Baltimore is sometimes overshadowed amid the bright lights and big cities of the East Coast. But what this city lacks in size it makes up for in charisma, cuisine, and cultural diversity. Baltimore comprises more than 200 distinct neighborhoods, with much of the city’s activity centering around the Inner Harbor, Baltimore’s major seaport that’s been converted into a lively landmark and tourist destination. A business trip to the Northeast may prove the perfect excuse to discover everything you never knew Maryland’s capital city has to offer.
WHERE TO STAY:
Baltimore has plenty of options in the way of big, business-friendly hotels, but the Intercontinental Harbor Court Hotel is the cream of the crop. Marble floors, oak-paneled walls, and a grand spiral staircase that unfurls in the lobby set a glamorous tone that’s carried into the well-appointed guest rooms. At 195 rooms, the Harbor Court offers all the ease and amenities of a hotel twice its size, with the intimate feel of a boutique (550 Light St., 800-824-0076, www.harborcourt.com).
If you’re looking for an experience that’s anything but cookie-cutter, book a room at the Inn at Henderson Wharf. This hidden gem is small at just 38 rooms, but it’s packed with rustic appeal, beautiful décor, and personal service, which begins with a complimentary bottle of wine. The bed and breakfast-style inn was completely revamped in 2003 after sustaining damage in Hurricane Isabel and now boasts modern amenities like LCD televisions, free high-speed Internet, and a 24-hour fitness center while still retaining its quaint feel (1000 Fell St., 800-522-2088, www.hendersonswharf.com).
WHERE TO EAT:
Celebrate Baltimore’s diversity by sampling its wide-ranging cuisine. At Black Olive, a highly touted Greek restaurant in Fells Point, the staff uses only the freshest seafood and organic ingredients to make simply mouthwatering meals. For more private dinners, book the table in the eatery’s award-winning wine cellar (814 S. Bond St., 410-276-7141, www.theblackolive.com).
Delightful trattorias line the streets in Baltimore’s Little Italy neighborhood, but the bistro hailed as the best in the borough is Boccaccio, an upscale lunch and dinner spot specializing in Northern Italian fare made by father-and-daughter chef team Giovanni and Marlena Rigato. After your meal, walk the few blocks to Vaccaro’s Italian Pastry Shop, where the Italian cannolis, cakes, and cookies are impossible to resist (Boccaccio: 925 Eastern Ave., 410-234-1322, www.boccaccio-restaurant.com; Vaccaro’s: 222 Albemarle St., 410-685-4905, www.vaccarospastry.com, multiple locations).
French flavors meld with New American dishes at Ixia, a gorgeous and glamorous restaurant replete with sweeping draperies and cascading chandeliers. A more informal lounge area invites guests to leisurely enjoy innovative signature cocktails (518 N. Charles St., 410-727-1800, www.ixia-online.com).
If the occasion calls for a more straightforward power lunch or dinner, Linwoods in nearby Owings Mills is the place. This four-star restaurant excels at everything from the predominately meat-and-fish menu to the sophisticated open-kitchen interior (25 Crossroads Dr., Owings Mills, 410-356-3030, www.linwoods.com).
WHAT TO DO:
By day, explore the Mount Vernon neighborhood, just a 15-minute walk from the Inner Harbor. Victorian townhomes and 19th-century mansions are scattered throughout the area, along with restaurants, theaters, concert halls, museums, galleries, and antique shops. Baltimore’s Washington Monument (which predates the one in Washington, D.C.) and its accompanying museum are also located here, surrounded by four garden squares lavishly landscaped with fountains and statues (699 N. Charles St., 410-396-1049, www.baltimoremuseums.org/washington.html).
In the evening, snag tickets for the renowned Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, playing regularly at the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. Concerts range from classical overtures to more contemporary performances, such as this month’s “Sci-Fi Spectacular,” a tribute to science-fiction movie and television scores, narrated by Star Trek’s George Takei (1212 Cathedral St., 410-783-8000, www.bsomusic.org).
Or, pop into one of Mount Vernon’s many theaters to enjoy a show. Theatre Hopkins, a semi-professional group that performs at Johns Hopkins University, is one of the oldest theater troupes in Baltimore. Now in its 86th season, this group presents stage productions of both distinguished contemporary and classic dramatic literature (for tickets: 410-516-7159, www.jhu.edu/~theatre/).