ABOVE PHOTO: Baltimore Harbor (shutterstock)
By Renée S. Gordon
The Mid-Atlantic region is the most historic corridor in the country. It consists of a series of metropolitan areas within 220 miles and is accessed by I-95. The major cities — New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, DC — each have distinctive attractions; New York’s glitz, glamour and Broadway, Philadelphia’s historic sites, art and music scene and DC’s museums, memorials and institutions.
Baltimore is unique among them. As the South’s northernmost city, you can add Southern hospitality to an eclectic menu of charms. Baltimore is surprising in every season, but it takes on an extra holiday glow this time of year.
The Baltimore region was created in 1659 and was established as a city in 1796. It has played a consistently significant — and often unheralded — role in our nation’s history. From December 1776 to March 1777, the city was the seat of the Continental Congress and functioned as the fledgling capital because they feared Philadelphia would suffer a British attack.
In 1797, the US Navy launched its first ship from the port. Francis Scott Key wrote the “The Star-Spangled Banner” near Fort McHenry in 1814, and the first casualties of the Civil War occurred there in April 1861. All of these events are marked with structures that can be visited.
Beside the stellar historic sites, visitors have a great time walking the city to experience the Baltimore that constantly reinvents itself with fresh events, festivals, culinary offerings, interactive activities and accommodations. Any Baltimore itinerary is pleasingly quirky because of the seamless blend of its unique history and modern sensibilities.
Because the city is walkable, where you lodge makes a difference. The core of the tourism district is Baltimore’s renowned Inner Harbor and the newest hotel, Staybridge Suites, is located in the heart of it all and in close proximity to the harbor.
The property is ideal for families because suites provide ample room, free breakfast, laundry facilities, kitchens, a 24/7 fitness facility, free area shuttle service, security and outstandingly professional staff. (@staybridgesuites)
The 1904 Renaissance Revival hotel was the Chamber of Commerce Building following its previous life as the Baltimore Corn and Flour Exchange. The Exchange was a victim of the 1904 fire that destroyed 140-acres in the business district. This historic edifice was rehabilitated in 2017 preserving original features including a restored first floor with mosaic tile floors, brass mail chutes and original bird-cage elevator. (#anIHGHotel)
Baltimore’s history revolves around the area waterways with the Inner Harbor as the jewel in the crown. Colonists initiated the seafood industry after being taught by Native Americans, Chesapeake Bay means “great shellfish bay,” and the port was officially established in 1729.
The city was a trading center and transit hub. The historic harbor has always been filled with shops and restaurants and currently a large Christmas Village patterned after those of medieval Germany.
You can celebrate the holiday and immerse yourself in the history of Maryland’s award-winning, signature, Rye Whiskey at Sagamore Spirit Distillery and Rye Street Tavern. The distillery is a destination with a decorated waterfront plaza filled with seating and music, tastings and a tour of the facility, shopping and a meal in Rye Street Tavern serving local seafood and southern cuisine. (www.sagamorespirit.com)
Tagliata, an Italian chophouse, showcases the city’s most extensive wine list, freshest ingredients and handmade dishes. Both indoor and outdoor dining is available. A few steps away is a modern spin on the speakeasy, The Elk Room. The 1920’s candlelit décor, craft cocktails and musical entertainment enhance the experience. It has been featured in Esquire as one of the “Best Bars in America”. (www.tagliatarestaurant.com, www.theelkroom.com)
Fells Point dates to the 1730s and retains more than 325 original structures. It was from there that Frederick Douglass escaped to freedom. Broadway Market dates to 1786 and is the oldest of the city’s existing markets. A trip to The Choptank, a classic fish & crab house, is mandatory for the quintessential Baltimore seafood experience. The menu is huge and the music is lively. (www.thechoptankbaltimore.com)
The newly renovated 1846 Cross Street Market houses 22 independently-owned food venues specially selected for their quality and uniqueness. There is seating and this is the place to grab a bite between adventures. (www.crossstmarket.com)
Award-winning Chef Chad Gauss is the creative mind behind The Food Market. The spotlight here is on creative twists on comfort food. The restaurant is open daily and valet parking is available. I strongly suggest their brunch. (www.thefoodmarketbaltimore.com)
Wonderful holiday gifts are often handmade and Baltimore has several locations where you can express your creativity and love through an interactive experience. Reservations are always required.
KSM Candle Company offers candle-making classes. Candles are a combination of soy based, American sourced, natural, non-toxic ingredients. Students get to choose their scent combinations and take a finished candle home. TIP: Candles should stay lit until the top layer is burned evenly.
Pastry Making Class at Sacré Sucré Pastry Studio is fun and tasty. Here you get to learn the art of pastry making from mixture to classic French macarons. Owners Manuel Sanchez and Dane Thibodeaux help you create mouthwatering desserts and box them up for holiday presentation.
A tour of the 1995 American Visionary Art Museum, a complex of three historic structures, begins on the exterior with murals crafted by incarcerated youths, sculptures and a gigantic whirligig moored 13-ft. into the ground.
The museum preserves and displays outsider art, art by self-taught artists, through activities and permanent and temporary exhibits.
“The Secret Life of Earth” will be on view until September 16, 2020. This exhibit, interpreting the current state of planet Earth, is a wake-up call and should be seen by everyone. The Earth is 4.5-billion years old, we migrated out of Africa only 6 to 7 million years ago.
Earth has undergone 5 extinction events, planetary resets, and many believe we are entering a sixth event. Additional highlights include an adjacent building featuring automatons and an engaging gift shop. (www.avam.org)
The interior of the museum contains the space where Francis Scott Key wrote “The Star-Spangled Banner” reinforcing the fact that in Baltimore the past is ever present. (#visitbaltimore)