By Regina Lynch Hudson
Baltimore is a vibrant metropolis with small-town character. Originally a bustling waterfront port, the Inner Harbor has become the heartbeat of the city and the inauguration point of Baltimore’s urban renaissance. Since the redevelopment of the Inner Harbor in the late 1970s, Baltimore has set the standard for urban renewal and now welcomes more than 12 million visitors annually. Major industries include biotechnology, financial services, IT and defense, healthcare and education. And for the nearly 2.7 million residents in the Baltimore Metropolitan Area, primary employers include Johns Hopkins University, Johns Hopkins Hospital, University System of Maryland, Northrop Grumman and Fort Meade.
Baltimore native Tom Saunders launched Renaissance Tours & Productions in 1990. As Baltimore’s premiere tour company, his tourism services provide insight into the city’s history from a black perspective. “We have more African American-related landmarks [in Baltimore] than any place in the nation,” Saunders boasts. “History comes to life on my tours. You actually meet Harriet Tubman at Orchard Street Church, thanks to re-enactments of historical characters by local actors.” Additionally, Tom claims to bring patrons to tears when he introduces them to the slave ship and lynching exhibit at the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum. The local jetsetter also conducts tours of Harlem, and other New York landmarks such as the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and The Apollo Theater — among a list of intriguing excursions.
Getting Around A new Charm City Circulator runs every 10 minutes, providing free bus transportation along the main downtown corridor from Harbor East to the B&O Railroad museum. A second route links Baltimore’s Penn Station with the Inner Harbor area. www.charmcitycirculator.com
Bring your walking shoes so you can explore this very pedestrian-friendly collection of downtown neighborhoods, including historic Fell’s Point, chic Harbor East and Federal Hill.
The InterContinental Harbor Court Baltimore is a business man (or woman’s) dream locale. Situated on Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, the hotel is across the street from Harborplace and within walking distance of the downtown business district. Two award-winning restaurants, an array of meeting facilities and a state-of-the-art fitness center to “get your work-out on” between appointments make this an unrivaled biz hotel. www.harborcourt.com
The Power Lunch
Meli, Greek for honey, serves international fare all influenced in some way by honey. The dual-level dining area provides elegant seating on level one, and more intimate dining on the lower level. Executive chef Rashad Edwards is one of Baltimore’s best African-American chefs. The crab cake with sweet corn emulsion is not to be missed. www.kalismeli.com
Located in the heart of Baltimore’s Mount Vernon Cultural District, The Helmand is consistently rated by locals as the best ethnic restaurant. Your palette will be dazzled by the flavors that lie at the intersection of Middle Eastern and Indian cuisine.
Teavolve in Baltimore’s Harbor East neighborhood offers free Wi-Fi along with 48 different tea-inspired beverages. There’s also a selection of sandwiches, salads and wraps. www.teavolve.com
The B&O American Brasserie in the new Hotel Monaco offers a hip and happening spot to mix and mingle. Tell “Master Mixologist” Brendan Dorr to concoct your favorite cocktail. www.bandorestaurant.com
Soak up some relaxation at The Pearl Spa, located in the Ritz Carlton Residences. Spa packages include the urban retreat — an age-defying facial, botanical massage, and a manicure and pedicure. www.thepearlspa.com
Footloose & Fancy-free
You may not have a personal invitation to the White House, but you’ll stand eye-ball to eye-ball with President Barack Obama at the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum. www.ngbiwm.com
Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall airport is 15 minutes from downtown Baltimore. AirTran Airways offers daily, non-stop flights to Baltimore and more than 56 major U.S. cities. www.airtran.com
Thanks to our friends at Visit Baltimore and other tourist venues for providing us with facts, figures and fun information for this article. www.baltimore.org | www.visitmybaltimore.com