Spend a weekend biking around historic neighborhoods, treasure hunting in vintage shops on the Avenue and exploring the city’s diverse food scene
Baltimore may be best known for its picturesque Inner Harbor—home to the popular National Aquarium—and crustacean bounty, but while the sealife is impressive and there’s nothing quite like cracking into a dozen Maryland Blue crabs liberally sprinkled with spicy Old Bay, there’s so much more to Charm City. Spend a weekend biking around historic neighborhoods, treasure hunting in vintage shops on the Avenue and exploring the city’s diverse food scene, from the newest food hall housed in an old auto body shop to small-batch ice cream made in locally-inspired flavors, and of course, plenty of fresh seafood.
If you arrive by train—a quick and easy trip from New York City, Philadelphia, or D.C.—The Ivy’s antique London taxi cab will meet you at the station. Check into the 19th-century mansion situated in the historic Mount Vernon neighborhood, restored to its original splendor with eighteen plush guestrooms and suites, a spa, conservatory and cozy library. The country’s only highly-inclusive urban hotel, your stay comes with extras like afternoon tea service, a minibar stocked with goodies like locally made kombucha and caramels, and what may be the best hotel breakfast of your life.
Before sightseeing, start with lunch at the Mount Vernon Marketplace, located less than a mile from the hotel. The former warehouse was transformed into a fun food hall with stalls selling everything from freshly-shucked local oysters to vegan soups and ramen. After lunch, pull up a stool at Taps Fill Station, where the entire menu of beer, wine, mead, olive oil and more is on draft. Order a kombucha or nitro cold-brew coffee before walking a few blocks to the George Peabody Library. The collection of 19th-century research materials is part Johns Hopkins University and sadly, isn’t meant for public book perusing, but it’s worth a stop in to gape at the stunning architecture—thought to be one of the most beautiful libraries in the world with its five tiers of balconies, ornate columns and glass skylight ceiling. Across the street find the Walters Art Museum. With free entry, the museum is home to a millennia-spanning collection that includes ancient Greek sculptures, 19th-century European modernist masterpieces and a notable collection of Fabergé eggs. Afterward check out Mount Vernon’s Washington Monument, the first memorial honoring the founding father that dates back to 1815, and climb the spiral staircase inside for a lofty view of central Baltimore. On the walk back to the hotel, stop into all-day café Dooby’s for one of their house-baked cookies in flavors like Fruity Pebble marshmallow or matcha with white chocolate chips.
Back at the Ivy, mix yourself a drink in the Mansion Bar before sitting down to dinner at Magdalena, the hotel’s on-site restaurant. Chef Mark Levy’s French-inspired dishes like butter poached lobster and seared foie gras feel extra special in the cozy, candlelit dining rooms, including one situated in the home’s former treasury. Don’t miss dessert from German pastry chef Hans-Jurgen Sund, including the authentic and satisfying apple strudel.
Start your day at the Ivy’s restaurant again, only this time for the epic breakfast. The multi-course feast features house smoked salmon, grapefruit brulée and stacks of lemon souffle pancakes drizzled with blueberry compote, among other made-to-order delights. Work off the morning meal with a guided bike tour of the city’s waterfront with Light Street Cycles, passing historic Fort McHenry, quaint Fell’s Point and other riverfront neighborhoods. On the way back pedal past Vaccaro’s to pick up a cannoli at the sixty-one year-old Little Italy institution.
After the twelve mile tour, head north to the Remington neighborhood to refuel at R. House. The recently opened food hall occupies an airy, industrial-inspired space that was once an auto body shop and is now home to ten chef-driven stalls (and one rotating pop-up) selling Korean barbecue, Venezuelan Arepas, poke bowls and more. On a sunny day, take your food to one of the communal tables outside on the wrap around patio. From there, head north to Hampden, where you’ll find 36th street—also known as the Avenue—lined with independent shop loaded with character. There are kitschy gift shops and vintage boutiques selling vinyl records and brightly colored costume jewelry, Atomic Books, where Baltimore’s own John Waters receives fan mail, and Ma Petite Shoe—a shoe shop that also specializes in artisan-made chocolates from around the world. Pick up a few beautifully-wrapped bars to take home, and end your visit to the Avenue at The Charmery for a scoop of ice cream in seasonally-changing flavors like Old Bay caramel and Berger Cookies and Cream, made with the beloved chocolate frosted cookies from a local bakery.
A few minutes away by car is the friendly Union Craft Brewing, where you can take a tour of the facility before sampling from the brewed-on-site beer. Try a Duckpin Pale Ale, or, in the summer months, the Old Pro Tee Time—a tart, refreshing gose made with botanicals and fruit. Fill a crowler with your favorite brew to take home, the oversized cans are easily packable. For dinner, try the lively Bar Vasquez for an Argentinian feast, with empanadas de queso stuffed with a mix of housemade ricotta and other cheeses, bright ceviche, and a robust steak menu featuring various cuts flown in from Uruguay—all of which pairs well with a glass of red wine and the nightly live music.
There are plenty of worthy breakfast destinations in Baltimore, including the nearby Dooby’s and Miss Shirley’s Café, a city institution, but fill up on the Ivy’s memorable meal while you can, and then head to the American Visionary Art Museum. This unique museum houses an intriguing and delightful collection of pieces, all by self-taught artists. The building itself is also a work of art, covered in dazzling mirror, glass and china, created as part of a mosaic apprentice program for at-risk youth. While the permanent collection is definitely worth a look, the rotating exhibition is always a must-see, including this year’s The Great Mystery Show, featuring pieces inspired by dreams, religion, outer space, and more. Stop by the museum’s award-winning gift shop before you go for art books and other quirky trinkets.
To cap off your weekend in Charm City, board the Baltimore Water Taxi, which makes stops at several waterfront neighborhoods, like Locust Point and Harbor East, where you’ll find the Loch Bar at the Four Season’s Hotel. From your perch on the plush outdoor patio, take in sweeping views of the Inner Harbor while snacking on lobster rolls, crabcakes, and anything from the expansive raw bar. Paired with a glass of Champagne or local craft beer, it’s the perfect finale to your visit to Baltimore.