Baltimore: Four Seasons Hotel
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Four Seasons200 International Drive 21202 Baltimore, MD 410/576-5800 fourseasons.com/baltimore
Splash Pool Bar & Grill: Tucked away by the infinity pool on the fourth floor, this is the spot to indulge in icy cocktails and small bites such as jerk chicken skewers with cucumber yogurt sauce, all with a view of the water.
The Spa: Even if you don't book a treatment, take advantage of the decadent soaking tubs, sauna, and steam rooms in this oasis of relaxation.
Water Taxi: With a stop just a few yards from the hotel lobby, these breezy boats are a civilized way to see the Inner Harbor, spend some time on the water, and be dropped right at the doorstep of the truly fantastic National Aquarium as well as other Baltimore attractions.
LAMILL Coffee: Coffee is treated as an art form at the only East Coast branch of the cult LA artisanal coffee bar, located on the hotel's main floor. Whether your brew is made with the intricate Clover extractor or the simple ceramic dripper, it's all caffeine pleasure here. Don't miss the made-to-order beignets with trio of dipping sauces made by chef Chris Ford.
- 24-hour fitness center with complimentary bottled water and fruit
- Heated infinity-edge pool and sunning deck
- Whirlpool, steam room, sauna
- Complimentary cribs, high chairs, and playpens
- Babysitting service
The soaring tower of the Four Seasons has transformed the steel and glass neighborhood into what feels like Miami in Maryland. With a lobby overlooking a marina full of sailboats, sleek wood and marble interiors, and trendy eating and drinking spots, the hotel is an urban oasis that wouldn't be out of place in South Beach, Cape Town, or San Diego.
Walking into my biscuit-hued room, I'm greeted by sparkling views of the Inner Harbor, which, from the rich cocoon of my easy chair, look bluer and more inviting than I've ever found it to be. Even the grass of Federal Hill across the harbor looks greener—I chalk up the rosy-hued glow of these old landmarks to the Four Seasons effect: The comforts and service are so great here that it makes everything around the hotel seem more attractive, too. My über-comfortable room has a lot to like in addition to the technicolor vistas, including a dual-headed rain shower, separate deep soaking tub, steal-worthy Avedatoiletries, and a Nespresso coffee maker. But since all the action in the hotel is downstairs, I leave my soothing room to go exploring.
Later, lounging by the infinity pool with an icy watermelon cooler in hand, watching the water taxis stream by, I think I couldn't get any more relaxed. And then I discover the spa. One of the largest in Baltimore, the treatments here are sybaritic departures from reality—I almost fall asleep during the head massage that accompanies my facial. Later the "heat rooms" with vitality pool, sauna, steam room,and heated tile lounge chairs (available for use by hotel guests) turn me into a tranquil puddle. Luckily, I haven't planned anything more taxing than dinner for my evening.
Baltimore has a burgeoning restaurant scene and I've carried with me a list of dining spots I want to try (Salt, Bluegrass Tavern, Cinghiale, Jack's Bistro). But the Four Seasons has created, with master chef Michael Mina, not one, but two restaurants that have Baltimoreans flocking hotel-side, so it's an easy decision to stay in, and I'm not disappointed. Pabu, a Japanese izakaya (smallplate restaurant), has the only robata grill in the city, and it's good enough to have me considering areturn trip just to indulge in the grilled skewers of kokoro, chicken heart, and crisp, fatty kariganebone (shoulder blade), cooked over Japanese white oak. The sushi is outstanding, and after sampling some of the masterfully curated sake list of 200 selections, I'm delighted that all I have to do is take an elevator to get to my room.
The next evening I spend some time at the decidedly more Eastern seaboard-accented Wit &Wisdom, which spills off the lobby of the hotel into the marina. The nightly happy hour here draws a crowd for its clever cocktails and fun bar bites—I enjoyed the Jalisco Sour, which turns out to be the mature cousin of a margarita with grapefruit marmalade standing in for lime juice, and crab-stuffed deviled eggs dusted with Old Bay. Dinner reservations elsewhere pulled me away, but I come back my final morning for brunch where I have more Old Bay, this time rimming my bacon-infused-tequila Bloody Mary, and tuck into a shrimp and grits so rich it would make a Southerner weep with envy. As I soak upthe last bits of gravy, I'm already planning a return trip in my mind to sample the dinner offerings, and enjoy this hotel that's as charming as the city it's set in. —Melissa Klurman
IN THE AREA
- American Visionary Art Museum and Mr. Rain's Fun House: A ship made out of tens of thousands of toothpicks, a trippy school bus covered with mirrored mosaics, and a story-tall pink poodle kinetic parade float are just some of the delights that await at The American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM). Not only is this kaleidoscopic museum a treasure trove of outsider art, but there's a scene-stealing restaurant here, too. Mr. Rain's Fun House serves eclectic, surprisingly tasty bites in a room decorated as uniquely as the museum where it's situated. Stop in for hot pretzel knots, house-brined pickles, and a succulent lamb burger with a mint and olive mayo for a perfect museum meal. 800 Key Highway; tel: 410/244-1900; avam.org
- The Baltimore Farmer's Market & Bazaar: Although this Sunday morning market (the largest in Maryland) is held in what could most generously be called a nondescript area under the Jones Fall Expressway, it more than makes up for its drab location with a vibrant array of colorful wares, especially summer staples such as corn, heirloom tomatoes, plums and peaches, and Maryland specialties such as soft shell crabs. There's also freshly made food to nibble on—including pit beef, omelettes, and smoked salmon pizzettas—while you shop. The market opens at 7, the chefs finish up by 8, the crowds build by 9, and the whole thing wraps up by noon, so plan to get here early. Held Sundays April through December underneath the Jones Fall Expressway at Holliday and Saratoga streets; promotionandarts.com
- Cinghiale: Although you can have a great meal in the dining room of this Italian Osteria, it's more fun to pull up a stool at the expansive Enoteca (bar) and let one of the wine-savvy bartenders use their encyclopedic knowledge to find your perfect wine from the list of 50 available by the glass (there are 600 choices on the regular wine list). Do as the locals do and accompany your pick (mine was an economically priced Abbazia di Novocella from Alto Adige), with a selection of charcuterie from theSalumeria to make for a delicious evening. 822 Lancaster Street; tel: 410/547-8282; cgeno.com