6 Family-Friendly Day Trips From Columbia

June 15, 2021

There’s just something magical about taking a day trip. You’re getting out of town, but without all the planning and logistics of taking an actual vacation — it feels more spontaneous somehow.

Luckily, we live in a state that’s called “America in miniature” for a reason…we’ve truly got it all. From mountains to beaches, you’re always just a stone’s throw from your next family adventure. Plus, Columbia’s central location means you’re uniquely situated to experience everything Maryland has to offer without driving more than a few hours.

Check out our top family-friendly ideas. Happy summer, everyone!


Calvert Cliffs State Park

Calvert Cliffs is not your average state park. Just a couple of hours away in Southern Maryland, you’ll find massive, slowly eroding cliffs and fossils that are more than 15 million years old. While hunting for shark teeth on the shoreline is a popular past time, the kids will get a real thrill looking for pelagornithid fossils (giant prehistoric seabirds). There’s sandy beaches, fishing, a playground made of recycled tires, and the nearby Calvert Marine Museum and Annemarie Sculpture Garden.

CA Team Shout-out: “Calvert Cliffs is such a hidden gem in Maryland! If you’re not a fan of crowds or traffic, you’ll be in heaven here.” -Hannah Chenoweth, CA Marketing & Communications Copywriter


Adventure Park USA

Let’s be real: amusement parks can be fairly exhausting with little kids in tow. The beauty of smaller parks like Adventure Park USA is that there’s less ground to cover, shorter lines, and lower prices — all the ingredients of an enjoyable day trip with less potential for end-of-day meltdowns. This Wild West theme park is located in Monrovia (east of Frederick), and features both indoor and outdoor family entertainment. Kids will have a blast enjoying go-​karts, bumper boats, bowling, mini golf, laser tag, kiddie rides and playing in the arcade.


Smith Island

Catch a ferry from Crisfield and visit Smith Island to feel like you’re stepping back in time. Seriously, there’s a slow-paced vibe that’s hard to find elsewhere —as Maryland’s last inhabited bay island, accessible only by boat, the 200-some residents get around via golf carts, boats, bikes and walking. You’ll first want to stop at the Smith Island Cultural Center & Museum, which has walking tour maps to guide you as a well as some fascinating history. Tap into your inner explorer at the Martin National Wildlife Refuge, and then indulge in the island’s famous crabcakes and nine-layer cake.



Baltimore may be the closest to Columbia distance-wise on this list, but we often forget about the destinations right in our own backyards. There’s a ton of kid-friendly attractions that merit a day trip to Charm City, such as the unrivaled Port Discovery Children’s Museum, the National Aquarium and the Maryland Science Center. Kids will also adore the eccentric American Visionary Art Museum, which includes a “Magic Farting Post,” complete with a fart button sound (true story).


Ocean City

Going downy ocean is about as Maryland as it gets! There’s 10 miles of beaches and a three-mile boardwalk; wherever you are in OC, you’re basically on the beach or a block away (yay convenience!). Beyond the sand and surf, kids will love mini golf galore, Jolly Rogers Amusement Park, and of course, sweet treats from Dumser’s Dairyland and Dolle’s Candyland.


CA Team Shout-out: “Ocean City is the best! My favorite things are reading on the beach, walking on the boardwalk, and eating at Fish Tales.” -Erin Barry, Archivist, Columbia Maryland Archives


Deep Creek Lake

If you’re looking for outdoor adventure, Deep Creek is the perfect day trip. Tucked away in the mountains of Western Maryland, it’s also a respite from the heat and humidity! Deep Creek Lake State Park is home to 70 miles of shoreline, including two swimming beaches. You can rent a boat, jet skis, canoes or kayaks to enjoy the cool, clean lake water, or enjoy 20 miles of hiking and biking trails. Plus, Swallow Falls State Park — which features several stunning waterfalls — is just 15 minutes away.


Want more summer inspiration?

CA’s new web page is devoted to helping you have your best season yet — check it out here. Plus, you won’t want to miss the following blogs:

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