Study: Best Cities to Live in Maryland

When you think of Maryland, crab cakes and Orioles baseball may be the first things that come to mind but there's so much more to see, do and explore. Despite being one of the smallest states in the U.S., it's also one of the busiest thanks to its diverse economy and booming tourism trade. Steeped in history, Maryland is a state of firsts and it continues to be a leader in the 21st century.

While Baltimore is the largest city, there's a lot to be said for some of the smaller towns and suburbs that are scattered throughout the state. From the natural beauty of the Chesapeake Bay area to the majestic peaks of the western mountains, you're sure to find a spot to call home. To help with your search, the CreditDonkey experts have studied which cities in Maryland are the best places to live for fresh transplants and seasoned residents alike.

10 Best Cities to Live in Maryland

Study Methodology

Here's what we considered when determining our rankings:

  1. Crime Rate
  2. Commute Time
  3. Income
  4. Education
  5. Restaurants Per Capita

Anytime you move somewhere new one of the things you're likely to focus on is the crime rate. To help you find the safest areas in Maryland, we took a look at the odds of becoming the victim of a violent crime for each city.

Maryland is known as a commuter state, and a significant number of residents travel to Baltimore and Washington, D.C. for work each day. Rail travel makes this convenient for some but for others, getting to work every day means fighting the traffic. Each of the cities in our list is ranked based in part on residents' average commute.

While the cost of living in Maryland tends to be above the national average, incomes here are also among the highest of any state. For our study, we considered the median household income in each city as well as what percentage of residents hold a bachelor's degree or higher.

Crab cakes, crab legs, oysters and shrimp are fixtures of Maryland cuisine, but we know that there are times when you may crave something a little different. Our team looked at the number of restaurants per capita for each city and highlighted a few of the region's top spots for dining out.

10. Salisbury

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 84
  • Commute Time: 20 minutes
  • Income: $38,534
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 27.8%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 237 inhabitants

Salisbury sits on Maryland's eastern shore, approximately 20 minutes south of the Delaware border. Known as the crossroads of the Delmarva Peninsula, Salisbury is within a couple hours of several major cities, including Baltimore and Washington D.C. Food processing and agriculture are the two largest industries, with a sizable percentage of residents employed by Perdue Farms.

Did You Know: Salisbury University consistently ranks as one of the best and most affordable public universities in the northern United States.

9. Takoma Park

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 269
  • Commute Time: 37 minutes
  • Income: $69,456
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 50.5%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 593 inhabitants

Close to the Maryland-Virginia border, Takoma Park is a suburb of Washington, D.C. This city of just over 17,000 residents is less than a 40-minute drive from the metro area and approximately 20 minutes from Bethesda. Takoma Park is primarily residential, with families making up roughly a quarter of the population. Many of the city's businesses and restaurants are concentrated in the Old Takoma district, including local favorite Mark's Kitchen, which artfully blends the best of Asian and American cuisine.

Did You Know: Takoma Park was once the home of the world headquarters of the Seventh Day Adventist Church.

8. Laurel

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 191
  • Commute Time: 34.3 minutes
  • Income: $66,355
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 38.2%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 319 inhabitants

The small community of Laurel is located just off I-95, approximately halfway between Baltimore and Washington, D.C. The city began as an iron works town before becoming a mill town but today, it features a multifaceted economy that counts the federal government among its largest employers. Both the National Security Agency and Fort Meade are close by, while a number of residents commute to the nation's capital for work. After a long day on the job, locals head to Casey's Crab Company for some fresh Maryland blue crabs and a cold drink.

Did You Know: The Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in south Laurel was the first wildlife experiment station and research refuge established in the U.S.

7. Greenbelt

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 204
  • Commute Time: 30.4 minutes
  • Income: $59,399
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 41.7%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 620 inhabitants

Another suburb of D.C., Greenbelt lies just down the road from Laurel at the intersection of the Capital Beltway and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. The town got its start in the 1930s as a planned residential neighborhood modeled after the English garden cities of the 19th century. Today, Greenbelt is one of the fastest-growing communities in the metro area, and the townspeople continue to honor the cooperative spirit on which it was formed.

Did You Know: Greenbelt's first residents had to apply to live in the city. The founding families were chosen based on their income status and willingness to play an active role in the community.

6. Frederick

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 175
  • Commute Time: 32 minutes
  • Income: $65,328
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 35.6%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 348 inhabitants

Less than an hour northwest of Baltimore and Washington, Frederick is the second-most populous city in Maryland and the largest on our list. Once a hospital outpost for wounded soldiers during the Civil War, Frederick continues to be at the forefront of medical research thanks to the presence of Fort Detrick, its largest employer. The historic downtown area was recently named one of the "Top 10 Downtowns" by

Did You Know: Francis Scott Key, who famously penned "The Star-Spangled Banner," is buried in downtown Frederick's Mount Olivet Cemetery.

5. Bel Air

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 257
  • Commute Time: 30.2 minutes
  • Income: $62,849
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 36.5%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 161 inhabitants

Dubbed "The Heart of Harford," Bel Air is the smallest city in our study with just over 10,000 residents. Located about a 40-minute drive northeast of Baltimore, the city's major selling points include top-rated schools and friendly residents. Some of Bel Air's most visited attractions include the historic Hays House and Liriodendron Mansion, which served as a summer home for Johns Hopkins Hospital founder Dr. Howard Kelly.

Did You Know: Bel Air's biggest outdoor event is the MMD Barbecue Bash, where teams compete for the right to call their barbecue the best in the state.

4. Havre de Grace

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 425
  • Commute Time: 27 minutes
  • Income: $65,500
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 29.5%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 419 inhabitants

    Havre de Grace, known simply as HdG among locals, is another small town with huge appeal. Located on the Chesapeake Bay near the mouth of the Susquehanna River, this waterfront city is ideal for fishing, boating or just taking in the views along the Promenade. If you're looking for some of the best seafood around, try Laurrapin Grille on North Washington Street, where all the ingredients are 100% fresh and locally acquired.

    Did You Know: The nearby Concord Point Lighthouse is the oldest lighthouse in Maryland that remains open to visitors.

    3. Bowie

    • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 706
    • Commute Time: 36 minutes
    • Income: $105,936
    • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 46.2%
    • Restaurants: 1 per 759 inhabitants

    Convenient to Washington DC, Baltimore and Annapolis, Bowie is the safest and most affluent city on our list. The median household income exceeds $105,000 and nearly half the population holds a college degree. Once a tobacco town, the city's economy has shifted away from agriculture to a focus on technology and industry. Bowie is popular among professionals and students, thanks to the proximity of the University of Maryland and key government facilities such as the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

    Did You Know: One of Bowie's oldest estates is the Belair Mansion and Stable, which is noted for producing two Triple Crown winners.

    2. Easton

    • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 290
    • Commute Time: 24.5 minutes
    • Income: $55,557
    • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 31%
    • Restaurants: 1 per 234 inhabitants

    Easton is located in the heart of the Eastern Shore region on the edge of the Chesapeake Bay. Even though it's one of the smaller towns in Maryland, Easton offers some of the same amenities and attractions that you'd expect from a much larger city. Historic homes and picturesque Thompson Park make the downtown area particularly attractive. After a leisurely stroll, stop in at Banning's Tavern for a taste of Old and New World flavors.

    Did You Know: The annual Waterfowl Festival celebrates wildlife conservation efforts in and around Easton, which is a stopping point for migrating Canada geese and other wild birds.

    1. Annapolis

    • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 222
    • Commute Time: 26.7 minutes
    • Income: $70,689
    • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 44.5%
    • Restaurants: 1 per 263 inhabitants

    Maryland's capital city snags the top spot on our list thanks to its relatively short commute time and higher median income. This city of just under 40,000 residents is divided into three distinct regions and each has a distinct atmosphere. Annapolis City is where you'll find the U.S. Naval Academy and the historic district. To the east is Annapolis Baltimore, which is known for its fashionable dining and nightlife scene. Finally, there's the Annapolis Countryside, where you can relax while enjoying views of the bay. Whichever spot you choose, you can't go wrong when making Annapolis your new hometown.

    Did You Know: Annapolis is known as the "Sailing Capital of the World."

    Maryland seamlessly blends the past with the present and its unique personality sets it apart from its neighbors. The cities in our study represent a well-balanced sampling of what the Old Line State has to offer for both newcomers and current residents.

    Data Sources:

    • U.S. Census Bureau, Population Estimates
    • FBI, Uniform Crime Reports
    • U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey
    • U.S. Census Bureau, Economic Census

  • Rebecca Lake is a journalist at CreditDonkey, a credit card comparison and reviews website. Write to Rebecca Lake at Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for our latest posts.

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