Three Perfect Days: Guatemala

Three Perfect Days: Guatemala

By The Hub team

Story by: Justin Goldman | Photography by Alexis Lambrou | Hemispheres October 2015

Those who have heard anything about Guatemala are aware of its troubled history: the earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, the civil war that persisted from 1960 to 1996. But those who have actually been there know it to be something else: a place of extravagant beauty, soaring mountains, pristine lakes and dense jungle, dotted with archaeological treasures. Then there are the people, who are among the friendliest you'll meet anywhere. This may be a humble country, but the list of wonders it offers is truly something about which Guatemalans can boast.

Day One in Guatemala

Day 1 graphic image

It's just after dawn, and I'm in the back seat of a car that's puttering along the east shore of Lago Petén Itzá, a massive lake in Petén, a tropical state in the northeastern corner of Guatemala, about 30 miles from the Mexican border. I'm munching on chile-lime peanuts as my guide, Eric García, gives me the rundown on Tikal National Park, the famed archaeological site that's also a part of the Maya Biosphere Reserve.

“This is one of nine sites in the world that UNESCO made a natural and cultural preserve," he says of the park. “NASA came here five years ago and took satellite pictures, and they discovered 2,000 archaeological sites in Petén alone."

García has reason to be proud. He comes from a small nearby village called Caoba (the Spanish name for the mahogany tree). Like many Guatemalans, he is of Mayan descent (his grandfather doesn't speak Spanish), and he occasionally supplements his narrative by pulling a small Mayan flute from his bag and playing a few notes.

“Tikal is the center of the Mayan world, like Mecca or the Vatican," he says. “Mayans would come to Tikal from smaller villages to celebrate ceremonies."

Just inside the park gate, García stops and points to the top of a ceiba tree, where black-brown birds with bright yellow tails are flitting and bickering around a bunch of teardrop-shaped nests.

“They're called Montezuma oropendola," he says, “for the gold tails and the way their nests hang."

After a half-hour drive down a tree-lined road, we begin our hike through the jungle, the thunderous calls of howler monkeys roaring overhead. We pause to watch a female spider monkey and her baby scamper across a bough, then make our way toward El Templo del Gran Jaguar, also known as Temple I. As we near the temple, we hear a frenzy of scratching—it's an anteater, halfway up a tree, tearing away the bark to get at a nest of termites. “That's a rare sight to see," García tells me.

We skirt the edges of the stepped, 154-foot pyramid and emerge into the Great Plaza, a broad clearing with stone ruins—dating back more than a thousand years—rising on all four sides.

Directly across from Temple I stands El Templo de las Máscaras, or Temple II, which I climb, eager to see the carved namesake masks at the top. The summit also affords stunning views of the surrounding ruins: the Central Acropolis, a crumbled palace complex where the city's elite lived, and the North Acropolis, a collection of burial chambers, the walls of which bear more stone masks representing Mayan gods.

Down a trail, surrounded by dense vegetation, are Temples III and IV—the latter the tallest in the park, at 213 feet. “We have a big conflict between ecologists and archaeologists," García explains as we make our way through the brush. “Ecologists say, 'Don't touch anything,' and archaeologists say, 'We want to discover more.' Of the 4,000 buildings that have been found here, only 15 percent have been restored."

I climb to the top of Temple IV and look out across miles of jungle canopy. George Lucas showed the Millennium Falcon cruising over this location in Star Wars, and the view is so spectacular that I can (mostly) quell my fear of the vertiginous height. I can also understand why some people think aliens built these temples; there's an otherworldly vibe up here.

As we hike back through the jungle, the skies open up in a torrential downpour. By the time we get to El Mesón, a restaurant near the park entrance, I'm drenched. We take a seat at a picnic table beneath a thatch roof, where we receive a delicious and hearty homestyle lunch of spicy grilled chicken and fluffy, buttery rice, with a dessert of cinnamon-laced stewed banana.

Fortunately, I came prepared for the precipitation—it's called a “rainforest" for a reason—and have a change of clothes in the car. I'm ready to get back into town and take a nap, but as we pass through the gate, García points out Canopy Tours Tikal. “Do you want to do the zipline?" he asks. I remember my dizziness atop Temple IV and say no. Then I think again. The rain has stopped. I'm on vacation. Why not? Minutes later I am screaming and flying, Superman-style, through the treetops. Fear of heights: conquered. Need for a nap: also conquered.

Trying New Things: Check

We drive for an hour or so to Flores, the capital of Petén, which occupies a small island in Lago Petén Itzá. We cross the bridge into town and García drops me off at the red-and-white, chalet-style Ramada Tikal, which opened last year on the sleepy waterfront. At check-in I'm given a glass of watermelon juice, which soothes my throat, still scratchy from jungle-sweat dehydration and zipline banshee wails. Just beyond the lobby I pass an indoor pool and head up to my room, which has a balcony overlooking the lake.

The view is great, but the sight of the bed is even better. I feel my need for a nap returning.

It's dark when I wake up, and I make my way down the road that rings the edge of the island to Raices Grill. I take a seat on the deck, which juts out over the lake, and order a plate of camarones al ajo, huge shrimp stuffed with garlic and served over grilled pineapple. Even at night it's tropically steamy here, and I fight back the heat with a few rounds of the national lager, Gallo, whiling away the evening by tossing crumbs of tortilla to the fish swarming around the boards.

Day 2 graphic image

I'm up before the sun in order to catch the hourlong flight from the nearby Flores airport to Guatemala City. By midmorning, I'm in a car and on the way to Antigua, one of the New World's great cultural landmarks. The UNESCO World Heritage Site and former capital of most of colonial Central America is a jumble of cobblestone streets, colorful houses and crumbled churches (due to a 1773 earthquake that destroyed most of the city). It also plays host to frequent, lively festivals.

I drop my bags at Mansión de la Luz, a seven-room boutique hotel that opened last year. The open courtyard looks like a setting from a García Marquez novel, with sprays of calla lilies, tile fountains, arched windows and mannequins dressed in Mayan garb. I head to the restaurant for a late breakfast with my friend Norman Raxón, a cheerful 29-year-old who works as a guide for the Guatemalan tourism agency. I get a desayuno típico: scrambled eggs laced with tomato and onion, black beans, fried plantains, cheese and a spoonful of cream. The salsa I ladle over my eggs is so ragingly picante that I frantically hail our waiter for a mint lemonade to douse my tastebuds.

Parrot sitting on a post

Now we're ready to tackle those cobblestones. We stroll down Tercera Calle, toward the town center, making a detour into Iglesia y Convento de Santo Domingo. A former monastery, founded in the 16th century, Santo Domingo still holds services, and it's also home to a museum—the highlight of which is an ancient crypt, its disintegrating tombs stacked like bunk beds—and a luxury hotel. We wander the courtyard, past bright macaws on perches hung from avocado trees, then find a candle shop in back, where we watch wax being hand-twisted into resplendent centerpieces.

We're barely able to walk another block before I'm hooked again, this time by the chocolatey smell wafting from ChocoMuseo. A fast-talking employee named Pablo leads us on a tour of the shop, complete with a brief history of chocolate, which, he tells us, started as a humble Mayan drink (chocolatl translates as “spicy bitter hot water") and became an increasingly valuable commodity. Mayans would trade more than 100,000 beans for a jaguar skin, while Europeans would later exchange just 100 beans for a human slave. Pablo punctuates his lesson with samples of candy and spicy tea that I can't help but accept, despite my recent, weighty breakfast.

We continue on across town—spanning the city on foot takes just 15 or 20 minutes—to meet a friend of Norman's, Fausto Sicán, a guide from the nearby village of San Juan del Obispo. “He knows everything about this city," Norman tells me. Sicán began leading tour groups as a kid to help pay for school. He studied law, but to be a student during Guatemala's violent civil war was a risky proposition, so he left school and now uses his considerable intellect to educate people like me.

“This city is considered the best expression of the Spanish presence in Guatemala," Sicán says. “My favorite place is the Convento de las Capuchinas. It's one of the most important places in the city. It was the last [major] building constructed here before the capital moved to Guatemala City."

Convento de las Capuchinas

Sicán agrees to show us Capuchinas, a fortresslike, carved-stone convent that was consecrated in 1736. He leads us into the main hall, light streaming down from above, where a huge dome once rose, then through the sanctuary, where nuns would fast and flagellate themselves, and finally into a circular subterranean room. It's chilly down here, and with just two windows a little dark, but it's strangely peaceful. Standing in the slanting light, Norman nods at me. “This is the best place," he whispers.

This room, Sicán tells us, managed to escape the ravages of earthquakes, and there are many theories about what it was used for. “The best version," he says, “is that this is like the Gregorian places, where the people went to sing, thinking that their voices go directly to heaven." He demonstrates by walking around the perimeter of the room, singing in a deep voice that resonates throughout the chamber.

Guatemalan Tradition Runs Deep

Before he leaves, Sicán tells us we should check out a religious procession happening in the adjacent village of Jocotenango. We take his advice, hailing one of the ubiquitous three-wheel tuk-tuks, and 10 bumpy minutes later we're stepping out into the central square of the village, which is like a smaller, less touristy version of Antigua.

The streets are decorated with colorful alfombras, or carpets, painstakingly pieced together from dyed sawdust and fruit. Over these decorations passes the procession. First come the cucuruchos, men in purple robes carrying a giant casket, atop which stands an effigy of Christ. A smaller casket for the Virgin Mary, borne by solemn teenage girls in black skirts, follows. The floats sway as the pallbearers, some weeping, rotate in and out. I'm not a religious man, but for a moment the sight is enough to make me wish I were.

Later, we walk back through the main square, scoping out the many food carts. Norman points to a grill, over which roasts an entire pig. It's time for another religious experience: We chow down on pork tacos topped with virulently spicy green salsa, then tuk-tuk it back down the hill to Antigua.

We alight in Parque Central, the city's main square, and stroll beneath a bursting purple bloom of jacaranda flowers, past canoodling couples, breakdancing teens, kids pushing wheelbarrows of peanuts for sale. We stop at the 450-year-old Iglesia de la Merced, whose Baroque detailing includes stucco carvings of saints and coffee plants on its dazzling yellow facade. We poke our heads inside—there's a service going on—then continue on to Quinta Avenida, a ramble of shops, bars and restaurants that the locals call “Arch Street" because it passes under the Arco de Santa Catalina, a 17th-century archway and bell tower. We stop in at Nim Po't Centro de Textiles Tradicionales, a cavernous shop filled with ceremonial masks, güipiles (traditional blouses) and immense circular kites that Guatemalans fly as part of their Dia de los Muertos celebration. I want to take one home, but it's not gonna fit in my carry-on.

We stop for dinner at Los Tres Tiempos, a bright blue restaurant that serves expertly executed Guatemalan standards. We sit amid bougainvilleas on the second-floor patio, listening to a pair of mariachis as we munch on fried sticks of Guatemalan chancol cheese and a ceviche of shrimp, fish, conch, octopus and avocado. For an entree, I order pepián, a soup of pork, rice, potato and carrots in a broth laced with tomato, chile, pumpkin and sesame.

Next, we hoof it across town for sundowners at the third-floor rooftop bar of Café Sky. Thanks to preservation regulations (and the fear of earthquakes) three stories is tall for Antigua, so we're blessed with views of Fuego, Agua and Acatenango, the three 12,000-plus-foot volcanoes that surround the city. As I sip a mint-heavy mojito, a puff of dark smoke rises from the top of the appropriately named Fuego. “That's a small one," Norman says. “A few weeks ago there was a big one that covered the city in ash."

On the way back to the hotel, we come across a guarded motorcade in front of the Santo Domingo. Apparently the president of Guatemala and the prime minister of Spain are meeting here. “Everyone who comes to Guatemala runs to Antigua," Norman observes. I can see why.

Sunsets don't get much better than this

Day 3 graphic image

As i step out onto the courtyard balcony at Mansión de la Luz, the only clouds I see are a few white wisps skirting the peaks of Fuego and Acatenango. I feel a volcanic rumbling and look for more smoke from Fuego, but it's only my stomach, so I cross the courtyard to the hotel restaurant, where I eagerly order another desayuno típico, topping it off with a cup of strong Guatemalan coffee.

After breakfast, I meet Norman in the lobby. He's agreed to drive me the hour and a half to Lago de Atitlán, one of Central America's greatest natural wonders. “The lake is my favorite place in Guatemala," he tells me as we drive through a rocky mountain pass. Soon, a switchbacking road drops us into the lakeside town of Panajachel. Past the shops, restaurants and food carts of Calle Santander, we reach the Porta Hotel Del Lago. I drop my bags in my room and step out onto the balcony. Three huge volcanoes—Atitlán, Tolimán and San Pedro—rise from the flat blue surface of the lake, itself nearly a mile above sea level. I've got to get out on that water.

Lago de Atitlán

I walk down to the docks, where Norman has hired a motorboat to ferry us around the lake. We skip across the surface, curve around a fisherman, who waves at us from his small cayuco—the simple wooden canoe used by locals—and traverse a patch of improvised crab traps before pulling up to the docks of the village of San Juan la Laguna.

Up a steep incline from the docks, we find Galería de Arte Chiya y Creación Maya, run by local husband-and-wife artists Antonio Coché Mendoza and Angelina Quic. We step inside the gallery, its walls filled with vivid depictions of marketplaces painted from a bird's-eye perspective. Quic and Coché have taught the technique to many students over the years.

“I got the idea 24 years ago, at Cerro de la Cruz, while looking down from above the town," Quic says. “Then we took photos from a rooftop of children with baskets at a market, and started to make these paintings."

Coché, a self-taught artist who has been painting since age 10, leads me into a back room, where he hangs his own works, canvases bursting with fruit, Rivera-esque calla lilies and Mayan villagers. “I paint the life of the peasants that you see in the coffee plantations here," he tells me. “The streets, the lake. A little of everything."

After buying a couple of paintings, Norman and I continue up the street. At the top of the hill, we reach Asociación Ixoq Ajkeem Mujer Tejedora, a cooperative of local women who hand-weave textiles in traditional Mayan fashion.

Co-op member Catarina Méndez demonstrates how the cloth is spun, dyed and woven. It's about to get chilly again back in the States, so I pick up a marvelous new scarf.

Lunch Guatemalan Style

We head back to the boat and zip over to another lakeside town, Santiago Atitlán. We slog up another hill to Restaurante el Pescador, where we sit on a second-floor deck and watch the locals below: women in Mayan garb leading children by the hand, young men standing in the beds of moving pickup trucks. I order a fried whole mojarra fish, accompanied by rice, vegetables and a mountain of chips and guacamole.

After lunch, we walk through the plaza, stopping at the Iglesia Parroquial Santiago Apóstol. The plaques here offer a sobering reminder of Guatemala's turbulent past. The civil war was particularly brutal in this region, and the pastor, Father Stanley Rother, allowed many families to sleep in the church for safety. A death squad killed him for his kindness, but the grateful townspeople buried his heart in the church.

The late-afternoon wind is picking up and the lake is getting choppy, so we head for the boat and back to Panajachel. After docking, we follow a row of lakeside eateries and settle on the deck at Restaurante Los Cayucos, hanging out over the water, where we enjoy a couple of large Gallos and a platter of boquitas, tasty bites of tortilla, guacamole, steak and salsa. The waves are really rocking now, and Norman recalls a Mayan legend that explains why.

“A princess and a Tz'utujil man from the other side of the lake fell in love, but the Spaniards wanted the girl," he tells me. “So they tied a stone around the man's neck and threw him in the water. And then the princess took a cayuco, and she jumped in the water. And so every day, between 4 and 5 o'clock in the afternoon, people believe that the princess and the man dance together."

We knock back a few more Gallos, watching the waves dance, and then take a walk up Santander, where the taco carts are still doing a brisk trade. We cut left onto Calle Principal and up to Bar Circus, where we find a small dog sitting on the sidewalk out front. “We call that a cadejo," Norman says. “He's good luck. If you see a cadejo in front of a bar, he'll help you get home when you're drunk."

Our canine guardian follows us inside and sets up camp under our table, waiting for handouts. When a couple of guitar players take the stage, he jumps up and lies at their feet. The musicians take Latin rock requests from the crowd, and we split a pizza topped with salami, mushrooms and olives, with more than enough margaritas. As I drain the last of the tequila from my glass, the dog wanders back over, and I scratch his ear. “What do you think, cadejo? Time to go home?"

As if in answer, he springs up and dashes for the door. On to the next adventure.

Hemispheres managing editor Justin Goldman needs a full-time cadejo for all of his travels.

If you go

Come meet some of the friendliest residents and explore the many wanders Guatemala has to offer. Visit united.com or use the United app to book your trip.

Spending a week in Singapore

By The Hub team

Singapore brings to mind images of modernity and stunning architecture — the unmistakable profile of the towering Marina Bay Sands Hotel, the luminescent trunks of Supertree Grove, the dramatic roof of the Esplanade Concert Hall. But beneath that opulent exterior lies a city bustling with energy and a vibrant mix of cultures and traditions. During our recent trip with United Airlines, we traveled along the new route from San Francisco to Singapore and visited some of the Lion City's most popular attractions. If you have the opportunity to visit, check out some of our favorite spots in this metropolis.

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Have a bite… or four

One thing's for sure… you'll never go hungry in Singapore. From hawker stalls and wet (food) markets to Michelin-starred fine dining establishments, the city offers food that caters to every visitor's mood. Those with a refined palate should head to Baba Chews in Katong Square or New Ubin Seafood in Hillview. The former offers an all-day selection of modern and traditional cuisine from the Straits of Malacca, while the latter specializes in sumptuous seafood and Singaporean cze char fare. If you prefer something a little more contemporary, head over to Mount Emily and make a reservation at Wild Rocket. There, head chef Willin Low has brought modern Singaporean cuisine to life by creating a fresh twist on the dishes he grew up eating. For a truly unbeatable dining experience, hop in the elevator at the Marina Bay Sands and ride it all the way to the rooftop, where you can enjoy a delicious take on Italian-American cooking at Lavo Kitchen while looking out over the spectacular city unfurled below.

Traditional Singapore food

Traditional Singapore food.


The most exciting dining experiences in the city, however, aren't enjoyed at a restaurant table. You've likely heard of the Maxwell Road Food Center, where you can try world-famous Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice, but the meal doesn't stop there. Singapore offers a vast array of food markets and hawker stalls where curious diners can sample sizzling dishes cooked right in front of them. Also at Maxwell Road, you should indulge in a crispy snack at Fuzhou Oyster Cake or grab a bowl of hot-and-sour soup at Special Shanghai Tim-Sum, otherwise known as the "dumpling stall from Queenstown." And be sure to make your way over to the Chinatown Wet Market, which charms and enchants each and every traveler. There, the sights, sounds, and smells are just as delicious as the edible offerings, which include Chinese herbs and vegetables, live shellfish, and exotic meats such as eels, frogs, and turtles.

Relax and soak up the view

Few cities interweave modernity, architecture, and greenery quite like Singapore. Look, for example, at the stunning Gardens by the Bay, a 250-acre nature park featuring intricately designed, flora-infused structures such as the Cloud Mountain and the Flower Dome. When the giant trunks of the Supertree Grove light up come nightfall, you'll feel overwhelmed by the natural enchantment that pulses through this magical city.

Of course, the superb views don't stop there. Anywhere you go, you'll be treated to spectacular urban vistas that seem to blend into their ecological foundation. For early risers, consider a sunrise excursion and venture to the Marina Barrage, a dam covered in a lush-green lawn, where you can gaze across the water to the majestic figure of the Marina Bay Sands. Throughout the day, duck into Singapore Botanic Gardens. The only tropical botanic garden on the UNESCO World Heritage List, this tranquil paradise offers 180 acres of green space perfect for walking, picnicking, or simply relaxing — all in the heart of the city. Alternately, you can take a stroll along the Henderson Waves, an aptly-named pedestrian bridge that cascades through the forest between Mount Faber Park and Telok Blangah Hill Park.


When night falls, be sure to make your way to the Event Plaza of the Marina Bay Sands for Spectra, a 15-minute dance of water fountains and laser-driven special effects all set to a gorgeous orchestral soundtrack. The performances start at 8 p.m. and 9 p.m., with an additional 10 p.m. showing on the weekends.

Spend an afternoon on the water

As Singapore is an island city, any exploration of it would be incomplete without spending some time on the river. Luckily, you can do just that on Singapore River Cruises. This line maintains a fleet of modern bumboats — electric, eco-friendly iterations of the rustic vessels once used to ferry supplies to ships anchored off-shore — that will guide you on a tour of the spectacular waterway that cuts through the Lion City. Along the way, you'll marvel at the buzzing markets and unique eateries that line the Boat, Clarke, and Robertson quays. You'll duck under architecturally aesthetic bridges like the Alkaff and the Helix, and you'll spot eye-catching landmarks like the Merlion and the Esplanade. It's an aquatic adventure that you shouldn't miss!

Be still in the city's temples

Though Singapore is a spectacularly modern city, it also houses a rich history. And one of the best ways to immerse yourself is to visit the island's various temples. One of our favorites is the city's oldest Hindu temple, Sri Mariamman. Built in the mid-19th century, the temple remains an ornate monument to the area's Indian influences. It features six colorful tiers decorated with gods, mythological beasts, and soldiers. Nearby, in the heart of Chinatown, you'll also find the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, a four-story pagoda that includes a bell tower, a sacred stupa made of solid gold, a museum featuring over 300 Buddhist artifacts, and even a tea room on the second floor where you can enjoy a mid-day respite.

If you find yourself in need of someplace quiet to escape the bustle of the city, make your way toward the Thian Hock Keng Temple, Chinatown's oldest Hokkien Temple. Originally a landing point for Chinese soldiers in the 19th century, the grounds act as a haven of quietude in the center of a hectic metropolis. In addition, check out the outside rear wall, where a 145-foot (44-meter) mural traces the stories of the Hokkien immigrants who left China and landed in Singapore. The mural was painted by local artist Yip Yew Chong and covers the hardships, tragedies, and elation faced by those early immigrants.

Additionally, Singapore is a great launching pad to the rest of Southeast Asia — if you're interested in exploring Thailand, Vietnam, and beyond, you can check out United's Excursions Perk.

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Discover Kansas City: The City of Fountains

By The Hub team

To those unfamiliar with the Missouri metropolis, Kansas City might call to mind a few associations: Barbecue. Jazz. The fact that there's another, smaller Kansas City in Kansas (it's all part of the same metro area…yeah, we were confused, too). And while it absolutely has all those things, it also boasts wide boulevards, world-class art and really good tacos. Here's everything you need to add to your agenda on a visit to the vibrant Midwestern hot spot.

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RELATED: The Best (and Most Wallet-Friendly) Places to Travel in October

Wallaceweeks/Getty Images

Make a wish at one of the many, many fountains

If you notice an abundance of water features around town, that's because K.C. has, oh, 200 of them. (Its official nickname is The City of Fountains.) Among the most notable are the equestrian-themed J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain (built by a French sculptor in 1910) and the Henry Wollman Bloch Fountain in front of Union Station, whose 232 concentric water jets put on an ever-changing display.

Don Ipock/Courtesy of Visit KC

Get artsy

Spend an afternoon wandering the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, notable for, among other things, distinctive architecture, an extensive Asian art collection and a sculpture garden that includes four giant badminton shuttlecocks. The nearby Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art houses more than 700 works from artists like Jasper Johns, Helen Frankenthaler and Frank Stella. You'll find an extra dose of culture throughout the city through October 28, thanks to Open Spaces, the city's newly inaugurated biennial arts festival.

Courtesy of Boulevard Brewing

Drink like a local

Fun fact: Kansas City famously said “nah, we're good" to Prohibition, so drinking is effectively part of the city's cultural fabric. Take a tour at Boulevard Brewing; beer geeks should be sure to sample the complex, extra-boozy pours from the Smokestack Series. If spirits are your jam, head to J. Rieger & Co., a legendary pre-Prohibition distillery that was resurrected in 2010 (with help from a descendant of J. Rieger himself), for whiskey, gin, vodka and Caffe Amaro (a bittersweet coffee liqueur).

Brian Paulette/Courtesy of Visit KC

Soak up the city's jazz past (and present)

Thanks in part to its unique, nightclub-friendly status in the '20s and '30s (see above), and heavyweights like K.C. native Charlie Parker, the city boasts a rich musical history, much of it centered around the 18th and Vine neighborhood. Pay homage at the Charlie Parker memorial and the American Jazz Museum, then catch a live show at the Blue Room (inside the museum) or the Green Lady Lounge.

Courtesy of Visit KC

Check out City Market

There are farmers' markets, and then there's this massive institution, which has been operating as a hub for local vendors since 1857. Along with a bounty of produce and flowers from nearby farms, you'll find dozens of eateries ranging from Ethiopian to Brazilian. It also shares the space with a surprising tenant: the Arabia Steamboat Museum, which showcases 200 tons of artifacts salvaged from an 1856 shipwreck in the Missouri River.

DAVID D. MORRIS/COURTESY OF VISIT KC

Eat barbecue

Anthony Bourdain called Joe's Kansas City Bar-B-Que one of the 13 places you need to eat before you die. The legendary spot—located in a gas station—is famous for its burnt ends and Z-man sandwich (brisket, Provolone and onion rings). For a new-school take on smoked meat, check out Q39, where the chef taps both his classical culinary training and years on the barbecue competition circuit to perfect dishes like a burnt-end burger and house-made chipotle sausage.

Zach Bauman/Courtesy of Visit KC

…And not barbecue

Feast on globally influenced small plates (think gochujang-dressed cauliflower and duck confit with za'atar) at The Antler Room, opened by a husband-and-wife team who brought their far-flung restaurant training back to their hometown. If the weather's nice, grab a seat on the patio at Gram & Dun for creative cocktails and comfort food with a twist like Asian pig “wings" with sake-soy glaze or loaded baked potato gnocchi. Also of note? The town's serious Mexican food scene. Order a whole wood-fired chicken at El Pollo Rey or walk into any of the great taquerias clustered around Southwest Boulevard.

Courtesy of Visit KC

Take a stroll in Swope Park

At 1,805 acres, the city's largest green space is more than twice the size of NYC's Central Park, and houses the Kansas City Zoo, a gorgeous outdoor amphitheater that presents Broadway shows and concerts, a zip-line adventure course, soccer pitches (where both the men's and women's pro teams train), a wildlife rehabilitation center and miles of hiking trails and picnicking spots.

Courtesy of Visit KC

Explore the Crossroads Arts District

Creatives flock to this historic neighborhood, filled with galleries, design shops and buzzy restaurants. If you can, time your visit for the first Friday of the month, when you'll find pop-up parties at galleries and shops, live performers on every corner and food trucks galore. Also in the area is the gorgeous Kaufmann Center for the Performing Arts, should you wish to cap your evening off with some ballet, symphony or opera.

RELATED: 20 Cities Where Travelers Get the Best Value


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Where to eat and drink in Salem

By The Hub team

While Salem, Massachusetts will be forever famous for its 1692 witch trials—and the associated spooky attractions that always make the streets quite crowded this time of year—its culinary scene is starting to become an attraction unto itself. Here are the beverage spots, bakeries, and restaurants to check out next time you're in town.

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The Roof at Hotel Salem

Aerial view of food at The Roof Salem Today is the day. We will be open 2-11! #wayup \Roof Salem

When the mid-century modern Hotel Salem opened recently, it had a draw for locals, too: Salem's first-ever roof deck, with views of the harbor, church steeples, and historic rooftops for miles around. Open at least through the end of October (request a blanket from a host if you get chilly), the open-air lounge keeps the warm weather vibes going with a mostly Mexican-inspired food and drink menu, including margaritas and tacos. In colder months, retreat downstairs for a double burger from the open-concept lunch and dinner bar, Counter.

Kokeshi

Fried chicken wings at Kokeshi Fried chicken wings... one of four courses offered during the first ever Ramen Mile this Thursday. What's a Ramen Mile? Check the link in our profile for info and sign ups. 🍗 \Kokeshi

With its flashy atmosphere (graffiti-lined walls, more than a dozen colorful paper umbrellas hanging from the rafters) and bold Asian street food menu, Kokeshi is nothing if not vibrant. Head here for surprising starters like an octopus hot dog sprinkled with daikon slaw and comforting bowls of rice noodles and ramen, including the Colonel Sanders, topped with fried chicken. If you're more in the mood for pizza, take note that the owners also serve perfectly crispy-chewy Neapolitan pies at their other spot, Bambolina.

Ledger Restaurant & Bar

Wood fire grilled carrots, house made herbed ricotta, maple, urfa, toasted pecans, chervil. One of the favorites from last summer is back on the menu. Wood fire grilled carrots, house made herbed ricotta, maple, urfa, toasted pecans, chervil. \Ledger Restaurant

A circa-1818 former savings bank found new life recently when chef-owner Matt O'Neil oversaw its thoughtful renovation into a gleaming restaurant space. Rustic touches like exposed original brick, a wall of repurposed deposit boxes, and a long, wooden communal table sit alongside more polished elements, including a sweeping open kitchen with a custom wood-fire grill and a dramatic, oversized chandelier over the bar. The menu has a new-New England vibe, with seasonal, locally sourced sides like cornbread and succotash, and hearty mains like a Berkshire pork chop with marinated peaches.

Life Alive

The Thinker salad mindfully composed exquisite red bell pepper tahini dressed baby kale with paper thin Winter Moon Root radishes pistachios green olives & marinated mushrooms.Life Alive Organic Cafe

Long before “plant-based" was a buzz-phrase and juice bars were popping up by the minute in downtowns everywhere, Life Alive was spreading its version of veggie love in the Boston area in the form of nutrient-packed smoothies, salads, and grain bowls (try the Goddess, with ginger shoyu sauce and sprouted legumes). Now four shops strong, including an outpost in Salem, this casual, organic cafe serves up the type of clean eats you'd expect to find at pricey yoga retreat.

Far from The Tree Hard Cider

It's on! 1 case limit per person. \Far From The Tree Cider

When you need a break from the witch museums and haunted graveyard tours, retreat to Far from the Tree's decidedly more mellow taproom. Pull up a stool in the rustic indoor space or perch on a picnic table on the patio outside, and sample hard ciders that run the gamut from off-dry heritage blends and Citra-hopped versions to out-there creations such as the limited edition Ecotoplasm, a bright green sipper spiked with jalapeno and green pepper out just in time for Halloween.

Notch Brewing

Voll Projekt Festbier on tap today for our annual Oktoberfest. Voll Projekt Festbier on tap today for our annual Oktoberfest. \Notch Brewing

Not that we're recommending it, but if you insist on drinking by the bootfull, these are the kind of beers you want to reach for. This ahead-of-the-curve session brewer specializes in low-abv German and Czech-style lagers and ales, like the signature “session IPA" Left of the Dial and even more quaffable pale ale Zwickel. In between rounds of Skee-Ball in the taproom, also check out Notch's Voll Projekt, the a new foray into full-strength brews.

A&J King Artisan Bakers

Baguettes! \A&J King Artisan Bakers

Master makers of all things crusty and buttery, artisan bakers Jackie and Andy King have earned themselves cult culinary status in this city—one croissant at a time. Stop by their original location or recently opened second bakery for a flaky apple tart or cinnamon bun, then fill your arms with as many rustic loaves of sourdough and baguettes as you can possibly tote home.

Caramel Patisserie

Morning 🥐🥐🥐 Patisserie & Macaron

French-born and clasically-trained pastry chef Dimitri Vallier makes some of the best treats in town—apparent by one glance at his picture-perfect pastry case. His elegant sweets, including Paris-brest eclairs and triangles of caramel mousse with poached pears are simply transportive. The only sign you're still in Salem? Alongside more traditional almond and rose macarons, you'll also find orange and black ones, too.


This article was written by Jenna Pelletier from Food & Wine and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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Introducing travel experiences with PlacePass

By The Hub team

Now that you've booked your flight, it's time to start planning out your trip itinerary. With so many options and endless websites to research, it can be a taxing task to take on. And if you're planning activities for everyone involved, it can be even more difficult to balance out the right amount of fun with the right number of touristy sites to visit.

With so many things to experience, research shows that travelers are seeking bespoke, local recommendations when it comes to planning their vacation itinerary. From activities like skip-the-line passes to museums, walking tours, water activities and more, our partnership with PlacePass provides top-rated recommendations when it comes to planning out your next trip. With over 100,000 travel experiences, you're sure to find something to do whether you're planning a family vacation, a trip with friends or tacking on a few extra days to your business trip.


To start, enter in your destination to browse categories of activities specific to that location. Activities are categorized by "most popular," "food and drinks," "family fun," "wine country" and more for nearly every destination we fly to, making it easy to find what you're looking for or discover new things to do.

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Our partnership with PlacePass is one of the ways we're bring more personalized experiences to our customers. As a leading technology solutions provider, PlacePass leads the way in bringing travelers in-destination experiences. Look out for more enhancements to our partnership early next year.

9 things to do in Maui for families

By The Hub team

With 120 miles of shoreline and 80 beaches in hues ranging from eggshell to ebony, there would be plenty for families to love about Maui, even if you didn't factor in the fascinating volcanic crater at Haleakala National Park. Here are nine fun-filled ways for your family to say Aloha to Maui.

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Gaze into a volcano

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Haleakala National Park is a literal high point of a visit to Maui: rising 10,000 feet above sea level, it's the world's largest dormant volcano. (If you plan to go before 7 a.m. to watch the sunrise, be sure to make a reservation ahead of time.) Once you've gazed into the crater and taken in the views over the entire island, there's plenty to explore in the otherworldly park filled with fascinating rock formations. Bring a jacket (it can be chilly up there) and stop at the ranger station as soon as you arrive for a free Junior Ranger Activity Booklet. Kids can complete the fun games based on sights around the park. Return to the ranger station when they're done and they'll be sworn in as Junior Rangers, complete with a plastic badge, the ultimate souvenir of a day up spent up in the clouds.

Take a flowery scavenger hunt

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While you're Up Country, amid the lush green slopes of Haleakala, visit the lovely and fragrant Alii Kula Lavender Farm. A free scavenger hunt will keep keikei (kids) busy wandering through the flowers and fruit trees — the reward for finishing is complimentary lavender cookies. Parents will love the gorgeous views and a relaxing stroll through the colorful grounds.

Pet a goat

Zach Stovall

Near the lavender garden is another Up Country family highlight: Surfing Goat Dairy. The goats don't actually surf unfortunately, but you can feed and pet them, and even sign up for a late afternoon milking tour to really get hands on.

Enjoy an authentic luau

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You'll want to arrive early for the popular Old Lahaina Luau, when traditional artisans demonstrate crafts such as palm weaving and wood carving, and your family can learn how to hula and play traditional instruments. The luau kicks off with the unveiling of the kalua pig that roasts all day in an underground pit, then the night unfolds as the sun sets, with live musicians and dozens of costumed dancers. Expect a massive, all-inclusive buffet where you can sample local tastes such as poi, pork, and poke, plus kid-palate friendly items including fried rice and barbecued “Moa" chicken.

Go on a whale watching tour

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Hit the seas with the marine biologists at Pacific Whale Foundation during humpback whale season, November through April, when nearly 10,000 of the mammoth mammals travel from Alaska to mate and give birth in the warm Hawaiian waters. Spotting a car-size tail shooting out of the water or witnessing an acrobatic out-of-water breach is the kind of spectacle your kids will remember for a long while, and PWF even offers a Jr. Naturalist Program for kids on their sailings.

See sharks at the aquarium

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Are your kids not ready for a boat adventure but still want to see amazing sea life? The Maui Ocean Center has a colorful Living Reef exhibit where you can spot unique swimmers like Hawaii's state fish, the humuhumu nukunuku apuaa. You can also see sea turtles, visit touch tanks, and walk through a 750,000 gallon tank filled with sharks.

Soak up the sun at Kaanapali Beach

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There's a beach for every mood on Maui, and of them Kaanapali is a top spot for families, especially the section just south of Black Rock — a landmark where a torch is lit and a diver plunges into the sea at sunset every night. Rent snorkel equipment and within seconds you'll spot tropical fish. Grab a bite to eat at the open-air Whaler's Village shopping center that has access right from the beach walkway. Plan to stay in the quieter area of North Kaanapali, north of Black Rock, where the Westin Nanea Ocean Villas offers multi-bedroom suites with full kitchens and washer dryers, a fabulous lagoon pool, cultural activities, a kids club, and communal grills where you can make an easy stay-in dinner for the family.

Explore the largest Banyan Tree

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The historic town of Lahaina is filled with original buildings from the 1800s when it was a bustling whaling town. The biggest attention grabber for kids is the massive, 60-foot high banyan tree (the largest in the United States), which has branches that extend across an entire block. There's always shade under the tree, making it the perfect spot to savor a tropical syrup-infused shave ice from one of the shops nearby.

Take a road trip

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The Road to Hana is legendary: 50 miles of hairpin turns and one lane bridges that test a driver's mettle, even without a car full of kids who might succumb to motion sickness. Instead of plunging down the entire drive, turn it into a road trip exploration that suits your family. Going just a third of the drive (less than an hour without stops), you can have lunch in the funky beach town of Paia (kids love the pizza at Flatbreads), watch the windsurfers at Hookipa Beach, feel the cooling spray at Twin Falls, take a mini hike at Waikamoi Ridge Trail, and stop to see the colorful painted eucalyptus and enjoy some fresh fruit at Garden of Eden. Then turn around and head back to the beach.


This article was written by Melissa Klurman from Islands and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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Fun and spooky travel destinations for Halloween

By Matt Chernov

For many people, Halloween travel typically involves a stroll around the neighborhood with the kids as they go trick-or-treating, or perhaps a drive across the city to a costume party. But for adventurous travelers who are searching for genuine thrills and chills on October 31st, a trip to one of these seven destinations is the perfect way to celebrate the spookiest day of the year.

Sleepy Hollow

Lighthouse on a dark day in Sleepy Hollow.

Washington Irving's classic story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" tells the eerie tale of an unlucky schoolteacher who encounters a pumpkin-headed phantom while walking through the woods at night. In actuality, the fictional town of Sleepy Hollow is based on the real-life village of Tarrytown, New York. Every October, the residents of Tarrytown pay tribute to Irving's fable with a series of family-friendly events that attract visitors from far and wide. This year's celebration includes a spooky cemetery tour, an elaborate haunted hayride, vintage horror movies at the historic Tarrytown Music Hall and a possible visit from the Headless Horseman himself.

New Orleans Haunted History Tour

Above ground cemetery in New Orleans

New Orleans is widely considered the ghost capital of the United States, and for very good reason. Founded as a French colony in 1718, the city has a rich history of attracting immigrants from Spain, Africa and Haiti, each of whom brought with them a unique set of superstitions and religious practices. Today, voodoo rituals, vampire legends and zombie tales abound in The Big Easy, and the best way to experience them is by taking one of the popular Haunted History Tours. Choose between the classic ghost tour, the haunted pub crawl, the creepy cemetery stroll and the authentic voodoo tour.

The Stanley Hotel

The Stanley Hotel in Colorado

Nestled amid the glorious Rocky Mountains of Colorado, the beautiful Stanley Hotel is the real-life inspiration for Stephen King's terrifying bestseller “The Shining." In 1974, King and his wife Tabitha spent a night at The Stanley and quickly discovered that they were the only guests in the entire hotel. This sparked the author's fiendish imagination, and he began outlining the novel's chilling plot that same evening. Though he changed its name to The Overlook Hotel for the book, The Stanley remains the true setting. Today, fans of “The Shining" can celebrate Halloween at the hotel with a series of horror-themed events, including a murder mystery dinner, a lavish masquerade party and an official Shining Ball.

The Paris Catacombs

The Paris Catacombs

Throughout much of its history, Paris has been known as the City of Lights. Yet beneath its lovely streets, a more accurate description would be the City of Bones. That's because the skeletal remains of more than 6 million bodies are buried in the network of underground tunnels and narrow passages that wind their way below Paris. Since it was first opened to the public in 1874, this macabre labyrinth has become one of the most popular attractions in all of Europe. Catering to demand, a variety of catacomb tours are available for travelers who want to explore the hidden world of the dead.

Poenari Castle

Perched high on a cliff in the Arefu village of Romania, this atmospheric castle is considered by many to be the original home of Count Dracula himself. In reality, it was an imposing stone fortress belonging to the infamous warlord Vlad the Impaler, who was the inspiration for Bram Stoker's legendary vampire character. Built at the beginning of the 13th century, Poenari Castle is in a state of perpetual ruin, yet tours are still available to brave souls who are willing to climb the 1400 steps to reach its crumbling citadel.

Newgrange Tomb

Newgrange Tomb in Ireland

The first people to celebrate Halloween (then known as the Festival of Samhain) were the ancient Druids of Ireland, so a trip to this 5,200-year old Druid tomb in Ireland's Boyne Valley is the perfect place to spend the holiday. Constructed during the Neolithic period by Stone Age farmers, Newgrange consists of a massive circular mound divided by a long stone passageway and filled with multiple burial chambers. According to Irish folklore, it was believed to be the dwelling of a god called Dagda, who wielded a massive club that was capable of raising the dead. Tours of the prehistoric monument are available to the public.

Loch Ness

View of ruins of a castle from a boat in Loch Ness.

If you've ever dreamed of coming face to face with a genuine monster, why not spend this Halloween searching for aquatic sea creatures in Scotland? The legendary beast, affectionately nicknamed Nessie, was first spotted in the freshwater Loch as far back as the 6th century AD. Since then, there have been countless sightings, but aside from a handful of grainy photos, no actual proof has been captured. So grab a camera and reserve a seat on the Jacobite Loch Ness Tour. You just might be the one to prove its existence, once and for all!

If you go

Halloween can be frightening, but planning your next trip doesn't have to be. Book your tickets by visiting united.com, or by using the convenient united app.

Celebrating Girls in Aviation Day

By The Hub team

We are proud to work with Women in Aviation so that together we can help break down barriers and promote inclusion while also inspiring a future generation of aviation leaders that includes women.

We kicked off Girls in Aviation Day by bringing in young women from Girls Inc. to meet a group of our female pilots and to try the flight simulators at our new flight training center in Denver.

We are continuously working to build a workforce as diverse as the communities we serve, which is why we are excited to hold Girls in Aviation Day events in a record number of 12 locations around the world. Through this event in Denver and the other events held across the globe, we are working to engage girls as they begin to think about their own futures so we can ensure a strong future of women in the industry.


Cuba: A city filled with culture and heart

By The Hub team

Each week we will profile one of our employee's adventures across the globe, featuring a new location for every employee's story. Follow along every week to learn more about their travel experiences.

By Remote Reservations Sales and Service Representative Susie Grisley

My favorite travel experience was visiting the beautiful city of Havana, Cuba. My strong curiosity persisted when the U.S. and Cuban governments finally agreed to cooperate on U.S. citizens traveling to this previously forbidden place. Reviewing the documents, I learned we could go in under the "Humanitarian" category, as the borders had not been opened to come and go as any American pleased. A group of us gathered, including some of my Boston-based colleagues and my three sons. We purchased a ton of toys and goodies for the children of Cuba.

Colorful, classic cars in Cuba.

Upon arriving in this fortress of deteriorating concrete, old buildings and damaged structures, we found an amazing city full of culture and heart. The Cuban people were glowing with an unmatched happiness and welcomed us with open arms. They were friendly, hospitable and very excited to see us, the Americans. They are extremely proud of their city, which despite the broken sidewalks and crumbling walls, was insanely beautiful. The colorful buildings and the colorful working vintage Chevys are among the amazing things to see. They are so proud of their old cars. Out of necessity, they have learned to work on their own cars with very simple tools. If the car breaks down while driving, they simply get out, open the hood, twist and bang and get it running as they know how to do. No one honks at them if they are in the road. This is just their way. The insides of the cars are simple, yet they maintain them as their prized possessions. They all, however, have music! They love driving proudly through the streets in their shiny old cars with music pouring out the open windows. Riding in many of them, each "taxi" was a new experience of its own.

Despite the gorgeous architecture and the classic cars, it truly was heart-warming getting to mingle with the Cuban people and learning their way of life. They are a beautiful people with beautiful, happy hearts ready to greet every American.


When it came time to hand out toys and gifts, we carried our toy bag through the streets, and it was apparent to us the children did not live with much. The delight and smiles on their faces were unimaginable. Their gratitude was evident, and my only regret was that we did not have enough for every child we saw. I thought my heart would explode at their excitement and appreciation.

Havana, Cuba is a travel must. It is an unbelievable place with an unbelievable story.

I left Cuba with a new realization of what it is like to live in a closed nation. I found a vibrant society of happy people full of fun, music and culture. I came home with a love of Havana and its people forever in my heart.

It was a trip of a life time and an experience we will never forget.

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