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Arizona's outdoors in the spring

By Bob Cooper

This may be the best time of year to visit Arizona — and not just for relaxing by the pool. Smart travelers flock to the state in May, June and July for hotel rates that are often lower than the peak-season rates paid by winter “snowbirds" from northern states. But resort bargains and swimming-pool temperatures aren't the only reasons to visit Arizona at this time. There are also plenty of outdoor opportunities to enjoy, as long as you choose the right activities, locations and time of day to get out.

Desert Dawn peak climbs

Residents of Phoenix and Tucson who like to get outdoors in late spring and early summer know they can best enjoy short hikes by rising early. The busiest time on the trails is before 8 a.m. The most popular hiking paths in Phoenix and Scottsdale climb iconic mid-city peaks, which span from the desert floor up to panoramic views at the top. The hikes up Camelback, Piestewa and Pinnacle Peaks are all wonderful, well-marked and popular — each taking less than two hours roundtrip. In Tucson, the best short hikes are in Sabino Canyon and Saguaro National Park on the outer rim of the city.

Madonna and Child Rock in Sedona, Arizona

Hikes in the mountains

Phoenix and Tucson visitors who aren't early risers or who don't want to settle for short hikes can drive to spots where the temperatures and mountain vistas are similar to those in Colorado. Only a two-hour drive from Phoenix, you can head to Sedona, with an altitude of about 4,300 feet, or Flagstaff, with an altitude of about 6,900 feet, where the higher elevations mean much lower temperatures. Sedona has some of the world's most dramatic day hikes among its stunning red-rock formations, while Flagstaff offers mountain hikes that soar up to 12,600 feet, such as Humphries Peak Summit Trail. From Tucson, the usual triple-digit temps drop to the 60s during the twisting, 90-minute drive up 9,157-foot Mt. Lemmon. Trails through the sub-alpine forest await hikers at the summit.

Paddle the Verde River

Another good way to beat the Arizona heat is to get splashed by cool water — but not just in your resort pool. You can also take a dip in the Verde River in an inflatable kayak. Verde Adventures hosts guided trips down the river through the end of summer. You'll paddle through narrow limestone canyons and float past hardwood forests on the shallow river, which has plenty of tame rapids that are just adventurous enough to please both the thrill-seekers and the mild-adventurers. You can choose between a kid-friendly two-hour tubing trip or half-day inflatable kayak trip, or enjoy the Water to Wine Tour with an adult companion, which ends with a tasting at Alcantara Vineyards. You'll be driven the short distance to the river from Cottonwood or Clarkdale, both less than a two-hour drive from Phoenix.

Jeep tour in Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park in Arizona.

Jump in a Jeep

Following along the dusty dirt roads that rim the edges of Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tucson and Sedona, the Jeep tour is a classic option for visitors to Arizona. The 4x4 Jeep probably won't be air-conditioned, but the wind and Arizona's rich red earth will be in your hair. Less adventurous options include tours in enclosed Hummers or vans. After bumping along scenic back roads for miles, many Jeep tours offer a “cowboy cookout" at a pretty spot in the desert or mountains before you return to civilization. From Phoenix, Scottsdale or Tucson, most Jeep tours venture into the Sonoran Desert, while Sedona Jeep tours bring you up close to its renowned red-rock formations.

Hot air balloons in the horizon of Arizona's Red Rock State Park

Up, up & away

Arizona's dry air makes it one of America's prime locations for hot air balloon rides. Colorful balloons lift off in the cool temperatures and low winds of sunrise from all over greater Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tucson and Sedona, often providing a champagne breakfast afterward. Some also offer sunset flights; one Phoenix company serves hors d'oeuvres from a gourmet restaurant after evening landings. Prevailing winds dictate whether you'll fly up to a mile high or close enough to the ground to spot desert wildlife, but regardless, it's a memorable bucket-list thrill.

If you go

United Airlines offers many daily flights to Phoenix and Tucson. Visit united.com or use the United app to plan your Arizona outdoor adventure getaway.

Weekend inspiration: Palm Springs

By Kelsey + Courtney Montague

After a combined 60-plus years of living in cities with snowstorms and cold weather, this winter we decided it was time to pack away the parkas in exchange for a month of sun in Palm Springs.

And it was heaven. 70-degree days filled with morning swims, long walks without a jacket and joyful dogs running around the backyard. Working on murals throughout the valley in perfect drawing conditions was paradise for us, considering we were typically working in freezing weather with pale skin, chapped lips and cracking knuckles. We found our new January normal.

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Our month in paradise consisted of many highlights, so if you're in town for a few days, here are some of our favorite spots.

Friday night

If you're looking to rent a place in Palm Springs, we recommend Relax Palm Spring on Airbnb. They have more than 60 rentals in the Coachella Valley area, and we loved the house we stayed in. Every single thing we needed was available on-site or just a phone call away with this professional vacation rental group.

Rooms at The Colony Palms Hotel

Az\u00facar restaurant at La Serena Hotel.

If you're looking to go the hotel route, we highly recommend The Colony Palms Hotel. This Spanish Colonial-style hotel features high-end casitas and a sweet hotel pool with stunning mountain views. La Serena Villas has a similar small-town feel with a wonderful restaurant attached. Further outside of the downtown area, Parker Palm Springs is a stylish and creatively fulfilling place to stay and play.

No matter where you stay, we recommend Azúcar for dinner (at La Serena Hotel). Make sure you get the watermelon appetizer, refreshing with bursts of sweet balsamic beads trickled over the top. You'll feel like a kid at the pool in summer all over again.

Saturday

Get up early and head to Palm Desert. Make your way over to Wilma & Frieda at The Gardens on El Paseo for one of the best breakfasts you'll find in the valley. The pastries are all excellent and homemade. The dishes are creative with items like "churro waffles" and "banana caramel French toast."

After breakfast, stop by Kelsey's giraffe mural at the Gardens on El Paseo (directions found here) to give her giraffe a kiss. Then drive up the highway to The Living Desert.

The Living Desert Zoo & Gardens is an incredibly well-designed zoo that takes advantage of the stunning desert scenery with every animal exhibit.

On your way back, stop for a sweet treat at the café at Shields Date Gardens for one of their legendary date shakes. Wander through the 1950's feeling diner and gift shop and into the 17-acre date garden. These shakes are a Palm Springs staple and worth every delicious calorie.

For lunch, wander around the hotel lobby at Parker Palm Springs to admire their excellent interior design decisions before heading into Norma's restaurant for an al fresco lunch.

If you have time, spend the afternoon at Joshua Tree National Park. The blend of Mojave and Colorado deserts results in a unique and stunning landscape. Begin your tour/hike at one of the visitor centers. From here, you can go on a relaxed half-day tour with a guide or head out on one of the 12 self-guiding nature trails.

Spend sunset here or head back downtown to enjoy the sunset at The Colony Palms Hotel's Restaurant, The Purple Palm, with a quality craft cocktail. After sunset, make your way to the popular Italian restaurant Birba for dinner. Birba boasts excellent pizzas with a wide variety of interesting toppings. Be sure to make reservations beforehand.

Sunday

Spend the day exploring Palm Springs. Go to Cheeky's for breakfast, but make sure to get there early, as a line forms before the doors even open. Their world-famous bacon flight is a must – it's unique and so tasty.


Palm Springs boasts an unbelievable amount of art experiences. Experiential art, art museums and mid-century Modern Design galore. If you can, try to visit Palm Springs during their Modernism week in February. Be sure to get tickets to their house events and tour some of the most breathtakingly beautifully designed houses. And if you're lucky, Desert X might be around during the same time and hunting for art installations throughout the valley, which would be quite the sight.

If a large art fair isn't happening while you're in Palm Springs, we highly recommend heading to the City of Coachella. Their downtown boasts some incredible murals and Kelsey was honored to join the ranks recently. Kelsey completed a pair of "What Lifts You" wings that are colorful and an ode to the Hispanic roots of the community on the side of City Hall.

A trip to Palm Springs isn't complete without a picture with the Cabazon Dinosaurs. Made famous through their feature in movies like National Lampoon's Vacation and The Wizard – it's an Instagram-worthy stop.

For lunch, head back to downtown Palm Springs and enjoy a healthy meal at the charming restaurant Farm. Tucked into an interior courtyard, this restaurant feels like you've stepped into the French countryside. It's healthy, clean food even tastes like the South of France with their traditionally French dishes.

Walk off your lunch by exploring the boutiques in Downtown Palm Springs. These mid-century modern shops are not to be missed: A La Mod, Modernway, Vintage Oasis and The Frippery.

Complete your weekend with dinner at the chic Workshop Kitchen + Bar. Their wine cellar is massive and their waiters expertly trained. Trust them to find a new and different flavor for you – something you'll remember long after your weekend in Palm Springs.

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The day off: Silicon Beach

By The Hub team

Story by Justin Goldman | Hemispheres, March 2019

Los Angeles's ongoing tech boom—which in the last few years has seen the building of Google and Yahoo! campuses on a parcel of Playa Vista that was once Howard Hughes's private airfield—has earned the Westside the nickname Silicon Beach. Got a day off in La La Land? Here's how to spend it on the beach.

8 a.m.

Opener: Courtesy of Shutters on the Beach; Above: Jakob Layman

Beat the line at Huckleberry Bakery and Cafe by getting to the Santa Monica institution right when it opens. You'll feel very West Coast if you order the organic quinoa and market vegetables bowl (made with ingredients from the renowned Santa Monica Farmers Market, just down the street), but if you want to treat yourself on your day off, opt for a stack of the café's signature pancakes.

10 a.m.

Duffy Archives, Courtesy of the Peter Fetterman Gallery

The Westside has long drawn an artsy crowd. Take in that vibe at Santa Monica's Bergamot Station, a former trolley stop and industrial warehouse that's now a complex of more than 20 galleries. Don't miss the photography at the Peter Fetterman Gallery (pictured above) or the modern and contemporary works at Latin American Masters.

12 p.m.

Courtesy of the Stronghold

Venice is SoCal's boho capital, and the ever-trendy Abbot Kinney Boulevard is its main commercial artery. Splurge on a Lewis Leathers motorcycle jacket at The Stronghold (pictured above) or a flower-print dress at Stone Cold Fox. Congratulations: Your credit card statement now rivals your student loans.

2 p.m.

Courtesy of Gjusta

Take a number at the über-hip deli and bakery Gjusta. Be prepared to wait a while before you order, and you'll need sharp elbows to fight for a seat on the patio, but the hassle is worth it for the tuna conserva sandwich.

4 p.m.

Head back to your hotel, Shutters on the Beach. Change into some sneakers and jog down to Muscle Beach to see some bodies that have clearly not been enjoying the food at Huckleberry or Gjusta, then beat a retreat to your balcony. Open your shutters (truth in advertising!) and watch the sun sink behind the Santa Monica Pier and into the Pacific.

7 p.m.

2016 Wonho Lee

Dinner is at one of the toughest tables in LA, Felix Trattoria, Esquire's best new restaurant in America for 2017. Chef Evan Funke cut his teeth at Spago, and now he cuts handmade pastas in a glass-enclosed kitchen at the north end of Abbot Kinney. Don't miss the perfectly al dente orecchiette with sausage sugo.

9 p.m.

Wonho Frank Lee

For a nightcap, take a seat on the patio at Makani, a new Korean-influenced spot on Venice's up-and-coming Rose Avenue. Try a Doctor Bird's Sour (rum, orgeat, bitters, and lemon) from the rum-centric cocktail list, plus—why not?—Manila clams with chile de árbol and wood-fired ciabatta slices. The only thing prettier than the fare on your table is the oh-so-SoCal crowd tippling around you.

Three Perfect Days: Newark

By The Hub team

Story by Richard Morgan | Photography by Ricky Rhodes | Hemispheres, March 2019

America's third-oldest major city—it predates Philadelphia by nearly 20 years—is also its most unsung. Newark began, in 1666, as the last Puritan utopia in the New World, and 353 years later, it's full of the kind of minor miracles not taught in Sunday school. In the shadow of New York City, it has found its own light. Its arenas teeter between pro hockey and Korean pop. Presidents have been staying in its hotels since the days of Woodrow Wilson. There are swaths of town you need to understand Portuguese to navigate. Now, buoyed by renaissance and more than $2 billion in development, Newark isn't even Newark anymore. It's Nork—which is how the locals say it. If you're not even pronouncing its name correctly, what else don't you know about this city?

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Day 1

Diving into Newark's rich history

Beans at T.M Ward Coffee


In the beginning, there was coffee. Fragrant roasted beans, piled high in open burlap sacks, exude come-hither aromas at T. M. Ward Coffee. The variety is extraordinary: Lunch With Elvis tastes like peanut butter and banana; World Cup is a mix of Brazilian and French roasts; and the one simply called Wow lives up to the name. I go for a cup of the 1869 Blend, which has been served here on Broad Street since the shop was founded in the blend's namesake year. It's smoky and muscular. I picture Thomas Edison starting his mornings with the same brew, when he set up his first workshop in an empty factory here.

But a day of Newark's history should start even earlier, so I walk up Broad to Market—which was, in the 1920s, the busiest intersection in the country, even more bustling than Times Square—and duck into the Old First Church, where the city began in the mid-17th century. At the time, being a member of the church was synonymous with being a Newarker. Later, Aaron Burr's father was a pastor, and the college that became Princeton University held its first commencement there. And it's said that slaves on the Underground Railroad would listen to sermons by creaking open trapdoors in the nave, which is as old as the Constitution.

In that same worship space, alone, I kneel and pray. In the silence I hear a whisper become a shout: my growling stomach. Coffee alone is not a breakfast! So I take a cab to Caffe Espresso Italia, a decades-old mother-and-son Italian operation, to order its famous balsamic mozzarella dish, a bowl of peppers and mozzarella soaked in balsamic vinaigrette. God's will be done.

"What do you make?" owner Maria Pugliese asks me, as she fields a request for her sauce recipe from a fellow patron. "I'm a writer," I say. "So I guess I make words." She tosses me a look only mothers give. "Everyone makes words," she says. "Me? I make food. I make sauce. Not everyone can do this. What can you make?"

GlassRoots instructor Jason Minami

My make-or-break move is GlassRoots, where I join a small class—me and a father and son—as our instructor, Alix Davis, walks us through creating our own paperweights over the course of a few hours. First we sign waivers. Waivers? We're making paperweights!

The introductory lesson involves spooling 2000°F molten glass onto a white-hot metal rod. "That's it?" I ask Davis. "Oh, I got this. I used to spool cotton candy at a cart at the state fair." Two minutes in I realize I most definitely do not have this. "Oh no!" I shriek. "I got too much on the stick!"

Davis is a paragon of calm: "It's OK. Just pull it out of the furnace and we'll see what we can do." I rally. "OK, I'm taking it out now and … Oh no! I made it worse!" My molten globule hits the wall of the furnace hellmouth, sticks to it like gum on a shoe, and then stretches and splashes and lashes everywhere in molten ribbons and blobs and puddles (oh, hi waiver!). Imagine making a smoothie without the blender's lid—and the blender is full of radioactive lava taffy. After I somehow manage to sculpt my molten glob into a sphere, sparks shooting all the while ("Am I doing it? I can't tell because I'm blinded by fear!"), I turn to the son—a high school junior who is next up to make a paperweight—and put a swaggering hand on his shoulder. "Heads up," I tell him. "It's a lot harder than I made it look."

As we're wrapping up, Davis says something thrilling: The best way to recover from sweaty glassmaking is a salty meal, preferably something like… But I'm already out the door. I know the spot.

The No. 5 Sandwich at Hobby's Delicatessen & Restaurant

The corned beef sandwich at Hobby's Delicatessen & Restaurant is so good that Brendan Byrne, the former New Jersey governor, brought one with him to the White House in 1979 for the signing of a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. Every little bit helps.

The deli was founded about 100 years ago —long before Newark's game-changing 1967 riots—and is such a throwback that it has a small bar from the days of three-martini lunches. I ask Marc Brummer, one of two sons who run the family business, what's good. He pats his belly and says, "This is menu development and quality control." He sits me down for a No. 5—a half-pastrami, half–corned beef sandwich that is a sumptuous dive into a salty, juicy, blissful abyss. In between lip-licking bites, I ask what it's like to eat deli food every day for almost 60 years. He says he lost 40 pounds, and when I pause to stare him into honesty, he smiles: "I can put it on ya deliciously, and I can take it off ya deliciously." (Hobby's has had a vegetarian menu since 2014.)

The owners pf Dan's Hats & Caps, Daniel J. Phillips and Daniel J. Phillips II

I waddle out of Hobby's and into Dan's Hats & Caps, an old-school haberdashery selling dozens of varieties of newsboy caps, fedoras, and Panama hats. I continue on to Art & Artifacts of Newark, which is equal parts art gallery and renegade garage sale, showcasing and selling vintage typewriters, a massive dollhouse, a large model of the inner ear, a Chinese parasol, and a life-size plastic zebra. For starters. This hodgepodge belongs to Matthew Gosser, who scavenges from various abandoned or derelict sites across the city. Sometimes he gathers the bits and pieces into sculptures, like one of a massive robot in The Thinker's pose. I look at his trove, treasures untold, and wonder how many wonders can one storefront hold? Looking around here, I think—wait, haven't I heard this before? Sure, there's no silverware-studded candelabra, but in the jungly chaos of his collection's tribute to the city's giddy weirdness, Gosser is Newark's Little Mermaid, celebrating every whozit and whatzit galore.

"My Black Pepper Gibson comes in a tumbler, and after just one spicy sip I know it's going to tumble me."

But there comes a time to put away childish things and pick up an adult beverage, so I take a cab to an unassuming gray door in the side of a plain concrete warehouse near elevated railway tracks and press the buzzer. Shortly, I'm welcomed into the All Points West Distillery, which specializes in pot-still whiskey and has the most mixology-minded bar in Newark—a city that has had alcohol in its veins since at least 1951, when the first Anheuser-Busch plant outside of St. Louis debuted. At the bar, I order a Black Pepper Gibson, which comes in a tumbler, and after just one spicy sip I know it's going to tumble me.

Sure enough, after that drink the night gets hazy, except for a flash of biting into an incredible bacon cheeseburger at Krug's Tavern, a divey joint dating to 1932, and of me slapping the bar as I extol its virtues. As I crash onto my bed in a two-story room at Hotel Indigo, a converted 1912 bank tower, I think of Newark's molten past and how beautifully it has all cooled.

The cherry blossoms are in bloom at Branch Brook Park in Newark, New Jersey

As much as Washington, D.C., is celebrated for its annual cherry blossoms, Newark might out-flower the nation's capital, with 4,300 cherry trees, some of which were planted as far back as 1927. Bloomfest (April 14), a free, family-friendly event in the North Ward's Branch Brook Park, is the capstone to festivities that include bike rides, walk-run races, and Japanese cultural demonstrations. Can't make it? Don't sweat the timing. Last year, the festival started before the trees fully blossomed, and then the flowers returned in November, after an unseasonably warm first half of October.

Day 2

Exploring Brick City's modern side

Black Swan Espresso

I grab an oat milk cold brew from Black Swan Espresso and stroll as I drink my breakfast. (I know, I never learn.) Up, up, and away to modern Newark! I dip into Fortress of Solitude, a legendary comic book shop, and browse the $1 comics up front and the shelf of comics by local artists—Newarky titles like Salvagers, The Were-Spider, and Nightwasp, "the man who is hardly ever afraid." I buy a copy, in hopes I can pick up a few pointers.

A Kool & the Gang display at the Grammy Museum Experience

Newark has the East Coast's only Grammy Museum Experience, and deservedly so. New Jersey is home to many music icons, from Jon Bon Jovi to Bruce Springsteen, but Newark in particular has been a bountiful garden of talent. Naughty by Nature hip-hop-hoorayed here. When Gloria Gaynor belts out "I will survive," she might as well be singing about her hometown. The museum, which opened in the fall of 2017 in the Prudential Center (also home to the New Jersey Devils hockey team), is broadly, brilliantly interactive: I play drums with Max Weinberg and rap with Wyclef Jean, but the highlight is sound-mixing Whitney Houston. I drop all the knobs to zero except one, vocals, and set that to maximum. I say a prayer with every heartbeat as I listen to what was first heralded in the nearby New Hope Baptist Church choir as simply The Voice.

Falling in love is so bittersweet/This love is strong, why do I feel weak?

Chef Vonda McPherson at Vonda's Kitchen

The next best thing to church with Whitney is lunch with Vonda. Chef Vonda McPherson's restaurant, Vonda's Kitchen, is a favorite of Newark native Shaquille O'Neal, who made peace with his biological father at a table here and who uses McPherson as his personal chef when he's in town. Cissy Houston, Whitney's mother, sits at the same table almost every Sunday. McPherson even catered the Super Bowl.

For her part, the chef aims to dispel the notion that all soul food is unhealthy, on behalf of all the souls who have given this cuisine its simultaneous heft and lift. "I wanted to live up to more—to local art, to local pride," she tells me in the art-filled, sunlit space. "Home cooking isn't just about the cooking; it's about the home."

Tucking a napkin into my collar, I let some of the long-buried North Carolina drawl of my childhood slip out as I am led along the righteous path of buffalo mac 'n' cheese, crispy fried chicken, and earthy collards. Some meals serve calories; some serve flavor. Vonda's serve love.

No cab or stroll this time—I just straight-up float on cloud nine back to the Indigo, where I meet Emily Manz, who runs a tour called Have You Met Newark. (Audible, which has its global headquarters here, includes the tour in its employee orientation. The audio entertainment company is fully committed to Newark's growth and even subsidizes employees living in the city and provides free tickets to concerts and games at NJPAC and the Prudential Center.) Manz, a wide-eyed young convert to Newark, leads me on a brisk downtown stroll, singing various praises about revival and renaissance. We enter a clothing store off Halsey Street called Off the Hanger—although there's no signage out front—and browse the goods, including shirts that read "Newark Vs. Everybody," while an on-site tailor stitches vibrant African patterns along the lapels and pockets of a stylish denim trench coat. We then visit the Newark Print Shop—I'm sorely tempted to try my glassblowing hand at silkscreening—and finish up at the cavernous Gallery Aferro, a modern art playground with a residency program upstairs.

"Home cooking isn't just about the cooking; it's about the home."

The Lucent Technologies Center for Arts Education, a school affiliated with the New Jersey Performing Arts Center

There's no better place to decompress from such a flurry of activity than the rear garden at 27 Mix, where I have a light dinner of salmon tartare with avocado, edamame, and matcha. I wash it all down with a refreshingly sweet-tart Ironbound Hard Cider, made on a farm in the New Jersey Highlands. Breezes and songbirds duet, accompanied by orange trumpet vine blossoms. The subtle symphony gives me an idea: Clement's Place, a kind of nightclub that's tucked into the Neoclassical former offices of an insurance company and is affiliated with Rutgers University's Institute of Jazz Studies, which is home to the world's largest jazz library. The shows are packed—free food and booze will do that—and the multiethnic audience of young and old and straight-laced and queer feels like an impromptu riff on the city's creative possibilities. Musical notes flutter across the room like kisses, and I go to sleep at my new hotel, the Tryp by Wyndham, with jazz's perfume on my pillow.

Day 3

Discovering a diverse international influence

The lobby and restaurant at Tyrp by Wyndham

I wake up at the Tryp, a sleek cosmopolitan hideaway that opened last year in the heart of downtown Newark. As I leave the lobby, I pass one of those signs that tells me Paris is 3,631 miles away and Jerusalem is 5,699 miles away. But it also tells me the Ironbound is 0.1 miles away. "What's that?" I ask the front desk.

The answer—"It's basically Portugal"—is intriguing. I recall a Brazilian-American friend (a native Newarker, no less!) who raved about a sandwich here, and I make it my mission to find it. Ten bites and five napkins later, the verdict is in: The Cheese Tudo from Hamburgão is up there with the best sandwiches I've ever had. Two slices of potato bread somehow harness hamburger, ham, bacon, lettuce, tomato, corn, mayo, mozzarella, a fried egg, and crisp potato sticks. I chase it down with a Brazilian guaraná soda, which has twice as much caffeine as a cup of coffee.

I walk off breakfast in the neighborhood's parks, packed with families, and try my hand at bocce with some of the old-timers. It turns out I'm as good at bocce as I am at glassmaking. But afterward I still treat myself to some pineapple sorbet at Nasto's, an 80-year-old spot that's famous for its Old World desserts, like tartufos and reginettas.

Along Ferry Street, the Ironbound's main drag, the small, independent shops offer curiosities: dress shirts at Mel Gambert, tchotchkes at Portugalia, and cork accessories—handbags and wallets—at CS Cork. For the folks back home, I get a box of Brazilian brigadeiros (truffles made with condensed milk and cocoa powder) at Gio Docinhos, the most potent collection of sweets in the city.

Maybe it's the sense of farawayness I get from exploring Newark's international side—the African-print shirts and homemade shea-butter lotions at Ancient African Formula are otherworldly—but I find myself pulled toward Burger Walla and its absolutely perfect lamb burger with goat cheese, spicy tomato pickle, and caramelized onions. (It's great with curried cauliflower and chickpeas, pan-fried to order.) Farther east I go, to the world's largest Tibetan art collection, at the Newark Museum, which was visited by the Dalai Lama in 1990. The wisdom has clearly accrued over centuries of reincarnation, as the Tibetan display includes a playpen for children to exorcise their museum demons.

"Newark has the energy of emergence, which is the true energy of beauty."

As I leave the museum and cross Military Park, I pass a mariachi band in periwinkle outfits. "Where are you going?" I ask. "To a party," they reply. "Can I come?" "No," they say kindly. "But if you like this music, maybe try the flamenco at Mompou." Back to the Ironbound!

Mompou, it turns out, isn't Portuguese or Brazilian; it's Spanish, specifically Galician tapas (although the bottled water is from Rioja). It's a getaway within a getaway that reminds me of the tango show tune "Hernando's Hideaway." A glass of wine, a fast embrace!

Everything on stage—the guitar strings, the drums, the clapping hands, the lilting voice, the flurry of ruffled skirts—combines, pitter-patter-style, into the loudest lullaby you've ever heard. And the dancer! Such statuesque grace that the only sign she has exerted herself at the end of her incredible routine is the quiver of her clavicle as she holds her triumphant final pose. I nibble on 24-month-aged jamón ibérico until I realize I'm late for dinner.

Chef Marcus Samuelsson

If there's one man who will understand how taken I am with Newark's multi-cultural renaissance, it's Ethiopian-Swedish celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson, who I meet at Marcus B&P, the bistro he opened last year in the Hahne & Co. building, a mammoth former department store that was renovated after 30 years of dereliction.

"As an immigrant, you know how it is to feel neglected," he says, rapid-fire, as I munch on a salad grown at AeroFarms, a nearby converted steel mill that's now the world's largest indoor vertical farm. "There's a soulful sensibility that you can turn into a sense of place. A kitchen can be poetic justice. I've always been a fan of B-sides. Prince. Bob Marley. Grace Jones. David Bowie. They were my style teachers as well as my English teachers. Newark is a B-side city. It's where all the personal poetry is hidden. It has the energy of emergence, which is the true energy of beauty." He pauses to take a sip of water. "Don't come and ask me, 'Is Newark good now?' People want credible, predictable travel, and Newark is an incredible, unpredictable place. That's how you get Queen Latifah.

That's how you get Redman. Look, Rome is great. But who was the last global artist to come out of it?"

Rolling Cigars at Jimenez Tobacco

It's nighttime now, and I'm winding down my last evening at Jimenez Tobacco, an ornate, family-run Cuban cigar speakeasy where the only female master blender in the country oversees a boutique operation that refuses to sell other brands (the shop's own 23 varieties, aged 10 years, will suffice). It's the kind of upscale dive where the broke can feel baroque. Smoke curls playfully around me, as if it's about to pull a quarter out of my ear.

I'm a few daiquiris in and shooting the breeze with Peter, the manager-son, whose Cheshire Cat grin is infectious.

"Why are you Peter and not Pedro?" I ask.

He smiles and shrugs: "I came to this melting pot, and I melted." He roars with laughter. He's a true raconteur,
with a smidgen of racketeer to him; he makes his Cuban guayabera seem like an open tuxedo shirt, cuff links and all.

"Shhh!" I stage-whisper.
"Won't we wake up your mother?" He waves dismissively at the staircase that rises to her bedroom. "She raised three boys. She can sleep through anything."

As I saunter home, a flamenco lyric echoes in my mind: "El querer es cuesta arriba, y el olvidar cuesta abajo; quiero subir cuesta arriba aunque me cueste trabajo." Wanting is uphill, forgetting is downhill; I want to climb uphill despite the work.

Nork, the little utopia that could, is done with its downhill moments. It's unforgettable now.

The Portuguese enclave Ironbound

Where to stay

Tryp by Wyndham Newark Downtown

Opened last spring in a 1920s building with Art Deco flourishes, this 101-room hotel is brimming with hometown pride. Look for elevator-landing murals of Newark natives (such as Queen Latifah and Frankie Valli) and a giant acrylic lightbulb in the lobby, a nod to Thomas Edison, who first publicly demonstrated an electric lightbulb in Military Park—about 500 feet from the hotel's front door. From $145, wyndhamhotels.com

Hotel Indigo Newark Downtown

Occupying the 1912 former headquarters of the First National State Bank, this 108-room property welcomes guests with a lobby mosaic mural of Edison's ticker-tape writer, contributed by local glass studio GlassRoots. The bank's teller desks have been transformed into the check-in counter, while the original vault was incorporated into the design of the on-site restaurant, The Ainsworth. From $145, hotelindigo.com

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Canadian adventures: Top cities all over Canada

By Matt Chernov

I'll let you in on a little secret – regardless of when you plan to travel, there's never a wrong time to visit Canada. Encompassing almost four million square miles of remarkably beautiful terrain, it not only contains the world's longest coastline, it's also the second-largest country on Earth. And across its immense territory you'll find a wealth of diverse destinations just waiting for you to explore. Looking for stunning scenery? It's got you covered. Fancy a stay in a quaint seaport village? You'll find plenty to choose from. In the mood for big city excitement? Look no further! Basically, Canada offers something truly special for every type of traveler. To help you get the most out of your next visit, here's a regional guide to the spectacular Great White North.

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Atlantic region

Halifax

With its waterfront views and colorful Victorian architecture, Halifax is quite possibly the perfect maritime destination. If you're visiting for the first time, be sure to spend a day strolling the city's historic harbor boardwalk. While you're there, grab lunch at the Halifax Seaport Farmers Market, which holds the distinction of being the longest continuously running market of its kind in North America. When the weather is warm and sunny, head to Citadel Hill and explore the iconic star-shaped military fort that overlooks the water, or wander the romantic Halifax Public Gardens and enjoy an hour-long guided horticultural tour. Have time for a short side trip? Then a quick visit to the nearby community of Peggy's Cove should definitely be on your Halifax travel agenda.

St. John's

Nature lovers who visit St. John's will definitely want to lace up their hiking boots and traverse North America's easternmost coastline on foot. Don't forget to bring your camera along, too, because the astounding scenery that you'll discover is well worth sharing with friends and family back home. If urban fun is more your speed, check out the wildly popular George Street area and chances are you'll find an outdoor concert or an open-air food festival waiting for you. Grown-ups, meanwhile, should make plans to sample the beers on one of St. John's local craft beer tours. Finally, if you're visiting in the late spring or summer, book a whale watching trip with the folks at Iceberg Quest tours. Their expert guides will provide you with an up-close-and-personal look at nature's majestic giants of the sea.

Charlottetown

Anyone who grew up reading the beloved children's classic "Anne of Green Gables" will want to set foot on the magical Prince Edward Island and see for themselves where the tale was set. The city of Charlottetown is Prince Edward Island's capital, and it's every bit as delightful as you might imagine. There's an undeniable storybook quality to this quaint Canadian destination that's simply impossible to resist. Along with literary walking tours of the city, visitors can marvel at the ornate St. Dunstan's Basilica, or take in a cutting-edge art exhibit at the nearby Confederation Centre of the Arts. Since delicious seafood is one of Charlottetown's biggest attractions, treat yourself to a memorable dinner of chowder, mussels and jerk spiced crab legs at the popular Claddagh Oyster House.

Central Canada

Toronto

Visitors to Toronto will discover a glorious assortment of cultural influences throughout the city, making it an ideal vacation spot for just about everyone. Where else can you find gleaming avant-garde architecture cozily nestled alongside historic churches situated on cobblestone streets? That playful mixture of styles gives Toronto a personality all its own. If you've rented a car on your visit, then be sure to take a short side trip to see the iconic Niagara Falls. It's only a mere 2-hour drive away. Exploring the city's funky Kensington Market is a guaranteed good time, or perhaps a guided tour of the Hockey Hall of Fame might be more to your liking if you're a sports fan. For foodies, there's no better way to experience the true taste of Toronto than to head to the city's Distillery District and see what's on the menu at one of the dozens of eateries you'll find there.

Montreal

You can easily spend a week exploring the friendly streets of Montreal and never find yourself less than captivated by its casual elegance and enchanting French charm. In fact, the only problem is deciding which of the sights and attractions to check out first. I recommend starting with the incredible Notre-Dame Basilica, because there's just no better way to immerse yourself in the city's fascinating cultural heritage. Next, take in an expertly curated exhibition at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. When you feel the need to stretch your legs, a leisurely walking tour of the exciting Plateau Mont-Royal neighborhood is a fun way to acquaint yourself with the city on a pleasant afternoon. Once the sun goes down, take a nighttime boat trip on the beautiful Saint Lawrence River and watch the lights of Montreal shimmer after dark.

Québec City

If you're a Francophile living in the United States, you don't have to cross the Atlantic Ocean to experience the charm of La République française. Instead, you can make a far shorter journey to the capital of the Canadian province of Quebec. Here, you'll discover a city that's filled with some of the most authentic French culture this side of Paris. For an inside look at this amazing destination, here's a guide that lists everything you'll need to know in order to plan a marvelous getaway.

West Coast region

Vancouver

It's easy to see why Vancouver is widely considered to be one of the world's most livable cities. A few of the many must-see attractions include hiking or cycling through the 1,000-acre Stanley Park, and grabbing a gourmet lunch at the remarkable Granville Island Public Market. The city's fabulous Chinatown is one of the biggest and best of its kind in all of North America, so plan on spending at least a full day enjoying its festive atmosphere. If you're curious about the region's aboriginal people and traditions, schedule a visit to the acclaimed Museum of Anthropology, which is located on the University of British Columbia campus. And if you've still got energy left, a nighttime stroll through the wonderfully atmospheric Gastown district is highly recommended.

Victoria

Thanks to its authentic British flavor, you'll feel like you've gone to merry old England when you arrive in Victoria, but it's really just a short boat trip away from Vancouver. A peaceful haven for artists, writers and thinkers of all kinds, Victoria is graced with Canada's mildest weather, making it an ideal spot to visit year-round. That comfortable climate is one of the reasons why the city's 55-acre Butchart Gardens are such a vibrant sight to behold. Regardless of the season, you'll find many of nature's most beautiful flowers in full bloom here, which is why it's such a beloved spot for locals and visitors alike. Other recommended activities in Victoria include a trip to Royal BC Museum, a cycling tour of the historic Cook Street Village neighborhood and a thrilling whale watching excursion with the Prince of Whales company.

Banff

This incredible winter resort destination features some of the most beautiful scenery on the entire planet. To experience the area's natural splendor in all its glory, ride the Banff Gondola up to the summit of Sulphur Mountain and prepare to be amazed. Exploring the glacial lakes, untouched ice fields and awe-inspiring wildlife in Banff National Park are the main reasons why people visit this region. It's the kind of place that turns a simple vacation into a life-changing adventure. Of course, skiing is the most popular outdoor activity in Banff, and since the season runs all the way until late May, it's surprisingly convenient to plan a Canadian ski getaway for your entire family.

Getting there

Once you've decided on the perfect Canadian travel destination, book your tickets by visiting united.com or by using the newly improved United app.

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An insider's guide to Savannah

By The Hub team

The past plays an important role in one of America's oldest cities, which can be seen through the antebellum mansions, historic monuments and charming cobblestone streets. Beyond the history, Savannah has grown into a creative and culturally rich destination, while still maintaining its Southern charm.

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The basics

The best time to visit and getting around the city

The best time to visit Savannah is any time between March and July when the temperatures are warmer (with July being the hottest), and there is always an event to attend. like Savannah's St. Patrick's Day celebrations, which is the second largest in the country.

You won't need a car while visiting Savannah, but if you plan on taking a day trip to Tybee Island or Jekyll Island be sure to rent a car for the day. Otherwise the Downtown Historic District is easily walkable and the best way to experience this vibrant city. Bike rentals are another great option to explore the historic quarter and surrounding neighborhoods.

Experiences

Historic sites, museums & more

Savannah offers a wide variety of experiences and activities, all with Southern style. Get a sense of the city's diverse history by going on a historic walking tour or trolley tour through the downtown district. There are plenty of tours to choose from so you'll easily be able to find one that works with your schedule.

Be sure to visit the Wormsloe Historic Site with an Instagram-worthy path lined with live oak trees dripping with Spanish moss. From there, stop by Savannah's most famous cemetery — Bonaventure Cemetery — a hauntingly stunning and iconic site.

Once you've had a taste of the history and witnessed the antebellum beauty of the live oak trees and historical squares, explore the vibrant art and design scene that has flourished around the city in recent years. No art gallery can compete with the Savannah College of Art and Design, or SCAD, Museum of Art. The museum is home to thousands of pieces, including works from SCAD alumni and one of the largest collections of African American art in the United States. There's a number of special events to attend, so check out their events calendar to see what's happening while you're there.

Savannah has recently become a great spot for shopping, and with everything from vintage shops to fashion boutiques, you'll easily leave with a heavier suitcase. For leather goods, stop by Satchel, a boutique started by a SCAD graduate. Make your way over to Pickler Joes, Wright Square Vintage and Retro Mall for everything from vintage clothing to retro advertising signs and old records.

Food & drinks

Comfort food, fresh seafood and inventive cocktails

The Hostess City of the South boasts rich history and an evolving art scene, but no trip down south is complete without proper Southern food. Indulge in traditional Southern comfort food and incredibly fresh seafood, but also save room for some classic dishes reimagined by top chefs in the area.

Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room is a local institution and a must-visit when in town. Sitting in the Historic District, this Southern boarding house turned restaurant follows traditions dating back to its opening in 1943. The dining room has a simple set up of communal tables where diners sit with around 10 other guests and are served an array of homestyle Southern cooking family style. The Olde Pink house is another popular restaurant in the heart of the historic downtown offering an antebellum feel with an authentic experience.

If you're looking to try something different, be sure to head over to Zunzi's, a tiny hole-in-the-wall takeout spot with a South African influence. Famous for their sandwiches, be sure to order the Conquistador, a juicy chicken sandwich combined with two secret sauces on a crunchy French bread. They're only open during lunch hours, but it's worth stopping by for a quick bite.

For reimagined Southern dishes, book a table at Local 11ten, where you can enjoy a cocktail from their inventive menu while noshing on food that focuses on Southern-influenced cuisine. A.lure is another great option with a contemporary approach to classic Southern and seafood dishes.

Getting there

Fly direct to Savannah, Georgia, from multiple U.S. cities. Flights are two hours from Chicago and two-and-a-half hours from New York City. The airport is just a 25-minute drive from Savannah's historic district. Visit united.com or use the United app to book your flight.

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