Close to Baltimore, Columbia, Maryland was the brainchild of renowned realtor and community builder James Rouse. Masterplanned as 10 "villages" or neighborhoods (Wilde Lake, Harper's Choice, Oakland Mills, Long Reach, Owen Brown, Hickory Ridge, Dorsey's Search, Kings Contrivance, River Hill, and Town Center), Columbia's touristic energy is concentrated in Town Center, where features like Lake Kittamaqundi, the Mall of Columbia, hotels, and other Columbia event venues are found.
Columbia is 10 miles from Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI), which has nonstop service to 140 destinations throughout the world. BWI is connected to Columbia by shuttles and public transportation (including light rail), as well as other ground transportation.
There are no convention venues in Columbia at this time, but hotel venues in Town Center include the 310-room Holiday Inn Executive Center Columbia Mall, with 37,000 square feet of meeting space including the Columbia Expo Center, and the 290-room Sheraton Columbia Town Center, which features 16,000 square feet of meeting space. Other hotel venues in Columbia include the 171-room Turf Valley resort, with 40,000 square feet of space and two golf courses; the 152-room DoubleTree by Hilton Columbia, which has 14,000 square feet; and the 171-room Holiday Inn Columbia East–Jessup, with 8,000 square feet.
Special event venues in Columbia can be found throughout the 10 villages. Notable spaces include the Oakland Manor in Town Center, which can accommodate up to 135 for receptions in its ballroom; the Other Barn in Oakland Mills, which features a commercial kitchen and a courtyard; Amherst House, which has two meeting rooms, a reception room and a courtyard in King’s Contrivance; and the Edenbrook Banquet Room, which can accommodate up to 200 for cocktails.
Dining venues in Columbia are varied, affordable, and well regarded. While groups might gravitate toward surefire crowd-pleasers like Cheesecake Factory and P.F. Chang's in Town Center's Mall of Columbia, other choices include the Victoria Gastro Pub (with rich comfort food like lobster grilled cheese); the Iron Bridge Wine Company with its simple yet delicious meat entrees; and Clyde's of Columbia, with its farmhouse cheese samplers.
Like any masterplanned community, Columbia has many recreational and cultural services including an art center, free summer concerts, a roller rink, an ice rink, a skateboard facility, two golf clubs, three tennis clubs, two mini waterparks, and a SportsPark. While future developments that may include a convention center with an attached hotel in the Town Center will enhance its appeal for event planners, Columbia has much to offer groups right now.