Western Maryland Railway Historical Society Museum, Union Bridge (above). Photo by Nikola Tzenov.

by Emily Hollwedel & Kym Byrnes

Carroll County knows how to have a good time in the summer months with its carnivals, farmers’ markets, parks and festivals. Some activities and locations are worth visiting again and again, and others are worth putting on the bucket list of must-do this time around. And this is just the tip of the iceberg in Carroll’s offerings for summer fun. Visit our website to learn more about summer camps and day trips, and check out the other articles in this issue to find more events and farmers’ markets.

Pipe Creek Water Trail

The Pipe Creek Water Trail offers a family-friendly place for beginning paddlers and children. Originating near the outskirts of Westminster, Big Pipe Creek flows peacefully with clear passages and no serious obstacles through farmland and serene woodlands. Paddlers will see beautiful old mills as well as farms, fields and woods. Big Pipe Creek eventually joins with Little Pipe Creek to form the greater Double Pipe Creek in Detour, approximately 1.5 miles from the Monocacy River. There are soft launch areas and parking along the trail.

Piney Run Park and Nature Center

Interested in more water fun? Piney Run Park and Nature Center boasts a 300-acre man-made freshwater lake fit for boating, canoeing, kayaking, sailing and paddleboarding. Don’t have your own? Don’t worry: Visitors can rent canoes, kayaks, rowboats and pedal boats. The lake is surrounded by 550 acres of fields, forest, and open spaces that contain over 5 miles of hiking trails, as well as tennis courts, playgrounds, climbing rock, picnic tables, and comfort stations.

Common Ground on the Hill

Common Ground on the Hill connects people through traditional music, arts and crafts. It’s hands-on and interactive with workshops and programs; it’s entertaining with festivals and concerts; and it’s enlightening with speakers and dialogue. Festivals include the Common Ground on the Hill Roots Music & Arts Festival on July 8 at McDaniel College, and the Deer Creek Fiddlers’ Convention on July 16, also at McDaniel. Common Ground on the Hill runs for two weeks from late June to early July with festivals and concerts taking place through summer. Learn more at CommonGroundOnTheHill.org.

Hashawha Environmental Center and Bear Branch Nature Center

Hashawha Environmental Center and Bear Branch Nature Center is a 320-acre park that includes 5 miles of multi-use trails, raptor mews, fishing at Lake Hashawha, abundant wildlife, and the restored Martin Cabin Homestead. The adjoining property houses the Bear Branch Nature Center, which hosts family-friendly nature programs, festivals, and activities. Open five days a week, Bear Branch’s programs are open to the public and all-ages, taking participants through the center’s live animal exhibits, hands-on educational activities, planetarium, and observatory. Visit both areas for a full natural experience of all the beautiful wildlife of Carroll County. Bear Branch offers programs like Meet the Beekeeper, Full Moon Yoga and Bark in the Park, in addition to a variety of exciting summer camps for kids. Find more information at CarrollCountyMd.gov.

Bikes, Breweries, Barn Quilts and Hiking

Carroll County Tourism has done the work — all you have to do is find your trail (and maybe a bike). Carroll County Tourism has a Tours & Trails list that offers detailed information about varied activities including bike routes (with length and difficulty level) in every part of the county; a wine, breweries and distilleries tour listing information for more than a dozen local establishments; a barn quilt tour (there’s even an app for this feature); and hiking routes throughout the county. Learn more at CarrollCountyTourism.org/Tours-Trails.

Westminster Island Green Family Fun Center

Westminster Island Green Family Fun Center was originally a great place to just hit some golf balls, but Island Green has grown into a family fun center that offers an indoor/outdoor restaurant (crab cakes, burgers, tacos or subs anyone?) and bar, as well as live music, outdoor movies, camps and special events. And don’t worry — they still have the driving range, mini golf, and private suites to rent for parties. Learn more at IslandGreenWestminster.com.


Want to get out of the heat? Carroll County is home to several Bowling centers that provide food, fun, and some friendly competition for all ages. Greenmount Bowl in Hampstead has spiced up its offerings to include a full bar, “Rock & Bowl” and “Pinot, Pints & Pins.” Mt. Airy Lanes is serious about fun — with a delicious menu and full bar with signature cocktails; visitors can enjoy “Rock & Bowl,” “Women in Wine,” “Craft Brews and Bowling Crews,” and even “Strikers” (a league for children and adults with special needs). Thunderhead Bowl and Grill in Taneytown offers a breakfast and grill menu, as well as glow bowl and light shows. Each of the bowling centers offer open play, leagues, party rentals, food and special events. Learn more at GreenMountBowl.com, MtAiryLanes.com, and ThunderHeadBowling.com.

Stratosphere Social

If you’re looking for a place to throw an axe, enjoy a cocktail, play your favorite arcade game, or experience a 7-D sensory thrill ride, head over to Stratosphere Social in Eldersburg. They have a chef-created menu and a full bar with specialty drinks, and theater-size televisions if you just want to watch the game. Learn more at StratosphereSocial.com.

Players Fun Zone

Want somewhere to take the kids where they can run loose and unleash all that energy? Players Fun Zone in Westminster has laser tag, arcade games, mini glo-golf, bumper cars, inflatables and batting cages. Learn more at PlayersFunZone.com.

Baugher’s Orchard Market

If you’re looking for a hands-on activity that is outdoors and presents plenty of opportunity to eat yummy treats, you have to visit Baugher’s Orchard Market in Westminster. Enjoy country living with all the orchard has to offer including Pick-Your-Own Produce throughout summer (strawberries, cherries, peaches, plums, watermelon, cantaloupe, tomatoes, and more), a market with produce and canning goods, homemade pastries, prepared foods, a playground and a petting zoo. Learn more at Baughers.com.

Museums and Historical Societies

Carroll County is bursting with fascinating history, and there are at least a dozen local organizations and facilities dedicated to sharing and teaching folks of all ages about how our county has evolved over time. There are museums in Westminster, Mt. Airy, Manchester, New Windsor, Sykesville, Taneytown and Union Mills, and elsewhere. Most of them host events and special programs throughout the year. See a list at CarrollCountyTourism.org.

Carroll County 4-H & FFA Fair

It’s only one week long and it’s not until the end of July, but it’s worth the wait to experience and celebrate Carroll County’s rich agriculture offerings. Visitors can enjoy food, demonstrations in glass blowing and blacksmithing, hot dog pig racing, farm truck racing, a cake auction, demolition derby and endless animals. The fair takes place from July 29 to Aug. 4 at the Carroll County Agriculture Center in Westminster. If you want to get a headstart on the fun, check out the 2023 Buckwild Truck & Tractor Classic on July 15-16. Learn more at CarrollCountyFair.com.