The Watermelon Eating Contest at the Bel Air Fourth of July Festival. (Photo by Matt Button )
Harford County, situated 25 miles north of Baltimore and nestled against the northwestern shores of the Chesapeake Bay, boasts an eclectic blend of history and modern living.
Spanning across 440 square miles of the Baltimore/Washington Metro area, it has a population of about 250,000. The three largest incorporated municipalities in the county are Aberdeen, Bel Air and Havre de Grace, with Bel Air serving as the county seat.
Despite its growing population, Harford County still retains its rural charm. Cattle farms and thoroughbred breeding facilities dot the landscape. Farmers grow and harvest corn and grain, while many offer fresh fruits and vegetables to shoppers at weekly farmers’ markets and family-owned grocery stores.
Several state parks, including Rocks State Park, Susquehanna State Park and Gunpowder State Park, provide residents and visitors with the thrill of outdoor living. River tubing, rock climbing, fishing, biking, boating, hiking and horseback riding are among the leisure activities enjoyed by many who live in the county; in addition, there are several public and private golf courses.
Athletic activities are in abundance, with recreational leagues for every age group. The Aberdeen IronBirds, the minor league baseball team founded by baseball legend and Aberdeen son, Cal Ripken Jr., bring particular pride to the residents of Harford County. The city of Havre de Grace is home to Bulle Rock Golf Course, one of 16 five-star Zagat rated golf courses in the United States and past stop in the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Tour.
As far as historic landmarks go, Joppa’s Jerusalem Mill, one of the only remaining colonial-era destinations in the area, includes a working blacksmith’s shop and schedules Civil and Revolutionary War re-enactments throughout the year.
Open for tours is Tudor Hall, the Bel Air birthplace of John Wilkes Booth, who assassinated President Abraham Lincoln, as well as the Booth family of Shakespearean actors who were as prominent as movie stars in the 19th century, Concord Point Lighthouse is a bayside attraction in Havre de Grace; it dates to 1856 and is one of the area’s oldest waterfront structures.
Seasonal festivals include the Fiore Wine and Jazz Festival, the Darlington Apple Festival, the Harford County Farm Fair, and the Bel Air Festival for the Arts. Cultural organizations such as the Harford County Cultural Arts Board schedule performances and gallery openings throughout the year.
Enjoy outdoor musical revues in the summer at the Bel Air Band Shell or in Monkton’s beautiful Ladew Topiary Gardens; watch budding dancers perform with the Dance Conservatory of Music or the Harford Ballet Company; attend a concert courtesy of the Susquehanna Symphony Orchestra or the Harford Choral Society; or meet new and renowned authors at the Harford County Public Library. The county also offers a large shopping mall, many smaller boutiques and award-winning restaurants that are sure to satisfy your taste buds.