battles once took place, or enjoy camping, skiing, and swimming in the Great Outdoors, Maryland is the place to go.
People love both visiting and living in the “Old Line State”. While some may prefer checking out some of the smaller beach towns in Maryland, the large cities offer countless attractions and unique ways to experience this small but mighty state.
Here are the ten biggest cities in Maryland, in order of the highest to lowest populations:
With about 575,133 residents during the 2020 census, Baltimore is by far Maryland’s largest city. It has over five times the number of residents as any other Maryland city, and this size contributes to it being a bustling center of business, culture, and services for residents.
The Inner Harbor area is the heart of Baltimore’s shopping and dining scene. The waterfront area has incredible views and is lined with many seafood restaurants, boutiques, and even some of the city’s top museums.
Baltimore is home to many well-known museums suitable for all interests. Some of the top ones are the National Aquarium, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Maryland Zoo, The Walters Art Museum, and the Maryland Science Center.
The city is rich in African American history, which also impacts its unique museum offerings. The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of African American History & Culture and the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park are two ideal places to explore the legacy that African Americans have created here.
In addition to its many tourism highlights, Baltimore has several major educational and healthcare institutions. Local universities include Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, as well as the United States Naval Academy in nearby Annapolis. Johns Hopkins also has a top-ranked hospital system. These institutions bring the city job opportunities and impressive resources alike.
Columbia has a population of 104,681 people (2020 census), making it Maryland’s second-largest city. It can be found between two other big cities: Baltimore (a 25-minute drive away) and Washington, D.C. (a 40-minute drive away).
The Mall in Columbia is the city’s central shopping center, with many restaurants, specialty stores, and large anchor stores. Other major entertainment opportunities in Columbia include concerts at the Merriweather Post Pavilion and shows at Toby’s Dinner Theatre.
Art lovers are sure to enjoy Columbia’s thriving cultural scene. The African Art Museum of Maryland and Columbia Art Center are two major art museums in the area. Each year, the Columbia Festival of the Arts celebrates local artists and their work.
Columbia offers its residents and tourists plenty of family-friendly recreation activities as well. The 325-acre Centennial Park features playgrounds, sports fields/courts, and a path around the lake. It’s a prime place for fishing, boating, picnicking, and wildlife viewing.
Additionally, the Columbia Association SportsPark offers an indoor setting to take part in sporty activities. It features a mini golf course, playground, skate park, and batting cages.
Major community institutions in Columbia include Howard Community General Hospital and Howard Community College. These both serve the community and attract outsiders to come to see what Columbia is all about.
Germantown is located in Montgomery County, about 50 minutes north of Washington, D.C. It’s a bustling community of 91,249 people (as of the 2020 census), with countless opportunities for shopping, outdoor activities, and arts and culture.
The top place to go for shopping and dining in Germantown is the Rio Lakefront. This complex has over 50 stores, restaurants, and other businesses. Another good option is Olde Towne Gaithersburg, a charming historic district with plenty of boutiques and unique restaurants to explore.
If you’re interested in farming and local goods, then be sure to check out the Lancaster County Dutch Market and Butler’s Orchard. These two family-owned businesses sell a variety of fresh foods and other products.
The arts scene is another integral part of the Germantown community. The BlackRock Center is a non-profit arts venue with a theater and exhibitions, as well as an arts education center. The Arts on the Green also offers popular performances, such as musicals, magic shows, and more.
Visitors and residents of Germantown love taking advantage of the city’s outdoor recreation facilities. The Great Seneca Stream Valley Park has a greenway trail perfect for hiking and mountain biking. Black Hill is another major park, which offers pavilions, a playground, and trails of various levels.
Are you looking for more of an adrenaline boost? Go Ape and Bohrer Park, both close by, are unique adventure centers that the whole family will love.
Waldorf is the largest Maryland city located south of Washington, D.C. Based on the 2020 census, this city has approximately 81,410 people, many of whom work in D.C. or other nearby suburbs.
Fun activities are also abundant in Waldorf. You and your family can enjoy an outing complete with bowling, playing mini golf, or even watching a Southern Maryland Blue Crabs baseball game at the Regency Furniture Stadium. Waldorf also has many outdoor areas that are used for both exercise and play, such as Pinefield Community Park and Accokeek East Community Park.
Waldorf’s largest shopping center, as well as the only regional mall in Southern Maryland, is the St. Charles Towne Center. This complex features a food court, over 100 stores, and a movie theater, which attract shoppers from all over the DMV (District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia) area. The Waldorf Shopping Mall and Pinefield Shopping Center are two other major shopping centers in the area.
The most important historic site in Waldorf is the Dr. Samuel A. Mudd House. Listed on the National Register of Historical Places, this old farmhouse is where a physician treated the injured John Wilkes Booth after he had assassinated Abraham Lincoln. Today, visitors can tour the home and learn more about Dr. Mudd through educational events.
Silver Spring, MD
With a population just a bit lower than that of Waldorf, 81,015 as of the 2020 census, Silver Spring is a busy Maryland city, as well as a popular Washington, D.C. suburb. Its downtown shopping and dining scenes draw in many people from the surrounding area, while its residents praise Silver Spring for being diverse and a great place to live.
Silver Spring is next to the northern tip of Washington, D.C. Its metro station is on the red line, making it a quick and easy trip into the city. Many people live in Silver Spring and commute into D.C. for work, though it is also just as simple to go from the capital to Silver Spring for some shopping, dining, or entertainment.
Downtown Silver Spring is where much of the action happens in this city. Its bars, cafes, shops, and other businesses keep the community busy with things to do. It even features the American Film Institute Silver Theatre and Cultural Center, which plays a mix of classic films and independent films from around the world.
Outside of this busy city center, Silver Spring also has some outdoor spaces. Acorn Urban Park is known for being a peaceful place to relax in the shade, and it features the historic Acorn Gazebo. The Brookside Gardens is a public garden that offers free admission and occasional events.
The largest city in Western Maryland is Frederick. Home to 78,171 people at the time of the 2020 census, it’s one of the most popular tourist destinations in the state.
Frederick is rich in historic sites and museums, particularly those related to the Civil War. The Schifferstadt Architectural Museum is a German colonial house from the 1750s. Similarly, the Rose Hill Manor Park & Museums consists of a manor house, a log cabin, and a children’s museum. For those who are interested in medical history, Frederick has the National Museum of Civil War.
The city is also home to the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Park and the War Correspondents Memorial Arch. Famous people buried in Frederick include Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first American-born saint, and Francis Scott Key, the author of the U.S. National Anthem.
Apart from its museums and historic sites, Frederick has many other areas that tourists and locals enjoy exploring. Attractions include Frederick Keys baseball games, The Boulder Yard, and Spinners Pinball Arcade.
Frederick’s parks and other outdoor spaces have recently become increasingly popular. In addition to 90 different parks with facilities for hiking, picnicking, and other recreation, Frederick includes parts of the Potomac River and the Catoctin Mountains. This is a great place to go for activities such as boating, golfing, camping, horseback riding, fishing, or just taking in some scenic views.
Ellicott City, MD
Ellicott City has an estimated population of 75,947 according to the 2020 census, making it Maryland’s seventh-largest city. It’s located in Howard County and is part of the Baltimore metropolitan area (about 13 miles away from Baltimore).
Old Ellicott City is a major highlight of the area for both tourists and local residents. This historic district has over 80 shops, as well as many restaurants, salons, churches, art galleries, and museums. It also has events throughout the year that focus on everything from the city’s history to arts and culture.
Ellicott City’s claim to fame is having the country’s oldest surviving train station. This station was constructed in 1831 as the end of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad line. Today, the structure hosts the B&O Ellicott City Station Museum.
Because it is located in the valley of the Tiber and Patapsco Rivers, Ellicott City has some beautiful views and outstanding opportunities to explore the outdoors. The 337-acre Centennial Park has a paved loop trail and a lake with a boat ramp and boat rental areas. The Patapsco Valley State Park offers hiking, fishing, and disc golf opportunities, as well as 32 miles of waterfront to explore.
Glen Burnie, MD
Glen Burnie is another major suburb of Baltimore, located in east-central Maryland by the Chesapeake Bay in Anne Arundel County. During the 2020 census, 72,891 people called this city home.
Nicknamed “Chrome City”, it’s home to many shops, restaurants, and entertainment options. Glen Burnie Mall and Marley Station Mall both have various stores and restaurants. Arundel Mills, Maryland’s largest outlet shopping center, is also close in Hanover, MD.
Glen Burnie has plenty of family-friendly entertainment opportunities, including Horizon Cinemas Marley Station Movies, the Thomas A. Dixon Jr. Aircraft Observation Area, and the North Arundel Aquatic Center.
Plus, Glen Burnie is always just a quick trip away from Baltimore and Washington, D.C., two cities that are incredibly rich in opportunities. The Baltimore Light Rail goes through Glen Burnie, and train transfers from this line can lead to D.C. as well.
The top place to experience the outdoors in the area is Patapsco Valley State Park in nearby Ellicott City. Maryland residents, including many from Glen Burnie, frequently go here for many different outdoor recreation opportunities.
Glen Burnie has more than a dozen different neighborhoods. Most include single-family homes, which often house people commuting into nearby larger cities, but there are also different apartment and row home options available in this city.
With 69,657 inhabitants according to the 2020 census, Gaithersburg is Maryland’s ninth-largest city. It’s tucked away in Montgomery County, along the Potomac River in Southern Maryland.
Gaithersburg is often recognized as being a lovely place to live and for offering a high quality of life. Public schools here are well-known for being some of the best in Maryland, and the different neighborhoods offer residents a mix of urban and suburban atmospheres.
Because the city is just 20 miles northwest of Washington, D.C., many of its residents commute into the capital for work. Gaithersburg provides a calmer setting that residents can take advantage of with their families during evenings and weekends.
While it may seem less busy than other more populated cities in the region, Gaithersburg also has many shops and restaurants. The Rio Lake Front is a commercial center with numerous shopping and dining options, as well as a movie theater. North Frederick Avenue is another popular area for shopping and dining, particularly for fast-casual food options.
Gaithersburg is also located near high-quality parks with outdoor recreation activities. Bohrer Park has unique activity opportunities including a water park and golf course. Additionally, the 6,300-acre Seneca Creek State Park in Gaithersburg extends down much of Seneca Creek. It offers boat rentals, trails for various activities, picnicking, and a tire playground.
Finally, Maryland’s tenth-largest city, as well as another popular Washington, D.C. suburb, is Bethesda. There are about 68,056 residents in Bethesda (2020 census), as well as many restaurants, shops, events, and art venues, which these residents and many tourists appreciate taking advantage of.
Bethesda is well-connected to D.C. and the rest of the metropolitan area. Its metro station, which services the red line, offers commuters easy access to offices and other businesses in nearby cities. This also helps residents of the DMV area gain access to Bethesda’s opportunities.
Pike & Rose and Bethesda Row are two of the most popular spots in the area for shopping and dining, where you can find a variety of eclectic restaurants suitable for all tastes. Lovers of Maryland’s best foods are also sure to appreciate the annual Taste of Bethesda food and music festival that occurs each October.
The arts scene in Bethesda is also vibrant. Attend a show at the Strathmore Performing Arts Center or the Bethesda Jazz and Supper Club. Check out galleries in Bethesda’s Arts & Entertainment District. Children can even get involved at Imagination State, a theater arts organization for kids.
Local residents are generally recognized as being well-educated and affluent. With many ways to keep busy and be entertained, as well as close access to other hubs, this city is a thriving urban community.
Maryland is known for being a terrific place to live, and clearly, its many large cities can be excellent places to visit as well. Whether you want to pop in to do some shopping during a trip to D.C. or decide to stay longer to properly explore the state’s beautiful nature and fascinating history, Maryland’s cities are sure to keep you entertained.