10 things to see and do in Chengdu, China - United Hub

10 things to see and do in Chengdu, China

By The Hub team

When travelers think of China, they often think of Beijing, the capital, and Shanghai, the country's largest city and financial hub. They may also think of Sichuan Province, known for its spicy food. But inside of Sichuan Province is the city of Chengdu, the birthplace of the Southern Silk Road, Taoism and famous brocades and embroideries. It has been transformed into one of western China's global hubs, making it one of the country's cities to watch.

For those planning a trip to China — for business or pleasure — try and squeeze in a few days in Chengdu. You can get there on our Boeing 787 Dreamliner flights out of San Francisco International Airport.

Below are 10 reasons why this up-and-coming city should be on your travel list.

Panda at Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding

1. Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding

Six miles outside of Chengdu, the research base for Giant Pandas was created to replicate the natural environment of China's world-famous giant pandas. It offers the endangered species a safe place for breeding and raising cubs.

2. Wenshu Monastery

This Buddhist monastery in the northern part of Chengdu was built during the Sui Dynasty (605 BC–617 BC) and rebuilt in 1697 after being burned down in a war during the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). It is well-known for a restaurant that serves different varieties of green tea and what has been called the best vegetarian food in the city.

3. New Century Global Center

This 18-million square foot facility has been named the largest building in the world, ranked by floor space. It has a massive mall with retail stores, restaurants, a skating rink, a water park with a beach, an IMAX theater, a replica of a Mediterranean village and the luxurious Intercontinental Hotel.

Popular street food in Chengdu

4. Jinli Ancient Street

The opposite of the New Century Global Center, Jinli Ancient Street is the place to go for traditional Sichuan foods such as Zhong dumplings, sweet dried persimmon, bobo chicken and the city's legendary spicy dan dan noodles. The street also features shadow puppet performances and is a great place to shop for locally produced gifts.

5. Wuhou Temple

After walking through Jinli Ancient Street, go to Wuhou Temple, built in 223 AD. It houses the mausoleum of King Liu Bei, a leader during China's Three Kingdoms period (220 AD–280 AD). The temple also features cultural relics from that period, and it became an official state museum in 1984.

6. Sichuan Opera House

Visiting the opera in Chengdu is considered a must-do activity. The opera house offers performances that are colorful, musical, comedic and acrobatic. Ticket prices start at 150 yuan, depending on the performance, the time of year and available seats.

7. A Thousand Plateaus Art Space

Get a feel for Chengdu's art scene at A Thousand Plateaus Art Space, a gallery that represents visual artists. Among them are Xiong Yu, who teaches in the arts department at Sichuan University and specializes in oil paintings, and Shi Jindian, whose works are based on the destruction and reconstruction of real objects.

Mount Qingcheng and the Dujiangyan Irrigation System

8. Mount Qingcheng and the Dujiangyan Irrigation System

Mount Qingcheng is considered the birthplace of Taoism, and it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is home to the Tang Dynasty's Jianfu Palace, the Shangqing Palace, built to worship the three supreme deities in Taoism, and the Tianshi Cave, a major temple built during the Sui Dynasty. The site also includes the Dujiangyan Irrigation System, built in 256 BC and still used today on 668,700 hectares of farmland.

9. Wide and Narrow Alley (Kuanzhai Xiangzi)

Considered one of Chengdu's historical and cultural landmarks, the alleys date back to the Qing Dynasty and represent phases of city life. The wide alley, known as "leisurely life," features Chengdu folk culture; the narrow alley, known as "slow life," is dedicated to showing the life of Chengdu natives; and the well alley, known as "modern life," features restaurants, nightclubs, retail shops and a wedding site.

10. Sichuan Museum

The nearly 500,000 square-foot Sichuan Museum boats more than 160,000 cultural relics native to the province. Among its exhibits are the skull of Ziyang Man, dating from 30,000 BC, and artwork by renowned artists from China's Tang (618-907) and Song Dynasties (960-1279).

Now that you know about all the great things to see and do while in Chengdu, visit united.com or use the United app to plan your adventure.

United flights to China

Chengdu is not our only destination in China. We started offering nonstop flights to China in 1986 and currently serve Chengdu with nonstop flights from San Francisco; Beijing with nonstop flights from Chicago, New York/Newark, San Francisco and Washington/Dulles; Shanghai with nonstop flights from Chicago, Los Angeles, New York/Newark and San Francisco; and Hong Kong with nonstop flights from Chicago, Guam, Ho Chi Minh City, New York/Newark, San Francisco and Singapore.

Cape Town: A first-timer’s guide to the Mother City

By Eric Rubens , December 07, 2019

Eric Rubens (@erubes1) is a MileagePlus member based in Southern California. He is a photographer/videographer who loves meeting new people and traveling the world.

When planning a vacation, one of the first steps is picking a theme. If you're in search of mountains, many look to the Rockies, Swiss Alps, or Dolomites. If a tropical vacation is desired, Hawaii, Mexico, or the Caribbean may be calling your name. There are so many beautiful destinations in this world, but is it possible for one of them to be blessed with incredible mountains, picturesque beaches, and some of the best wildlife viewing in the world?

Cape Town is one of the few places I've found that seems to have it all. With the iconic Table Mountain and Lion's Head rising out of the city, there are hikes leading up to majestic views down the African coastline. The beaches of Clifton and Camps Bay are some of the most incredible beaches on this planet. If wildlife peaks your interest, there's Boulder's Beach, home to one of the only land-based penguin colonies in the world. Did I mention the safari is a short trip away? Add in an exchange rate that is very favorable and you have all the makings of a trip you'll never forget.

Camps Bay Beach

Planning a trip to Africa for the first time can be both intimidating and a bit challenging. I found very few of my friends or family had been, which made my voyage to South Africa even more exciting. Cape Town is home to a hip urban scene, a vibrant melting pot of culture, and jaw dropping landscapes that'll make you wonder why you didn't visit sooner. There's no city quite like it, and this list of top things to do will make sure you maximize your time in the Mother City. Several theories exist regarding the origin of Cape Town's nickname as "The Mother City." Some say it can be traced back to the beginning of the city's history as a trading hub in the 17th century, or its status as South Africa's first metropolis. But many locals have their own theories – one running joke is that it takes nine months to get anything done in the very laid back city.

View from the top of Table Mountain

#1: Take a hike or tram up to the top of Table Mountain

This iconic mountain rising from the city is arguably home to Cape Town's best views. The 2 to 3-hour hike to the top makes for a fun activity if you're up for it. Otherwise, take in the view from the aerial cableway, complete with 360-degree rotating floor and running every 5 minutes from the base. Once up top, there's plenty of walking trails, souvenir shopping, and food and drinks. Table Mountain is known for the blanket of fog that rolls over the peak, so weather at the top can change quickly. Make sure to check the weather before heading up and bring a jacket, since the wind can be intense!

Penguins at Boulder Beach

#2: Visit the penguin colony at Boulder's Beach

Even though it's an hour or so drive from the city, visiting Boulder's Beach and its nearly 2,000 penguins is an unforgettable experience. Watching the penguins lounge on the beach and come in and out of the waves makes for some incredible pictures and a unique encounter. You can also swim in the nearby waters and will often come face to face with members of the colony.

#3: Wake up for a sunrise hike up Lion's Head

One of the most bucket list-worthy activities on a visit to Cape Town is catching sunrise atop Lion's Head. It's a challenging hike and not for those with a fear of heights, but you won't soon forget the view from the summit. If you're willing to scramble and make your way up the final ladders, 360-degree views of the city await, and the sunrise over the city is one for the ages.

#4: Explore the Cape Winelands and the beauty of Constantia

South Africa has some of the best vineyards in the world. Even though the towns of Franschooek and Stellenbosch get the majority of the press, nearby Constantia is home to the oldest wine estate in the country, Groot Constantia. Its proximity (just 15 minutes from the city center) makes it perfect for a day trip. The city sightseeing "Hop-On Hop-Off" bus tour has a purple line that connects through this region, so getting here is easy! If wine tasting isn't your thing, the Alphen Trail is a beautiful trek through the countryside and sure to put you in a relaxing mood.

Chapman's Peak Drive

#5: Take a road trip down Chapman's Peak Drive

One of the most beautiful drives awaits just south of Cape Town. Carved into the cliffs and winding along the ocean, this road between Hout Bay and Noordhoek offers majestic views of the coastline. Just make sure to keep your eyes on the road since the sheer beauty can be distracting!

#6: View the diversity of flora throughout Kirstenbosch Gardens

The flora and fauna of South Africa is some of the most diverse in the world, and no place showcases it better than Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. Tucked along the slopes of Table Mountain and widely recognized as one of the most impressive gardens in the world, Kirstenbosch is home to over 7,000 species of plants. The newly completed Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway allows you to walk above the tree line. If you visit in summer, try to make one of the Sunday concerts in the gardens, which are a hit with locals and visitors.

V & A Waterfront

#7: Shop your heart out along the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront

Known as one of the biggest tourism hubs of the city, the always bustling V&A Waterfront is home to many of Cape Town's finest restaurants, shopping, and the launching point of many tours. There are countless ways to spend your time here, but make sure to stop by the V&A food market, where over 40 vendors sell gourmet street food from around the world.

#8: Make your way to the Southern tip of Africa

If you're up for an adventure, take a trip to The Cape of Good Hope. You'll most likely encounter penguins, baboons, and who knows what else along the 1.5-hour drive. The weather can be very unpredictable, so make sure to check it before making the trip south. While there, visit the lighthouse and if you're hungry grab a bite at the appropriately named Two Oceans Restaurant.

#9 Take a tour of historical Robben Island

Even though the prison has been shut down since 1996, a visit to this UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of Cape Town's most popular tours. Tours take around 4 hours including a ferry ride to the island famous for housing Nelson Mandela for 18 of the 27 years he was imprisoned.

Insider tips:

-Use the "hop on hop off" bus for an easy guided tour of the city. The route takes you to many of the best spots throughout Cape Town and allows you to explore at your own pace. Buy tickets ahead of time to save on fare!

-Cape Town has some incredible boutique hotels and bed & breakfasts. My favorites are: Tintswalo Atlantic, 52 De Wet Luxury Boutique Hotel, and Derwent House Boutique Hotel.

-Make sure you don't carry too many valuables on you if you're walking around at night. Although beautiful and mostly safe, there is still a good amount of opportunistic crime throughout the city. Always pay attention to your surroundings.

You can purchase tickets now at united.com or on the United app for three weekly nonstop flights from New York/Newark to Cape Town beginning December 15.

Opinions expressed by the author are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of United.

Say Halo to Curaçao

By Bob Cooper , December 06, 2019

Planning a Caribbean vacation around hurricane season isn't necessary if you head to Dutch-affiliated Curaçao. The southernmost of all Caribbean islands — just off Venezuela's coast — is rarely even grazed by hurricanes. It also has an ideal tropical climate with average winter highs in the 80s (and water temperatures to match) and only about one inch of rain a month.

Curaçao will be more accessible beginning December 7, 2019, when weekly nonstops begin from New York/Newark on United Airlines. The new seasonal service on 737-700 aircraft makes Curaçao the 21st Caribbean island destination for United, which already flies to the other two nearby "ABC islands" — Aruba and Bonaire. Why choose Curaçao? Because like the island's famous blue liqueur, it's colorful, exotic and appealing.

Settling in

Jet lag won't be an issue for Americans flying to Curaçao because it's in the same time zone as New York. Nor is it a long flight — about five hours nonstop from New York/Newark. Upon arrival you can take a taxi, rental car or hotel shuttle from Curaçao International Airport to your accommodations — a resort (reserve early), boutique inn, vacation house or B&B. Most are in Willemstad, a coastal city only five miles from the airport.

Forts above the port

Straat Curaçao Getty Images/iStockphoto

The historic city center and harbor areas of Curaçao's only city of Willemstad are designated as a UNESCO Heritage Site, mostly for the 17th to 19th century Dutch colonial architecture of the houses and forts. The houses are painted a rainbow of bright colors in the Caribbean tradition, and the city is packed with forts — Fort Amsterdam (built in 1636), Fort Beekenburg (1703), Fort Nassau (1797) and Fort Waakzaamheid (1803). All four offer stellar views and are free to visitors.

On the waterfront

Curacao colorful houses Getty Images/iStockphoto

Along with forts, the harbor area is home to the oldest continuously operating synagogue (and museum) in the Western Hemisphere, an African art museum that tells the story of the slave trade through West African art and artifacts, and a maritime museum. These visits can be followed by a tour and tasting at the Curaçao Distillery, where you'll see how the peels of the native Laraha bitter oranges are turned into curaçao liqueur.

Snorkel from the sand

Two people snorkeling off coast of tropical island Getty Images

The chief allure of this 38-mile-long island is, of course, the ocean. Besides sunbathing at any of the dozens of powder-sand cove beaches, you can wade right in and snorkel in the turquoise, bathlike sea, usually around 80 degrees. Visibility is up to 100 feet, a snorkeler's dream. More adventurous types can snorkel or dive from day boats that head to prime diving sites like the Mushroom Forest (mushroom-shaped coral), Blue Cave and several shipwreck spots. There's also a nice aquarium on the shoreline where marine life is seen up close in their natural habitat —from land or aboard a minisub that dives 1,000 feet.

Ready, set…

Curaçao is a convenient tropical destination for Americans because U.S. dollars and credit cards are commonly accepted, English is widely spoken and no visa is required. But the local culture and cuisine are still exotic enough to be intriguing with local specialties like stewed iguana and cactus soup served in restaurants and from food carts in Willemstad.

If you go

Flight reservations from New York/Newark (EWR) to Curaçao (CUR) can be made at united.com on the United app. Use miles to reserve a hotel, rental car or both with MileagePlus®.

Fantasy Flights: Making holiday wishes come true

By The Hub team , December 04, 2019

One of our most treasured events of the year is here – Fantasy Flights! Our Fantasy Flights bring holiday cheer to children in need by taking them on a special trip to the "North Pole." Each station creates a North Pole with care, in preparation for all the children who will soon be there…

Our participating stations this year are HNL (Honolulu), FRA (Frankfurt), CLE (Cleveland), DEN (Denver), IAD (Washington Dulles), LAX (Los Angeles), SFO (San Francisco), MCO (Orlando), ORD (Chicago O'Hare), GUM (Guam), EWR (New York/New Jersey), NRT (Tokyo-Narita), PHX (Phoenix), IAH (Houston), MCI (Kansas City) and SAT (San Antonio).

Please stay tuned for stories, photos and more from these magical events. #UAFantasyFlights

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