One of my favorite summer day trips is to historic Ellicott City, in Howard County, Maryland. This city was settled by two Quaker brothers in 1772, Andrew and Joseph Ellicott, who established a flour mill on the roaring Patapsco River. The African American scientist Benjamin Banneker lived and worked here side-by-side with the Ellicott brothers as a surveyor.
The community expanded in importance, when in 1822, the B&O Railroad laid tracks connecting Baltimore to downtown Ellicott City. If you visit, don’t miss the tiny yet fascinating B&O Railroad Museum.
Today, Ellicott City’s historic downtown is a shopping mecca. The town has several boutiques that are all independently owned and operated. Stroll down Main Street, and you’ll find merchants with eclectic collections—everything from skateboards to vintage clothing.
A perfect example of the upbeat whimsical atmosphere in Ellicott City is the Forget Me Not Factory. Built into the rocky hills on the main street, the store has three floors of gardening supplies, toys and costumes. Included in your shopping experience is entertainment by Barry the Bubbleman (he’s usually around on weekends). The store carries a wide selection of fairies, tea sets and dolls—a little girl’s dream shop (big girls like it too).
Crystal Underground has funky jewelry and a lots of new age supplies for your inner hippie. You’ll find another strange combination of merchandise at The Good Roll Shop and Gallery, which carries skateboarding supplies along with writing and drawing materials. Sweet Cascades Chocolatier creates fine handmade chocolates using regional ingredients like Old Bay and locally raised bacon. Gramp’s Attic Books‘ motto is: “Get Lost in the Stacks!” This store has a diverse collection of used, rare and hard to find books (call for store hours before you go). Find cute yoga togs at the Gogo Guru. Shoemaker Country sells upscale furniture and rugs, along with custom made signs hand painted by owner Tom Shoemaker.
Ladies don’t miss my favorites: Sweet Elizabeth Jane is like hitting Anthropologie without the high price tags. Another memorable shop is A Journey From Junk, a hipster boutique with hand crafted furniture and clothes. The friendly women who own this shop have a great eye for unique collectibles and vintage clothing.
After all that retail therapy, settle for a glass of wine at The Wine Bin, which besides having a huge selection of wines under $20, sells adorable gifts and hosts tasting events. If beer’s more to your liking, visit the Ellicott Mills Brewing Company. They have lots of small plates and appetizers perfect for sharing.
Rejuvenated and ready for more? Just down the road at Savage Mill, you’ll find another retail extravaganza. This was a former textile mill built over top of the Savage River. It has been renovated to include a menagerie of different stores—books, games, makeup, clocks, jewelers, writing utensils, cycling supplies, bakery and beer—more than 260 antique dealers, artists and craftsmen. There are all kinds of interesting items for sale, and if all that shopping makes you hungry, have lunch on Rams Head Pub’s outdoor deck overlooking the river. Sunday from 4-10 pm is $5 burger night. It’s the perfect place to end your perfect summer weekend.