Caves valley golf club in Owings Mills, Maryland
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Here’s a primer on one of the premier playgrounds in the region.
By Lauren LaRocca | June 2021
By Lauren LaRocca | June 2021
Here’s a primer on one of the premier playgrounds in the region.
By Lauren LaRocca
NOTHING CAUSES CABIN FEVER quite like a historic pandemic,and now, with the health crisis abating, the entire nationis chomping at the bit to get out of the house and on the road.
Where will they head? Many will steer for Baltimore County, adiverse community that stands out from other destinations byoffering something for everyone.
Easily accessible from any point in the eastern U.S.—whetherby car, train, or plane—it’s known for its array of activities, fromwatersports and other recreational opportunities along its 214miles of Chesapeake Bay waterfront to its lush parks, countlesshiking and biking trails, and its storied reputation as an equestrianhub. But it’s also a prime destination for golfers, as well asoffering lots of events, arts and culture, historical sites datingback almost 400 years, and great restaurants, plus a number ofwineries and breweries that offer tours and tastings.
Below, we lay out a user-friendly visitor’sguide that makes it easy to make the most of all thoseofferings, including tipping you off on some things that even alot of Marylanders might not have known about.
“Located in the heart of Maryland, now is the perfect timeto explore—or rediscover—everything Baltimore County hasto offer,” Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski said.“From our rolling hills and scenic waterfront to our nationallyrecognized dining scene, and America’s only Guinness brewery,we can’t wait for you and your entire family to see for yourselfand begin making new memories together.”
So it’s time to pack up the mini-van and come visit us!Whether you’re taking a long-awaited vacation or just lookingfor a weekend getaway, we promise you won’t have time to doeverything on this list.
Charms of the County
Discover the best of the outdoors, arts, dining, and entertainment in Baltimore County.
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Catonsville Arts and Entertainment District
Catonsville, aka Music City Maryland, is home to art galleries,music shops, and weekly outdoor concerts throughout thesummer at Lurman Woodland Theatre, which are free and opento the public. Residents proudly sport “Life is Great in 21228”bumper stickers, and for good reason. In 2019, the MarylandState Arts Council designated Catonsville as the first designatedArts and Entertainment District in Baltimore County. In additionto year-round arts hubs in the community, like Maker Practice,a maker space for creatives, and the Baltimore County ArtsGuild in Catonsville, the town also hosts parades and festivalsthroughout the year, including an arts and crafts festival, bookfestival, music fests, a lively downtown farmers market, a hugeFourth of July parade, and more activities throughout the year.
Hampton National Historic Site
This 18th-century estate near Towson was likely the largestprivate residence in the country when it was built in 1790.Owned by the Ridgely family, the mansion and grounds includedtobacco barns, stables, and slave quarters at the time, someof which have been preserved. The mansion not only showsoff late-Georgian architecture but gives us a storied history ofAmerica through the past 200 some years. The mansion and itssurrounding grounds were designated a National Historic Site in1948 and is now managed by the National Park Service.
Virtual tours are available of the mansion and the lower farm.Grounds and rest rooms are open at Hampton for foot traffic. Guided tours areexpected to resume shortly, but visitors are encouraged to download the NationalPark Service (NPS) free app, which was developed by Hampton’s staff andfeatures an audio tour, location, wayfinding information, and historic imagery.
Diggs-Johnson Museum of African American History
This museum in Granite houses a collection of thousands ofphotographs and artifacts (and growing) that tell the story ofAfrican-American life in Baltimore County. Located insidewhat was once Cherry Hill African Union Methodist Protestantchurch, built in the 1800s, the museum is an invaluableresource for information on the community of Granite, whereslaves once worked in granite quarries that dotted the area.
Bengies Drive-In in Middle River can claim bragging rights forhaving the biggest movie screen in the U.S. (52 feet high by 120feet wide)—and it became one of only a few places to safelywatch a movie during the pandemic in a community environment.Now in its 66th season, Bengies continues to bring asense of old-time fun for all ages.
The Gordon Center
The Arts & Culture department of the Baltimore Jewish CommunityCenter oversees this venue in Owings Mills, which hoststheater, dance, music, comedy, literature, and film programs forall ages and features local, regional, national, and internationalartists.
Hubert V. Simmons Museum of Negro Leagues Baseball
This hidden gem in Owings Mills tells the story of the NegroLeagues Baseball from the 1800s to the 1950s—and specificallyBaltimore’s Black Sox and Elite Giants—through photos, books,interviews, oral history, artifacts, and memorabilia. Tucked insidethe Owings Mills branch ofthe Baltimore County Public Library,the museum was foundedby former Negro Leagues Baseballplayer Hubert V. “Bert” Simmons,his wife, and friends andopened in its permanent home inthe Owings Mills library in 2014.
Divine, John Waters’ film star and muse, continues to be celebratedin film, books, art exhibitions, and murals after hisdeath in 1988. Fans of this eccentric and beloved drag-queenicon can visit his final resting place at Peaceful Prospect HillCemetery in Towson and find his gravesite. It’s the one that’sgraffitied with lipstick and adorned with plastic pink flamingosand flowers. RIP, Harris Glenn Milstead.
Asian Arts & Culture Center
This little-known gem has brought Asian art to life for 50 yearson the Towson University campus, operating as a nonprofitwithin TU’s Center for the Arts. With continual art exhibitionsfeaturing traditional and contemporary work, live music, andperforming arts events, as well as its annual Asia North festival,the AA&CC team aims to serve as a catalyst for conversationand education by engaging with the Baltimore community.
Fire Museum of Maryland
Showcasing over 250 years of urban firefighting in America, theFire Museum of Maryland is one of the largest fire Museums inthe country. You can see over 40 pieces of apparatus, as well asa working fire alarm office and the Baltimore City 1871 Engine 8fire house. It also hosts events.
Baltimore County boasts many storied golf traditions. Home tofive championship public golf courses, a U.S. Top 50 ranked drivingrange, not to mention the host of the 2021 BMW Golf Championshipin August, the golfing opportunities here are unique,serve a variety of skill levels and price ranges, and are honoredwith industry accolades.
Each of the five Baltimore County public courses is locatednear a major interstate, offers food and beverage options onsite,and is open to county residents and visitors alike.
Fox Hollow Course and Training Center
The Golf Range Association of America has named Fox HollowCourse and Training Center in Timonium one of the Top 50 PublicGolf Ranges in the country for seven years and counting. Withmore than 60 hitting stations, 20 of which are fully covered inthe event of inclement weather, one of the perks of this courseis its wide spectrum of options, as it caters to the beginner andadvanced golfer alike. And, as the name implies, golfers of variousskill levels can register for group or individual lessons withexpert golfers.
An extra perk? For golfers who work daytime hours, the driving range features “uplighting”, which allows them to better view their ball flight during evening practice.
Diamond Ridge in Windsor Mill is one of the most scenic golfcourses in the county. In addition to its driving range with 45 hittingstations, it offers a pavilion for events, a golf shop, and foodand beverage options. It welcomes golfers of all skill levels andshares a clubhouse with the nearby Woodlands golf course.
Advanced golfers will love Greystone Golf Course in White Hall,which offers 18 holes of challenging golf. The course, designedby Joe Lee, architect of the courses at Walt Disney World, featuresponds, hardwood trees, wetlands, and native vegetation.Stopping in the newly renovated Greystone Grille for a meal isan excellent ending to a day on the course.
As the only waterfront course on the Chesapeake Bay’s westernshore, Rocky Point in Essex is known for its views. Natural wetlandsthroughout the course add even more to the picturesquesetting. Golfers can make use of the tee boxes to take in thescenery or check out the pavilion that overlooks the bay.
Tucked away among rolling hills and old trees, Woodlands inWindsor Mill offers 18 holes in a lush setting. The Woodlandsshares a clubhouse with Diamond Ridge for events of all kinds.It’s “the best public course in the Baltimore suburbs,” accordingto Washington Golf Monthly.
Umami Mediterranean Kitchen
A vegan option on Catonsville’s main street, this small eatery offersa fusion of Indian and Greek dishes, served fresh and creatively.Think kabobs, naan, hummus, and babaganoush.
Conrad’s Crabs & Seafood Market
The seafood market in Parkville and Perry Hall and Conrad’sSeafood Restaurant, Perry Hall serve up award-winning seafood:fresh fish, a full raw bar daily, and live and steamed crabs. CaptainTony Conrad has been a commercial waterman for the past17 years and brings his catch from boat to table.
This Dundalk fresh-Mex grill serves everything you could wantfrom a Mexican restaurant, including, of course, tacos: traditionalstreet tacos, fish tacos, vegan tacos, and chef specialties.
Grind & Wine
This Randallstown favorite offers all-day casual dining for localsand visitors alike—think food, coffee, pastries, spirits—and ispopular as a welcoming place to meet, hang out, eat and drink atany time of the day, seven days a week.
La Food Marketa
At this Quarry Lake destination, Chefs Chad Gauss and JohntayBedingfield feature a blend of American flavors that are fresh,fun, comforting, and easily understood. Its bar is popular, and ithas outdoor seating and takeout.
The Oregon Grille
This is first-class dining that makes lots of “Best of” lists. Locatedin the heart of Maryland’s beautiful horse country, it servescreative classic American cuisine, including prime dry-agedsteak and fine grilled fare, in an elegantly renovated 19th centurystone farmhouse in Hunt Valley.
Jake’s is a popular Cockeyville BBQ joint offering pit beef sandwiches,smoked ribs, and a casual, neighborhood vibe. Food &Wine dubbed one of their creations Maryland’s best sandwich.
Breweries + Wineries
- Basignani Winery, Sparks
- B.C. Brewing, Hunt Valley
- Big Truck Farm Brewery,Parkton
- Boordy Vineyards, Hydes
- DeJon Vineyards, Hydes
- Farmacy Brewing, Reisterstown
- Guinness Open GateBrewery & Barrel House,Halethorpe
- Heavy Seas Beer, Halethorpe
- Key Brewing Company,Dundalk
- Pooles Island BrewingCompany, Middle River
Tiki Lee’s Dock Bar
Perhaps the closest you can get to the beach feeling in BaltimoreCounty, this Sparrows Point favorite has both locationand great food. Says one loyal customer, “The venue totallytransforms you to a different era—gorgeous interior and perfectfor a special night!”
Bowleys on the Bay
This reinvented restaurant at Long Beach Marina in MiddleRiver has something of a tropical vibe, where favorites includecorn and crab chowder, wild Rockfish filet, coffee rub filet, andItalian sea scallops.
Crazy Tuna Bar and Grille
Park your boat or car at The Crazy Tuna Bar & Grille, a waterfrontTiki-bar-esque destination serving everything from litefare to amazing fresh seafood entrees. Located on HopkinsCreek in Middle River, they offer 45 free transient boat slips.
Hard Yacht Cafe
This low-key eatery in Dundalk fills tables by dishing out classicAmerican seafood such a fish tacos, plus beer, cocktails,and wine.
Dock of the Bay
As the name implies, this restaurant tucked behind CraighillLighthouse is truly on the water and offers gorgeous viewsany time of day.
Island View Waterfront Cafe
Built during the Prohibition era as a waterfront dance hall andpicnic grove for city folks to escape the heat, the building wasrenovated in 2000 to become the cafe it is today, with spectacularviews of the Chesapeake Bay.
A seating option for every mood: cozy indoors in the main diningroom, an elegant secondary dining room with a romanticview of the water, a lounge, and an outdoors deck and pier,plus a playground area for kids.
Sue Island Grill and Crab House
Along Sue Creek, this crab house has indoor dining and barseating, an outdoor tiki bar and patio seating, plus live music.
Considered to be Middle River’s original beach bar and restaurant,Sunset Cove welcomes visitors by car and boat to enjoydinner on the beach.
On The Waterfront
Rocky Point Park and Beach
If it’s swimming you’re after, plan to hit the swimming beach atRocky Point Park in Essex, slated to open this season. Locatedat the mouth of Back and Middle rivers on the Upper Chesapeake,the park is a year-round destination for fishing, boating,biking, and picnicking. Swimming is permitted from MemorialDay weekend through Labor Day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
PHOTO BY STEPHEN BADGER/MARYLAND DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES
The small Hart-Miller Island on the Chesapeake is accessibleonly by boat, perhaps making it all the more enticing. Campsites(first come, first served) are available May through September,and its sandy beach is a relaxing place to take a dip orsoak in the sun.
Miami Beach Park
Grab a kayak, canoe, or paddle board rental from Eastern Watersports,and head to Miami Beach Park in Middle River, openon weekdays from sunrise to sunset. Swimming is not permittedat the park, but it offers plenty of other ways to take in theserene landscape: hike the nature trail, picnic, or bike.
Baltimore County Sailing Center
This nonprofit sailing center on the shore of Hawks Cove in Essexbrings together people of all ages to experience the joy ofboating. They offer programs and lessons for all levels, and everyFriday night beginning at 5:30 p.m., they host a six-race series,open to sailors of all ages. Families and friends are invitedto pack picnics and watch.
This business offers paddle boarding tours and experiences, aswell as SUP lessons, tours, and FloYo fitness classes, as well asboard sales and events.
The Great Outdoors
Patapsco Valley State Park
Waterfalls, ruins, historic railroad bridges, swinging bridges,miles of trails and waterways—Patapsco Valley State Park hasa lot to offer in all four seasons. At the heart of the park, whichspans across Baltimore and Howard counties, is the PatapscoRiver, excellent for canoeing and kayaking or just splashingaround. Guests can hike the Cascade Falls Trail to a waterfalland swimming hole, or picnic at the Hollofield, McKeldin or Danielsareas. The park is known for its abundance of lush, scenic,and diverse trails—more than 200 miles of them—for hikers,mountain bikers, and horseback riders, and also offers a varietyof camping options (cabin rentals and tent and RV sites), fishing,and hunting.
Beaver Dam Swimming Club
Beaver Dam Swimming Club in Cockeysville is best known forits freshwater quarry and rope swing, but for young children andthose who are a bit skittish about swimming in the 40-foot-deepquarry, the recreational site also has two manmade swimmingpools. Volleyball courts, wooded picnic areas, and a concessionstand onsite complete the package and make it easy to spendan entire day here.
Gunpowder Falls State Park
Gunpowder Falls State Park boasts 18,000 acres across Baltimoreand Harford counties, making it Maryland’s largest statepark. Featuring Gunpowder River and Big and Little GunpowderFalls, the park offers diverse water trails, hiking trails, a swimmingbeach, fishing, horseback riding, boating (rentals available),a marina, and several picnic areas. Bicyclists will appreciatethe Torrey C. Brown Rail Trail, a multi-use trail that runsfrom Ashland to the Pennsylvania line and passes throughhistoric towns, the Monkton Train Station (now a museum andgift shop), and Sparks Bank Nature Center. Also worth a stop,the Jerusalem Mill Historic Village is located in the oldest partof the park and features a restored gristmill and the park headquartersand visitor center in what was once a 18th- and 19thcenturyQuaker settlement.
Irvine Nature Center
A day-use park in Owings Mills, Irvine Nature Center offersacross its 211-acre property hiking trails, native plant gardens,wetlands, and a Native American Site that features dwellings,structures, and tools of indigenous people, as well as indoorexhibits and activities for all ages.
Loch Raven Reservoir
Loch Raven Reservoir is one of the most popular—and yet pristine—natural areas in Baltimore County. The reservoir is idealfor canoeing, kayaking, and fishing and is a beautiful place totake in water vistas and a variety of birds, including waterfowland the occasional bald eagle. The location offers more than 60miles of hiking trails meander along the banks of the reservoir.
Cromwell Valley Park
Cromwell Valley Park in Parkville is home to historic Lime KilnBottom, where multiple lime kilns, a log house, a limestonequarry, and the “balancing reservoir” built in 1922 are onsite forviewing. The park is open for day use and invites nature loversto wander its grounds for hiking, birding, and picnicking, too.
Ramps, jumps, grindingrails, half pipes—three skateparks in the county offera variety of features thatkeep skateboarders androllerbladers moving andchallenged to up their skills.All parks are free to use, butskaters must register withthe park’s community office.The parks are spreadapart for the sake of convenience:
Hannah MoreSkate Park in Reisterstown,Cockeysville Skate Park atCounty Home Park, and Sandy Hills Skate Park in Halethorpe,which features an “old school,” large concrete skatebowl, artfully—and appropriately—graffitied.
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