Three Perfect Days: Houston
It's easy to think you know Texas—the word is shorthand for longhorns, cowboy boots, dusty trails, and a certain Southern charm. And, to an extent, it's all true: People in Houston do wear large hats sometimes, and few non-Texans can match their ability to rock cowboy boots in business meetings. But in a city whose top industries include energy, aerospace, and medical science, the Lone Star tropes only get you so far. Yes, there will be Tex-Mex and pearl snap shirts. But there will also be groundbreaking art, creative fusion food, and the control center that put humans on the moon. All towns have their contradictions, but few accommodate them as comfortably as this Southern city on the bayou. Everything's bigger in Texas, so there's plenty of room.
Houston is a place of many surprises, the first of which is that the humidity will go right ahead and do your hair for you. By the time I finish drinking coffee on my charming little opera balcony at Hotel ZaZa, which overlooks the city's live oak–lined Museum District, the bayou breeze has worked its magic, leaving my hair with more body than I thought possible. As far as hotel amenities go, I'm all for it.
My first stop this morning is a funky red-brick coffee shop called Blacksmith, for a croissant with crème fraîche and marmalade. I'm also meeting Chris Shepherd, who won the James Beard Best Chef Southwest award in 2014 and runs an ever-shifting restaurant empire on a few blocks of Houston's Montrose neighborhood.
Shepherd enters Blacksmith with so much hand-shaking and back-slapping that he might as well be the mayor. A big man with oversize opinions, he tends to say things like: “The Houston food scene needs to be about more than us. It needs to be about a city united." Diners at his most famous restaurant, Underbelly, leave with a list of local restaurants, farms, grocery stores, and bars that Shepherd recommends they visit before they come back.
“My lips have swollen up as if they've been stung by wasps, and I still can't stop eating."
One of the restaurants Shepherd advocates for is Crawfish & Noodles, a Vietnamese-Cajun joint in Chinatown that was recently featured (along with Shepherd) in David Chang's Netflix documentary series, Ugly Delicious. Shepherd is taking me there to meet chef Trong Nguyen, a Vietnamese immigrant (the Houston metro area has the third-largest population of Vietnamese in the U.S.) who is making some of the most exciting food in the country right now.
Clams at Crawfish & Noodles
At a no-frills table in the back, Shepherd orders us a round of Tsingtao beers, sticky-sweet fish sauce chicken wings, fried salt and pepper blue crabs that we crack open to mine the sweet lump meat, and tender turkey neck with shallots fried so thin and chewy you could mistake them for noodles. Then there are the spicy garlic-butter crawfish, served in a bag that you have to cut open so they tumble out into a bowl alongside a potato or two and a fearsomely spice-slathered cut of corn cob. We rip the tails off and suck the heads in rapturous silence for a few minutes, until we're huffing and sniffling from the pepper. My lips have swollen up as if they've been stung by wasps, and I still can't stop eating.
Chef Chris Shepherd tackles the crustaceans at Crawfish & Noodles
“Who's got the stones to eat the corn?" Shepherd says with a laugh.
After lunch, he takes me on a tour of the neighborhood, stopping at a shop around the corner, Gio Lua Duc Huong, to pick up what he says is the best Vietnamese bologna in the city. Then he drops me back at Blacksmith, promising to meet up for drinks later.
To make room for dinner, I take a walk through Montrose, wandering streets lined with bars and restaurants and then rows of single-family houses whose porches are festooned with lanterns and whose pickup trucks sit beneath light-laced trees. Blame the weather: Houstonians love a good outdoor space.
About 15 minutes south of Blacksmith I find the Rothko Chapel, a nondenominational reflection space that Houston philanthropists Dominique and John de Menil commissioned from painter Mark Rothko back in 1964. (It opened in 1971.) Inside, benches and meditation pillows face 14 moody Rothko paintings, their brushstrokes uneven enough to suggest hidden realms receding into the distance, like when you put two mirrors across from each other. My favorite is a bluish one that looks like the nitrogen bubbles sinking into a Guinness. I mean, it's also just a plain blue square, of course. Rothkos are confusing.
Barnett Newman'sBroken Obelisk in front of the Rothko Chapel
After freshening up at the hotel, I head back to Montrose for dinner at Shepherd's Underbelly. Come July, the space that currently houses the restaurant will have been transformed into his latest venture, a steakhouse called Georgia James, while a smaller, nimbler version of Underbelly, UB Preserv, will have opened down the street, and Shepherd's One Fifth concept restaurant, which offers a new cuisine every year, will switch to Mediterranean. Confused? All you really need to remember is that Underbelly's signature dishes—Korean braised goat and dumplings, cha ca–style fish with turmeric and dill, and crispy market vegetables with caramelized fish sauce, which were inspired by Vietnamese wings like the ones at Crawfish & Noodles—will be available in perpetuity at Shepherd's hipster craft beer bar, Hay Merchant.
A mural in Market Square Park by graffiti artist GONZO247
After I've eaten, Shepherd returns to join me for a drink at the nearby Anvil Bar & Refuge, a classic cocktail bar with a good-looking clientele, huge windows, and a flea-market Campari sign so cool I'd try to steal it if I could figure out how to get it in the car. Apparently, new bartenders at Anvil have to spend a night making every drink on the house list of 100 cocktails you should have once in your life, and selling them for just $1 apiece.
“Blame the weather: Houstonians
love a good outdoor space."
Tonight's bartender tells us there are going to be two of them tomorrow, which feels a little bit like that classic bar sign, “Free beer yesterday." No matter—I'll gladly pay full price for a cocktail as fun as the Weather Top, which arrives in a tiny coupe glass with a powdered sugar–covered rosemary sprig on top, like Christmas in spring.
Anvil Bar & Refuge
Montrose is an ideal neighborhood for carousing—you can walk from bar to bar, and everyone seems to have the same starry-eyed idea about what nighttime is for. Shepherd and I have drinks. And then more drinks. “I can't believe we're opening three restaurants at the same time, and renovating our house," he says. He claps me on the back, a sign that I have been approved by the de facto mayor of Houston. “We're stupid," he says.
Eventually, I say goodnight and call an Uber to take me back to Hotel ZaZa, where I shout “Goodnight, shiny horse!" to the disco-ball equine standing astride the lobby koi pond, and then crawl, fully clothed, into bed.\n
OK, I need a donut. Actually, I heard rumors last night about something even better: kolaches, savory stuffed buns that are like a cross between a ham croissant and a King's Hawaiian roll, but with sausage. I decide to get one at Christy's Donuts & Kolaches, a no-nonsense pseudo-diner in Montrose. Under an enormous yellow sign, a few hardcore patrons read the newspaper, powdered sugar on their faces. I order two kolaches: a standard sausage, cheddar, and jalapeño, and a slightly larger one stuffed with boudin—crumbly, heavily spiced Cajun rice sausage. The latter can only be described as revelatory.
The tinyMercury 9 spacecraft
Next, I'm off on a 40-minute drive down to Space Center Houston, the only way you can get into NASA's Johnson Space Center without a chaperone or a government ID. Inside the museum, I turn into an excitable 10-year-old. I touch rocks from the moon and Mars and pretend I'm a superhero. I climb into a replica space shuttle—the Independence—and pretend to press all the buttons. I look at old spacesuits and buy astronaut ice cream and imagine being crammed into the minuscule Mercury 9 spacecraft (about which astronaut John Glenn once said, “You don't climb into the Mercury spacecraft; you put it on.")
An Extravehicular Mobility Unit suit at Space Center Houston
Finally, I board a tram for a tour of the actual Johnson Space Center. The first stop is the historic Mission Control Center, which handled the Gemini and Apollo missions (Remember “Houston, we have a problem"?) until it was decommissioned in favor of a modern mission control center in 1995. The man who leads our tour reverently describes the dedication of the team that put humans on the moon using less computer memory than you could stash on a USB stick. It's sobering to learn a fact like that while looking at a room that could be a set in a 1960s period piece. What the heck have I done with all the power in my iPhone?
Next, we pass through the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility, where engineers are building a humanoid robot that is so dexterous it can turn a page without ripping it. A young boy leans over to his friend and says what I'm pretty sure everyone else is thinking: “I wish I had a LEGO set of this whole place!"
Inside the replica shuttleIndependence
“I turn into a 10-year-old, touching rocks from the moon and pretending I'm a superhero."
By the time I leave, I'm starving. Luckily, even from the highway it's impossible to miss the massive wood pavilion that marks Killen's Barbecue. The food here is so good—woody and smoky and wonderfully fattening—that there's a long line of folks waiting to get in. I order tender brisket, smoky pork ribs, tangy collard greens, beef ribs, and mac 'n' cheese so thick and gooey it's practically a solid block.
Buffalo Bayou Park
There's not much one can do after such a lunch, other than fall into a food coma or take a walk. I opt for the latter. Founded in 1986, Buffalo Bayou Park gives visitors a sense of what Houston was like before it was covered in cool restaurants and fancy offices. Surrounding a creek that flows from Katy, Texas, through the River Oaks neighborhood, and down to Galveston Bay, the park is a wild mix of Texas prairie flora, a haunting cistern that dates to 1926, a “lost" pond, and some unexpected wildlife.
The sun is setting when I enter the park, and I soon find myself waiting in a crowd next to a bridge, in the hope that the 250,000 members of the Waugh Drive Bat Colony will wake up and flitter out into the dusk in search of insects. Finally, they emerge, spiraling out in wispy curlicues. A hawk swoops by, trying to catch one, and the crowd makes disappointed “awww" noises when it misses, as if we're watching a football game. But then the hawk succeeds, and tears its prey to smithereens in a tree while everyone watches in horror and fascination. What is this, Yellowstone?
“Buffalo Bayou Park gives visitors a sense of what Houston was like before it was covered in cool restaurants and fancy offices."
The park's underground 1926 cistern
Bats observed, I drive over to the Marriott Marquis, which towers over the downtown neighborhood of Avenida Houston like a Las Vegas casino. The marble lobby features intersecting arcs of grand chandeliers and fresh floral arrangements. From my corner room, which has almost more windows than walls, I look out onto Discovery Green, a park that hosts concerts and Saturday morning yoga and skating sessions in one of those plastic rinks that are ubiquitous in places with hot climates. I even have a view of the hotel's 530-foot-long neon-blue lazy river, shaped like the state of Texas.
The lazy river at the Marriott Marquis
James Beard Award-winning chef Hugo Ortega
Tonight's dinner is at the Marriott's restaurant, Xochi, an ode to Oaxacan food from Houston chef Hugo Ortega, who won the 2017 James Beard Award for Best Chef Southwest. Ortega grew up in Mexico City, learned to make masa while living on top of a mountain with his grandmother, and worked his way up in the restaurant world starting as a dishwasher. If all that doesn't establish this place's authenticity, the seven-piece mariachi band that's serenading an adorable Latina toddler when I walk in ought to do the trick.
I start with a mezcal old fashioned that's so smooth you forget it's mezcal—more like an expensive bourbon that decided to wear a cool hat. Then come the moles, four of them, ranging from a black one that takes two days to cook to a red one made with ants. These are followed by housemade queso fresco served with dollops of black bean and butternut puree, crispy gusanos (worms), and big, round ants, which taste like meaty Rice Krispies. Next comes an order of buttery baked oysters topped with yellow mole and roasted lime, which tastes so good I toy with the idea of moving to Mexico. Dessert is chocolate mousse topped with a chocolate branch with real leaves and flowers, washed down with a rich, creamy hot cocoa frothed tableside with a stick.
A mole dish at Xochi
Do I go to sleep after this feast? Do you have any idea how much caffeine is in fresh hot cocoa? Near the Texas-shaped lazy river is an alluring rectangular fire pit. I grab my book and read a few chapters in the glow of the flames. When the crickets head off to bed, so do I.
“Then come the moles, ranging from a black mole that takes two days to cook to a red one made with ants."
From my window, I can see a family playing in the lazy river, and given that I am still full from last night's dinner, I decide to join them, lolling around in the pool like a sea lion until I get hot and retreat inside. The sun! Where have you been all my life?
Sun makes me hungry, so I drive back to Montrose to hit up Goodnight Charlie's, which has just opened up shop for its Sunday High Noon brunch. The place is a hip Texas honky-tonk, and if that sounds like an oxymoron, it's only because so is one of its owners: David Keck, a former opera singer from Vermont who attended Columbia University and Juilliard and came up with the idea to open this place while studying for his Master Sommelier exam. (He's the 149th person in the U.S. to achieve the distinction.) “I'm kind of an obsessive person," Keck tells me as I sit down to eat. (You don't say.) “But country music and bourbon are two things that I feel no obligation to go down the rabbit hole about. I can just enjoy them. So there's something about Goodnight Charlie's that is just about having fun."
Tacos at Goodnight Charlie's
He's right about the fun: The stage is lit by pink and green neon cactus sculptures and a sheet-metal moon with punched-out stars. Behind the bar is a display that includes a 1970s Dolly Parton doll and a taxidermied armadillo holding a Topo Chico mineral water. I order breakfast tacos with chorizo, Yucatan-inspired cochinita pibil tacos with braised pork, and Mexico City–style cheese-steak tacos.
A honky-tonk band at Goodnight Charlie's“There's something about Goodnight Charlie's that is just about having fun."
From here, I drive up to the mellow, tree-lined Heights neighborhood to shop for souvenirs. At the top of some rickety wooden stairs I find Manready Mercantile, a pseudo–hunting lodge that sells flags and shirts and waxed canvas bags and man-scented candles made downstairs. I buy my boyfriend some bourbon-flavored toothpicks and myself a rose-and-musk candle from the $20 bargain bin. “They're working on a new scent, and these are the ones that aren't ready yet," the saleswoman tells me. I sniff. Smells ready to me.
Kitschy wares at Manready Mercantile
Down the street, I poke my head into AG Antiques, where, inspired by Hotel ZaZa's disco horse, I gaze longingly at a 4-foot rose-quartz cow skull. I'm pretty sure it won't fit into my carry-on, so I leave it where it is and hope someone reading a major airline magazine will buy it and give it a good home. Just don't tell me about it, or I'll be jealous.
At last, it's time to eat some vegetables, and there is a perfect place for such an activity just down the street. Coltivare reminds me of a rustic Southern wedding reception: Globe lights are strung up across the backyard, which features a woodpile and happy people sitting in circles sipping rosé. There aren't many tables available, but I manage to score a seat in front of the open kitchen, where I can watch the cooks artfully arrange pizzas in a blazing oven. I order buttery bread with chicken liver mousse and a crisp fennel salad with avocado and local citrus, followed by a large bowl of cacio e pepe with tons of Parmesan and olive oil. Olives are a vegetable, right?
“Imagine Houston as a kid who went off to graduate school for mechanical engineering and still refuses to take off his cowboy boots."
To balance out this brush with healthy living, I head out in search of the diviest dive bar in town. I end up at Alice's Tall Texan, which, seated at the intersection of two drab streets, is the kind of place where you'd get an establishing shot of a movie villain as he drives up. Inside, a couple of old-timers tap their feet to an even older jukebox. “What'll it be?" asks the bartender, gesturing to the two taps, both of them Texas-born beers: Lone Star and Shiner. I choose Lone Star, and the bartender delivers it in a frosted chalice the size of my face. I have to use two hands to lift it. “That'll be three dollars," she says. Well, shoot.
I sit there and drink my mammoth three-dollar beer and watch some basketball and marvel at the idea that a place like this could exist down the street from a place like Coltivare. But the wonderful thing about Houston is that you wouldn't even think to question it. The hip and the traditional, the country and the city, the immigrant and the old-timer—they're all equally Houstonian, and sometimes they're all the very same restaurant. Imagine Houston as a kid who went off to graduate school for mechanical engineering but still refuses to take off his cowboy boots. Who wouldn't love a kid like that?
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Love flies with us: Upcoming Pride month events
To help celebrate Pride Month, we're offering customers the opportunity to use their MileagePlus® award miles to bid on exclusive Pride packages. All proceeds will benefit our charity partner, The Trevor Project, a nonprofit that provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services for LGBTQ youth.
Bid on one of our exclusive Pride packages including:
- Attend a Drag Queen Brunch in Chicago
- Pride getaway package + walk in the parade with United in Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston or San Francisco
- WorldPride New York City getaway package + walk in the parade with United
- VIP Family movie night in the park in NYC
- Attend a Drag Queen Brunch at Newark Airport
"As Pride Month approaches, we invite MileagePlus members to show their pride, embrace the LGBTQ+ community and join United in saying 'all routes lead to love'," said Luc Bondar, United's president of MileagePlus and vice president of Loyalty. "United is thrilled to offer these unique Pride experiences and help The Trevor Project in their mission to support LGBTQ youth."
Additionally, on June 28, in partnership with iHeartMedia's Z100, we will celebrate PRIDE LIVE's Stonewall Day, the 50th anniversary of Stonewall. The Stonewall Foundation will be inducting key community members including United into PRIDE LIVE's STONEWALL ambassador program at Stonewall Day.
"Supporting LGBTQ youth in crisis from every state across the country takes significant travel resources, and we're grateful to United Airlines for contributing to our mission in such a valuable way," said Muneer Panjwani, Head of Corporate Development for The Trevor Project. "Their commitment to our mission of ending suicide among LGBTQ youth makes them a valued partner throughout the year, helping us save young LGBTQ lives every day."
Be sure to look out for United throughout the month of June as we'll be participating in Pride events across the globe including Pride parades in Washington, D.C. on 6/8, LA on 6/9, Denver on 6/16, Houston on 6/22, San Jose (Costa Rica) on 6/23, Mexico City on 6/29, Bogota on 6/30, San Francisco on 6/30, Chicago on 6/30, World Pride in New York City on 6/30 and then on 7/6 in London and 10/19 in Honolulu.
We team up with Audubon International to save owls in San Francisco
Today, we strengthened our emerging reputation as the world's most environmentally conscious airline by announcing that we are expanding our successful Raptor Relocation Network to our premier West Coast hub, San Francisco International Airport. We are teaming up with Audubon International to trap raptors — primarily barn owls — residing near the airport and resettle these birds of prey at suitable golf course habitats where the species are more likely to thrive.
We initially partnered with Audubon International to launch the Raptor Relocation Network in 2017 at Newark Liberty International Airport, where it has successfully resettled more than 80 birds — including several American kestrels, a species of concern in New Jersey. We will now work in tandem with Audubon International and San Francisco airport officials to resettle the barn owls and other at-risk species at Bay Area golf courses certified within the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program. As an official sponsor of the PGA Tour, we are uniquely positioned to help connect wildlife professionals at airports with the suitable golf course habitats identified by Audubon International for relocation purposes and to help inform the public on the importance of environmental sustainability.
Our expansion of the Raptor Relocation Network follows our recent announcement in San Francisco that we have committed to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2050. Our pledge to reduce emissions by 50% relative to 2005 represents the equivalent of removing 4.5 million vehicles from the road, or the total number of cars in New York City and Los Angeles combined.
"Being environmentally conscious means more than just reducing our footprint; it means convening different groups to develop new and innovative ways to actively protect vulnerable species," said Janet Lamkin, United's president of California. "As we continue our commitment to protect raptors in the New York area, we are excited to expand our efforts to San Francisco and further underscore our industry-leading efforts to operate sustainably and responsibly."
"Audubon International is excited to be working with United Airlines' Eco-Skies program to expand the Raptor Relocation Network to the West Coast," said Christine Kane, Audubon International's chief executive officer. "Thousands of golf courses across the world have adopted environmentally sustainable property management practices that support wildlife habitat through our Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program. Bringing this all together to provide safe, high-quality habitat for raptors is a great success."
For more information on our commitment to environmental sustainability, visit united.com/ecoskies.
Escape to Cape Town: Waves, wines and lions at the "bottom of the world"
The reasons world travelers give when calling Cape Town their favorite African city are as abundant as the African Penguins (about 3,000) that waddle the beaches of Table Mountain National Park. Besides that park, which stretches from the city to the southwestern tip of Africa, these reasons include a wow-worthy waterfront, great restaurants and easy access to wonderful wineries.
Cape Town becomes more accessible beginning in December 2019, when United is due to become the first U.S. airline to offer nonstop flights to Cape Town, subject to government approval. The Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner flights will depart New York/Newark on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and return from Cape Town on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays. They will reduce travel time by at least four hours and allow one-stop service to Cape Town from more than 80 U.S. cities.
Every accommodation type can be found, from quiet B&Bs; to chic urban hotels. Central Cape Town and waterfront hotels are ideal if you want the convenience of being close to restaurants and shopping. Simon's Town district guesthouses bring you within waddling distance of penguins and False Bay beaches. Table Mountain views are relished at Gardens district hotels. Then there are coastal hideaways like Monkey Valley Resort, wedged between a milkwood forest and a beach, and The Twelve Apostles, a seaside hotel named for the mountains that tower above it.
Under the Table
Table Mountain National Park is as diverse as the flora and fauna that populate its 85 square miles. The piece of the park within city limits is a stunning swath of evergreens that soar up to the flat-topped, 3,500-foot namesake peak. The day hike or cable car ride to the summit is an exhilarating use of a few hours to shake off your jet lag. The two other main sections of the national park are Tokai Park, filled with birds and baboons, and Cape Peninsula, which extends along the Atlantic Ocean (including the Boulders Beach Penguin Colony) all the way to the Cape of Good Hope at the "bottom of the world."
On the waterfront
It's hard to beat simple pleasures like hiking up Table Mountain or Lion's Head, lazing on Cape Town's beaches or visiting the world-class Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. But, visitors should also spend time on Cape Town's Table Bay waterfront, home to a dizzying array of restaurants, shops, museums, galleries and attractions. Zeitz MOCAA houses the world's largest collection of contemporary African art in a 10-story former grain silo that was repurposed in 2017. Also on the waterfront are the Two Oceans Aquarium and ferries that whisk you to Robben Island, where the museum tells the inspiring story of Nelson Mandela's journey from prisoner to president.
Wining and dining
Constantia grape wineland countryside landscape background of hills with mountain backdrop in Cape Town South Africa
The Cape Winelands, among the world's leading wine regions, is within 40 miles of Cape Town, centered around the 17th-century towns of Stellenbosch and Paarl. Excellent restaurants are found at many Winelands wineries (as well as in Cape Town), but perhaps the best spot to wine and dine is even closer to the city — Groot Constantia, where wines have been produced since 1685. Visitors can enjoy tastings or food pairings of the award-winning wines; tour the Manor House, wine museum and history museum; and dine at one of two restaurants.
Lions, leopards and rhinos
Several game reserves within a three-hour drive of Cape Town allow visitors to see African wildlife in their native habitat. The 25,000-acre Inverdoorn and Aquila reserves each offer half-day safaris on which you may spot all of the "big five" — lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants and buffalo — as well as cheetahs, giraffes and wildebeests, from open-air vehicles. The Sanbona Reserve is even larger (but a bit farther out), while the Grootbros Reserve specializes in boating safaris that deliver sightings of southern right whales, great white sharks, bottlenose dolphins, African penguins and Cape fur seals.
When to go and how to get around
The first United nonstop flights and South Africa's summer both begin in December. Rain is rare from December to March, when high temperatures are typically in the high seventies, so Cape Town is a perfect warm-weather escape. Once you arrive, Uber, taxis, rental cars (driven on the left side), sightseeing buses and trains and are all convenient transportation options. And oh yeah, South Africans speak English.
If you go
You can purchase tickets now at united.com or on the United app for three weekly nonstop flights from New York/Newark to Cape Town beginning December 15, subject to government approval. Redeem MileagePlus® Rewards points to cover your hotel and car.
Chicago's 10 best outdoor bars and restaurants
Don't let its Windy City nickname fool you. During the spring and summer months, Chicago is the perfect destination to enjoy some outdoor fun. And there's no better way to do that than by catching a few rays on one of the city's rooftop bars or restaurant patios. As the weather brightens, here's a guide to Chicago's most exciting outdoor drinking and dining spots.
Located on the roof of the Hoxton hotel, Cabra is one of Chicago's newest rooftop bars and restaurants that is sure to be a busy summer hangout spot. This Peruvian restaurant is colorful and vibrant with a menu filled with reinvented and traditional Peruvian dishes. The open designed dining room is filled with plush seating, bright colors and plants hanging over the bar, giving the restaurant a lively yet relaxing atmosphere.
Offering an elevated view of the Chicago River, this stylish rooftop bar more than lives up to its name. Located on the third floor of the Renaissance Chicago Downtown Hotel, Raised combines a modern industrial aesthetic with all the comforts of a sophisticated hotel bar. The beverage menu includes a wide variety of local microbrews, plus seasonal cocktails served by the glass or decanter for larger groups.
Fun is on tap at Cerise, the playful rooftop bar on the 26th floor of Chicago's Virgin Hotel. Inspired by Japan's popular izakaya gastropubs, this hip lounge features a colorful cocktail menu filled with sparkling spritzers and fruity fizzes. Famed designer Paola Navone helped craft the whimsical decor, making Cerise one of the most Instagrammable bars in the city.
The J. Parker
It's difficult to decide what's most impressive about The J. Parker. From the signature mixed drinks inspired by the flavors of Mexico, Cuba and Spain, to the sharing menu created by award-winning chef Paul Vivant, every aspect of this rooftop bar is worth experiencing. Above all, the bird's eye view of Lake Michigan and Lincoln Park make it truly spectacular.
Located on the 13th floor of the historic Chicago Athletic Association building, Cindy's is one of the most popular spots in the city, and for very good reason. Sporting incredible views of Lake Michigan and Millennium Park, this gorgeous rooftop bar and restaurant welcomes patrons with a constantly evolving food and drink menu, including summery treats like boozy popsicles and amaretto ice cream pops.
Can't decide whether to try a rooftop beer garden or a street-level patio? Parlor has you covered either way. With two locations in Chicago, this comfortable pizza bar offers multiple outdoor dining options. On the menu, Parlor has some of the most creative pizzas you'll ever try, like Eggs Benedict (Canadian ham, three eggs, and lemon Hollandaise sauce) and Pork-Q Pie (cherry peppers, BBQ pork, pineapple and smoked mozzarella).
Combining traditional and modern Mexican food with killer margaritas that you can order by the pitcher, El Cid has been a mainstay of Chicago's Logan Square neighborhood for more than 15 years. Their outdoor front patio is great for people-watching, while their discrete back patio provides an intimate atmosphere that's perfect for a romantic dinner.
Open on three sides at the back of the restaurant, the private terrace at Gather is a relaxing alternative to the elegant inner dining room. Seating on the terrace is first come, first served, so you might run into an occasional wait. But rest assured, it's well worth it. To help distinguish the space, Executive Chef Ken Carter has crafted a separate menu designed to be shared outdoors.
Chicago carnivores, rejoice! You're in for a treat at this restaurant, bar and butcher shop in the city's Wicker Park neighborhood. The menu is loaded with steaks, chops, burgers and charcuterie, all of which are available to order on the upstairs patio. For a full night's entertainment, check out a live concert in Chop Shop's popular event space after your meal.
With its lush outdoor patio and upscale menu, The Dawson is a place you'll want to return to repeatedly. Tucked away in the River West neighborhood, it's an ideal spot for large groups of friends looking to unwind after a day of exploring the city. The patio includes a full outdoor bar and a fireplace for cooler nights.
If you go
Around the web
An insiders’ tour of Fishtown, Philadelphia
Story by Lauren Itzkowitz | Illustrations by Francesco Zorzi | Hemispheres, May 2019
Named for the shad fisheries that once lined the Delaware River, this working-class Irish, German, and Polish neighborhood has drawn creative types for years. New restaurants and lodging options may be raising Fishtown's profile, but it's still a tight-knit community—as evinced by these six locals, who showed us the area's hot spots.
Cheu Fishtown chef and co-owner Ben Puchowitz recommends…
“Suraya has great healthy lunch options that don't drag you down the rest of the day. It's a beautiful space, and the food is ambitious."
Suraya executive chef and co-owner Nick Kennedy recommends…
“Riverwards Produce is a go-to when my family is planning dinner. I love their produce and cheese—they have what I find myself needing."
Riverwards Produce owner Vincent Finazzo recommends…
“I send people to Vestige to experience a boutique that feels like it's from the desert in California. With jewelry, candles, and a curated body-care section, Vestige transports you to a better place."
Vestige owner Ashley Gleason recommends…
“I like La Colombe [the coffee brand's flagship café] for people-watching and spending a few hours staring into my laptop. They also have the best bread in the city."
La Colombe president and cofounder JP Iberti recommends…
“Wm. Mulherin's Sons is a great place to grab a drink, mostly because a drink always turns into dinner, and Mulherin's offers one of the best meals in Philly. Their hotel is always booked, much like the restaurant."
Wm. Mulherin's Sons co-owner Randall Cook recommends…
“Cheu is great when I'm in the mood for a midday treat. A counter seat at the bar lets you see all the action, the ramen is killer, and the draft beer is ice cold."
The 2019 Hemispheres hotel top 20
Story by Nicolas DeRenzo | Hemispheres May 2019
Our annual compendium of the best new hotels in the world takes us from from Rio to ryokan, Savannah to surf club. No matter where you're going, in these pages, you'll find a place where you'll want to stay.
Hotel Amparo San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
For Social Media Influencers
Just in time for its designation as the 2019 American Capital of Culture, San Miguel de Allende—which is practically an artists' colony unto itself—welcomed this five-room hideaway in the 300-year-old former mayor's residence. Thanks to co-owner Mariana Barran Goodall, who grew up in Monterrey, Mexico, and runs Houston-based Hibiscus Linens, every tiny detail here is ready for its close-up. It won't take long for you to fill up your Instagram grid with shots of gold room keys, hand-stitched napkins, custom bathroom tiles made by local artisans, and even the coasters.
WE LOVE the flower-filled courtyard, a great place to take a selfie or sit with an espresso from the on-site café, which sources Mexican beans from Buna roasters. From $250, hotelamparo.com
Eastwind Hotel & Bar Windham, New York
For Hip Hikers
For many vacationers, the Catskills conjure images of 1950s summer camp resorts and Dirty Dancing. The Eastwind provides a sleek, Scandinavian-style counterpoint to those Borscht Belt spots of old. Opened last June on the site of a 1920s bunkhouse about 150 miles north of New York City, the 19-room retreat is a perfect jumping-off point for hiking, fly-fishing, and snowshoeing excursions. If you're feeling creative, write a few jokes—these are the stomping grounds of Joan Rivers and Henny Youngman, after all—on a vintage typewriter in one of the writer's studio suites. Or take a load off under a Faribault Woolen Mills plaid throw in one of the spartan-chic A-frame Lushna cabins.
Six Senses Maxwell Singapore
The second of two Six Senses urban resorts to open in the Lion City last year doesn't immediately scream “eco-friendly." The posh 138-room property across from the Maxwell Food Centre occupies a 1929 Art Deco heritage building and exudes Old World opulence with fixtures such as brocade headboards, silk lampshades, and damask velvet chairs. However, befitting its home in Asia's greenest city, the hotel is also home to a series of sustainable touches: reusable glass water bottles, biodegradable cornstarch toothbrushes, locally sourced minibar items, and a restaurant that serves responsibly caught fish.
WE LOVE the traditional ice cream tricycle, from which guests can order free organic ice cream sandwiches (in flavors like durian, red bean, and sweet corn) on soft, colorful bread, kept cold by a solar-powered refrigerator. From $240, sixsenses.com
The Middle House Shanghai
Set just off Shanghai's main shopping street, West Nanjing Road, the newest member of Swire Hotels' House Collective is a polished den of understated glamour, courtesy of Milan-based interior designer Piero Lissoni. The entryway is as heart-stoppingly dramatic as any couture runway show: A 3,760-piece Venetian glass chandelier hangs surrounded by emerald-green, bamboo-patterned tiles. The 111-room hotel, which opened last spring, boasts a nearly 700-work art collection—over half of which is Chinese—loosely inspired by the curatorial theme “I Dream of China."
WE LOVE Caroline Cheng's lobby installation, Prosperity, a black robe covered with 12,000 tiny butterfly figurines crafted in China's porcelain-making capital, Jingdezhen. From $268, themiddlehousehotel.com
Palihotel Seattle Seattle
For Stylish Seafarers
Guests arriving at the check-in desk at the first Palisociety hotel outside of Los Angeles are greeted by a portrait of a raincoat-clad, pipe-smoking sailor—a perfect introduction to the subtly nautical vibe that permeates Seattle's newest hotel, which opened in November one block from the bustling Pike Place Market. The prime location means the seafood (sweet-and-spicy salmon jerky, littleneck clams, local oysters) at the on-site restaurant, The Hart and the Hunter, is always as fresh and invigorating as the Puget Sound views from the landmark 1895 building's upper floors.
WE LOVE The Hart and the Hunter's briny Elliott Bay Gibson, which includes oyster-shell-infused gin, Maldon sea salt, bay leaf olive oil, and a pickled onion. From $175, palisociety.com
Perry Lane Hotel Savannah, Georgia
For Aspiring Southern Belles
Few American cities are better preserved than Savannah, with its centuries-old squares and statues and hanging Spanish moss. Last June, the city's Historic District got a rare new addition, the 167-room Perry Lane Hotel. The Luxury Collection property pays such deep homage to the Hostess City of the South that— aside from a loaner jazz guitar from local luthier Benedetto and an art collection that includes works by 81 artists with ties to the Savannah College of Art and Design—it invented a fictional grande dame named Adelaide Harcourt to help define its aesthetic. (Look for her portrait above the lobby fireplace.)
WE LOVE the polka-dotted Gargoyle Artillery statues at the rooftop bar, Peregrin; you'll keep turning away from the views of the Historic District to consider their Gothic-psychedelic visages. From $187, perrylanehotel.com
Hôtel de Berri Paris
For Art Connoisseurs
The City of Light isn't short on artful luxury accommodations, but how many Parisian palaces look like they were born in a Rodin fever dream? The lobby at this Luxury Collection property, which opened last May just steps from the Champs-Élysées, is scattered with sculpted figures and busts, many of them reproductions from the Louvre's molding workshop. Designer Philippe Renaud gave each of the 40 rooms and 35 suites a unique color scheme and art theme; one might have red-and-yellow-striped walls hung with simple figurative line drawings, while another's matte olive-green walls boast Cubist paintings. No matter the decor, reserve a room with a view of the lush garden.
WE LOVE the Bemelmans Bar–meets–Ralph Steadman mural of Parisian street scenes that wraps around the Michelin-recommended Italian restaurant Le Schiap (named for couturier Elsa Schiaparelli, who once lived at this address). From $445, marriott.com
The Ramble Hotel Denver
Most travelers are happy if their hotel has one great bar; at this new 50-room boutique property, there are four, all of them run by the team behind New York's award-winning cocktail den Death & Co. By night, the grand lobby's sunny café transforms into a swanky lounge with velvet curtains and spangly chandeliers. Hidden upstairs is Suite 6A, an intimate 21-seat bar. A ballroom/venue/theater, Vauxhall, is aimed directly at the surrounding River North Art District's culturati. Finally, outside, under the glow of artist Scott Young's neon Wish You Were Her(e) sign, The Garden serves up patio classics such as Aperol spritzes and mojitos.
WE LOVE that the bartenders are so willing to chat about their favorite unsung ingredients, like a French fortified wine called Pineau des Charentes that's featured in the Black Poodle alongside Irish whiskey, amaro, aloe, and sparkling mineral water. From $209, theramblehotel.com
Skylark Negril Beach Resort Negril, Jamaica
For Boho Beach Bums
In Jamaican slang, to skylark is to goof off, mess around, or make mischief. Ironically, that's an activity that the designers at the impeccable Skylark Negril Beach Resort seem not to have pursued. The sister property to the nearby Rockhouse Hotel opened in June on Seven Mile Beach and pairs modernist touches—geometric breeze-block, whitewashed concrete—with pops of color from retro travel posters and throw pillows emblazoned with a print of the island's favorite fruit, bright-red ackee.
WE LOVE the outpost of NYC restaurant Miss Lily's, which serves up Caribbean rums and jerk favorites smoked over pimento wood to a soundtrack of reggae and dancehall hits. From $95, skylarknegril.com
The Hoxton, Williamsburg Brooklyn
For Digital Nomads
The London-based Hoxton chain brought its trademark combination of high design and low rates to the States last fall, with the debut of this 175-room outpost—a perfect spot for freelancers and creative types who aren't chained to a cubicle (i.e., Brooklynites). You and your laptop will feel at home in your cheerily appointed room, which features a smart wall-mounted desk and a retro Roberts Radio. If you're more productive surrounded by others, head down to the beehive-busy sunken lobby, which is done up in eclectic, sherbet-hued furniture.
WE LOVE procrastinating by perusing the Best of Brooklyn line of locally made products—such as Pintrill pizza slice pins, Brins strawberry vanilla jam, and Sesame Letterpress notecards—for sale in the lobby. From $159, thehoxton.com
Woodlark Hotel Portland, Oregon
For Plant Lovers
It's fitting that the latest hip lodging in a town known as the Rose City would be aimed at green thumbs. Opened in December in side-by-side landmark buildings downtown, the 150-room Woodlark Hotel is decorated with moody black-and-white botanical photos by Imogen Cunningham, while the conservatory-like foyer teems with a greenhouse's worth of potted trees. In this pattern-obsessed city—remember the famous PDX airport carpet?—the guest rooms' custom wallpaper, featuring the sort of native Pacific Northwest flora you'd find in nearby Forest Park, is sure to become iconic.
WE LOVE the artfully composed bouquets for sale at the lobby outpost of Colibri, an elegant flower shop co-owned by James Beard Award–winning chef Naomi Pomeroy. From $125, woodlarkhotel.com
Janeiro Rio de Janeiro
For Sun Seekers
This 53-room hotel in beachside Leblon was opened last fall by fashion designer and Osklen founder Oskar Metsavaht, but its stark, sun-bleached, minimalist aesthetic owes a great deal to another Brazilian Oscar: architect Oscar Niemeyer, the Rio-born genius best known for New York City's UN headquarters and Brasília's space-age government buildings. In a city beloved for the ostentatious vibrancy of Carnaval, the Janeiro's sandy earth tones, blond freijo wood, travertine limestone, and sculptural rattan pieces offer an oasis of calm.
WE LOVE the 18th-floor infinity pool, which overlooks the white cliffs of the Cagarras Islands and the Morro Dois Irmãos (Two Brothers Hill). From $288, janeirohotel.rio
United Places Botanic Gardens Melbourne, Australia
Many new hotels tout their live-like-a-local bona fides, but few feel as much like a posh apartment block as this 12-suite bolthole, which opened last June in Melbourne's gallery-filled South Yarra neighborhood. If location is everything, you can't do much better than a property overlooking the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, while suites include all the trappings of a dream flat: rain showers with Le Labo products, oak parquet floors, sleek furnishings from Patricia Urquiola and Grant Featherston, and a bar cart stocked with Tasmania's award-winning Sullivans Cove whiskey. Best of all, each suite comes with personalized concierge service.
WE LOVE the in-room breakfasts from the team downstairs at Matilda 159, an open-fire restaurant serving such creative dishes as sea bream tartare and spanner crab with prawn butter. From $461, unitedplaces.com.au
Shinola Hotel Detroit
For American Artisans
A lot is riding on the shoulders of Shinola, the Detroit-based watchmaker that has become synonymous with the Rust Belt's renaissance. In January, the company got into the hotel game with a 129-room space that sprawls across three new buildings and two downtown landmarks—the former Singer Sewing Machine shop and the T.B. Rayl Co. hardware store. Throughout the property, you'll find products made exclusively for the hotel, such as scented candles with notes of cherry blossom, leather, and smoke, and Shinola-branded cola in the Michigan-centric minibar.
WE LOVE the in-room Runwell desk clocks, scaled-up versions of the first watch the company ever produced. From $255, shinolahotel.com
Belmond Cadogan Hotel London
You'll be inspired to put pen to paper at this reimagined Chelsea property, which opened in February after a flawless $48 million renovation of the 1887 Cadogan Hotel. Oscar Wilde's former pied-à-terre is now part of the Royal Suite, in-room libraries are curated by family-owned John Sandoe Books, and an installation of 600 bronze-cast hardbacks encases the lobby elevator bank. Guests of the 54 rooms and suites are granted a key to Cadogan Place Gardens across the street, where they can sit under a mulberry tree with a notebook and sketch their own picture of Dorian Gray. Need inspiration? One taste of the decadent chicken butter at chef Adam Handling's eponymous restaurant will do the trick.
WE LOVE that reading in the bath is encouraged: The deep Victoria + Albert soaking tubs feature a bamboo bathtub tray complete with a book stand—and a holder for your Champagne flute. From $620, belmond.com
Eaton DC Washington, D.C.
For Social Activists
K Street may be synonymous with D.C. lobbyists, but, as of last September, it's also home to a new hub for budding activists. Katherine Lo—the daughter of the Langham hotel group's chairman—designed her 209-room Eaton DC to inspire the next RBG or AOC at every turn. Tune in to the house radio station, grab a book from the Radical Library (which features works by Roxane Gay and Langston Hughes), or brainstorm with fellow progressives over turmeric lattes at the Kintsugi café. You can even call down to the front desk for a nightstand copy of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
WE LOVE Erik Thor Sandberg's Wonderland-themed lobby mural, Allegory, which replaces Alice with civil rights icon Ruby Bridges, the first black child to desegregate an all-white elementary school. From $199, eatonworkshop.com
Noah Surf House Santa Cruz, Portugal
You'll want to learn the Portuguese word for “to chill" (relaxar) before you set foot in this surf-bum paradise, which opened on the Silver Coast, 50 minutes from Lisbon, last July. Its 21 rooms are divided between a central surfhouse that features hostel-style bunk accommodations and 13 boxy bungalows that dot the hilly dunes. There's an inescapably '70s SoCal vibe here, from the beanbag chairs and rope swings to a skate park and an organic garden filled with a small brood of hens.
WE LOVE the upcycled decor, which incorporates traffic signs, old boats, octopus traps, and fishing nets. From $182, noahsurfhouseportugal.com
KAI Sengokuhara Kanagawa, Japan
For Zen Seekers
It's impossible not to relax at Japan's newest onsen (hot spring) resort, which opened last July in Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, two hours by train from Tokyo. The art-themed ryokan invites you to slip into a yukata (cotton robe) and then do absolutely nothing—except soak in the milky, mineral-rich water piped from the Owakudani volcanic valley into a communal bathhouse and private guest room soaking tubs. Equally invigorating are 24-year-old chef Akari Sash's inspired kaiseki dinners; with dishes like abalone grilled over nearly 400-degree stones, she'll have you forgetting all about Western-style spa meals.
WE LOVE the tenugui (cotton towel) decorating workshop, which feels like a sophisticated answer to the adult coloring book trend. From $332 per person, including breakfasts and dinners, kai-ryokan.jp
The Carpenter Hotel Austin, Texas
You'll wish you could sign up for a meal plan at this millennially minded hotel, just steps from Zilker Park. Food-world power couple Christina Skogly Knowlton and Andrew Knowlton (the host of Netflix's The Final Table) are behind the offerings at Hot L Coffee and Carpenters Hall, a restaurant located in, yes, a former union hall. Start with huckleberry butter–topped waffles, snack poolside on the best chocolate chip cookies ever, then sip a pear brandy–based Kind Eyes cocktail before a dinner of big-as-your-head chicken schnitzel. The 93 rooms are just as delectable, with custom-designed striped cotton blankets, blue-and-terracotta-tiled bathrooms, and thoughtful, vintage-inspired over-bed lights.
WE LOVE that each room has a terrace, outfitted simply with two folding chairs—the perfect place to sip a surprisingly inexpensive minibar Lone Star at the end of the evening.From $175, carpenterhotel.com
7Pines Resort Ibiza Ibiza, Spain
For Swanky Swimmers
Forget Ibiza's party-hearty reputation: At 7Pines, on the Mediterranean island's quieter west coast, relaxation is key. Guests at the 186-suite property from The Leading Hotels of the World don't need to pack much more than a bathing suit (and a dinner-appropriate outfit or two) because they'll want to spend all day snapping mermaid-inspired Instagram shots along the infinity pool's glass wall. Need a change of scenery? A five-minute walk down a stone staircase leads to secluded Cala Codolar beach, where all the sunbathers look like they stepped out of an Antonioni film. Finish the day with a massage at the Pure Seven Spa, which, of course, has its own pool.
WE LOVE that no matter where you dine—on modern Asian cuisine at The View, prawn tartare at the Cone Club, or piña coladas at the Pershing Yacht Terrace—the Balearic Sea is always in sight. From $448, 7pines.com
Photo Credits: Marcus Jolly (Hotel Amparos); Jordan Layon (Eastwind Hotel); © E Leong (The Middle House);Eric Laignet/Paris Images (Hotel de Berri); Adam Szafranski (The Ramble Hotel) Nicole Franzen (Shinola Hotel); Courtesy of Belmond Cadogen Hotel (Belmond Cadogen Hotel); Adrian Gaut (Eaton DC); Noah Surf House Portugal (Noah Surf House); Akifumi Yamabe (KAI Sengokuhara); Alex Lau (Carpenter Hotel); Tomas Alonso Salvador (7Pines)
The day off: Nashville
Story by Nicolas DeRenzo | Hemispheres May 2019
Music City's burgeoning tech scene is tapping into the Tennessean capital's creative energy with outposts for such brands as Lyft, Postmates, Warby Parker, and Amazon, which is opening a 1 million-square-foot operations center complete with 5,000 jobs. “Silicon Honky Tonk," anyone?
Cafe Roze chef Julia Jaksic named her East Nashville eatery after the Croatian word for “pink," a color that dominates the sunny space. Grab a bar seat and order a cardamom-rose latte and a country ham toast—a slab of sourdough heaped with soft-scrambled eggs, paper-thin Benton's ham, and snowdrifts of parmesan.
Cross the Cumberland River and head to the Tennessee State Museum, which moved into its new $160 million digs last fall. The collection, which covers 13,000 years of area history, features such objects as Andrew Jackson's inauguration hat and a spangly Dolly Parton outfit and guitar.
Hot chicken is a staple here, but Martin's Bar-B-Que Joint makes the case that Nashville is an unsung BBQ town, too. Pitmaster Pat Martin got his start in nearby Nolensville, but his downtown location is a 13,000-square-foot ode to hickory-smoked, Western Tennessee–style whole hog.
Let's face it: You're going to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Once you're there, don't skip Hatch Show Print, which moved into the same building in 2013. America's oldest letterpress print shop, which turns 140 this year, has churned out bold concert posters for everyone from Elvis Presley to Kacey Musgraves. Try pressing your own on one of the store's guided tours.
Stroll over to historic Printers Alley to freshen up in your room at the new Bobby Hotel. Stop to greet the staff—in particular, the hotel's mascot, Sasha the rescue dog—and check out lyricist Bernie Taupin's mixed-media artworks in the lobby before heading up to the rooftop lounge, which offers seating in a 1956 Scenicruiser tour bus.
Dinner is at Bastion, former Catbird Seat chef Josh Habiger's 24-seat spot, which is hidden, speakeasy-style, in a cocktail bar/nacho joint in the Wedgewood-Houston warehouse district. Go for the “Let's Try Everything" tasting menu option, offering a flurry of small plates with deceptively simple names, such as Raw Lamb + Sunflower, Mackerel + Barley, and Apple + Foie Gras.
Back on the east side, duck into a different sort of speakeasy, the Southern outpost of NYC cocktail den Attaboy. There's no menu, so your server will ask you a series of questions, and then, in the words of Grand Ole Opry member Carrie Underwood, let Jesus—or whoever's behind the bar—take the wheel to craft you a perfectly bespoke drink.
Photo Credit: Lisa Diederich Photography (Cafe Roze); courtesy of the Tennessee State Museum (guitar); courtesy of Martin's BBQ (sign); Andrea Behrends (Bastion); CK Photo/courtesy of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum (vintage posters); Aaron Ingrao (Attaboy)
Weekend inspiration: Ellijay, Georgia
Only a few hours from Atlanta we found a calm and sweet retreat at the start of the Appalachian Trail. Most folks know about the mountain escapes in Blue Ridge, but not many know about the nearby town of Ellijay.
We recommend renting a cabin for a weekend getaway. Blue Sky Cabin Rentals have some stunning cabins on lakes and in the mountains with wilderness views galore.
Here are our favorite things to do while in Ellijay for the weekend.
When you arrive on Friday evening, stop by Ellijay Wood Fired Pizza for some delicious thin crust pizza with creative toppings. Afterward, head around the corner for build your own frozen yogurt at Abby's Ice Cream and Frozen Yogurt.
On Saturday morning, stop by the cozy Ellijay Coffeehouse for a cup of coffee and their egg and apricot panini. Everything is homemade and high-quality.
After a hearty breakfast, check out one of the stunning hikes around the area. This town marks the beginning of the Appalachian Trail, so if you'd like to experience some of it, drive to the beginning of the Long Creek Falls Trail. This gorgeous walk will take you through the Three Folks Valley and to the Falls, giving you a taste of the Appalachian Trail.
After hiking, pack a picnic lunch and head to one of the wonderful wineries in the area. We recommend starting at Fainting Goat and then heading to Chateau Meichtry Family Vineyard and Winery, Ott Farms and Vineyards, Engelman Vineyards and Cartecay Vineyards. If you only have time for a single stop, our favorite was the stunningly beautiful Chateau Meichtry Family Vineyard.
Pro tip: Each year, in the month of March, the Winegrowers Association of Georgia organizes a winery tour passport that you can purchase for $50 to experience a tasting at all of the vineyards in the area.
Once you've enjoyed a few tastings, we recommend ending your evening at Chester Brunnenmeyer's Bar & Grill in Blue Ridge for dinner. Their steak is creatively plated and delicious.
After all the hiking and wine tasting festivities from the day before, there's nothing better than a lazy Sunday morning. If you're looking for a good traditional Southern breakfast, look no further than the CornerStone Café. Their biscuits are everything a Southern biscuit should be — slightly salty, very fluffy and infinitely satisfying.
After breakfast, grab your tennis shoes and wander through the incredible antique malls that are scattered throughout this charming Georgia town. We found shabby chic treasures, fine Victorian dishware and antique hutches galore.
Stop by the Cantaberry Café for traditional American staples, like their fantastic egg and chicken salad sandwiches. Then, see if Cartacay Winery is open across the street in case you missed getting a bottle of wine there the day before. We grabbed a few bottles of their chardonnay for our Mom.
After lunch, devote some serious time to exploring Ellijay's home décor shop, Artful Ellijay. The outside features a large balloon mural by Kelsey (commissioned by Artful Ellijay) and the inside features an impressive assortment of sophisticated, silly and carefree items your house probably needs. We were obsessed with Kim Daniel's whimsical and joyful paintings of farm animals, the wood trolls hidden in crevices around the shop and their impressive display of children's gifts.
Once you're done shopping, head across the street to River Street Tavern for dinner. The Reubens are worth the calories.
The feedback from customers and employees was clear: we needed to improve our boarding process. As part of our ongoing efforts to put customers at the center of everything we do, we identified boarding as an opportunity to improve the airport experience. We tested a variety of different boarding processes on thousands of flights across multiple airports. Best practices emerged from each test, and combined, they now form what we are calling "Better Boarding".
Better Boarding consists of three key improvements
Less time in line:
By reducing the number of boarding lanes, there is more space for customers to enjoy the gate areas, many of which have been completely remodeled with more comfortable seating and in some airports, the ability to have food and drinks from within the airport delivered directly to the gate area. Over the years, we have invested millions of dollars in our terminals, and now with less time spent standing in line, customers will have more time to dine, shop, relax, work or enjoy a United Club℠.
Simplified gate layout
Say goodbye to the five long lines we see today
Group 1 will board through the blue lane.
Group 2 will board through the green lane, followed by groups 3, 4, and 5.
Late arriving customers in Group 1 and 2 will use the blue lane.
Customers in groups 3, 4, and 5 always use the green lane.
We are providing customers with more information throughout the boarding process so that they feel more at ease, and more equipped with the latest information about their flight. Customers with the United app can receive a push notification once their flight starts boarding. Customers will only receive the notification if they've opted in for push notifications and have a mobile boarding pass in the app's wallet.
Be in the know about boarding
Customers will receive boarding notifications through the United app (if they've opted in for notifications).
Improved gate area digital signage to guide customers through boarding.
Balanced groups and better recognition:
United MileagePlus® Premier 1K® customers will now pre-board and United MileagePlus Premier Gold customers will be boarding in Group 1. For more information on our boarding groups, visit: https://www.united.com/web/en-us/content/travel/airport/boarding-process.aspx
Improved premier customer recognition
We're happy to make them happy
Improved premier recognition and better positioning of customers to create balanced boarding groups.
The new Better Boarding process is just one of the steps we are taking to improve the customer experience. We will continue to collect feedback from customers on ways we can further improve boarding and you may receive a post-travel survey to tell us more about your experience
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Neighbors, coworkers, parents, protectors, heroes. All of these labels and more encompass the men and women whose devotion to our country serves as the truest embodiment of the American spirit. We're talking about Veterans. Join host Phil Torres as he heads to our nation's capital to learn more about these heroes and to explore just how many United employees are veterans on this Big Metal Bird.
From players and personnel to thousands of pounds of equipment, it takes not only a game plan, but a team to get the San Francisco 49ers to their next game and back all within 24 hours. This process is a little thing in the airline business we call chartering. Learn more about how our Charter team gets professional sports teams to their away games and back on the newest episode of Big Metal Bird.