If you need a break from the hectic pace of city life, head to Carroll County where the traffic slows down, corn grows tall and opportunities abound for day trips, or even relocation.
“It’s a beautiful county,” says Bonnie Staub, Carroll County Office of Tourism manager. “We feel we are very friendly and we like people to come and visit and see all the things we do have to offer.”
A first stop for many is the Carroll County Farm Museum, which hosts the Maryland Wine Festival and one of the largest Fourth of July celebrations in Central Maryland. It also has a popular petting zoo, complete with two Red Devon oxen, antique farm machinery and plenty of greenspace.
“We want people to see agriculture’s past so they can see how far it has come,” museum manager Joanne Morvay Weant says. “We also try to bring in aspects of farming today, because we want people to know where their food comes from and what it takes to produce it.”
Today’s farming includes Baugher’s Orchard and Farm, a frequented and family-friendly place to pick your own fruit, such as sweet cherries, strawberries, peaches and apples. Kids will enjoy the wagon rides to the picking area and a petting zoo during the warmer months. Then there is the Carroll County Wine Trail, which features four stops that showcase locally grown wines in picturesque settings.
But it’s not all farms. The Carroll Arts Center, a 263-seat theatre with classrooms and art galleries, attracts around 45,000 visitors a year with more than 100 shows. One of their most popular events is their spring PEEP show of sculptures, some of them even life-sized, created from the squishy marshmallow candy and crafted by locals for a judged contest. The February Foreign Film Festival is also a must-see.
“Our goal for programming is to enrich our community, both culturally and economically, by presenting, promoting and supporting a wide variety of arts opportunities for our residents, visitors and artists,” says JoAnna Crone, Carroll County Arts Council’s communications coordinator.
Other hidden gems include The Little Sykes Railway, a 12-gauge train which takes young children on a short, free ride through a small park in Sykesville, and Antrim 1844 Country House Hotel, a 24-acre luxury estate in Taneytown that hosts weddings, special occasions and romantic getaways. The Union Mills Homestead and Grist Mill offers guests to step back in time and a chance to see a demonstration of grain being turned into flour.
While Carroll County is a great place to visit, it is also a wonderful location to live. There are eight main towns and cities, most date back to before the county’s founding in 1837. For seniors, there are also several senior living facilities, including Ridge Residences and Timber Ridge Apartments and Westminster Overlook.
Carroll Hospital Center, a private nonprofit featuring 165 beds, has more than 400 physicians on staff with 38 medical specialties and nearly 2,000 employees, making it the second largest employer in the county.
The public school system ranks as the ninth largest in the state with more than 25,000 students enrolled across 47 schools. Private school options are also available to residents and include the Gerstell Academy and Carroll Lutheran School. The county is home to McDaniel College in Westminster, one of the nationally recognized Colleges that Change Lives, and Carroll Community College.
Westminster, the county seat, serves as host to a weekly farmers market, a Memorial Day parade, shopping and local restaurants that offer everything from seafood to Italian.
One business, one of the longest locally owned businesses in the county, is Lamb Awards and Engraving. For 45 years, the Wesminster-based shop has provided trophies, plaques, ribbons, medals and more to mark the accomplishments of Little League teams or long-serving employees, for example. Owner Jon Lamb says good customer service has kept him in business for this long and what’s important in such a community-focused area.