We may get Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia in a huff by saying this, but Baltimore could be the most patriotic big city in the Union. We don’t know if it’s the fact that Mary Young Pickersgill sewed the Star-Spangled Banner flag in her home on what is now known as Pratt Street, or the reality that one of our national pastime’s finest institutions, Oriole Park at Camden Yards, glistens downtown, but something about the city just emanates red, white and Inner Harbor blue. With Independence Day fast approaching, now would be the perfect time to head in B-More’s direction. When you go, though, make sure you pack this guide to the All-American city with you.
There’s nothing more American than the freedom of choice. And when it comes to high-end downtown hotels, the bounty of options ranges from Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore to the super stylish and historic Hotel Monaco Baltimore. However, for your next weekend jaunt, you won’t go wrong with a few nights at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront. A sense of subdued elegance is apparent all around the 31-floor property. Plus, its location right on the edge of the harbor wouldn’t be more scenic had Francis Scott Key put it to words. So, take your time basking in all that’s gallantly gleaming at the hotel—mobile check-in desk, heated indoor pool, spacious bedrooms—but do plan to be on your way by 1 p.m.
Mere footsteps from your room is the country’s National Aquarium, the first stop on your walking tour. The green moray eels and zebra sharks cause dropped jaws every day, but special events such as World Oceans Day (June 7-8) and the July 4th Pier Party give the aquarium some added splash. Another unmistakable gem in the immediate area is the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture, a priceless attraction named in honor of the late businessman that spotlights integral (but often overlooked) players in U.S. history. For Whom It Stands is an especially telling temporary exhibit (through February 2015) centered on Pickersgill’s indentured servant, Grace Wisher.
By this point in the day, it’ll be late afternoon. Check the Baltimore Orioles’ schedule. If they have an afternoon game, make your way toward Camden Yards for the action. Though the O’s have one of the strongest fan bases in the Majors, walk-up tickets for many games are easily attainable at the box office. Trust us, seeing the B&O Warehouse behind right field and watching slugger Nelson Cruz at the plate is more than worth the price of admission.
After the game, you can either follow the Orioles flock to beloved Pickles Pub for wings, or hop in your car for the 10-minute drive to Waterfront Kitchen for dinner. A spiffy eatery right across the water from the Under Armour headquarters, Waterfront Kitchen speaks to everything that the Baltimore culinary movement is about these days—great tastes (pan-seared Maryland rockfish), local growers (some produce comes from an urban garden just blocks away) and generous libations (the Tanqueray- and pomegranate-spiked Red Elephant).
Of course, if the aforementioned baseball game has a regular 7:05 p.m. first pitch, go from the Lewis Museum over a couple of blocks for an early dinner at Fleet Street Kitchen, another proud example of the city’s renaissance in the kitchen. This spot, a converted furniture factory with exposed brick, chandeliers and hardwood-decked charm, leaves other high-end establishments envious simply because of its close ties to Cunningham Farms, a 200-acre plot in nearby Cockeysville that consistently produces everything from quality baby arugula and pea shoots used in Fleet Street’s salads, to the pigs served in the restaurant’s roasted pork entrée.
Start your next morning by doing what any blue-blooded American would on a weekend—working out at 8 a.m. But instead of merely hitting the treadmill in the hotel gym, grab an energy bar and join Elite Fitness Tours for a three-mile session of light sprinting, squatting and sightseeing. The trek takes you around the harbor, past Mount Vernon and up—literally!—famed Federal Hill. The whole thing lasts just about an hour, but your calves will swear it’s longer.
It’s for that very reason that scheduling some pampering at Four-Star The Spa at Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore afterward makes great sense. Though its hot stone and aromatherapy massages hit the proverbial spot, this inner-city sanctuary separates itself with Reiki, chakra balancing and a complimentary monthly Mind, Body and Soul series (June 24’s class focuses on acupuncture) for guests.
Since we haven’t found a New-Age method of curbing hunger yet, make your way to Miss Shirley’s Cafe after your spa visit. Remember what we said earlier about the freedom of choice being the truest sign of patriotism? Well, scratch that. The finest example is actually brunch, and very few places demonstrate a love for the weekend pastime more affectionately than this Charm City dining institution. Patrons show their appreciation by lining up every Saturday and Sunday morning for benne seed chicken ’n’ waffles, omelets, crab cakes and a menu stuffed with other treats.
Once your eggs have settled, make the drive to Hampden, a colorful neighborhood about four miles from central Baltimore. Though known for a few odd shops and restaurants here and there, the area is most revered for the ’60s-era “Hon” culture (think ladies in cat-eye glasses and leopard spandex from John Waters-directed ’80s movies like Hairspray) it lovingly promotes. If you still can’t quite get the imagery for this odd slice of Americana, visit Hampden on June 14-15 for the 21st annual HonFest, a celebration of all things beehived and eye-shadowed.
Woodberry Kitchen is only three minutes from Hampden, but it will feel like you’re worlds away. One of the city’s finest epicurean efforts, the seven-year-old restaurant is still abuzz nearly every night of the week, so plan ahead with this one. If you can picture a gutted 19th-century foundry with exposed beams, glass walls and soft lighting surrounding two levels of chattering tables, you have a decent feel for the place. Now, slide a few farm-to-fork dishes such as the Liberty Delight braised beef or the Rettland Farms chicken and biscuit onto said table and you’re set. It won’t hurt having a few Flying Dog beers handy either. Seal the evening with some homespun wineberry swirl ice cream. It’s not only the American thing to do, but it’s one of the sweetest in all of Baltimore.
Photos Courtesy of Marriott International, Inc. and iStock