Whenever I go to a new city, I always turn to Instagram for advice. It's a million and a half times better than Yelp, where almost all the reviews are written by people who are either pissed off or want to feel important. Its simple, just type in the name of the city and search under Places, and Instagram will give you a snapshot of what real people are actually doing in the city. I did it before I moved to Lexington (although there wasn't much to look at with that one), I did it before the boyfriend and I went to Dallas for a wedding, and I did it before I moved to Durham. Instagram is really what got me excited about Durham. There were so many local restaurants, dog-friendly events, local makers, and outdoor activities posted, I couldn't wait to move. I'm doing the same thing to plan for our trip to Napa and I'll start doing it again for Dallas when we get ready for our next move. So when I was going to Baltimore for a wedding, I couldn't help but turn to Instagram to find things to do. Sure, I grew up in Baltimore and moved back for three years after college, but the city is changing so much (in a good way). New restaurants and stores are popping up all the time, and I want to try them all.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending how you look at it), Dixie always comes with me when I go to Baltimore and ALWAYS insists on sleeping on my parent's bed with her favorite human (my mom) and her always favorite sheepadoodle/sometimes favorite puppy (delilah). Every morning I'm there, the two little doodles wake up between 6 and 7 a.m., wake up their favorite human, and make her take them out to play. Normally, I would be the sad soul forced to get up before sunrise on a Saturday, but in Baltimore, I'm not. The bad part is, without my little puppy alarm clock, I will literally sleep all day and miss the opportunity to explore Charm City. When I went back to Baltimore for a wedding (for the same friend from this tropical bridal shower), I made a plan. I wasn't going to sleep my way through this weekend (okay, well maybe a little). Here's my guide for spending a wedding weekend in Baltimore!
F R I D A Y
first stop - hotel
Baltimore has a lot of great hotels, and the couple will likely have blocked off rooms in a hotel near the venue, but if your looking for somewhere to stay, the Four Seasons Baltimore or The Ivy are two great options.
The Ivy is a boutique hotel in the heart of Mount Vernon made up of nine guest rooms, nine suites, a small spa, and the Magdalena restaurant. The hotel is a Gilded Age mansion built as a private home in 1889. Each room has a four-poster bed, a gas fireplace, and a bathroom with a heated floor. If the heated bathroom floor isn't enough luxury for you, you can also call down at any time of the day or night, and hotel staff will bring you a pot of tea, a glass of wine, a little snack, or they'll even draw you a bath.
The Four Seasons is a Four Seasons. They're great wherever you go. Although the last time I stayed at the FS in Baltimore, they were doing construction in Harbor East and accidentally hit some line that cut off the heat and hot water in the hotel. It was the middle of winter. But the summer is when the FS Baltimore really shines. Head up to the fourth and fifth floors to discover the hotel's THREE water areasoverlooking the inner harbor. The "Splash Terrace" on the fourth floor features chairs, cabanas, a bar and grill, and of course, a pool perfect for kids or early morning laps. The fifth floor has a heated whirlpool and a shallow reflecting pool. The reflecting pool is only three inches deep, which is the perfect depth for tanning. Drag a chair into the pool, and tan away without overheating. If you're traveling with kids, they can dress up in child-sized bathrobes while you take advantage of the complimentary babysitting services.
second stop - food
Hampden has a special place on my heart. I absolutely loved living there and still miss it. There are so many great restaurants in this little neighborhood, but my absolute favorite is La Cuchara. Okay, fine. This is technically in Woodberry, but if you aren't from Baltimore you wouldn't even know these were two separate neighborhoods. La Cuchara specializes in wood-fired cuisine inspired by the Basque region of France and Spain.
The menu changes daily, so I can't recommend a specific dish, but I can say that I've never had a bad dish. I've tried pumpkin soup with a delicate heat, octopus with just the right amount of char, gnocchi so delicious that I forgot I was eating a vegetarian dish, and duck that, well, I love duck... you could probably do anything to duck and I would eat it. Also, you'll want to check your diet at the door. Unless you're on an all-carb diet, because they have the most delicious bread. Bread so good that it has its own menu. Bread so good that they have a Baker on staff. Bread so good that you can and should order some to take home with you.
They also have a great wine list. Great, but long with prices upwards of $350. It can be intimidating. Luckily, Greg Schwab, an Advanced Sommelier, is there to help you pick out a great bottle. If you've watched Somm on Netflix (and if you have, you should watch the follow-up, Somm: Into the Bottle), you know this means he has passed three out of the four exams required to be a Master Sommelier and, therefore, really, really knows his shit. But don't be so quick to overlook their cocktail list. Start with a cocktail, like Wilbur’s Delight (Gin Mare Gin, Green Chartreuse, Creme de Violette Contratto Bianco) and then move on to a bottle of wine. Sure, you could pace yourself and go to a bar after dinner, but with a wine and cocktail list like this, you won't want to.
S A T U R D A Y
first stop - breakfast
I love room service. On vacation growing up, my parents would go out to dinner and my brothers and I got to stay in the room, order room service, and rent a movie. It was great. My youngest brother always ordered a shrimp cocktail, a love for which he still has today. But the best is room service is breakfast room service. I love any reason stay in bed longer, and waffles and coffee just taste better in pajamas. If that doesn't speak to you, Miss Shirley's is a Baltimore staple. Try the Funky Monkey Bread (cinnamon pull-apart bread with bananas, chocolate, pecans, and powdered sugar), Coconut Cream French Toast (garnished with diced strawberries, brûléed bananas, and cinnamon), or Shirley's Affair with Oscar (5 oz. center cut filet of beef, asparagus, jumbo lump crab meat on fried green tomatoes and stone ground grits).
second stop - shopping & refuel
You won't have trouble finding a place to spend your money in Harbour East. Sassanova is my favorite boutique, and Baltimore-based Under Armour has a brand house right on the water. You'll also find national brands like Anthropologie, J. Crew, lululemon, and Warby Parker all within walking distance.
If you're looking for boutiques more unique to Baltimore, I'd head over to Fells Point. There are some really adorable boutiques all within walking distance of each other on the cobblestone streets that line one of the prettiest parts of Baltimore's inner harbor.
There are also a ton of restaurants in Fells Point if you need sustenance. My top three favorites are:
- Slainté - their poutine fries and gumbo are killer & with it being an Irish pub, they have a decent beer selection as well.
- Stuggy's Hot Dog - the crab mac and gyro dog are my favorites, but the Bruce lee is really popular too
- Abby Burger Bistro - You build your own burger, but the possibilities are endless. To give you an idea, here is the list of meats you can choose from: bison, roseda beef, smoked angus beef, kobe beef, chicken, lamb, kangaroo, turkey, duck, and the meat of the month. There's not enough space to get into the cheese and topping choices.
third stop - pampering
The Ivy and the Four Seasons both have great spas, but if you're just looking for some light pampering, treat yourself to a blowout and a glass of champagne at Haute Dry Bar.
If you're traveling with a date, take him with you to The QG. You both can treat yourself to a facial, manicure, pedicure, and/or massage. If that isn't quite his thing, they also offer straight razor shaves, beard trims, and quick haircut "tune-ups". If this still isn't speaking to him, then he can check out their retail store or smoke a cigar in their cigar lounge. There's also a ladies retail sotore if you need to add a new Barbour to your wardrobe.
pit stop - drinks
I personally love a good lobby bar, and my mom is the same way. Whenever she would visit me in Memphis, we would always meet in the lobby of the Peabody and grab a drink. If you're staying at the Four Seasons, you're in luck because Wit & Wisdom is also a great bar! Magdalena at The Ivy is also a great place to grab a pre-ceremony cocktail!
t h e m a i n e v e n t
(i.e., a wedding, gala, party, or holiday meal)
last stop - munchies
The Local Fry actually serves wings,sandwiches, and rice bowls in addition to fries... but let's talk about those fries. Anything you could ever want on fries, they have. They have the classics like poutine, Irish fries (fish and chips), and buffalo chicken fries. But they also have killer dishes like kimchi pork belly fries, bulgogi fries, and Korean short rib fries! Your belly will thank you.
At Grilled Cheese & Co., they have, not shockingly, a wide selection of grilled cheese. Go for the Crabby Melt with ooey gooey crab dip topped with Monterey Jack between two slices of toasty ciabatta or The Sweetest Thing with Brie, raspberry mascarpone, and chocolate chips. You can also stick closer to the original with their BCT or bacon-cheddar-tomato. Now, the crabby melt should be on a bagel or a baguette with some of the bread scooped out of the bottom slice so it doesn't spill out as much, the Sweetest Thing should be on French toast, and the BCT should CLEARLY be a BPT - bacon, pimento cheese, and a fried green tomato... but it's still pretty good, and after a night of drinking that pretty good becomes great.
S U N D A Y
first stop - brunch
Before you leave charm city, make sure you get one last meal in.
Sushi lovers should venture into the county for Umi Sake's unlimited sushi brunch. Try to get there as close to 11 as you can. That's when it starts and you'll have first pick of all the sushi options. They don't always label the sushi, so if you're not feeling adventurous, you can also order off their regular menu. I can't get enough of the lemongrass hot & sour soup, the tuna tataki, and crispy spicy tuna.
On game days, sports fans should head over to Cross Street Market in Federal Hill where Ravens or Orioles fans will be flooding the streets. It's also great for groups that can't decide what they want. You can basically get anything at across Street - sushi, wings, breakfast plates, crabs.... they have it all.
Fans of The Wire should head over to Pulaski Highway and grab lunch at Chaps Pit Beef. Obviously, their Pit Beef sandwich is a Baltimore classic and my personal favorite. Just remember that you're not Wee Bay and nobody needs THAT much horseradish. You definitely need a little though, and the Tiger Sauce has just the right amount. While you're at it, the cheese fries & mac and cheese are also a necessary component of the meal.
And finally, if you think you can never have too much of a good thing, Little Havana is the place for you. For $20.99 you get one breakfast entreé (like huevo rancheros or a hamburguesa) and BOTTOMLESS mimosas and bloody mary's. Try to sit outside if you can; it's right on the water and dogs are allowed on the back deck! Miss Dixie Doodle is a fan.
last stop - airport
I hope this helps you make the most out of your time in Baltimore and charm city never stops charming you!