I live just outside NW city limits and work in Laurel. The commute to laurel sucks a bag of dicks - 5 highways and mf’ers can’t zipper merge on a single one of them.
Laurel itself is fine. Nice enough, nothing remarkable. Lots of redeveloped outdoor mall sort of things with lots fast casual restaurant chains. Maybe my perspective is limited by the fact that my exploring of laurel has been limited to going out on a lunch break, but it doesn’t strike me as a place where there’s a heck of a lot going on culturally, unless you count the horse track and/or the occasional EDM festival at the horse track.
Columbia is slightly better in my opinion, but if it makes either of your commutes easier, Laurel is fine.