Reporting Jay Lloyd
Imagine combining one of America’s greatest leisure activities with the Great American Sport. You got it – boating and baseball.
And the place is Baltimore, where you can enter the colorful Inner Harbor under full sail, tie up at a convenient marina for the night and walk a few blocks to Camden Yards, a destination baseball stadium and home to the Baltimore Orioles. If you don’t have a boat, find a friend who does or simply charter one within a four hour sail or one hour power run. Here’s what you’ll find. – Jay Lloyd
WHAT TO DO
A cruise up the Patapsco River takes you past the moored hospital ships that bring modern medicine to disaster ravaged parts of the globe and the Navy transport ships that supply American troops around the world. You’ll sail under the Francis Scott Key Bridge and pass historic Fort McHenry. Then a turn to the right and one to the left and you arrive at:
The Inner Harbor Marina is a prime spot and a well-run facility right on the promenade near the Science Center and across the harbor from the Aquarium. Everything is within walking distance but far enough away from the crowded center of harbor activity to assure a great view but a quiet dock. The marina is also home to the popular Rusty Scupper restaurant with its upper story vistas, lively bar and exceptional food. From here, it’s a few blocks to:
Oriole Park is probably the standard by which new in-city baseball Meccas are judged. Tucked snugly among office buildings, hotels, bars, restaurants and the Inner Harbor, Camden Yards is the heart of Baltimore. Visitors can easily walk from hotel or boat.
Baseball is just one part of the experience at a stadium that employs an executive chef to oversee a blend of unique Baltimore and Chesapeake Bay foods and flavors. You’ve heard of ball park franks, but here, we get ball park crab cakes, a blend of jumbo lumb crab meat, a little mayo, a few bread crumbs and lemon tied together with Old Bay Seasoning. How about a soft shell crab sandwich? When was the last time you saw that at a ball game? Famous Baltimore Polish Sausages and brats are on the menu, and from the city’s Little Italy, there are meatball subs. Wash it all down with local National Bohemian (Natty Bo, to those in the know!) beer.
You’ll find hits and homers, but the surroundings and scene (including frequent fireworks!) have become as riveting as the game. Surrounding hotels offer package plans that include stadium admission, or for ticket information, take a look at: http://baltimore.orioles.mlb.com/ticketing/index.jsp?c_id=bal
WHERE TO STAY
If you arrive by car, an Inner Harbor hotel offers the most complete experience with dynamic views and immediate access to the attractions and exhibits, including the historic ships and National Aquarium, right at your doorstep.
Offering one of the best views on the harbor, this glass-fronted hotel has a modern feel and offers packages that include historic sites, waterfront activities and of course, baseball. Room rates this month run in the $200 daily range.
All the amenities are to be expected of an in-city hotel on top of major attractions. Located directly on the Inner Harbor, the Renaissance is literally steps away from the historic ship exhibits and Inner Harbor restaurants. Rates in May clock in as low as $169 a night.
WHERE TO EAT
Baltimore has truly become a restaurant city. When not stuffing myself with crab cakes, brats and beer at the ball park, here are a couple of favorites.
The Rusty Scupper tops the list for its harbor view and a menu heavy on fin food. Try one of the best Maryland crab soups on the Chesapeake for lunch, followed by a bowl of well sauced mussels and chased by a brew of choice.
Baltimore’s Little Italy is right alongside the Inner Harbor and has grown in reputation, rising to celebrity chef status. Some of the mom and pop eateries that gave it its early charm have given way to more ambitious and tony spots. The best bet here is to stroll the streets and check out menus and prices that feed your own need, but do take a look at La Scala on Eastern Avenue. There’s a wide range of pastas in the $16 range as well as veal and seafood at Philly-comparable prices…and La Scala has a rarely found indoor bocce court!
Familiar restaurants like the Cheesecake Factory and Phillips Seafood can be found at the Inner Harbor’s Harborplace.
Getting around the Baltimore waterfront is easily done from Fels Point to Fort McHenry — just grab the convenient water taxis that originate at the Inner Harbor. Visit the Aquarium and historic ships, the Maryland Science Center on the harbor, rent a swan boat or take a sightseeing cruise.
Head south on I-95 to I-395 North. Follow the signs to Downtown/Inner Harbor. You’ll see it. Depending on your location, it’s about a two-hour, 100 mile drive.