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Travel & Nightlife

Why Baltimore is a City to Love

Visit Baltimore

This summer, the home of Old Bay is our new bae. 

Courtesy of Visit Baltimore, Courtesy of The Ivy Hotel

Bolstered by years of slow-boil hipsterdom, Baltimore is primed to take the spotlight as the Eastern Sea-board's next best bet for a short getaway filled with your favorites: good eats, good sleeps, and plenty to check off the experiential box.

Although big brother Washington, D.C., is just a ways down the road, it's actually Baltimore that hosts the National Aquarium (Aqua.org), a state-of-the-art facility complete with "touchpools," a dolphinarium, and hundreds of massive displays showcasing sharks, stingrays, and jellyfish. The city also embraces attractions that feel markedly less didactic, like the American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM.org), celebrating artists around the nation with no formal training. Highlights include a float-sized poodle and a fart machine in the basement.

Encantada (EncantadaBaltimore.com), at the AVAM, is one of the many eateries that confirm the city's culinary evolution beyond soft-shell crab, with its brightly flavored green juices, brilliant veggie options, and menu specials like quinoa salad and fresh mussels. For dinner, try La Cuchara (LaCucharaBaltimore.com) in the Woodberry area, where the flavors of San Sebastian are served tapas-style by a family of promising restaurateurs. The perfect cocktails (try the False Idol) pair wonderfully with the pintxos, fresh crudos, and boards of charcuterie.

The Ivy HotelAnother palpable testament to the change in the winds is Baltimore's newest upmarket digs, the Ivy (TheIvyBaltimore.com), housed in a rambling mansion in the Mount Vernon district, so sharply on the verge of gentrification that each row of townhouses forms a checkerboard of restoration. Though the name is a tad generic, the Ivy's interior is anything but. The run of the mansion's public spaces isentirely yours, as though you've inherited a posh palace from an eccentric great-aunt. And any semblance of a lobby has been swapped for ample lounging space--like a conservatory brimming with exotic trinkets--and a bar with top-shelf tipples.

The ambience continues upstairs, where the brightly painted bedrooms contain their own set of collectibles and gilded portraits. Our favorite is Suite Seventeen, which embraces a slightly more sedate palette of cool grays, an oversized bed tucked into an adorable nook, and a spa-like bathroom with a tub begging to be on the cover of Architectural Digest.

An unwavering focus on service--gourmet breakfasts, unlimited snacks, gratis cab rides--promises to keep the hotel above its competitors and further establish it, and Baltimore, as the perfect base for an eventful weekend trip.

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