Sunday, January 4, 2015

Commuting, Water Taxi-Style

Talk about a pleasant commute! As a complement to its free bus service, the Charm City Circulator connects both sides of Baltimore's harbor with three commuter routes, which it offers in partnership with the Baltimore Water Taxi. The Harbor Connector travels from Harbor East to Harbor View (Federal Hill), the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park (Fell's Point) to Tide Point (Locust Point), and the Canton Waterfront Park to Tide Point. Each route has just two stops, making the service as quick as it is convenient. The Harbor Connector operates Monday-Friday, from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Commuters, businesses and residents on both sides of the harbor appreciate this service, as it allows people to get to and from work easily without a car. While these patrons at the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Museum stop are clearly heading to the office, people use the service for all kinds of trips, from grocery shopping at Whole Foods in Harbor East to a quick visit to Fell's Point for some ice cream.
For additional car-free convenience, the Harbor Connector offers free, weatherproof bicycle storage.
Of course, many people need or simply want to bring their wheels with them, as the person featured in this photo does. Fortunately, the Harbor Connector welcomes bikes.
As Monday morning approaches, I cannot help but think how lucky these people are to be able to walk, boat and bike to work. This looks like a fun, social and healthy way to travel to and from work.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Ringing in the New Year with Captain Larry's and the Kids

Captain Larry's takes their role as a family-friendly pub seriously. On any given day, you can see youngsters playing together - typically creating works of art with sidewalk chalk - while their parents linger over crab cakes and fish tacos. "Larry's," as it is affectionately known, also hosts a New Year's Eve party for kids, complete with a ball drop, kid-friendly fare, party accoutrements and a start time guaranteed to get the kids home to bed at a reasonable hour. Here, one of the owners helps a young patron pick out just the right party hat and lei.
Festive gear rests temporarily on one of the pub's tables.
Two young revelers get ready for the ball drop! Captain Larry's made a little extra room on their floor for the kids to congregate. Unfortunately, my husband and I could not stay for the actual ball drop, but trust me, the excitement was building!
Adult beverages are, of course, still available during the family-friendly event. After all, Larry's IS a pub.
Of course, several weeks before the New Year's Eve bash, Captain Larry's also welcomed Santa Claus. With his hearty "Ho, ho, ho" and confirmation that every child in Captain Larry's was on the "nice" list - thereby assuring happiness all around - this Santa was a big hit with both the kids and their parents!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Ice Skating at the Inner Harbor

A gorgeous late December day is the perfect opportunity to ice skate with family and friends at the Ice Rink at Baltimore's Inner Harbor.
Located in the heart of downtown, Baltimore's ice rink boasts the National Aquarium as a scenic backdrop and a slew of restaurants to choose from - from Federal Hill to downtown, and the Inner Harbor to Harbor East - after working up an appetite on the ice.
The ice rink attracts visitors and residents of all ages and skill levels.
The pink La Cakerie food truck also provides hungry skaters with fuel in the form of award-winning cupcakes and pastries.
The Waterfront Partnership and many corporate sponsors support the rink, which will remain open through January 19.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Barclay's Turn for Some Revitalization

While much of Baltimore's development boom centers undeniably on waterfront neighborhoods, downtown, and several other hot spots such as Hampden, many other parts of Baltimore are also experiencing a notable renaissance. Telesis is building and/or renovating approximately 320 homes in central Baltimore's Barclay neighborhood, shown above. I love the cornices and the deep red color of the brick.
Residents of Barclay have easy access to Penn Station, the Station North Arts & Entertainment District, downtown Baltimore via the #8 bus line, Mother Seton Academy, a tuition-free middle school, and the Baltimore Montessori Public Charter School.
Though this photograph isn't particularly good, I included it to illustrate how the new homes (on the right) seem right at home adjacent to existing homes (on the left).
With a mix of apartments and town homes, both for rent and for sale, this development will serve people with a range of incomes, consistent with the goals of the city and the community. All of the homes incorporate environmentally-friendly building elements, and many are ADA-accessible as well. 
While all of the homes are handsome, I am particularly intrigued by the end unit with the turret. Good night from Barclay!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Cool Spots to Hang Your Hat

Dog washing station, anyone? The pet-friendly 520 Park apartment building, a historic Hochschild Kohn warehouse in Mount Vernon, offers this unique feature as well as bicycle storage, a gym, lounge, demonstration kitchen and much  more. Each of the 171 apartment homes has high ceilings, tall windows, high end finishes and historic details. Some of the homes boast large terraces, providing their lucky residents with enviable outdoor space, while other homes sport balconies. Tenants - most of whom are new to Baltimore - are drawn to the building's location in a walkable community with good transit options and easy access to schools, restaurants, coffee shops, bars, shopping, and cultural venues. In fact, very few residents own cars, preferring to get around by other means. When the urban retail marketplace opens in the ground floor of the building, residents will find even more to love about their new home.
The 153-unit apartment building, 2 E. Wells, is well underway in South Baltimore.  Residents of the building will live within walking distance Riverside Park, home of many sports leagues, the restaurants, shops and nightlife of Federal Hill, and the Charm City Circulator Purple Route.
Key's Overlook, 53 new town homes featuring "sky dens" and roof decks, is under construction in Locust Point, immediately adjacent to the stunning, award winning Silo Point, a historic grain elevator converted to luxury condos with an industrial-chic vibe and dramatic views. In 2009, Silo Point received the best high-rise project in the Americas by International Property Awards. In this photo, you can see Key's Overlook at the end of the street.

Nice corner windows!
The brand-new Jefferson Square at Washington Hill sits in the shadow of Johns Hopkins' east Baltimore campus, so naturally, Hopkins students and staff are a key target audience for this 304-unit building, which features outdoor courtyards complete with pool, fireplace and grills, a media room, business center, fitness center and more. Some of the apartment homes boast views of the harbor, and loft floor plans are available. Residents can walk to the restaurants, shops, and nightlife of Fell's Point and venture farther afield by taking advantage of the area's many transit options including the Circulator, JHU Shuttle, Metro and bus lines, or the on-site Zip Car station.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Elegant - and a Bit Artsy - Bolton Hill

This image captures a quintessential Bolton Hill street scene. Located in central Baltimore, Bolton Hill is known for its stately brick homes with exquisite architectural detailing inside and out.
Once home to F. Scott Fitzgerald, and the future president Woodrow Wilson, Bolton Hill is primarily a residential neighborhood, though it does boast one of Baltimore's best restaurants, B. This bistro, which I haven't photographed yet, earns consistently high marks for a welcoming atmosphere and delicious, seasonal fare.
The neighborhood also offers a few surprises in the midst of the row homes, such as two 19th Century brick cottages, one of which is pictured here.
Small parks, such as the one in this photo, and landscaped boulevards elevate Bolton Hill from a neighborhood of pretty homes to a great place to live. The communal pumpkin gathering in this photo makes me think that despite the sophisticated architecture of their homes, the residents have a playful side.
Though primarily comprised of single family homes, Bolton Hill also offers apartments and condominium options. The Beethoven Apartments,  shown here, offers one and two-story apartments, complete with high ceilings and hardwood floors, just as you would expect from such a refined neighborhood.
No discussion of Bolton Hill is complete without mentioning MICA, the Maryland Institute College of Art, a fantastic institution that deserves its own post. MICA's students and graduates have infused all corners of Baltimore with artistic sensibilities, through their volunteer work, exhibits and shows, adaptive reuse of old buildings, business development and innovation. Nestled on the eastern boundary of Bolton Hill, the school's physical imprint has expanded in recent years, both on the edge of the neighborhood and in the Station North Arts and Entertainment District, which also deserves its own post.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

So Many SoBo Restaurants to Love

Liv2eat Restaurant may have a kind of silly name, but the owners certainly take the food seriously. The menu in this South Baltimore (SoBo) charmer changes with the season to make the most of fresh, locally-sourced ingredients.
The City Paper recently voted Liv2Eat the best new restaurant in Baltimore, a well-deserved distinction. My friends and I dined here recently and had some ridiculously good risotto fritters. If you are looking for a nice restaurant with a great outdoor dining environment, this is it.

Something about Hersh's restaurant feels very sophisticated. Is it their Neapolitan pizza with the perfect crust, or their pasta, made in house? The television-less bar and welcoming bartender? Who knows, but Hersh's can transform your average Wednesday night into a special occasion (especially if you order the pizza with eggplant and chili oil). This photo does not do Hersh's justice, because I STILL have trouble taking blog-worthy indoor pictures (the photo above notwithstanding), so you will have to trust me that the atmosphere in Hersh's is worthy of a date with that special someone.
Located one block from the busy Cross Street Market area, Sobo Cafe has a thoughtful, nicely diverse menu, offering seasonal fare like pumpkin agnolotti, crowd pleasers such as pan seared salmon, and vegetarian entrees like sweet potato curry. Sobo's consistently tasty fare earns many kudos. Just this year, Sobo racked up the following awards: top 15 favorite first date restaurants (Baltimore Sun), top ten restaurants near stadiums (USA Today), and best lunch (Baltimore Magazine readers' poll).
One of the coziest spots in Baltimore to dine on pizza, especially if you are lucky enough to snag a booth near the fireplace, Pub Dog Pizza & Drafthouse serves some of the best individual, thin-crust pizzas around, topped with ingredients that really work well together.  For example, the Thai chicken pizza features Hoisin sauce, mozzarella, peanut marinated grilled chicken, roasted peanuts, shredded carrots and green onions. Pub Dog's house crafted beers, which they always serve in twos, have proven so popular fans can now purchase them to go at both Pub Dog locations (Federal Hill and Columbia), as well as liquor stores throughout the state.

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.

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.