The lighter side of real estate

These Are The 10 Best Places In Maryland

Which places in Maryland are really living the good life? We’ve got the list of the most desirable places to call home in The Free State.

Natalie Grigson

Staff Writer

155 articles, 0 comments

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Maryland is the ninth smallest state in the U.S. but don’t let it’s demure size fool you, there is a reason that this East Coast state has earned so many grand sounding nicknames including: The Free State, the Old Line State, Little America, or the Home of our Nation’s Anthem. Maryland packs a lot of punch, not only is in the top 20 most populous states, it’s the fifth most densely populated—and, as it turns out is made up of a whole lot of cities, towns, and places.

As part of Movoto Real Estate’s ongoing rankings, we have been moving from state to state, objectively looking at each to determine which 10 areas make for the best places to call home. So far we have visited New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina, just to name a few. And today we are moving across that Old Line, into the Home of Babe Ruth—and apparently, the home of more nicknames than there are players on the Orioles.

Maryland, you’re up to bat. So without further ado, here are the 10 best places in Maryland:

1. Travilah
2. North Potomac
3. Bethesda (tie)
3. Burtonsville (tie)
5. Potomac (tie)
5. South Kensington (tie)
7. Poolesville
8. Clarksburg
9. Olney
10. Chevy Chase (CDP)

Narrowing down our list to a mere 10 great places in Maryland would have been harder than choosing a favorite state nickname (we’re leaning toward Little America), fortunately we have concrete data to lend us a helping hand. Read on to learn how we determined why each of these places are this year’s Marylander MVPs.

How We Did It

The small state of Maryland has more going on within its borders than some countries do on a busy day. There is world-famous sailing, fishing—and baseball, of course. The state is also rich with history, pride, and culture, but in order to find the 10 best places of today, we needed several measurable criteria, and chose the following seven:

  • Cost of living
  • Crime rate
  • High school graduation rate
  • Median household income
  • Median home value
  • Median rent price
  • Unemployment rate

With these seven things in mind, we looked at the U.S. Census data for 185 places in Maryland with at least 5,000 residents. Each area was ranked from one to 185 in each criteria, the lower the score, the better. Then, the individual rankings were averaged into an overall Big Deal Score, with the lowest score being our MVP, Travilah.

While each of these places is a valuable player in its own right, in general, these 10 made the list for scoring well in our criteria—low costs of living, unemployment rates, and crime rates; and high median household incomes, home values, rent prices, and high school diploma attainments.

For a more detailed look at how each of the top 50 places in Maryland ranked, skip down to the end of the post. Otherwise, keep on reading to find out why each of our top 10 are so special, starting with our winner.

1. Travilah

Travilah, MD

Source: Wikipedia user Mikem8891

Travilah, which earned our No. 1 spot, is located just outside of Potomac (which we’ll see again later in the list), is a haven for doctors, lawyers, and those who have grown tired of the hustle and bustle of the Beltway. Travilah scored well in most of our criteria; but particularly in regards to real estate, where it came in first both in the highest median home value ($1,006,800) and the highest median rental price ($6,500).

Travilah also came in with the second highest median annual income in the state of $204,911, but just like other places on our list, the good life in Travilah comes with a hefty price tag. The cost of living here is 31 percent higher than the state average, and a whopping 64.7 percent higher than the nation’s average.

Of course as one of CNN Money’s recent “25 Top-Earning towns,” Travilah residents can certainly afford it.

2. North Potomac

North Potomac,MD

Source: Google Maps

Coming in at No. 2 is North Potomac. Having in the past been named as one of CNN Money Magazine’s Best Places to Live in the U.S. and one of the most affluent areas in the country by Forbes, North Potomac is truly the epitome of living the good life—a sort of Pleasantville for Montgomery County.

North Potomac scored well in our study with a low unemployment rate of just 4.7 percent, a median household income of over $139,000, and a median home price of $629,100—that’s 85 percent higher than the state average.

North Potomac has a high rate of high school diploma attainment—96 percent of their population are high school graduates—and yet this ordinarily impressive statistic is no huge feat in Maryland, which, evidently, should have one more nickname: The Educated State. Of course sixth place in education is nothing to scoff at—even in a state where it seems high school education is a given.

3. Bethesda (tie)

Bethesday, MD

Source: Wikipedia user EnLorax

Tying for No. 4 spot on our list is Bethesda. This community just north of Washington D.C. is also in Montgomery County (beginning to see a pattern here?), and takes its name from a local church, the Bethesda Meeting House, which in Hebrew means “House of Kindness.”

Bethesda is not just kind, but is also well employed, with an unemployment rate of just 4.7 percent; it is well educated, with a high school diploma attainment rate of 97 percent, and it has one of the highest median home values on our list—an average of $798,900.

And we’re not the first to take notice of this little gem outside of D.C. Recently, Bethesda ranked first in Forbes list of America’s Most Educated Small Towns, ranked second on their list of America’s Most Livable Cities, and a few years ago, based on education, income, health, and fitness, Total Beauty ranked Bethesda first on its list of the U.S.’s Top 10 Hottest-Guy Cities. Way to go, Bethesda—especially for that last one.

3. Burtonsville (tie)

Burtonsville, MD

Source: Flickr user mdriendofhillary

Tying with Bethesda is Burtonsville. No surprises here—just like Bethesda (and yes, the rest of our top 10 as well), Burtonsville is in Montgomery County.

Also, much like our other top 10 places, Burtonsville has a low unemployment rate of 4.7 percent, and a high school graduation rate of 97 percent, tying it for second in the education category. What sets Burtonsville apart, though, is its community feel and character. So named after Isaac Burton—the founder, the community’s first postmaster, father of 17, and all around cool guy—Burtonsville still celebrates its roots each year with a Burtonsville Day. Petting zoos, crafts, games, and events spring up all over the town, bringing the community together on this day—but the feeling of kinship lasts the whole year. It really is an idyllic little town.

5. Potomac (tie)

Potomac, MD

Source: Wikipedia user Farragutful

Tying for our No. 6 spot are Potomac and South Kensington, both of which are located in the affluent Montgomery County. Potomac has some of the highest home values on our list, the median price being $877,900; and with one of the highest median household incomes on our list, at $162,766, it seems as though residents can certainly afford it.

To put this into perspective for you, let’s look at what some other sites have said about Potomac. In 2013, listed Potomac as the most affluent town in the U.S. based on median household income, and in 2011, Bloomberg Businessweek named it one of the richest zip codes in the U.S. If that doesn’t paint a clear enough picture, think about it this way: Potomac, along with three other zip codes (all in Manhattan) was named as having the highest concentration of the “1 percent” in the U.S.

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5. South Kensington (tie)

South Kensington, MD

Source: Gary Goodwin

The second No. 5 on our list is South Kensington. Just like Potomac, South Kensington scored major points for a median household income of $162,766, a median home value of $877,900, and an unemployment rate under 5 percent.

This Montgomery County town has also been named one of CNN Money’s Best Places to Live, and for good reason. South Kensington is a safe community, with a crime rate 58 percent lower than Maryland’s average, and also seems to be one of Montgomery County’s most hopping locale, as noted with their A plus score on amenities by This takes into account things like shopping, food and drink, schools, coffee shops, and of course, parks—of which South Kensington has six of nearby.

7. Poolesville

Poolesville, MD

Source: Gary Goodwin

Coming in at No. 7 is another area in Montgomery County, Poolesville. Like many of the other affluent places in the area, Poolesville is considered a “bedroom” community for many commuters to Washington D.C. What sets this community apart from the rest are its high scores in employment, with an unemployment rate below 5 percent, its low crime rate of just 1,247 crimes out of 100,000, and again, an A plus in education, with a high school diploma attainment rate of 95 percent.

Even with this high score for high school, Poolesville ranked 15th in terms of its diploma attainment. Of course this doesn’t say anything negative about Poolesville, so much as it says something great about Maryland, with some of the highest diploma attainment rates we’ve seen in our research so far, giving Poolesville some tough competition.

8. Clarksburg

Clarksburg, MD

Source: Wikipedia user Tamarisk

Clarksburg came in at No. 8 on our list, earning major points for its No. 1 ranking as the safest place in Maryland, with a crime rate 83 percent lower than the state’s average and for its impressive (and by impressive, we mean high) rental prices, averaging around $2,200 per month.

These high rent prices probably have something to do with Clarksburg’s recent growth in the last decade. In the heart of the community, a new town center is being built, and schools, parks, and houses are springing up right and left to accommodate the area’s influx of people. But even with its growing population, Clarksburg has managed to maintain a quaint, community feel, making it one of the best places to live in Maryland.

9. Olney

Olney, MD

Source: Wikipedia user Farragutful

Our ninth spot goes to Olney, which, you guessed it, is also located in Montgomery County. Other than its location, Olney also shares a low unemployment rate of 4.7 percent with the other winners on our list, making it one of the best employed in the state.

Olney also scored points in education, with a high school diploma attainment rate of 96 percent. It includes some of the best institutions in the area, even down to its elementary schools. Grove Elementary, for example, was recently awarded the prestigious Blue Ribbon School for Excellence Award.

Outside of the classroom, Olney is a cultural haven, home to the Olney Big Band and the Olney Concert Band, and the Olney Theater, and it is dotted with parks and green spaces like the Olney Manor Park. No wonder it was recently voted one of “Money Magazine’s” “100 Best Places to Live”—and of course, Movoto Real Estate’s No. 9 Best Places in Maryland.

10. Chevy Chase (CDP)

Chevy Chase, MD

Source: Gary Goodwin

Coming in at No. 10 on our list was Chevy Chase—certainly the most friendly-sounding town on our list.

The Census Designated Place, not be confused with the town of the same name, came in first for its high school graduation rate (97 percent) and ranked well for median household income ($157802).

Of course there is a cost, the cost of living in the area is among the the highest in the state.

We should also note that in this case we used county-level crime data, as we crime data for Chevy Chase was not available.

Another Nickname for the Books

Maryland, you may have more than enough nicknames to choose from for such a small state, just as you have more than enough places. However, if you want to identify yourselves, one thing is clear: Maryland really is a Little America (see why it’s our favorite?). It is well educated, affluent, safe, idyllic, the very picture of the American Dream–especially in Montgomery County. So congratulations, Maryland winners—and a big congratulations to Chevy Chase, this state’s true MVP (Well, aside from Babe Ruth. He was kind of a big deal, too.)

(click to enlarge table)

Best Places in Maryland Ranking

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posted on: January 6, 2014
318,086 views, 17 comments


  1. Anonymous

    Whomever wrote this article isn’t from MD. Travilah, Potomac and North Potomac are the same thing, at least to those of us who grew up and still live near that area. Poolesville is boring as smoke, the water isn’t clean and you have to drive to Q.O. to get to a 7/11. Montgomery County is rich and next to DC so of course the income there is higher, but some people want to live near the bay or on the beach, or in the mountains!

  2. Anonymous

    So you should fix this article. First of all Travilah is not a town, it’s a road in Potomac/North Potomac/Gaithersburg. You can’t count it as a great place to live. 2nd of all (I live in Montgomery County), you can’t title your article best places to live in Maryland because you’re talking about Montgomery County only. There are many other fine places to live in this state. You should proof your work before you publish it.

    • Chris Kolmar in response to Anonymous

      Hey Anonymous,
      We looked at all the places, as defined by the census, with more than 5,000 people. That left us with 185 census defined places. The winners just all happened to be in Montgomery County, so the title is not misleading. Hopefully it gives you another perspective at how to look at the many different kinds of places in your state!

      • anonymous in response to Chris Kolmar

        I live in one of those places. I am well aware of how nice it is. But TRAVILAH is a ROAD, not a place to live. TRAVILAH is a road that goes through Potomac, North Potomac and Gaithersburg. Montgomery County is also one of the Most Expensive please in MD to live.

      • Kay in response to Chris Kolmar

        But then, if all of the “winners” were in Montgomery County, don’t you think there’s something wrong with the criteria? Like why is home value a criteria of where the greatest places to live are? That just seems really elitist, and this is coming from someone who has lived in Burtonsville (number 3 on the list) for almost her entire life. This list is basically a giant “Look at the great places you can live….if you make 6 figures!” Potomac is where I used to go driving with my friends to guess which houses belonged to the millionaires and which houses belonged to the billionaires. There’s far more to being a great town than home values and average salaries. Take it from me, B-ville can be boring. There’s basically one strip of places to go on 198, we don’t even have a movie theater. You can only go to Chapala’s so many times before you get bored and head up to Columbia.

        Bottom line, all of these places are rich, white, and honestly pretty boring. I enjoyed my time living outside of Baltimore far more than I’ve enjoyed my time in Burtonsville. I think you need some more creative criteria than home values and median salary. Why not include number of public parks? Proximity to state forests? Number of community/religious center programs? Ease of public transportation? Entertainment options? Cultural centers? These things might correlate to wealth, but there are definitely places like Greenbelt or Parkville that are great places to live not because they’re chock full of doctors and lawyers, but because they have lots of community programs and amenities.

        Side note: the image you have for Burtonsville appears to be of the Amish Market, which has since moved to Laurel (as of 2010 I believe) which, incidentally, is not in Montgomery County.

  3. anonymous 2

    Chris Kolmar – Anonymous is right. Travilah is NOT a city, nor a sub-division. How are you deciding your “Places”? School districts? Zip Codes? North Potomac = Gaithersburg. North Bethesda = Rockville. As a Realtor and native resident of Mont Co, this article, while flattering, is misleading at best. If I had a client that read it and asked to live in “Travilah”, What would you say? Go by the Travilah elementary school residents?
    Sorry – but I live in 20854 (Potomac), although legally its the “City of Rockville”. Just look at my property taxes. If you are going to write such an article, please be better informed.

  4. paula

    I have recently moved from Bowie to Crofton. Bowie is the type of place where on paper, it should be a fine place to live, but in reality isn’t. It’s hard to believe that Bowie and Crofton would rate anywhere close to one another and that Bowie would rank higher. I think anyone who has moved from Bowie to Crofton (plenty have) would disagree wholeheartedly with your ranking of these 2 cities.

  5. Me

    I love Olney, but the facts are off in that the Blue Ribbon School Winner BROOKE Grove Elementary, was not a “recent” winner. I was working there when they received the honor and Bill Clinton was the president!

  6. alex

    I agree with the previous comments. All of these places are boring, sprawly suburbs of D.C. (except Olney and Poolesville). Maryland has a lot more to offer: the places around the bay are one-of-a-kind, the mountains and beaches are quite nice, and there are beautiful historic neighborhoods around Baltimore, Annapolis, Frederick, etc.

  7. Michael

    I agree with the list. I live in the Poolesville, MD area and it is beautiful and quiet. It is expensive but that is just living in Maryland. The winters can be rough at times, though. Overall, I do agree that Montgomery County is a great place to live. I love it.

  8. Ryan

    Mr. Kolmar,

    No offense, but I think the general concensus here is that when you decide to write an article about the “Best Places to Live in Maryland” you do a lot more research than what you did. As most have said, all of these areas are in Montgomery County…which happens to be the wealthiest and MOST expensive places to live in the DMV area. You are not owning in Chevy Chase, Bethesda, Potomac, Burtonsville, Clarksburg, Olney unless you make well more than 6 figures. All of these areas are extremely wealthy and extremely expensive. And all of these areas are within a 25 mile radius of each other.

    Nothing is mentioned about the eastern shore or western Maryland. Berlin, MD was just voted in 2014 as the coolest small town in America. It happens to be on the eastern shore. Frederick, Hagerstown, Westminster, etc are all in western MD and viewed as great places to live and raise a family.

    Publishing this article just showed an enormous amount of ignorance. There are plenty more better places to live than mentioning 10 that all happen to fall in the same county of an ENTIRE state.

    You referred in a reply that all areas in the census with more than 5,000 population were considered and all the winners happened to fall in Montgomery County. How in the world did that happen? What criteria was used for this?? I think every livable area in montgomery county was named except for Gaithersburg, Wheaton and Silver Spring.

    *As a disclaimer: I recently moved from Montgomery County after 7 years to Frederick County. I hated the hectic life and horrible traffic and now love the more laid back country feel and lower crime rate!

  9. Lennox

    Kudos to you. I agree with your comment. I have lived in Bethesda around 20 years (20817) I though my children would go to Walt Whitman HS but Montgomery Country’s development (by means of approving these huge luxury buildings and doing nothing about the areas infrastructure) has destroyed Bethesda. I’m moving to Highland. Howard County has GREAT schools. Bonus for me – lower taxes and cheaper homes. My customers no longer want to come into Bethesda so, I’m moving my business to Baltimore. My hip 60s building is getting the axe for a luxury something anyway…..I do not believe Montgomery County knows what Smart Growth really means.

  10. Karen Rolling

    Nice article and i like these picture at Maryland.

  11. Jason Luttrell

    This article is helpful and informative, but as a resident of Montgomery County, I have to agree with others here as to questioning the criteria of what’s a “good” place to live. There are a lot of reasons I agree with the rankings, such as good schools. But I am considering moving out of the county. It’s OK for young people or those who want to rely on public transportation, but not for people who worry about their kids getting run over by a car while they are learning to ride a bicycle, or who don’t want to listen to the noise of drunken bar hoppers at 3 am in the morning. While it’s true that wealthy and educated people live here, I don’t think for most of them it’s by *choice*–they only live here because they work in the city and they want to avoid traffic coming into the city on 270. But if given a better option, most people I know would choose to live further out, like in Frederick. Where a lot of people happen to live says nothing about what should be the “best” place. Plus, parts of MoCo is *ugly* with rundown neighborhoods, cobwire power lines everywhere, billboards, and pothole roads. I’d take the countryside any day. Also, while people may hate me for saying this, the best place to live in Maryland is probably across the river in Northern Virginia as it has better taxes!

  12. Milena

    Bill WadeHey you’re moving to my old stpnoimg grounds. I went to high school in Damascus and worked for a summer in Rockville. Been praying for you guys! (And will keep at it )

  13. Nick Foster

    I cant believe Dundalk didnt make the list.


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