New parents take baby steps toward family travel with a three-day getaway to Annapolis
Date: Washington Post, December 6, 2016, Kris Coronado
“Hold that boat!”
One thing I’ve learned as a new stay-at-home mom is to make the most of life between my baby’s naps and mealtimes. That’s why I ran past the yachts and sailboats anchored along “Ego Alley” in Annapolis, Md., to flag down the Harbor Queen before its last daily departure at 4 p.m
Moments later, my husband, Sean, and our 10-month-old daughter, Juniper, basked in the early fall sunshine atop the double-decker boat as we took a 40-minute tour along Annapolis Harbor, taking in sights that included a sailboat race, a Naval Academy football team practice and a cameo by Woodwind II, the schooner that Christopher Walken pretends to sail in “Wedding Crashers.”
The outing came at the tail end of our three-day getaway, our first solo vacation as a young family. We had settled on this early fall trip to the small, coastal city after booking — and then canceling — a trip to Bar Harbor, Maine, after realizing that the prospect of flying and sharing a hotel room with a baby, while doable, didn’t sound all that relaxing.
A perusal of Airbnb presented an ideal alternative: A renovated, historic rowhouse in downtown Annapolis. A stone’s throw from the water, restaurants and shops, it had two bedrooms — and advertised a portable crib for guests with babies. We pounced on a Sunday-to-Wednesday stay.
We stashed our car at a nearby parking garage and proceeded to enjoy the everything-within-walking-distance existence we hadn’t experienced since moving to the suburbs of Richmond in summer 2015.
Al fresco dining became our forte. A combination of cooperative weather (it hovered between 70 and 72 degrees), being there during the quieter slice of the week and having an early schedule enabled us to eat wherever we wanted. With our portable high chair (similar to a camping chair) in tow, we ordered crab-stuffed avocado and shrimp and grits on the brick sidewalk outside Iron Rooster, a popular eatery that I hadn’t considered trying because Yelp.com users had bemoaned long waits. On other days, we noshed on sushi and edamame on the back patio at Joss Cafe & Sushi Bar as jazz played over outdoor speakers, and munched on creatively stuffed baked potatoes at Potato Valley Cafe at a table along State Circle. The sidewalk spots served us best because the foot traffic (especially dog walkers) kept Juniper’s head on a swivel while she pinched the finger foods we had brought along.
When we weren’t eating, we were on the move. Ambling along the downtown drag, Main Street, we stopped at Hats in the Belfry to gander at vintage-style toppers, pushed our stroller along City Dock to gaze at National Sailing Hall of Fame sloops and passed a dozen historical walking-tour guides in colonial garb awaiting tour buses packed with middle schoolers. While strolling through the well-manicured, two-acre garden at the William Paca House, we admired the yellow lantana flowers and sleepy peach trees.
The key to keeping our family adventure meltdown-free can be reduced to one simple mantra: Respect the nap. During Juniper’s short morning snooze, we dressed and plotted next moves. When she slept in the afternoon, we relaxed and took turns heading out solo. Our execution wasn’t always perfect. After getting a pedicure at Kosmo Nail Bar, I returned with wet toenails in salon-provided flip-flops so Sean could go sample beers at Chesapeake Brewing Company, only for him to realize they opened an hour later. Then Juniper woke up. It wasn’t a total loss: Armed with an overstuffed diaper bag, we caught that ride on the Harbor Queen instead.
That’s another reason our trip worked: Being prepared allowed us to be adaptable.
Having researched sandwich spots before our trip, we didn’t have to guess whether the Big Cheese & Sammy’s Deli was a good bet when we happened across it before lunch. (If we needed further convincing, they were filling a 73-sandwich order for the U.S. Naval Academy football team.) Although we’d hoped to picnic with our well-stacked pastrami and mozzarella and prosciutto sandwiches on the Maryland State House grounds, official signage indicated otherwise.
No matter. Our pad’s primo location allowed Sean to bop there and back in minutes, returning with our high chair slung over his shoulder. We set up on a bench facing the Old Treasury Building, the oldest public building in the city, as the walking tours we’d spotted earlier trooped through intermittently, spouting historical anecdotes.
Moments like these were also made possible by a reliable, silent partner: the rowhouse. Although we spent most our waking hours outside it, the ability to traipse “home” in minutes was gold. Having access to a full kitchen, den and one-and-a-half baths for the price of a hotel room made what time we spent indoors convenient and easy. Juniper could zoom around the first level’s hardwood floor in her walker as I chopped the kiwi she would eat later. A full fridge gave us ample baby-food storage. A washer and dryer were on standby for diaper disasters. The home’s contemporary style — including black-and-white depictions of Maryland landmarks such as the Bay Bridge and the Thomas Point Shoal Light — added to its appeal.
When I had told my friends we were headed to Annapolis, some said we should leave the baby with relatives. Yet as I watched Juniper sit atop a centuries-old cannon outside the State House, her legs kicking gleefully as Sean held her in place, I couldn’t imagine the trip without her.
Coronado is a freelance writer in Midlothian, Va. Her website is kriscoronado.com .
IF YOU GO
Where to eat:
12 Market Space
Take a break from Pusser’s and McGarvey’s and give a younger kid on the block a try. This trendy spot serves breakfast all day, including five variations of eggs Benedict ($14 to $19). Entrees run $21 to $36, while a waffle burger sets you back $13. Go early and, if weather permits, eat outside.
The Big Cheese & Sammy’s Deli
47 Randall St.
Want to brown-bag it? Dozens of options await at this friendly, no-frills cheese-and-sandwich shop. Options range from the basic ($3.75 for peanut butter and jelly) to the downright intriguing. For example, an “Uncle Hotsy” includes roast beef, cream cheese, roasted pineapple habanero sauce and jalapeño peppers in a challah roll for $8.25.
Potato Valley Cafe
47 State Circle #100
We tried this low-key spot for the novelty of its dedication to serving a smorgasbord of baked potatoes. You can order sandwiches and salads, too — but then you’d miss packed potato creations like Cuban chicken (with Cheddar cheese, roasted onions, chili-lime sour cream, greens and corn chips, $9) or beef chili and Cheddar (chili, onions, Cheddar, greens and corn chips, $9.)
What to do:
William Paca House and Garden Tour
186 Prince George St.
Bookmark the guided walking tour of the former home of Maryland’s third governor for another time and stick to more baby-friendly environs by taking a self-guided stroll in the 18th-century mansion’s idyllic outdoor grounds. $5 per person. Closed January and February; open weekends in March, daily from late March through Dec.; Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sundays noon-5 p.m.
Annapolis Harbor Cruise by Watermark
After your little one has had a good nap or meal, see if you can squeeze in a narrated 40-minute, family-friendly tour of the harbor. A diaper bag stuffed with toys and snacks made for a breezy (a.k.a. no tantrums) experience. Open, depending on weather, Oct. 22 to mid November. A special, 45-minute Jolly Express Cruise is offered now thru Dec. 31. $16 adults, $6 children ages 3 to 11, children age 2 and younger free.