There's Still Charm in the Charm City of Baltimore!
Updated: Feb 4
A short drive from DC, Philly or even New York, Baltimore remains a perfect destination for a weekend getaway.
By: Les & Anne Heintz
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Many cities in the U.S. have self-proclaimed monikers that are used for marketing purposes. New York is “The Big Apple.” New Orleans is “The Big Easy.” Philadelphia calls itself “The City of Brotherly Love.”
In the 1970’s, Baltimore began calling itself “Charm City.” The idea was that Baltimore, nestled in the middle of Washington, Philadelphia and to some extent New York, would use its small city charm to attract visitors.
Okay, we’ll admit that while 2020 was a tough year for everyone, it was especially hard for Baltimore. The charm in “Charm City” was definitely put to the test. But it’s a new year and we’re here to make the case for Baltimore as a viable destination… especially for a 2-3 day escape!
There are a lot of reasons to visit Baltimore. For us, the top three are: The Sagamore Pendry, The Four Seasons and The Ivy Hotel!
These are three hotels that are among the best and most unique lodging choices in the country. They are not the kind of hotels designed for a “throw your bags in the room and head out” approach. They are to be enjoyed and savored like a fine bottle of wine. Even better is the fact that all three properties are completely different.
But before we expose ourselves as true “hotel-geeks,” we need to talk about the charm of Baltimore.
As we mentioned last month, we did a 2-night visit in December. We picked Baltimore for three reasons: It is close (we’re based in metro DC), a return trip was long overdue and our lodging was covered as a work expense.
Our mid-week stay came at an interesting time for the city. We arrived on a Wednesday. Bars and restaurants were facing a shutdown order that Friday. Needless to say, we felt like we had the town to ourselves.
We were impressed at how grateful business owners of these restaurants and small shops were to see us and their other customers. We were also inspired by their determination. They are clearly committed to their employees, their city and to one another.
Most important of all… at no point did we ever feel unsafe or uncomfortable!
Bars and restaurants re-opened with some limitations on January 22nd, which is why we waited until now to publish this article. Baltimore is open for business! It is a viable destination today and we have no doubt that will continue to improve as more construction projects on the waterfront are completed.
The gentrified Harbor East Development has extended waterfront exploration from the Inner Harbor to Fells Point. Throw in two 5-star hotels, outdoor music venue, lots of fun boutiques, and a plethora of tasty restaurants and you have a winning formula for a weekday or weekend getaway! We have done a staycation there in the past in Winter as well as in Summer. Both equally enjoyable, but we will say NOW is the time to go. Things are less crowded and hotels are more affordable in the “off season.” We all like to save a little money while splurging at the same time!
Now the hotels!
We have stayed at both the Four Seasons and the Sagamore Pendry. Anne has booked clients at The Ivy. We like them equally but for different reasons. Here’s why!
We would say that overall, the Sagamore Pendry appeals a bit more to millennials or at least those who feel “young at heart.” It has the Instagram-able WOW factor throughout the property… from the point of arrival to the happening pool scene on the water in warmer months.
It was ingenious to take an abandoned pier and transform it into hotel space. Rooms either face a pretty inner courtyard or the water. Many of the rooms on the top floor have balconies, which is great for people watching and or reading a book.
The rooms have a masculine contemporary feel to them. They have all the requisite amenities that you come to expect if you are a hotel connoisseur. This includes, flat screen TV’s, with a personal welcome greeting (nice touch), well stocked minibar, large desk area, bedside lighting controls and comfy high thread count sheets.
On the other hand, the Four Seasons Baltimore feels more like a true 5-star city hotel on the water. Their WOW factor would be either the expansive rooftop bar and restaurant with panoramic views of the harbor front and city or their spa.
This property is sleek and contemporary. The rooms have a slight nautical feel to them. They also have all the luxuries one would expect from Four Seasons… including a deep soaking tub which happens to be a personal favorite of mine! We were also lucky enough to get a harbor front room with floor to ceiling windows which was truly spectacular.
The last stop on our tour of Baltimore is a former private home, the IVY. This is a little gem of a hotel and we can’t wait to go back! Unfortunately, we could not see the room product this time due to their COVID-19 protocols. They seal off vacant rooms once they are deep cleaned after a stay and aren’t opened until new guest check in. The property is intimate. There are only ten suites and eight rooms. We might add… all with working fireplaces!
You are made to feel as though it is your home away from home. Even better, you don’t have to lift a finger! The staff at The Ivy anticipates your every need. At arrival you are personally ushered into the whimsical Conservatory which sets the tone for more fun things to come. There is a self-service bar, game room, library and tearoom which, serves complimentary daily afternoon tea.
The lower level of the hotel is home to a robust wine cellar, a bar and their restaurant Magdalena. This French bistro is manned by chef Mark Levy, formerly of the Point in Upstate New York, which is another esteemed member of the Relais et Chateaux family.
The restaurant has both indoor and outdoor space. If you are celebrating a birthday or anniversary you will hit a grand slam when booking a dinner and an overnight stay here. Click here and we’ll make it happen!
If you feel like you need to take “baby steps” to get back out on the road… and you live in the Mid-Atlantic area… spend a few days in Baltimore on the water. It’s manageable and fun. We try and make a yearly visit and it never disappoints! Give it a chance , support the local economy and let the locals show you some “charm!”
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Anne and Les Heintz are Co-founders of TravelAnne.com. Anne is a Travel Advisor. Les is a television & media producer. They are based in Washington, DC and have been traveling the world since they met in high school more years ago than they care to admit. They can be reached at info@TravelAnne.com.