36 Hours In Charm City

American Visionary Art Museum

This weekend, my husband Joe and I explored Baltimore while visiting family and friends. Joe grew up in Howard County, right outside of Baltimore, so I’ve become somewhat familiar with the area over the years.

We started our day outside of the city at Inverness Brewing, which is located in Monkton, MD on a 100-acre farm. The brewery prides itself on its crop to keg philosophy, created with the farm’s 600 thriving hop plants. It’s also the first Baltimore County brewery, formed in 2018. We enjoyed everything the farm had to offer, from the live bluegrass to the bocce ball. It turns out, I’m pretty good at bocce and I believe I may have found my sport. The beer was also phenomenal.

After a game of bocce, we headed to our hotel, Lord Baltimore, which is located downtown. It’s a historic hotel close to the Inner Harbor. I always prefer to stay at a historic hotel, because they usually hold a certain charm. And while visiting Charm City, it only seemed right. If you’re looking for something a bit more lux, I’d also suggest The Ivy. We knew we weren’t going to be spending much time at the hotel, so we went with the more economical ($140 v. $650/night), yet still architecturally magnificent, choice.

Upon arrival at Lord Baltimore, we entered a spectacular lobby. In the center was a grand piano under a Murano glass chandelier. It’s not hard to picture this hotel in all its glory when it was opened in the 1920s. The coffee at Lord Baltimore’s cafe was also delicious. We didn’t have time to explore much more, but it also has a rooftop bar that boasts views of the city.

After checking in, we headed to Full Tilt Brewing to meet some friends. Our day inadvertently turned into a brewery tour of Baltimore. If you enjoy craft beer, Baltimore has many to offer. The colorful taproom also had entertainment like air hockey and arcade games, all perfect for kids and adults.

The food was also a hit. Between the North Fork TV Festival and Hamptons International Film Festival, I’ve accidentally eaten more than my fair share of pretzels this month. (No time for lunch and about to watch a three-hour film? A movie theater pretzel it is!) And I can say that the pretzel at Full Tilt was by far the best. A beer and a soft pretzel is a wonderful thing. The fear of turning into a soft pretzel is not.

The lobby at Lord Baltimore.

For dinner we went to The Brewer’s Art, a brewpub located in an early 20th Century townhouse in Mt. Vernon. The building was absolutely beautiful, with more historic charm and architecture. The skillet mac and cheese is a must-try for the table, as is the brewery’s Resurrection Beer.

Following dinner, we went to the Owl Bar, located in the Belvedere Hotel. The Belvedere is another historic venue filled with Charm City grandeur. It’s played host to the likes of many past presidents, Al Pacino, Patti LaBelle, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Lauren Bacall, and Fred Astaire, to name a few.

The Owl Bar is a famous prohibition-era speakeasy. Stained glass overlooking the bar reads “A wise old owl sat on an oak / the more he saw the less he spoke / the less he spoke the more he heard / why can’t we all be like that wise old bird?” It’s a nod to the venue’s legacy. It’s been open over 100 years and still going strong.

On Sunday morning, we headed to brunch at the Golden West Café in the village of Hampden. Hampden, which is centered around West 36th Street (known as The Avenue), offers a hipster haven of colorful restaurants, bars, and shops, in converted row houses. It sort of reminded me of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, when I lived there in 2004.

Golden West was fantastic and offered an array of vegan options as well as traditional brunch options. They focus on “Americana cuisine and Southwest comfort food, rooted in traditional New Mexican specialties.”

We ended the day at the American Visionary Art Museum, a Baltimore must-see. Displays included works from the annual Kinetic Sculpture Race, a race that takes place through Baltimore and consists of wacky and imaginative human-powered pieces of art that are made to travel through the elements. We also saw outdoor sculptures like Andrew Logan’s eight-foot “Cosmic Galaxy Egg.”

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