Columbia is a planned city in Central Maryland. It differs strongly from most notions of what constitutes a "city," as the planner divided the densely populated, but decidedly suburban in character, city into ten "villages," each of which are divided into several neighborhoods, leaving the city with a less obvious center.
While many of the shops and restaurants in Columbia are corporate stores that can be found in any suburb across America, digging a little will find you at least a great few local places.
Columbia is easily accessible off the main I-95 north-south interstate. From I-95, take either Route 32 West, Route 175 West, or Route 100 West into the heart of Columbia (Route 175, which changes its name in Columbia to Little Patuxent Parkway, will lead you to the city center and the Mall in Columbia -- the primary shopping/activity area).
Coming from the West (i.e. Frederick, MD), take I-70 East to US-29 South. US-29 cuts through the heart of the city and will have the same exits as I-95, namely Route 100, Route 175, and Route 32.
Columbia is known as a working suburb of both Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, and therefore there are relatively close stations near the city that connect to the Amtrak network (into D.C.'s Union Station and through Baltimore) and Baltimore's light-rail network. Columbia is not convenient to the Washington, D.C. Metro system, with the closest stop being Greenbelt in Prince George's County.
Columbia is served by BWI - Baltimore Washington International - Airport. The airport is a major hub for budget carrier Southwest Airlines, and as such has a large network of connecting flights to almost every major U.S. city, in addition to it's own international terminal and connecting flights to larger international hubs such as New York's JFK and Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
Maiwand Kabob has hands-down the best kabobs in the state.