A guide to the top culinary cities in the U.S. - United Hub
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A guide to the top culinary cities in the U.S.

By The Hub team , January 29, 2016

Great food and culture go together, and if you're planning a visit to one of the cities below you won't be disappointed. You'll find everything from pizza to gourmet, BBQ to soul food, and even healthy fare in these award-winning foodie cities. Our culinary guide serves up 10 picks, all boasting a wide variety of cuisine, and as a bonus, you'll find cultural and calorie-burning activities to do between feasting.

Charleston: Served with graciousness and charm

It's one of the politest, friendliest cities in the U.S., making Charleston's award-winning culinary delights all the more inviting. If you are craving soul food, head to Jestine's, and try the fried catfish with melt-in-your-mouth cornbread. Splurge at Husk, with its superb cuisine, served in a gracious, circa-1893 Queen Anne home. You won't want to miss Charleston's Farmers Market, a 200-year tradition. In between meals, view Rainbow Row's pretty pastel homes, and then relish the sea breeze on Charleston's coast.

Portland, Oregon: Enjoy fresh foods in this green city

The nation's bicycling capital on the Columbia River encourages you to burn the calories it tempts you to consume. Portland's award-winning restaurants are a foodie's dream. At Lincoln Restaurant, Jenn Louis — a farm-fresh chef — makes luscious pasta dishes from scratch. If you can't decide what to eat, sample your way through the year-round Portland Farmers Market. Then explore the progressive city by rented bike, wander Forest Park, or lose yourself in Powell's City of Books.

Honolulu: Ride the surf to local delights

In Honolulu, don't settle for mainland foods Hawaiianized with a pineapple slice. "Nana I ke kumu" means looking to the source within, and many award-winning chefs and growers' markets extend this to food sources. While here, take a dip in Waikiki's waters or walk in the footsteps of royalty at Iolani Palace. Famed Japanese-American chef Roy Yamaguchi of Roy's restaurants opened his restaurant in Honolulu offering international and Hawaii inspired fare. For home-style Hawaiian cooking, head to circa-1946 restaurant Helena's Hawaiian Food.

Austin: Keeping it weird and wonderful

Austin's unofficial motto “Keep Austin Weird" embraces creativity, and that includes the culinary scene. (Austin won the honor of Condé Nast's America's Best Food Cities in 2014.) Food trucks and diners don't take a back seat here. Savor weirdly delicious meals like the hot dog topped with peach salsa at Down Home Diner or a breakfast taco from the food truck Veracruz All Natural. Follow the acclaimed barbecue trail to nostalgic Franklin Barbecue. After you eat, dance off the calories in the Music Capital of the World.

San Francisco: Multicultural foods and festivals

The City by the Bay will capture more than your heart. Watch chefs at work on Avital Tours and then gather for gourmet foods and wine at the Ferry Building Marketplace and Bluxome Street Winery. Some say America's obsession with local food radiates from San Francisco, and in this tradition, Zuni Cafe serves some of the best roasted chicken. At State Bird Provisions, it's encouraged to take your dishes dim sum-style off waiters' platters. Last but not least, head to Craftsman and Wolves for San Francisco's famous sourdough, and then explore Golden Gate Park.

New York: From pizza to fine dining and everything in between

The Big Apple's eateries consistently win awards from a long list of travel experts. No surprise, considering its cultural richness. Among the city's most enjoyed culinary adventures are pizza and fine dining. Dubbed New York City's best pizzeria, head to legendary Totonno's Pizzeria Napolitano on Coney Island where they've been making pizza for 89 years. Dine with locals at Ludlow Hotel's Dirty French and savor classics with delightful global twists such as the duck l'orange with Moroccan spices. Or try the many tasting counters for a fun twist on dinner. Next, indulge in after-dinner drinks at one of the city's many ambrosial cocktail bars. In between, peruse the array of galleries, stores and luxury boutiques.

New Orleans: Creole and the birthplace of jazz

Creole — Dire Straits sang this one word with a sound that sums up the culture of New Orleans and its cuisine, which melds French, Spanish and West African traditions. Sample old favorites, like gumbo at Commander's Palace and world-famous Bananas Foster invented by Brennan's. The Big Easy is also known as the birthplace of jazz, so after you indulge in the Creole cooking, head straight to one of the city's many jazz clubs. For old-style NOLA jazz head to The Spotted Cat or if you are looking to dance the night away head to The Davenport Lounge inside the Ritz-Carlton.

Philadelphia: City of Brotherly Love deserves plenty of foodie love

Philadelphia, with its indie style and gastronomical delights, has grown into a foodie city of its own right. When in town, make sure to visit High Street on Market. According to Travel + Leisure, the bakery/restaurant combo has some of the best artisan breads and pastrami ragù. Or, combine historical sightseeing and food at one of Philly's top tourist destinations, Reading Terminal Market. The historic market features hyper-local vendors peddling everything from handmade trinkets to Amish goods, and for your sweet fix, visit Bassetts Ice Cream, established in 1861. Another must-try is Philly's iconic cheesesteak, made traditional-style with sliced rib-eye and melted cheese.

Seattle: Enjoy forest-to-plate and fresh seafood in the Emerald City

Though most visitors know this city's claim to great seafood and coffee, Seattle restaurants also offer local food fresh from the garden, sea or forest. Coupled with its adventurous, James Beard-award-winning celebrity chefs, Seattle has given foodies around the world something to talk about. Seattle specializes in New American, French and Asian food with a Pacific Northwestern twist — think berries, wild salmon, Dungeness crab and forest foods. Watch the sunset over a plate of fresh seafood at Ray's Boathouse, or eat while you shop while exploring the year-round Pike Place Market. Walk off the calories at Kerry Park with its breathtaking backdrop of Mount Rainier, and end your day at the Park with a modern-day fairytale view of the city lights, the Space Needle and Puget Sound's ferries aglow.

Kansas City, MO: Beef up on the barbecue in this Midwestern gem

One of the best barbecue cities, Kansas City boasts more than 100 barbecue joints. Barbecue with the KC trademark almost always includes hickory-smoked meat topped with a molasses-tomato sauce. Then there are burnt ends — the flavor-packed brisket chunks. For a great introduction to KC barbecue, head over to BB's Lawnside BBQ. A KC institution (the owner founded the Kansas City Blues Society), BB's Lawnside BBQ offers great food with a side of world-class blues entertainment. For fine dining, try an aged steak and cocktail at Pierpont's where the mixologist manages a 30-foot mahogany bar. After dinner, view the architectural wonders of 1914-built Union Station and take a walk around the iconic Country Club Plaza modeled after Seville, Spain.

Indulging in cuisine, experiencing local culture and enjoying good company is all part of the fun of exploring a new city. And if you're one of those who choose a destination based on its culinary offerings, all the more reason to visit one of these cities. Visit united.com or use the United app to experience great food. Happy travels.

Marvelous sites to local hideaways: the expert’s guide to Toronto

By Nick Harper

Canada's largest city spreads out along the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario, and it's a dynamic, multicultural and inclusive experience like almost no other place on earth. Not only is Toronto a thriving living city,it's also become one of the world's truly must-visit destinations. Regularly ranked as one of the greatest places to live, Toronto is the cultural center of the country and home to the biggest events, the most pro sports and the greatest concentration of theaters and restaurants.

Recent decades have seen regular multi-million-dollar upgrades to the city's public spaces, with a slew of great museums, iconic architecture and the redevelopment of the now glittering lakefront adding to the city's appeal.

Add in an ever-growing number of world-class hotels, upbeat nightlife that runs from dusk until dawn and a vibrant and diverse culinary scene influenced by the eclectic makeup of the city's people. Bright and bustling, cosmopolitan and cultured, unpredictable and energetic, Toronto has become one of the greatest cities on earth.

What you see and where you go will depend on the length of your stay. A week is good, longer is better. But even a long weekend will give you a taste of 'The Six' — one of the city's many nicknames, reworked recently as 'The 6ix' by one of its most famous sons, Drake.

However long you stay, you can't hope to see it all. So, consider what follows a starting point for your first visit…

City Hall, Toronto City Hall, Toronto

The checklist sites

No visit to The Six can be considered complete without ticking off several of Toronto's true heavyweight sights. All of the following are in or within easy reach of the city's compact, walk-able and very vibrant center.

The CN Tower is unmissable in every sense, a vast freestanding spire that looks down upon the city and takes its place as one of the 'Seven Wonders of the Modern World'. Head up for the city's best 360-degree views, or get your heart racing on the EdgeWalk — a journey around the circumference of the tower's main pod, 116 stories high and tethered by a harness.

Back on solid ground, Ripley's Aquarium is almost right next door to the CN Tower and is home to 16,000 aquatic animals and the Dangerous Lagoon. A moving sidewalk that whisks you through a long tunnel surrounded by sharks and stingrays is guaranteed to make your heart race all over again.

Ripleys Aquarium Ripleys Aquarium

Also close to the CN Tower is the Rogers Center, home to Canada's only baseball team, the Toronto Blue Jays. Visit on game day for the full experience, or take the stadium tour to go behind the scenes and through closed doors.

In a city of so many museums and galleries, the Royal Ontario Museum stands out. Not just because it's home to a world-class collection of 13 million artworks, cultural objects and natural history specimens, but as much because it hosts exciting Friday night events that include dance, drink and top DJs.

Two other must ticks include the Art Gallery of Ontario, which houses 95,000 works of art and is free for visitors under 25, and the Hockey Hall of Fame, which taps into Canada's national obsession in stunning depth.

Art Gallery of Ontario Art Gallery of Ontario

Casa Loma is a must-visit Gothic castle in the heart of the city. North America's only castle is filled with artworks and treasures from Canada and beyond, but its big pull is the network of hidden tunnels to explore as they stretch out beneath the city.

Casa Loma Casa Loma

Toronto's multi-cultural makeup is visible all across the city but reflected best in its remarkable culinary scene (see Where to eat and drink). The city's 'fresh and local' mantra is perfectly showcased at St. Lawrence Market, one of the world's greatest food experiences. Pay it a visit and grab a peameal bacon sandwich — a Canadian staple invented in Toronto and now considered the city's signature dish.

St. Lawrence Market St. Lawrence Market

Afterwards, walk off the calories by wandering the historic cobblestone and car-free Distillery District. Once a vast whiskey distillery and an important spot during prohibition, historians mention that even Al Capone would visit the Distillery to load alcohol destined for the States[9] . This iconic landmark now distils creativity within the 19th century buildings now home to hip restaurants, bars, independent boutique stores, galleries and theaters. Visit in December for the Toronto Christmas Market.

Finally, don't even think about returning home without having had a picture taken with your head poking through an 'O' of the multicolored, 3D Toronto sign at City Hall — the most Insta-worthy location in a city of so many. You'll need to head there early in the morning to avoid the crowds.

If you stay long enough, take a ferry and hop across to Toronto Islands, a chain of 15 small islands in Lake Ontario just south of the mainland. They're home to beaches, a theme park and a breathtaking view of the city's skyline and will very happily fill a full day of your stay.

The bucket list

You absolutely cannot leave Toronto without having witnessed the power of the Niagara Falls and its hypnotic mist up close. Trying to visit the Falls from the States is a trip on its own, but it's almost non-optional when you're less than two hours away in Toronto. Take the trip, buy the T-shirt and tick off one of the world's must-see sights.

Explore like a local

Away from the sleek, gleaming towers of downtown lie many of Toronto's less obvious but no less essential attractions. West Queen West is Toronto's hippest neighborhood and artistic heart, a one-mile strip of very chic galleries, stores, restaurants and boutique hotels. Kensington Market is a fantastically chaotic neighborhood and perhaps the best example of the city's famous multiculturalism. It's not a market as the name implies, but a collection of independent shops, vintage boutiques, art spaces, cafés, bars and restaurants from every corner of the globe.

The Bata Shoe Museum is one of the city's quirkiest collections, an unexpectedly fascinating exhibit that retraces the 4,500-year history of footwear. And as you wander the city, you can't fail to notice that Toronto's walls are alive with graffiti. Take a free 90-minute walking tour through the back alleys of Queen Street West and down Graffiti Alley to gain a better understanding of the city's street art scene. If you visit during the sunnier months, escape the hustle by heading just east of the center to High Park, the green heart of the city where forests, walking trails, picnic spots and even a zoo await you. Ideal to unwind after a long day of urban adventures.

The essentials

When to go With the sun shining, May through October is a great time to visit, but the city is alive through all four seasons. The Spring and Autumn months are ideal as the humidity and visitor numbers are lighter, while Toronto comes alive through the colder months through a wide array of winter celebrations. One of the most spectacular is the Aurora Winter Festival, a six-week celebration that sees the Ontario Place, West Island transformed into four mystical worlds. Whichever season you choose, plan to stay for at least five nights to get a true flavor of the city.

Toronto skyline view Toronto skyline view

Where to stay To be at the heart of most of the attractions you'll want to see, aim for downtown. One of the best options is the Marriott City Center, not only because it's located right next to the CN Tower but also because it's attached to the iconic Rogers Center where the Toronto Blue Jays play and countless concerts and popular events are held.

Toronto Blue Jay stadium Toronto Blue Jay stadium

Opt for a Stadium room and you'll look out onto the field. If you want to experience Toronto's non-stop nightlife, the Entertainment District is the place to be. If you're looking for a luxury experience, discover Canada's first St. Regis hotel in the heart of downtown.

Where to eat and drink Nowhere is Toronto's incredible diversity more evident than in its food scene — taste Toronto and you're tasting the world. The city is brimming with restaurants and cafés serving everything from high-end fine dining to comfort food from an informal neighborhood joint — plus every option imaginable in between.

For fine dining, consider Alo, Canis and Edulis. Book a table at Canoe, Lavelle, The One Eighty or 360 at the CN Tower and you're guaranteeing a view as spectacular as the food. Or experience the city's remarkable fusion food at DaiLo (French-Cantonese), El Catrin (Mexican-French) and the unexpected mashup of Rasta Pasta (Jamaican-Italian).

The above suggestions don't even scratch the surface of a food scene to rival any city on earth, with options to suit every taste and any budget.

How to get around Toronto is perfect to explore on foot or via a growing network of cycle routes. For a quicker journey, buy a Presto card to use the TTC, Toronto's subway, streetcar and bus system.

How to get there Fly into Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) with United and you're around 15 miles west of the city center. The most comfortable route in is via the Union Pearson Express, which runs every 15 minutes and gets you downtown in 25 minutes ($13).The TTC is a cheaper option at under $5, but it can take an hour and a half and involves a number of transfers, while a taxi will take around 30 minutes and cost $45.

United flies to Toronto from numerous U.S. cities including our Hub city locations. Book your trip via united.com or by downloading the United app.


Taking action to make a global impact

By The Hub team , January 17, 2020

Following the devastating wildfires in Australia and powerful earthquakes that shook Puerto Rico last week, we're taking action to make a global impact through our international partnerships as well as nonprofit organizations Afya Foundation and ADRA (Adventist Development and Relief Agency).

Helping Puerto Rico recover from earthquakes

Last week, Puerto Rico was hit with a 5.2 magnitude earthquake, following a 6.4 magnitude earthquake it experienced just days before. The island has been experiencing hundreds of smaller quakes during the past few weeks.

These earthquakes destroyed crucial infrastructure and left 4,000 people sleeping outside or in shelters after losing their homes. We've donated $50,000 to our partner charity organization Airlink and through them, we've helped transport disaster relief experts and medical supplies for residents, as well as tents and blankets for those who have lost their homes. Funding will go towards organizations within Airlink's partner network, which includes Habitat for Humanity, Mercy Corps and Americares, to help with relief efforts and long-term recovery.

Australian wildfire relief efforts

Our efforts to help Australia have inspired others to make their own positive impact. In addition to teaming up with Ellen DeGeneres to donate $250,000 and launching a fundraising campaign with GlobalGiving to benefit those impacted by the devastating wildfires in the country known for its open spaces and wildlife, our cargo team is helping to send more than 600 pounds of medical supplies to treat injured animals in the region.

Helping us send these supplies is the Afya Foundation, a New York-based nonprofit that seeks to improve global health by collecting surplus medical supplies and delivering them to parts of the world where they are most needed. Through Airlink, the Afya Foundation will send more than $18,000 worth of materials that will be used to treat animals injured in the Australian fires.

These medical supplies will fly to Melbourne (MEL) and delivered to The Rescue Collective. This Australian organization is currently focused on treating the massive population of wildlife, such as koalas, kangaroos, and birds, that have had their habitats destroyed by the recent wildfires. The supplies being sent include wound dressings, gloves, catheters, syringes and other items that are unused but would otherwise be disposed of.

By working together, we can continue to make a global impact and help those affected by natural disasters to rebuild and restore their lives

Help us (and Ellen DeGeneres) support wildfire relief efforts in Australia

By The Hub team , January 08, 2020

Australia needs our help as wildfires continue to devastate the continent that's beloved by locals and travelers alike. In times like these, the world gets a little smaller and we all have a responsibility to do what we can.

On Monday, The Ellen DeGeneres Show announced a campaign to raise $5 million to aid in relief efforts. When we heard about Ellen's effort, we immediately reached out to see how we could help.

Today, we're committing $250,000 toward Ellen's campaign so we can offer support now and help with rebuilding. For more on The Ellen DeGeneres Show efforts and to donate yourself, you can visit www.gofundme.com/f/ellenaustraliafund

We're also matching donations made to the Australian Wildfire Relief Fund, created by GlobalGiving's Disaster Recovery Network. This fund will support immediate relief efforts for people impacted by the fires in the form of emergency supplies like food, water and medicine. Funds will also go toward long-term recovery assistance, helping residents recover and rebuild. United will match up to $50,000 USD in donations, and MileagePlus® members who donate $50 or more will receive up to 1,000 award miles from United. Donate to GlobalGiving.

Please note: Donations made toward GlobalGiving's fund are only eligible for the MileagePlus miles match.

In addition to helping with fundraising, we're staying in touch with our employees and customers in Australia. Together, we'll help keep Australia a beautiful place to live and visit in the years to come.

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