This story originally appeared in the November 2019 issue of ESSENCE.
Travelers flock to Baltimore for many reasons: crab cakes, the Inner Harbor, quaint shops and restaurants, the blues, jazz, history. I went for The Ivy Hotel. Located in the historic Mount Vernon district, the 18-room property opened in 2015 and is already lauded as one of the world’s most exceptional boutique accommodations.
From the moment you arrive, you’ll understand why. The gracious concierge greets you at the curb by name, confirming that your customer profile has been studied in preparation for your stay. Then, discreetly, the bellhop is instructed to manage your luggage as you’re escorted from the lower lobby up to the second-floor Conservatory for a chilled glass of bubbly and an introduction to historical grounds that date back to the late 1800’s.
The Conservatory is the hotel’s most modern room. The sun-filled room serves as a social space for guests and evokes a feeling of walking into the home of a well-traveled, eccentric friend who enjoys vintage furnishings. It overlooks the courtyard to the left and the city’s storybook alleyways to the right. And this is only the entry point. As you make your way through the long corridor into the peerless mansion, you can’t help but admire the Picasso-esque murals created by Maryland Institute College of Art students.
Sixty local artisans contributed to The Ivy’s avant-garde aesthetic. Hoteliers Eddie and Sylvia Brown thought it was important to bring a first-class lodging experience to their hometown that reflects their unique travel style. “After visiting many countries and enjoying gracious hospitality, to have Baltimore be on the giving side of this hospitality was intriguing,” says Sylvia. “There are more and more Black people who have traveled extensively, who are seeking extraordinary experiences, and they don’t have to break the bank to get them here.”
Guest rates start at $429 per night, with high-end amenities included, such as a daily chef-made breakfast, a fully stocked in-room refrigerator, private car service, afternoon tea—the list goes on. The common areas are also worth a mention. Help yourself to complimentary cocktails at the fully stocked Mansion Bar. Mingle with diverse travelers in the Tea Room or the Library. Brush up on your chess, poker and billiard skills in the Game Room or curl up with a book by the fireplace— there are 23 throughout—and just chill.
Every detail at the hideaway is well thought out, exuding luxury yet retaining its lived-in, contemporary atmosphere with a warm flush of nostalgia. The Ivy is not dripping with antique heirlooms that celebrate the Black experience; it has other qualities, not the least of which is a distinctive charm that makes visitors feel like family, so they keep coming back.
With five different dining areas and a cross-cultural menu that features dishes like Corn-crusted Fried Oysters and Roasted Saddle of Colorado Lamb, Magdalena, The Ivy’s fine-dining bistro, is one of Baltimore’s most exceptional restaurants. Enjoy the Salt and Smoke cocktail (Pelotón de la Muerte Mezcal, Cointreau Orange Liqueur and fresh lime juice) and order the Sticky Toffee Carrot Cake for dessert.
Indulge: Spa at the Ivy
Each service offered at the Spa at The Ivy Hotel is customized to meet guest needs and focuses on beautification through wellness. “A great number of people, men and women, are exposed to significant amounts of stress,” says spa director Nicole Colavito. “Receiving a holistic spa experience is an investment in your health. Massage therapy can help reduce anxiety and lessen the effects of stress and depression.” Relaxing in luxury is well worth the splurge.
THE BLACK LIST
A Few of Our Other Faves Around the World
URBAN COWBOY, NASHVILLE
The fundamental principle at this rustic B&B is to have a good time. urbancowboy.com
VILLA LOLITA, JAMAICA
This luxurious getaway is one of the most exquisite properties on the island, offering private suites and exceptional views. villalolita-tryall.com
JNANE TAMSNA, MOROCCO
From calligraphy classes for children to camel rides through the palm grove, a mélange of experiences awaits you. jnanetamsna.com
SPICE ISLAND BEACH RESORT, GRENADA
Spice Island’s intimate, all-inclusive retreat is Grenada’s only recipient of the AAA Five Diamond Award. spiceislandbeachresort.com
SALAMANDER RESORT AND SPA, MIDDLEBURG, VIRGINIA
Discreet luxury meets modern style for an unforgettable adventure in the state’s famed horse and wine country. salamanderresort.com
LA MAISON MICHELLE, BARBADOS
This jewel provides everything the Caribbean lifestyle has to offer in the most elevated way. lammbarbadosvilla.com
LA MAISON IN MIDTOWN, HOUSTON
The newly constructed three-story haven is a peaceful oasis in the heart of the city. lamaisonmidtown.com
LA CREOLE BEACH HOTEL & SPA, GUADELOUPE
The casual, relaxed atmosphere makes this an ideal choice to escape from the mundane. creolebeach.com
AKWAABA BED & BREAKFAST, WASHINGTON, D.C.
Located in trendy Dupont Circle, this historic townhouse has rooms named after Black literary greats Langston Hughes, Toni Morrison and Zora Neale Hurston. akwaaba.com