Rediscover The Heart of Harford

This summer spend a day in Bel Air and get caught up in the pulse of its fun activities, delicious food and lively music.

I’m strolling through downtown Bel Air on a bright summer morning when a sugary-sweet aroma catches my attention.

After following my nose, I find myself standing in front of a charming, magenta-colored building on Bond Street: .

Inside, Kim Dowell and her coworker stand behind a tempting display of doughnuts, turnovers and pies, putting together a customer's order.

“The first person comes in to start preparing for the day at 3 a.m.,” states Dowell, an employee of the Bel Air Bakery for almost 24 years.

She said the bakery has been in operation for 56 years.

“But that’s just in Bel Air,” she says. “I’m not sure how long it was in Aberdeen.”

She points at the wall behind me to a colorful display of creative fondant cakes that are “new to the area.” And the cakes are really nothing short of impressive. I spy a Coach Purse cake, a cell phone cake and even one that resembles a giant Xbox controller.

With recognitions in Harford Magazine and elsewhere, it’s no doubt that the Bel Air Bakery is a local landmark. Kim bags a whoopie pie for me and says goodbye, then I step back outside into the sunlight, the smell of cookies and cakes clinging to my clothes.

For this Weekend Wanderer, I had been planning on doing something a little more “exciting.” I had been ready to make my reservation to stay at Assateague Island, but all the campsites were booked.

“Unless you need a campsite for a youth group,” the woman had said on the other end of the phone. “We have an opening for one of those.”

At first I contemplated posing as a youth group to get the spot, but then I realized I’d probably need a van. And a group of youths.

And so, I gave myself a challenge. Could I find enough to do in downtown Bel Air for a whole day?

Interestingly, I had lived only a couple of blocks away from Main Street for almost a decade, but I had not visited a lot of what it had to offer.

After finishing my pie, I head over to the Ma and Pa trail. Part of the original Maryland and Pennsylvania railroad which was created in 1901, the trail is a favorite spot for runners, walkers and bicyclists.

It's also the perfect spot to just enjoy nature while burning off those extra calories. Cardinals fly by in a splash of red, dainty white butterfiles flit around flowers, and I even saw a hawk swoop down a pluck a snake off the trail right in front of me.

For lunch I drop by , another Harford's Best selection. The atmosphere is really friendly and relaxed as families, couples and school friends talk and laugh around their pizzas and subs.

When I leave, one of the workers says goodbye and tells me to have a great Fourth of July.

Back outside, I pass through the shops and window displays. , a consignment shop, flahses a giant banner that boasts its 20 years on Main Street.

A couple blocks back on Broadway, The Cottage Thrift Store has also proven to yield interesting finds at great prices. A sign, however, says that its closed for the holiday weekend.

Shopping is highly-regarded in the Main Street sector. Make sure to take advantage of , , and other great bargains while you're in the area.

Around 5 p.m., the starts up. During my trip to Havre de Grace, the First Friday events had been spread out over several streets. In Bel Air, everyone seems to be congregating on Office Street, with a few trickling out onto Bond and Main.

But its a very close-knit, almost familial feeling one gets as party-goers bump into old friends, share hugs, spill beer. The Jody West Band is playing "Brown-Eyed Girl" as I grab hotdog and a Coke and listen.

Across Main Street, a group from Campaign For Liberty hold up signs condeming Obama's Libyan War. 

"A lot of people see that we want to stop this illegal war and they think we're against the troops," says Patrick, a gentleman holding a sign that states: STOP. Defund the Illegal War on Libya. "I'm not anti-American, I'm just anti-stupidity."

The group members are all friendly and conversational, and I continue to talk with them for a while.

Another event that I enjoy is . Gather under the stars to watch your favorite characters come to life on the big screen, perhaps while you share a bag of popcorn with someone.

Keep Aug. 5th in mind as that day will host both a First Friday Block Party and a movie (Back to the Future III)! The 10th Annual Maryland State BBQ Bash will be held the following week on August 12 and 13, and is not to be missed.

The day winds down and as I make my way back to the car, watching skateboarders execute ollies and kick flips out front of Skatology, I think about how I can't wait to do this again.


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