Saturday, October 18, 2014

Baltimore's Gems Charm Pandora

When Pandora Jewelry announced plans to move Pandora America Headquarters to downtown Baltimore earlier this year, Kevin Conklin, Pandora Americas VP of Operations, explained that the company chose Baltimore because it offers the creative, exciting atmosphere Pandora employees desire: "If you look at the teams moving over there, it's very much about being creative. So moving into a space downtown with a lot of energy and a lot going on, it's something they were craving." Employees also want a place with an eclectic, historic vibe. (Baltimore Business Journal, July 2014) I'd like to take you on an illustrated tour of what I imagine Mr. Conklin is referring to, starting with their location. The company will occupy space on the same block as the Pratt Street Ale House, pictured here, which offers excellent outdoor seating and tasty Oliver Ales, brewed in house. Not a bad spot (among many) for a working lunch!

Baltimore abounds with eclectic, historic neighborhoods, such as Fell's Point, with its bustling waterfront, locally-owned shops, restaurants and pubs, charming row homes, and loft apartments.
Camden Yards, home of the Baltimore Orioles, and Ravens Stadium generate a lot of energy and excitement, right downtown.
 Baltimore boasts a superb live music scene, but I have to admit, I am not hip or cultured enough to do it justice here, so you will have to settle for this photo of the outside of the 8 x 10 Club in Federal Hill, as well as a this article from several years ago, "If you lived here, you'd be cool by now," that touts Baltimore's cultural scene. I may not take advantage of the live music offered in Baltimore, but I love that it is here, because it attracts a diverse and dynamic mix of people to Baltimore.
Arts of all kinds thrive in Baltimore. As an example, the Creative Alliance at Highlandtown's Patterson Theater offers a dizzying array of performances, exhibits, and workshops, from bluegrass to burlesque, and serious documentaries to an exhibit featuring illustrations of the opera Aida.
Funky neighborhood commercial districts, such as here in Hampden, attract people in search of unique, clothes, home goods, gifts, and just a fun day out and about.
More and more people want to live a car-free or at least car-lite existence. Baltimore's public transportation system (though far from perfect) and walkable neighborhoods help make this possible. Here, commuters wait for Baltimore's free downtown Charm City Circulator.
Now, the restaurant scene is something I DO know about, and it is fun and fabulous, with restaurants to fit every taste and budget.  Dylan's Oyster Cellar, a pop-up ode to the crustacean, recently moved out of its temporary home in Mount Vernon. It proved so popular, though, Dylan's is moving to a new, as-yet-undisclosed, permanent location.  Pop-up stores and restaurants give entrepreneurs the opportunity to test their concepts before committing to a space long-term. Small entrepreneurs offer unique goods and experiences, things you cannot really find elsewhere.
ally get anywhere else.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Fresh Air Fun

A relatively new addition to the Inner Harbor, Pierce's Park's unique features, such as the musical fence shown here, a horn sculpture that children can walk through (shown below), a living Willow tunnel, and some more traditional playground equipment, draws families throughout the week.
Families enjoy outings to the park because it is a great place for kids to play ... and the adults often get a chance to socialize, too. 

The Waterfront Partnership programs events at the park,such as the Shamrock Shindig and morning yoga.
Every Thursday night in the summer, families and friends gather on the side of Federal Hill Park to watch outdoor movies. The American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM) sponsors Flicks from the Hill. Each year, AVAM selects a theme for the series inspired by one of their current exhibits. This year, movies such as Time Bandits and Back to the Future evoked the "Human, Soul & Machine: The Coming Singularity" theme.

Baltimore's Rash Field attracts hundreds of volleyball players throughout the week, spring through fall. With men's, women's, and coed leagues playing Sundays through Fridays and drop-in matches on weekends, Baltimore Beach Volleyball's seven courts are always busy.

This view captures the beach volleyball courts at night from the top of Federal Hill Park.
The basketball courts at the base of Federal Hill Park also are always busy.
Baltimore residents have a wide variety of options when it comes to seeking quality outdoor time, including just sitting on the steps in front of the Science Center to do some work ...
  ... or enjoying a sunny and quiet early evening in their neighborhood park, such as these Mount Vernon residents ...
... or kayaking from a dock in Fell's Point.
Many of Baltimore's parks also host youth sports, of course. Here, youngsters play soccer at Herring Run Park in northeast Baltimore's Mayfield neighborhood.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Shopping Fells Point

Looking for unique gifts, clothes, shoes?  Fells Point is not just a dining destination, but a shopping hot spot as well, particularly for women's clothing and accessories. This post highlights three of my favorites, starting with Zelda Zen, a great place to buy special jewelry without breaking the bank.  According to my husband, the place is mobbed with guys looking for the perfect gift during the holidays. Zelda Zen also sells other gift-worthy items, such as pretty hair accessories, purses, cool coasters that celebrate all things Baltimore, and pieces from local artists including Maggie Stewart, Tom Snyder, Olin Yoder, and Shelly Watt.  As a nice finishing touch, the owner places your gift - even if the "gift" is really just for you - in a nice bag and tops it off with a gorgeous bow.
Since its 2008 debut, Poppy and Stella has attracted women seeking fashionable and well-made shoes, winning City Paper's Best Women's Shoe Store for six consecutive years and additional accolades from Baltimore Magazine.  Whether you need boots, walking shoes, party heels, or work-appropriate footwear, Poppy and Stella will have a range of options for you to admire, with brands such as Frye (Poppy and Stella's boasts the largest Frye selection of boots, shoes, and handbags in Baltimore), Borne, Johnston & Murphy, and Pour La Victoire.  Shoppers can also find great clothes and accessories in this unique boutique, which now has a second location in Annapolis.
Long-time Fells Point boutique Cupcake offers a great selection of clothes, but the shop's specialty is dresses for parties and special events.  Very chic and popular with the younger crowd, Cupcake does have some age-appropriate clothes for forty-somethings, as well as very nice staff who are eager to help you pick just the right dress for the occasion.
Really, no discussion of Fells Point can avoid mentioning food!  After your shopping, be sure to visit Pitango Gelato for some cold and tasty treats.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Lovely and Gracious Roland Park

North Baltimore's Roland Park neighborhood dates from the early 20th Century and was designed in part by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., the son of the famed landscape architect behind New York's Central Park. Roland Park boasts quiet, tree-lined streets and beautiful homes.  

Eddie's of Roland Park opened as "Victor's" in 1944 and is within walking distance of much of Roland Park. This relatively small grocery store packs an amazing variety of high quality prepared foods, meat, produce, and baked goods; patrons can also pick up beer or a bottle of wine for dinner, a unique prospect in a city with liquor laws that restrict grocery stores from selling alcohol. Eddie's must predate that law!
Originally constructed in 1921 and expanded and renovated in 2008, the Roland Park branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library serves many communities in north central Baltimore.
Though single family homes comprise the majority of Roland Park's housing stock, the neighborhood does offer some condominium and apartment options, as shown here.  Nice balconies!
Locally owned businesses within walking distance of most of the neighborhood add charm and convenience and contribute to the local economy. 
Some homes are more formal than others.
The hilly terrain means that some homes sit at an elevation lower than the road.  This house looks like it is in the middle of a massive forest. 

I do not have much to say about the following pictures, but I am including them to give readers a sense of the varied architecture of Roland Park.

This lovely home has an awesome glass sun room and shady front yard.

Roland Park does have less formal but equally charming homes, too.
Good night from Roland Park!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Progress on Development Projects Along my Running Route

A run around the harbor and waterfront neighborhoods always yields exciting progress reports on development projects.  I originally showcased 400 E. Pratt Street several months ago here.  The installation of the glass helps to give a much better sense of how this two story addition will make this block of Pratt Street much more interesting and attractive.  Of course, with Shake Shack planning to occupy part of the first floor, the 400 block of E. Pratt Street promises to become one of the hottest destinations in town!

Farther east, in the midst of Harbor East, Little Italy, and Fells Point, the 208-room Harbor East Hyatt Place, which I first mentioned in this post, is expected to welcome its first guests in fall 2014.  Guests will have easy access to the shops, restaurants, and nightlife of these three very different neighborhoods, as well as the attractions of the waterfront and Inner Harbor.  Baltimore's free Charm City Circulator now makes it easy for visitors to explore neighborhoods and hot spots far beyond the immediate vicinity of the hotel, such as Mount Vernon, Station North, Federal Hill, Fort McHenry, and Oriole Park at Camden Yards. 

The Marketplace at Fells Point, originally highlighted here, shows off its new/old storefronts.   This photo depicts the west side of Broadway; the east side has progressed even more quickly, with Unleased by Petco opening on July 7.  The Marketplace at Fells Point offers 159 studio, one and two bedroom apartments, some of which are available for immediate occupancy, and 28,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space in the heart of Fell's Point, one of Baltimore's most historic, eclectic, and lively communities.  Residents will have access to amenities such as a rooftop deck, courtyard with fire pit, and fitness center in the restored "Fell's Point Comfort Station," and they will receive ZipCar discounts.  The developer clearly knows the market, as more and more people who live in the city want a car-free or at least car-lite life!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

More Delicious Dining Options

Blue Agave stands out among the crowded Federal Hill bar and restaurant scene for its house-made salsas and sauces, not to mention margaritas and Baltimore's largest selection of tequila.  I highly recommend their chipotle chicken skewers!  Always lively, Blue Agave is a great spot for dinner with friends, lunch with your favorite colleagues, or happy hour.

Located on Broadway in the heart of Fell's Point, Tapas Adela features Spanish cuisine.  The mouth-watering menu includes well-known Spanish tapas, from patatas bravas to croquetas, as well as Baltimore twists on the classics, such as crab cake rellenos, in which the chef fills Padron peppers with jumbo lump crab.

Sophisticated yet friendly, Mount Vernon's City Cafe appeals to a wide range of diners, from the neighborhood crowd to symphony patrons, coffee fanatics to cocktail connoisseurs.  Baltimore Magazine recently lauded City Cafe as one of the area's top 50 restaurants and a top brunch spot.  If you go, try the Moroccan chicken salad.  Delicious!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Baltimore Bike Party Prom Night

What's more fun than a real prom?  This month's prom-themed Baltimore Bike Party!  On the last Friday of every month, Bike Partiers get together for a leisurely and lighthearted group ride through the city, which often sports a theme.  I first encountered the Baltimore Bike Party last October, when I came across hundreds of bicyclists decked out in Halloween costumes, complete with plastic pumpkins for candy collecting. 
The Baltimore Bike Party always sets off from St. Mary's Park in the Seton Hill neighborhood, but the routes differ each month.  With hundreds of participants including families with kids, the ride is an increasingly popular social event, as well as an eye-opener for people who think that there aren't many cyclists in Baltimore.
More prom dresses!
If you look closely, you will see that the guy on the left donned a tuxedo vest for the occasion. 
The tiny and usually quiet neighborhood of Seton Hill, ensconced near the University of Maryland, Baltimore, experiences a big uptick in activity on the last Friday of the month, thanks to the bicyclists.
The Baltimore Bike Party is doing a great job of raising the biking community's visibility in Baltimore.
Good night from Seton Hill!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Kinetic Sculpture Race and the SoBo Little League Parade Make for a Fun Saturday

Fifi, the undisputed belle of Baltimore's Kinetic Sculpture race, makes her way down Fort Avenue in South Baltimore during the first leg of the day long affair.  The American Visionary Art Museum sponsors the kinetic sculpture race, now in its 16th year.  For anyone wondering, a kinetic sculpture race is a contest of human-powered, amphibious all-terrain works of art (thank you, Wikipedia).  In Baltimore, it is a rite of spring, an excuse to hang out on the stoop all day and engage in great people watching, and an affirmation that Baltimore's creativity, ingenuity, and lovable wacky side are all alive and well.
Channeling Amelia and Muriel Earhart, these pilots look fresh and energized.  Clearly they haven't traversed the mud pits of Patterson Park or splashed down at the Canton Waterfront Park yet.
This team makes it look too easy.

The race starts at the American Visionary Art Museum and swings through South Baltimore and downtown before making its way into Canton and Patterson Park.  I missed the Splashdown in Canton, but I did make it to Patterson Park in time to see Swan Song pose for a beauty shot.
Good Dog and the Big Itchy Flea Circus should feel right at home in beautiful, pet-friendly Patterson Park.
Thankfully, it isn't every day we see a 35' long crocodile in the park. 
Back in my neighborhood, the SoBo Little League Parade always follows shortly after the Kinetic Sculpture Race.  This means great marching bands ...

... and proud youngsters walking down the street with parents and teammates to the field.  Such a nice place to live.
Good bye from Patterson Park!