Discovering The Best Things to do in Laurel MD (Maryland)

Looking for the best things to do in Laurel MD? Laurel MD is the perfect destination for those looking for the best things to do! With its abundance of attractions, nightlife, and restaurants, it’s no wonder why this city has gained so much popularity over the years. Situated on the Patuxent River, halfway between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., Laurel has a rich history rooted in the iron and cotton industries. You can step back in time and experience this history firsthand at the Laurel Museum, housed in a mill worker’s home, or explore the lavish Montpelier Mansion.

Laurel, MD is a charming town in Maryland that has a vibrant Main Street, which hosts a lively street festival every May. Additionally, the historic Laurel Park Race Track (1911) hosts several graded thoroughbred races. Whether you’re into fishing, hiking, or wine tasting, Laurel offers something for everyone. This town is the perfect destination for those seeking outdoor adventures and fun. And if you’re looking for more things to do in between those activities, don’t miss our list of the best things to do in Laurel MD.

Disclosure: Due to new safety regulations, some of the information regarding the attractions and sites listed below may have changed. For the most up-to-date information, please contact the location.

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Here are the best things to do in Laurel MD (Maryland):

1. Laurel MARC Station


One of the best things to do in Laurel MD is to arrive by commuter train and admire the charming Queen Anne-style station built in 1884 by E. Francis Baldwin, a notable architect who worked for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and churches in the area. This historic landmark, which features impressive large eaves, bracket work, and terra cotta cresting, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. 

As you make your way past the station, take a moment to appreciate its architectural beauty. In fact, this very spot was where Joe Biden delivered a speech in 2009 to rally support for an economic stimulus package for infrastructure projects in Maryland. If you’re looking to travel to Washington or Baltimore, the journey times on MARC’s Camden Line are approximately 40 minutes, making it a convenient mode of transportation.

2. Laurel Golf Center


One of the best things to do in Laurel MD is to visit the Laurel Golf Center on Fort Meade Rd, which serves as a fantastic family entertainment center. Perfect for serious players who want to work on their putting skills and an excellent time for kids, the main attraction at this center is the 18-hole miniature golf course. Apart from this, visitors can also take advantage of seven batting cages, which offer a range of speeds from 25 mph to 75 mph. Additionally, the driving range boasts 50 covered hitting stations, and you can rent an iron or driver by the club, or even book a lesson with a professional.

3. Laurel Shopping Center


For those seeking the best things to do in Laurel MD, make sure to add the Laurel Shopping Center to your itinerary. With a diverse range of products, from clothing to furniture to home improvement, this center offers some of the best shopping experiences in Laurel. Additionally, there are plenty of stores within the center that offer fantastic deals. Whether you’re looking for a break from shopping or a fun activity to do in between, the Laurel Shopping Center is the ideal destination.

4. Dutch Country Farmers’ Market


If you’re looking for the best things to do in Laurel MD, one of the must-visit spots is the Dutch Country Farmers’ Market located on Fort Meade Rd in the east of the city. This market is one of the largest Dutch/Amish markets in Maryland and boasts several merchants under one roof. 

Here, you can find an array of goodies from Dutch Country such as cuts of beef, lamb, and pork, Christmas turkeys, cheeses, pickles, fresh soft pretzels, breads, artisanal candy, ice cream, cheesecakes, pastries, and all kinds of seasonal fruits and vegetables. In addition to all the fresh produce, the market also offers a variety of prepared foods including pasta salads, BBQ, rotisserie and fried chicken, sandwiches, and much more.

5. The Gardens Ice House


If you’re looking for a fun activity in West Laurel, one of the best things to do is to visit Fairland Regional Park and check out the largest ice skating hockey facility in the DC/Maryland area. The Gardens Ice House, which opened in 1996, is open year-round and boasts two NHL rinks, an Olympic rink, and an outdoor mini rink (open from November through March) that was added just over a decade ago. 

This impressive facility serves as the home ice for several teams and organizations, including the Potomac Curling Club, Gardens Figure Skating Club, and the Washington Power inline hockey team. Visitors can also take advantage of the café, pro shop, fitness center, and a schedule filled with public skate sessions, stick & puck, skating lessons, and hockey lessons.

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6. National Wildlife Visitor Center – Patuxent Research Refuge South Tract


One of the best things to do in Laurel MD is to explore the Patuxent Research Refuge, a National Wildlife Refuge that preserves over 13,000 acres of forest, meadow, and wetland habitats right in the middle of this sprawling urban region. The refuge is home to an incredible variety of wildlife, including waterfowl during spring and fall migrations, vital pollinators, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals. Divided into three tracts, North, Central, and South, the first and last of which are open to the public. 

The South Tract is home to the National Wildlife Visitor Center, which is the Department of the Interior’s foremost science and environmental education center. Visitors can enjoy hands-on exhibits that highlight migratory birds, global environmental concerns, animal life cycles, and the crucial work carried out by conservation scientists. The center also has a lakeside setting with access to a network of trails, including a two-mile loop around Cash Lake.

7. Montpelier Mansion


One of the top things to do in Laurel MD is to visit the Montpelier Mansion, a National Historic Landmark built in the early 1780s. The Georgian mansion once commanded a plantation covering 9,000 acres and was built by Major Thomas Snowden (1751–1803), a veteran of the American Revolution and a descendant of Richard Snowden (1688-1763), an early Maryland colonist who co-founded the Patuxent Iron Works in what would later become Laurel. 

The mansion is now home to a trove of artifacts that showcase four generations of the Snow dens, as well as the named enslaved people who are documented to have lived there. The kitchen exhibit, in particular, offers a fascinating glimpse into 18th-century plantation life. Visitors can take a self-guided tour of the house and 70 acres of grounds, while docent-led tours are available on Sundays. Throughout the year, the museum hosts numerous events and programs, from history lectures to music programs to holiday candlelight tours.

8. Main Street


Looking for the best things to do in Laurel MD? Look no further than Main Street, which is not only a picturesque historic commercial artery but also a hub of community activity. The charming brick and clapboard storefronts house a close-knit community of retailers, restaurants, and other services. On the west end, you can explore a small collection of mill workers’ homes that offer a glimpse into Main Street’s 19th-century industrial past, and visit the Laurel Museum housed in one of them.

But the best part of Main Street is the global lineup of restaurants, ranging from pizza to pho, with the east end towards the MARC station being particularly popular. If you’re looking to enjoy the great outdoors, head north just one block to find the Patuxent River trail, which offers scenic views of the riverbank. Follow it to the west end to discover Riverfront Park and the Laurel Municipal Swimming Pool.

9. Laurel Museum


One of the best things to do in Laurel MD is to visit the Patuxent River bank located at the west end of Main Street, which was the site of a thriving cotton mill founded by Nicholas Snowden (1786-1831). During the early 19th century, the mill experienced rapid growth coinciding with a building boom that accommodated the increasing workforce. 

In the late 1830s, under the supervision of future United States Commissioner of Agriculture Horace Capron (1804-1885), several houses were built, one of which now serves as the museum for the Laurel Historical Society. This museum offers a glimpse into the rich history of Laurel and features a main annual exhibit that is updated every February. Recent themes include Laurel’s dining history, local healthcare, Laurel life during WWI, important historical events, the lives of mill workers, the story of Laurel Park Race Track, and Laurel during the Civil War.

10. Patuxent Research Refuge North Tract


If you’re looking for outdoor activities in Laurel MD, you don’t have to go far. The North Tract of the Patuxent Research Refuge is just a ten-minute drive from downtown Laurel and offers plenty of opportunities for recreation. Unlike the South Tract, the North Tract is less crowded and features around 20 miles of trails suitable for walking, biking, and horseback riding. 

These trails lead to a designated wildlife viewing area and an overlook on the Little Patuxent River. However, it’s important to note that the North Tract was previously an artillery training range until the 1990s, and unexploded ordnance is regularly discovered. To ensure your safety, it’s crucial to stick to the trails. The parking lot features a small visitor center with interpretive signs to help you identify the refuge’s wildlife.

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11. Granville Gude Park


Located on the south shore of Laurel Lake, this park has been an essential feature of the city since its early days. In fact, the lake was the source of Laurel’s public water supply system in 1900. Today, the lake is surrounded by modern residential developments and commercial areas along Baltimore Avenue to the east.

The development of Granville Gude Park was completed in 1984 and included a charming lakehouse that was unveiled two years later. Visitors can enjoy a paved multi-use trail, over a mile long, that encircles the lake. In the summer, a concession stand is available that also rents out paddle boats for use on the lake. The park is a popular location for community events, such as the July 4th Celebration and outdoor movies during the summer.

12. Laurel Park Race Track


If you’re looking for the best things to do in Laurel MD, be sure to check out Maryland’s top race track located right here. Since 1911, this track has been hosting thoroughbred racing on the flat and is the headquarters for the Maryland Jockey Club, founded in 1743. Laurel Park has welcomed legendary horses, such as Seabiscuit, Affirmed, Secretariat, Sir Barton, War Admiral and Whirlaway, all of which won races here.

Notably, there’s racing throughout the year at Laurel Park, but the most prestigious Grade 3 Stakes and State-bred Showcase Stakes events are held in the autumn and winter months. As part of a multimillion-dollar upgrade about 20 years ago, the track also features a simulcast theater for visitors to enjoy alongside live racing.

13. National Cryptologic Museum


When searching for the best things to do in Laurel MD, don’t miss the opportunity to visit the National Security Agency headquarters, located just 10 minutes east of town in Fort Meade. Near the headquarters, you can explore the affiliated museum housed in the old Colony Seven Motel, which opened in 1993. Here, you can delve into the history of cryptology by examining thousands of artifacts on display. 

The galleries showcase the game-changing milestones of this profession, as well as various machines and techniques that provide new insights into American history. The museum’s collection boasts numerous rare encryption machines from the WWII era, including a German Enigma machine, a KANA typewriter used at Station Hypo, and a C-36 cipher machine. This place is worth adding to your list of the best things to do in Laurel MD once it reopens.

14. Jailbreak Brewing Company


One of the best things to do in Laurel MD is to visit the much-loved craft brewery, Jailbreak Brewing Company, which opened its doors in 2014. The brewery boasts a spacious taproom and a kitchen that was added in 2018. Among the must-try flagship beers at Jailbreak Brewing Company are Doubles (Hazy DIPA), Feed the Monkey (Hefeweizen), Special Lady Friend (American IPA), The Infinite (Amber Ale), and Clearly Righteous (West Coast-style IPA).

For those looking for a bite to eat, Food works, the brewery’s kitchen, is open Wednesday through Saturday and offers a variety of delicious options such as steak frites, flatbreads, salads, burgers, and shareable plates, with a focus on vegetarian and gluten-free choices. Additionally, visitors can take a guided tour of the brewhouse to learn more about the beer making process. Overall, visiting Jailbreak Brewing Company is one of the top things to do in Laurel MD.

15. Laurel Mill Playhouse


Nestled behind one of Main Street’s historic storefronts is a charming little theater that provides a platform for local performers and creative talent. The Laurel Mill Playhouse is the proud home of the Burtonsville Players, a well-established community theater group that has been entertaining audiences for over fifty years.

As a rare gem in the quad county area, this theater organization has the advantage of having its own venue. Each season is thoughtfully curated to cater to audiences of all ages and interests. If you’re looking for a unique and entertaining experience, the Laurel Mill Playhouse is definitely worth a visit.

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What is Laurel, MD Known For?

Laurel is a popular destination for fishing, hiking, and wine tastings, but it’s particularly renowned for its delectable seafood. To indulge in the finest catches of the region, a trip to Laurel is a must. Furthermore, if you’re seeking a shopping haven, our compilation of the top-rated activities and things to do in Laurel MD is worth exploring.

What is the Weather Like in Laurel, MD?

Laurel, MD, lies in the Eastern Time Zone, causing weather fluctuations to occur swiftly and unpredictably. Consequently, if you seek accommodation that can adapt to these changes, you might want to explore other options. Nevertheless, if you desire to relish the breathtaking outdoors without  worrying about the weather, then you should check out our list of the best things to do in Laurel.

Is Laurel MD Safe?

Laurel has been established as a secure place to reside, supported by various studies. Being one of the least crime-ridden cities in Maryland, Laurel is considered a safe town. Additionally, it boasts a high level of racial diversity and is recognized for its friendly and welcoming community.

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Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for the best things to do in Laurel MD, look no further than this comprehensive guide. With perfect year-round weather, Laurel is an excellent destination for both locals and tourists, offering a wide range of attractions and activities that make it Maryland’s fastest-growing city. Adventure seekers, in particular, will find plenty to enjoy here. Start planning your next vacation to Laurel and discover all that this destination has to offer. Be sure to check out the top places to visit in Maryland while you’re there and make the most of your time in this vibrant city.

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