Desire a romantic getaway, but not up for a long trek? Then consider a cozy weekend retreat, right in the heart of Charm City.
In neighborhoods such as Canton and Fells Point, a growing number of bed-and-breakfast hideaways offer a nearby escape. We've visited a handful in recent weeks and found the requisite comforts of home, along with easy access to assorted eating places, shops, cultural attractions and more.
When Ashley and Ellen Scarborough decided to open a bed and breakfast, the couple had already sampled dozens of inns along the East Coast.
"We stayed at a lot of B&Bs; and liked that lifestyle," explains Ashley, 62, co-proprietor of Scarborough Fair in Federal Hill. "We had never run one but thought it was a neat idea."
After extensive renovations, Scarborough Fair opened in February 1997.
Today, the historic townhouse (built in 1801) at Charles and Montgomery streets welcomes everyone from international business travelers to honeymooners to folks from the neighborhood.
Scarborough has six guest rooms, seven-and-a-half baths, double whirlpool Jacuzzis, four fireplaces and a full kitchen.
Ellen Scarborough's decor blends cottage coziness, Colonial ambiance and classic elegance. (Think brass beds, mahogany and oak furniture, country antiques.)
The location is also ideal: The harbor is only blocks away, as are Camden Yards, M&T; Bank Stadium and the Convention Center. Federal Hill's mix of restaurants, pubs and shops are all within walking distance.
"We have a relatively quiet place in the middle of the city," says Ashley. "It's country comfort, with city convenience."
Scarborough Fair Bed and Breakfast: 1801 Montgomery St. 410-837-0010. www.scar borough-fair.com
Long before Melanie and Sonny Sweetman met and married, each dreamed of owning a place known for fine food and comfort. Sonny was a Baltimore native, and Melanie was a native of Austria.
"We both studied hospitality management," explains Melanie, 32. "He was a chef; I worked as a restaurant and front-desk manager. He'd always wanted to open a business, and so did I."
After relocating from Naples, Fla., the couple, along with their family, launched Abacrombie Fine Food and Accommodations in Mount Vernon.
Previously called Abacrombie Badger, the B&B; portion of the West Biddle Street establishment was renamed in September 2002. Abacrombie restaurant (the former La Tesso Tana) followed in March 2003.
An easy charm permeates the 12-room B&B;, equipped with modern amenities such as voice mail.
Bedrooms are dubbed for their color palette and furnishings.
The airy Yellow Room is bright, with a great view of busy Cathedral Street. The masculine Hunting Room has a mahogany bed and paintings of hunting scenes. The downstairs breakfast nook is done in cheery red, yellow and orange tones.
Nearby are the Meyerhoff, Lyric, Charles Theatre and Baltimore Theatre Alliance.
If all that doesn't sway you, the restaurant (with Sonny at the helm) likely will. Imagine pan-seared swordfish, oven-roasted chicken and desserts such as vanilla bean creme brulee and banana spring rolls.
Abacrombie Fine Food and Accommodations is at 58 W. Biddle St. 410-244-7227 (a new Web site is in the works; meantime, visit www.badger-inn. com).
The Inn at 2920
Exposed brick, nouveau art and a sleek, clean interior design that conjures an Architectural Digest spread. Welcome to the Inn at 2920 - hip, trendy and definitely a far cry from your traditional B&B.;
"We have a different style," says Debbie Schwartz, 33, who opened the Canton business with husband David, 35, in 2001. "We love it when guests compare us to the boutique hotels."
Contemporary panache abounds at 2920 Elliott St.: a tin-copper ceiling, vivid steel sculpture and 26 windows.
The four rooms boast catchy names such as "Edge of the World" and "Bordello Room" - the latter quite popular with couples.
Each has snazzy electronics, Jacuzzis and such touches as a journal and goldfish.
Yet there is substance behind the style. A low-allergen property, the inn uses natural linens and materials, hypoallergenic cleaners and organic products for dietary needs.
David, a former executive chef with the Hyatt Regency in Atlanta, prepares gourmet meals for guests. On a recent visit, the treat for the day was brownies prepared with white chocolate, roasted almonds and chocolate ganache.
Inn at 2920 in Canton, 2920 Elliott St., 410-342-4450, 877-774-2920; www.theinn at2920.com.
How did a television editor and a fashion buyer wind up running a B&B;?
Just ask Nancy and Kevin Kupec, the new owners of Celie's Waterfront Inn in Fells Point.
The couple relocated to Baltimore from Hoboken, N.J., in April last year; they refurbished 1714 Thames St. and reopened in July.
"A few people told us we were giving up great jobs, and we'd have no time to ourselves," says Kevin, 31. "But we both had this dream."
The inn has nine rooms, and amenities include comfy love seats, fireplaces, whirlpool tubs and private balconies and harbor views. The inn also has a garden atrium, courtyard and rooftop deck.
Guests hail from all over the world, lured by the neighborhood's historic and nautical ambiance, 18th- and 19th-century architecture, cobblestone streets and specialty shops.
In season, the water taxi transports guests to nearby sites such as Little Italy and the Inner Harbor.
"We like the company of people," Kevin says. "We like meeting them and sharing stories. That's the best thing."
Celie's Waterfront Inn, 1714 Thames St. 410-522-2323; www.celieswaterfront.com.
For more regional trips, see Page 41.