InterContinental Harbor Court Baltimore

I knew I was in for something special when my first impression of Baltimore's InterContinental Harbor Court was of a gentleman in a topcoat blowing leaves from the entrance. Presidential Suite

Formerly the Harbor Court Hotel, which opened in 1986, the property was reflagged as an InterContinental in April 2006. Upgrades to the hotel include new bedding and flat-screen TVs in guest rooms, as well as fully renovated bathrooms. There's now high-speed and wireless Internet access throughout the hotel; and in public spaces, refinished wood, brass and marble surfaces and fixtures, as well as new floors; and a revamped hotel entrance, courtyard and gardens. Exterior

The InterContinental Harbor Court has a great location, not only across a road to the waterfront, but also in walking distance of the aquarium, science center, downtown business district, Harborplace mall, local ferry service, convention center and the Baltimore Museum of Art. The city's baseball and football stadiums are also nearby. Lobby staircase

The InterContinental's 195 guest rooms and 22 suites are harbingers of the 2,000 hotel rooms (including a 756-room convention center Hilton scheduled for 2008) that are coming onto the market in downtown Baltimore, which is experiencing a renaissance. For the time being anyway, this is the city's top hotel, frequented by luminaries from the worlds of sports, medicine, higher education, literature and music. This writer, for one, can vouch for the latter: I stayed at the hotel during a music festival and bumped into two headliners in the lobby. Fast Facts

The top accommodation is the Presidential Suite, which, in addition to two bedrooms and two and a half baths, has a living room with a baby grand piano and fireplace, dining room that seats 12, kitchen and wet bar. Six 1,000-square-foot Corner Suites and 12 Junior Suites, which are 720 square feet, all have Jacuzzi tubs and four-poster beds; some have canopies. Three Parlor Suites also have harbor views, as well as a second bathroom and dining table. Throughout the property, views are either of the harbor or the hotel's courtyard; harbor views are of course preferable.

View of Baltimore's harbor from the Presidential Suite

The hotel's 5,000-square-foot rooftop fitness center is impressive for a smallish hotel: There's an indoor pool, racquetball and squash court, sauna and whirlpool, exercise room, outdoor tennis court, half basketball court and a small spa with an ambitious list of services.

Dining options include the elegant local destination restaurant Hampton's, which serves American cuisine with a water view, and Brighton's, a more casual outlet that, in addition to three meals a day, also presents an unusual-for-Baltimore afternoon tea. On the lower level there's also a spot for gourmet coffee and sandwiches to fuel up for sightseeing. The Explorer's Lounge is a unique boite (and smoker's haven) with murals of monkeys and elephants and a leopard-print carpet.

Business Travel Manager Kristina Kooken (410-347-9702, [email protected]) is the travel agent liaison; Steven Parker (410-347-9707, [email protected]) is the general manager. The commission rate varies.