Do you need to get away quick? Do room service and a maid sound just fabulous? Travel doesn’t always have to be far away from home (just far enough!). Could it be as easy as checking into a local luxury hotel that is part-treat and part-escape? When you travel as much as I do, sometimes a hotel can be just another hotel. There are two nearby hotels that surprised me with their incredible views, luxurious but affordable prices and staff who make everyone feel VIP. And guess what? They are both in two cities that are worth spending more time in — Baltimore and Philadelphia.
Four Seasons Baltimore
It’s time to take a fresh look at Baltimore, just a couple hours from Philadelphia by Amtrak or by car. The city best known for the Inner Harbor, the Baltimore Ravens, John Waters and Devine has an upscale, sleek and sexy new vibe that is definitely worth a weekend getaway.
This modern and unstuffy hotel has commanding views of the Inner Harbor. The hotel is located in the neighborhood of Harbor East, a refined mixed-use section of Baltimore with shopping, dining, residential and harbor activities. Harbor East defies what you think you knew about Baltimore.
While not inexpensive, the Four Seasons Baltimore is a great value, especially compared to the über-luxury brands in the close-by cities of Manhattan and Washington, D.C. You get all the service and amenities at a more-affordable rate. OK, you might not run into celebrities or political powerhouses, but this hotel is clearly for the young, professional and hip.
Need a break? Try the 10,000 square-foot spa, which stands out with the views, the privacy and the luxury. Each treatment room is well-appointed, and there are private men’s and women’s relaxation rooms. Spa treatments range from the deep tissue to hot stone and instant anti-aging active-peel facials. Check out the “Ignite the Spark” spa hotel package that includes overnight accommodations, spa treatment for two, parking and other fun amenities.
Unlike other downtown hotel pools, the Four Seasons’ outdoor infinity-type pool just calls for summer relaxation with a cocktail. Be sure to hit the expansive, modern gym before you take in the rays.
To book or for more information, visit www.fourseasons.com/baltimore.
Baltimore is known for crab. Don’t miss the crab cake at Wit & Wisdom by Michael Mina, which offers American comfort food. Wit & Wisdom is impressive and stylish with a menu that entices you to try new foods with ease. This is a foodie-must in Baltimore.
Hotel Monaco, A Kimpton Hotel
Six months ago, Philadelphia welcomed Kimpton’s second property. This property is cool, hip, fun and offers the LGBT traveler one thing no other hotel can offer: a view of Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, as well as the Pennsylvania historic marker acknowledging the Annual Reminders, July 4 demonstrations in the 1960s that petitioned for equality for all in our community. Maybe it was because the Supreme Court was hearing arguments for (and against) our community’s civil rights during my recent stay that made my visit to this grand hotel, in the Lafayette Building at Fifth and Chestnut streets, even more important than the view of the Eiffel Tower from a boutique Parisian hotel.
San Francisco-based Kimpton Hotels is well-known for its commitment to our community. But that is not the only reason you should stay at this fabulous hotel. You stay for the sexy showers with a view of history, the roof-top bar and, of course, the complimentary Wi-Fi, if you are a Kimpton loyalty card member.
Jeff Guaracino is vice-chair of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association and the author of “Gay and Lesbian Tourism: The Essential Guide for Marketing.”