Think you know Baltimore? Think again. The burgeoning Harbor Point section of town is accessible to both the Inner Harbor and Fells Point, with water views, dining, shops and more, all anchored by a brand new lifestyle hotel that’s modern and welcoming. Take a little weekend getaway this month (or this winter) to explore B’more. Here, our writer outlines a fun weekend itinerary.
Check into your room at the new Canopy by Hilton, the first Baltimore location of Hilton’s lifestyle brand, located at Wills Wharf in the Harbor Point neighborhood. Each room has floor-to-ceiling windows with views of the skyline and waterfront; some accommodations also have balconies from which to take your morning coffee or an evening glass of wine (though you might want to bundle up first). Decor touches reflect the industrial and nautical spirit of Baltimore, and room amenities include sliding doors separating the bathroom and open closet from the bedroom, 55” HDTV flat screen televisions, an ample work desk, Nespresso machine, APIVITA bath products and refrigerator. Hilton’s CleanStay Program includes a room seal on the door to show it hasn’t been accessed since its deep cleaning, housekeeping service is available only upon request, room service is “knock and go” and you can select a contactless check-in option using the Hilton app. (The hotel offers garage parking, and there is also an adjacent lot with in-out privileges; use your phone rather than the kiosk to get the best rates. Once you get settled in, plot your weekend from a sofa by the fireplace in the comfy lobby, which feels more like a warm and welcoming extension of your living room than a hotel common area.
For dinner, book a table on the heated patio or interior dining room at Cindy Lou’s Fish House, the hotel’s dining concept that’s a celebration of local and Southern cuisine from restaurateur Tony Foreman and Cindy Wolf. Start with the Crimson Mittens, a seasonal cocktail with citrus vodka, Aperol, allspice dram, apple cider, lemon, black walnut and rosé, which can also be made in a mocktail version for those not imbibing. A shared snack plate with a smattering of options from the appetizer menu makes a fine shareable starter, with Virginia ham, buttermilk biscuits, fried green tomatoes, pimento ricotta hot pepper jelly and toast and a jar of addictive Nanny’s pickled cucumbers, green beans and cauliflower. On the entree side, seared duck breast is served over pureed pumpkin and roasted brussel sprouts, and Madeira-roasted mushrooms and creamy grits accompany crispy skin pan-seared rockfish. Be sure to save room for a fun dessert that riffs on British tea time with almond pound cake, pickled quince and bergamot-scented Earl Grey ice cream.
Start the day with breakfast at the Inner Harbor location of Miss Shirley’s, a Baltimore staple known for its ample portions and fluffy pancakes (deemed the best in the country by Food Network). Get your hotcakes topped with strawberries, bananas or blueberries, or order a seasonal iteration like ones flavored like cinnamon danish or hot cocoa. If your palate veers towards the savory, the lump crab-filled omelet is dusted with Old Bay and comes with a choice of sides, including smoky collard greens.
Walk around to see the shops and sights of the Inner Harbor or explore the vibrant Fells Point neighborhood, then pop in for lunch at oyster and fish house The Choptank. If the weather isn’t too chilly, grab Adirondack chairs around one of the fire pits outside, or a booth inside. Weekend day drinking is de rigueur here, with several variations of Crushes, 20 beers on tap and a well-garnished Bloody Mary. The cream of crab soup is flecked with Old Bay and a splash of sherry and loaded with chunks of lump crab. Definitely order a dozen of whatever oysters they are shucking, especially if they are local, and if you like chicken and waffles, their version wraps a breaded chicken breast in a glazed donut.
Book a session at the Four Seasons Baltimore Winter Village, the hotel’s fifth-floor terrace that’s been transformed until the end of the year into a seasonal playground with a synthetic skating rink, semi-private cabanas for rent with fire pits, chairs, blankets and televisions, festive food and beverages including hot cocoa, cider, warm spiced granola and seasonal libations and views of the Inner Harbor and skyline. If you visit after the holidays, you can experience Bourbon & Bubbles, an outdoor private dining experience with four heated bubbles where groups can sip various spirits and Champagnes from Moët Hennessy.
Before heading back to the hotel, warm up with a happy hour cocktail or early dinner at Loch Bar adjacent to the Four Seasons, which has one of the region’s largest raw bars. The French 75 and an order of plump fried oysters with remoulade or baked oysters Rockefeller make a great combo, or if you want to go all in on shellfish, indulge in one of the over-the-top seafood towers with a bottle of Champagne.
After a morning workout at the Canopy’s 24-hour fitness studio overlooking the harbor, stop in for breakfast of shrimp and grits or a roasted mushroom and andouille sausage omelette at Cindy Lou’s. After checking out, make the short drive to the B&O Railroad Museum, which houses the oldest, most historic and most comprehensive railroad collections in the world. If you visit during December, you’ll find holiday lights, model trains and Santa’s winter village. The attraction is also home to the first mile of railroad track in the United States. Take a ride on the Mile One Express, which during the holiday season is dubbed the Reindeer Railway and is decked out with Christmas decorations and wrapped presents inside railcars.
On the way out of town, stop at the Guinness Open Gate Brewery, the only U.S. location of the famed Irish brewery. The massive complex includes an outdoor patio with tables and firepits, which this season has a Diego holiday keg tree constructed from more than 250 kegs, and a Holiday Light Walk with installations featuring historic Guinness artwork including a toucan, harp, seal and Maryland crab. Inside you’ll find a dining room and bar where you can order tastes, flights, pints and food (tours are suspended right now because of Covid.) Seasonal brews include Winter Warmer, a lightly-spiced brown beer with notes of cinnamon and nutmeg and a moderate ABV, Barrel Aged Coffee and Coconut Porter, a collaboration with Vent Coffee Roasters that’s aged in used Bourbon barrels, Gingerbread Spiced Stout and Imperial Stout. Unexpectedly delicious is the creamy, tart and fruity Blueberry Stout, Sour with lime and salt and Black is Beautiful, a collaborative stout with proceeds going to the Jobs Opportunity Task Force in Baltimore. Find your perfect pairing among oysters on the half shell, an Italian sausage flatbread, smoked chicken wings and French fries that are a cross between wedges and curly fries. Before you leave, stop in the gift shop, which has been retooled to allow for one-way traffic. Pick up a set of pint glasses, t-shirt, hat or bar sign for the Guinness fan in your life, or grab one of the popular Mystery Bags filled with branded merch.
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