Baltimore's Inner Harbor is home to many of the city's top tourist destinations: Families enjoy visits to Port Discovery and the Maryland Science Center, shoppers browse the numerous stores of Harborplace Mall, history lovers tour the Constellation, and nearly everyone, it seems, stops in at the National Aquarium. The aquarium is by far Baltimore's top tourist attraction, drawing more than 1.6 million visitors per year, according to the Baltimore Convention & Tourism Board. The Inner Harbor is also home to numerous hotels, including most of the top chains as well as one-of-a-kind boutique lodgings.
Hampton Inn and Suites Baltimore Inner Harbor
Hampton Inn and Suites is perhaps best known for being the closest hotel to Camden Yards, where the Baltimore Orioles play ball. Other Inner Harbor attractions are also within walking distance, as is M&T Bank Stadium, home to the Baltimore Ravens. If you're in a hurry to get out and experience everything Charm City has to offer, you'll appreciate the hotel's free On-the-Run breakfast bags, which are offered on weekdays. A complimentary breakfast buffet is available every day, even on weekends -- and no one will stop you from stuffing a few portable items into your own bag. If you do have a little time to linger, the heated indoor pool is a great place to relax and unwind, or, if you prefer, you can work out in the fitness center.
Sheraton Inner Harbor
The Sheraton Inner Harbor is yet another hotel that boasts of its baseball connection -- in fact, it is the official headquarters hotel of the Baltimore Orioles. That means that the Sheraton is able to offer a special "Take Me Out to the Ballgame!" package, complete with lower left field box tickets and free pre- or post-game drinks at the hotel's own Orioles Grille. Other special features of this hotel include an indoor pool, a fitness center and Morton's the Steakhouse on site.
Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel
The Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace's main claim to fame, according to several sources, including USA Today and the Ballparks of Baseball website, is that it serves as the official host hotel to a number of visiting MLB teams. As befits a hotel regularly hosting star players such as Big Papi and Ichiro, the hotel offers luxurious accommodations with features such as individual climate controls, mini-fridges and in-room safes. Room service is available from 6 a.m. to midnight, and the hotel also features a restaurant with locally sourced regional cuisine, lounge and coffee shop. An indoor pool, fitness center and whirlpool are open year-round.
Pier 5 Hotel
The Pier 5 Hotel is, as the name indicates, located right on the water. In fact, if you want to avoid the hassle of city driving and parking fees, you can even get around by the nearby water taxi. In addition to offering an unparalleled view of the harbor itself, the hotel is also beautifully decorated in bright jewel tones -- a far cry from the bland beige favored by some hotel chains. A variety of specialty rooms are available, including suites with Murphy beds, walk-in closets, two bathrooms and an oversize whirlpool tub. While the Pier 5 Hotel allows you easy access to every attraction in the Inner Harbor area, plan to spend some time hanging around the hotel itself. Every weekday at 5:30 p.m. brings Crabby Hour, where you can learn to make crab appetizers while sampling local wines and microbrews. Saturday afternoons offer a chocolate bar with three fountains of milk, dark and white chocolate and a huge pile of fruit, cake and cookies for dipping. If you're still hungry after all that indulgence, you don't have far to go, as two of Baltimore's premier restaurants, Ruth's Chris Steakhouse and McCormick & Schmick's, are located just off the hotel lobby. If you feel the need to burn off some of those calories, Pier 5 provides a one-day guest pass to nearby health club MAC Wellness with each night's stay.
- constellation at inner harbor pier image by Jorge Moro from Fotolia.com