Peace and quiet is just a short walk from the hot spots


July 20, 2006|By SAM SESSA

Weak-stomached readers be warned - this column's mush factor is 10 out of 10.

While bars and clubs are great destinations, sometimes you want a quiet, romantic spot to sit and talk. That's one of the things I really like about this city - even in the busiest neighborhoods, there are calm little oases away from the hustle. Here are three of my favorites. Also, send me some of your favorite quiet spots around town - my e-mail is at the end.

The Inner Harbor

This first spot took me by surprise - especially considering its location: the grassy knoll ringed with greenery at the tip of Pier 5, next to the Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse. If you start at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, walk east, around Chipotle, across the small bridge and past McCormick & Schmick's. I've heard that people get married out there, and I can see why - this area seems miles away from the sea of noisy tourists milling around the two pavilions. Called the Lighthouse Garden at Pier 5, it's owned by the Pier 5 Hotel, though as long as there aren't any events planned, the hotel folks don't mind if you sit out there.

Last weekend, a handful of couples and families strolled around the garden, but it was otherwise unoccupied. Without many people to distract you, it's easy to get lost in the harbor view.

Federal Hill

Though it might seem a little immature, your inner child will go nuts over this: the swing sets in Federal Hill Park. The park is a 10-15 minute walk from Cross and Light streets, and though it gets a decent amount of foot traffic, the swing sets are usually empty after 9 p.m.

Being well out of elementary school, I had no urge whatsoever to get back on a swing set, but my girlfriend dragged me out there one night, and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed swinging. Once you get going, the first few high swoops give you a little rush, like they did when you were just old enough to remember. It's even more thrilling if you close your eyes and feel the air on your face.

After about 15 minutes of swinging one night, we were interrupted when some kids showed up and were shocked to see a grown couple on their swing sets, so we sheepishly slid off. But we'll definitely be back.

Fells Point

Slip down South Broadway until it hits water, and keep going past Shucker's and to the right. There's a whole stretch of sidewalk and waterfront benches - usually unoccupied after dark. The area's well-lit and much quieter than the rest of Fells, though you still might hear some Harleys, hoots and hollers in the background. (You are, after all, on the opposite side of the same block as Leadbetters.)

Unless there's a strong wind blowing, the harbor is usually calm, and you can watch the fish kick up ripples on its surface. The water's too murky to peer deeper than an inch or two, but one time my girlfriend and I saw a disabled crustacean swim by. (I later named it Karl the One-Clawed Crab.)

The benches don't have bum guards, which makes it easier for two people to sit side-by-side and stare out across the Patapsco or look lovingly at each other.

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