Three Perfect Days: Oslo
hemispheres

Three Perfect Days: Oslo

By The Hub team , July 16, 2015

Story by Chris Wright | Photography by Ilja C. Hendel | Hemispheres, July 2015

When people talk about a city's golden age, they're generally referring to the past. Oslo, though, is hitting the heights right now. The Norwegian capital has always had its appeal—natural beauty, courteous citizens, cultural heritage—but it's never been considered a hotbed of excitement and innovation. Until now. Over the last few decades, Oslo has undergone a massively ambitious revitalization project, bankrolled by Norway's oil reserves and driven by a broad effort to forge a lasting national identity. The city today is bursting with groundbreaking architecture, art and cuisine, its citizens brimming with optimism and energy. People say this sort of thing all the time, but with Oslo it's true: There has never been a better time to be here.

Day 1 Graphic

In which Chris attempts two difficult tasks: paddleboarding and understanding the Norwegian government

So here I am, in Oslo.

Actually, that's not completely true. Strictly speaking, I'm a few feet offshore, up to my nostrils in fjord water. Nearby, a classical pianist named Aksel Kolstad is offering advice. “Grab the board!" he is hollering. He is also laughing, which doesn't seem right.

Kolstad, a keen paddleboarder, has taken me for a turn around Oslofjord, and I've gone in. “I'm going in," I'd announced earlier, a moment before I toppled into the clear, cold water. A small crowd has gathered to watch as I dig my fingernails into a boardwalk, unable to haul myself up, unwilling to let go.

Aksel Kolstad, Classical pianistAksel Kolstad, Classical pianist

How different it was a few hours ago. I woke up in a stylish hotel room nearby, amid puppy-soft pillows and dark wood finishes. Across from my bed was a sliding door and a balcony. After grappling for a while with the Minority Report coffee machine, I stood out there and gazed dreamily across the water that is now claiming both my body temperature and my dignity.

Historically, high-end hospitality in Oslo has tended toward the Baroque—giltwood mirrors and looming chandeliers. The Thief, with its retro-futuristic décor, is the city's first true boutique hotel, set in the city's first boutique neighborhood: Tjuvholmen (Thief Island), a tiny peninsula that was a shabby port a decade ago but now bristles with oil-money architecture, including Renzo Piano's sweeping wood-and-glass Astrup Fearnley Museum.

If the local infatuation with Oslofjord is tied to friluftsliv (the Norwegian love of nature), then the Tjuvholmen development is part of a more recent proclivity. “We have endured a cultural ice age, and now we are starting to blossom," Kolstad says, sitting at a grand piano in his performance space near the Thief. “Oslo is a glass globe—you shake it, and it snows art."

“There's a lot of great new architecture in Oslo, but I'm hoping we don't turn into Dubai. Sometimes I think, you know, 'Dude, how about planting a little bit of grass?'" —Aksel Kolstad

Kolstad is not your everyday classical musician. “I'll be playing Mozart, and I'll suddenly flex my chest like this," he says, making his pectoral muscles jiggle. But the element of slapstick in his concerts is also part of a local tradition. “Oslo is a city of eccentrics; it's filled with characters."

Still damp, I set out on an exploratory stroll. Earlier, I plotted my course on a map: my first stop, Akershus Fortress, looked to be about a half hour away on foot. But Oslo is smaller than the maps suggest. The fort stands across the fjord—you could throw a comedic classical pianist and hit it from here. If it weren't for all the stuff to gawp at along the way—the jostling artworks, the shipyard shops at Aker Brygge, the islands dotting the fjord—I could easily slosh there in 10 minutes or less.

I reach the mainland and City Hall, a redbrick, twin-towered monolith that could be a Bronx housing project but for the mytho-heroic reliefs dotting its facade (and the fact that Nobel Peace Prize ceremonies are held within). I stand for a bit on the bustling waterfront, watching an elderly woman in Romany dress bashing a tambourine, then head for Akershus.

Vigeland Sculpture ParkVigeland Sculpture Park

Inside, the fort is a tangle of undulant paths, soaring curtain walls and crumbling archways. Two spires stand above it all, part of a 17th-century reconstruction after old Oslo, razed by fire, was abandoned and the land around the fort settled. Over 700 years, various parts have been demolished, rebuilt and embellished, resulting in a helter-skelter of styles—today, it stands as a symbol of Norway's efforts to forge its own identity after centuries of subjugation.

I have more history in store a couple of blocks away at Engebret Café, whose regulars have included Edvard Grieg, Henrik Ibsen and Edvard Munch. I order the cured herring, which, owner Kay Johnsen says, should really be washed down with an aquavit aperitif. “Herring and strong liquor. Very traditional."

I ask if I can try the grilled whale. I've always imagined that whale was what sailors ate before they started on their crewmates—a second-to-last resort—but this (minke, culled for scientific purposes, I am told) is fantastic: gamy and tender, not a hint of blubber. As I exit, Johnsen shows me a framed letter from Munch, written after he'd been kicked out of the café for drunkenness. An apology? “No," Johnsen says, laughing. “It's blaming everybody but himself."

Luckily, my next stop is close by. Built in the 1690s, Oslo Cathedral isn't the grandest religious structure in the world, but it is impressive, its blocky clock tower looming over a busy flower market. There's an organ recital inside, so I take a pew and examine Hugo Lous Mohr's trippy ceiling art, which includes an image of a man battering a sad-looking dragon with an inverted crucifix.

Built in 1200, the Norwegian Folk Museum's Gol Stave Church is littered with eerie carvingsBuilt in 1200, the Norwegian Folk Museum's Gol Stave Church is littered with eerie carvings

Next, I waddle up pedestrianized Karl Johans Street, past H&M and Mango and out onto a broad promenade flanked by ornate 18th-century townhouses and a clutter of landmarks: the National Theater, the National Gallery, the Royal Palace. I stop to gaze at the stylistic mishmash of the Storting (parliament) building, then head inside to watch Norway's politicians debate the issues of the day. As I enter, a guard tells me that I need to empty my pockets into a tray.

Him: “The money we keep!"

Me: “No wonder Norway is so wealthy!"

Both: “Ha! Ha!"

Earlier, Kolstad told me there's a gloomy streak underlying a lot of Norwegian humor, but there's also what he described as “pillow comedy" (so called because “you want to put a pillow over your face"), an example of which would be a guy climbing a tree to retrieve his kid's kite and meeting the gaze of a woman, naked, sunbathing in the yard next door: “It's not what it seems!"

I don't understand what the politicians in the red-and-gold rotunda are saying, but their tone suggests it might be something pressing, like replacing the soap dispensers in the bathrooms. I sneak out and make my way back to Thief Island, heralded by City Hall's 49-bell carillon, which belts out a tune that drowns out the gulls and street performers.

After a quick nap, I sink into an armchair in the Thief's swish eatery Fru K, next to a Philippe Starck lamp shaped like an assault rifle, and receive a succession of dishes: salmon caviar with horseradish and lemon curd; turbot soup with Jerusalem artichoke; bleak roe with cabbage and popcorn crackling; steak tartare with oyster emulsion. It's a splendid meal, washed down with some splendid wine, all of which sets me up for my big night out: standing on my balcony, looking out at the Oslofjord, its surface burnished by the moon. Man, I think, taking a swig of beer, that water looks cold.

In which Chris sees Norway's finest artworks and eats its most artfully constructed food

Breakfast today is in the Grand Café, at the Grand Hotel. This may be the most famous room in Oslo, frequented by pretty much every notable person who ever set foot in the city (I pass Michael Moore on the way in). On one wall is a mural, circa 1928, depicting the café's former patrons, including Munch, who once made a scene here over an unpaid bill. I help myself to a healthy plate of salmon, salad and rustic bread, followed by a mountain of lardy bacon and sausage.

The Grand occupies the other end of the hipness scale from the Thief. Set in a stately building on Karl Johans Street, the hotel opened in 1874 and remains resolutely old school. I've checked into a suite that is a paragon of gentility, exemplified by the French windows overlooking the street. It's all I can do to resist waving regally at the rabble below.

Christian Ringnes, Businessman and founder, Ekeberg Sculpture ParkChristian Ringnes, Businessman and founder, Ekeberg Sculpture Park

My goal this morning is to get to the National Gallery early, in order to beat the crowds. It works: I spend 20 minutes entirely alone in a hall of Munch masterpieces, including “The Scream." Nearby are his reclining “Madonna" and the inexplicably creepy “Girls on the Pier." Magic.

From here, I stroll through the Royal Palace grounds to the city's tony West End, then cut left onto Hegdehaugsveien Street, home to upscale retailers like Tara, where you can pick up a pair of graffiti-covered jeans for $1,300. Soon, I enter Vigeland Sculpture Park, via a bridge bearing a procession of disconcertingly realistic bronze statues of naked people, wrestling, running or just standing arms akimbo. The most famous is a baby stamping his foot in petulant fury. Another depicts a man kicking a small child across the floor. Ah, um…

It took sculptor Gustav Vigeland 20 years to create the 200-plus works that make up this installation, which opened in the mid-1940s. The centerpiece is the 46-foot granite tower “Monolith," comprised of 121 squirming, heaped-up men, women and children, a work that is said to speak of divine inspiration but which to me seems fantastically sinister. Taxi!

“Oslo has always been a very safe city. You can leave a suitcase of money at the train station and come back an hour later and it will have been moved to the side, so nobody trips over it." —Christian Ringnes

My next stop is across town, at Ekeberg Sculpture Park, opened two years ago by billionaire Christian Ringnes. Set on a high hill (Munch got his inspiration for “The Scream" up here), the park is formed of 31 works scattered over 64 acres. I find Ringnes rummaging around in Salvador Dalí's “Venus de Milo with Drawers." “People put stuff in them," he says, pulling out a wooden crucifix: “A cross!"

Ekeberg has not been without its critics. It has been derided as a crass vanity project, a violation of the park's natural beauty; the overall theme is a celebration of women, which to some smacks of condescension. “We had a big fight to set this up," Ringnes says. “Now, people love it."

We set out on a tour of the sculptures, Ringnes striding effortlessly uphill as I wheeze pitifully behind. Even so, the place is a joy—there's something especially captivating about the union of natural splendor and artworks like “Peeing Woman," a bronze statue of a squatting figure, pants at half mast. “She should actually be peeing," says Ringnes, frowning. “We had a period where she was doing it too much. Right now, we're having a dry period."

Akershus Fortress, a 700-year-old architectural hodgepodgeAkershus Fortress, a 700-year-old architectural hodgepodge

As we make our way downhill, an elderly woman stops Ringnes to tell him she is “very happy with the park."

“Not the artworks?" he replies.

“Not the pornographic one," she says, referring to a video installation that includes a nude woman waving a flag. “Maybe you shouldn't have spent your money on that."

Ringnes doesn't seem to mind the criticism. “This park is part of something new," he says. “If you'd have come to Oslo 20 years ago, it was kind of boring. The city was clean and safe, but there wasn't much happening. We are living through some kind of heightened time."

Another example of Oslo's revival is Maaemo, the first two-Michelin-starred Nordic restaurant, located a short tram ride from Ekeberg, overlooking the Barcode Project, a strip of hypermodern commercial buildings. But people don't come here for the view.

After I've been seated at one of the eatery's eight tables, a waitress lays out the ground rules, which include a ban on any ingredients that cannot be found in Norway: “No pepper, no lemon or lime…" Then we're off. I count 23 items on the set menu, starting with a single sprig of pickled salsify, served on a large bed of juniper branches. Just as I'm about to start nibbling one of the twigs, another course appears: a foil-thin sliver of wild duck, cured for seven months and served on a square of crumpled paper.

Enjoying a pint on the riverside terrace at Bl\u00e5Enjoying a pint on the riverside terrace at Blå

So it goes, a procession of dishes that fall somewhere between molecular gastronomy and an episode of “Survivor": a smidgen of chicken liver and elderflower on a patch of lawn; nubs of frozen cheese and vendace roe on a rock; raw oyster emulsion atop a diorama of seashells. Of course, Michelin stars are not won on presentation alone—the tastes and textures here are inspired—but half the fun is anticipating what kind of madness will come next. The big showstopper is the langoustine, served on a pile of spruce above dry ice. The waiter introduces a pine infusion, and a pungent fog courses across the table, which is so delightful I yelp.

In terms of experiences, it'll be hard to top sour milk sprinkled with dried reindeer heart, so I decide to wind down on a cruise of the fjord. To get to the dock, in front of City Hall, I make my way west along the waterfront, pausing to stroll up the sloping roof of the Opera House, a huge white structure that looks like a Cubist ocean liner, then watch a free modern ballet performance in its bright lobby.

The cruise is a good reminder of why locals love their fjord. We meander among scores of islands, some dotted with tiny, colorful bathhouses, some with geese lazing among the trees, gray cliffs rising behind them. The sun is shining. Fishing boats sail by. This, I have decided, is the only way to experience these waters.

The odd relocated houses of Bygd\u00f8yThe odd relocated houses of Bygdøy

After a quick spritz at the Grand, I stroll into a nearby grid of streets, the hub of the city's 17th-century revival. There are some lovely old buildings here, not least the 1640 pile housing Statholderens Mat & Vinkjeller, set in a vaulted cellar below its Michelin-starred counterpart, Statholdergaarden. I have a tapas plate to start, which includes a rich oxtail empanada, quail eggs with noodles, and shrimp with guacamole and pomegranate seeds, followed by a main course of tender lamb with deliciously nutty couscous.

I round off the night with a cocktail at Fuglen, a hip coffee shop/bar with mismatched vintage furniture that's for sale. Co-owner Einar Holthe shares his thoughts on Oslo while insisting I try every drink on the menu. Having gained independence from Sweden in 1905, he says, Norway is finally reclaiming its identity. “There's a sense that we belong to our culture now," he adds. “The streets are coming alive."

Day 3 Graphic

In which Chris visits Oslo's hipster quarter and the city's famed cemetery

Istart the day with a nice long groan, followed by a few cups of strong coffee. I'm having brunch later at Mathallen, a food hall on the bank of the Akerselva River, so I roust myself from bed and head out into the glare.

On my way, I stop at Pentagon, an army surplus shop on Storgata, where I root around among the crossbows, knives and gladiator helmets for a bit before crossing the road to a ramshackle cluster of vintage shops, where I pick up a music poster from the 1950s, at 1970s prices.

Iram Hhaq, FilmmakerIram Hhaq, Filmmaker

Soon, I'm heading north along the river, which feels very rural but is also dotted with old industrial buildings transformed into studios and galleries. Mathallen, set in a renovated railroad factory, offers everything from fresh seafood to stinky cheese. I have a beef and tomato pie from Hello Good Pie before heading out to explore Grünerløkka.

People call Grünerløkka Oslo's answer to Brooklyn, and you can see why—it is thick with boho bars, retro restaurants and indie fashion outlets. There is also a wonderful sense of anarchic energy. Heading back to the river for a drink at Blå, a trendy music venue, I pass a man carrying a large Styrofoam ear past a couple of punk-rock chicks standing below a junk-glass chandelier, ignoring the spectacle, a few feet away, of a ferret crossing the road.

I sit on Blå's grafittied riverside terrace for a while, nursing a Nøgne Ø pale ale and listening to the water rush by, then head back to Mathallen, where I'm having coffee with the filmmaker Iram Haq.

Described by Variety as “one of Europe's top emerging directors," Haq grew up in East Oslo's “Little Pakistan" neighborhood. Her shopkeeper parents were not enamored of her decision to pursue a career in the arts. “It was hard for them to accept," she says. “They didn't really understand what I was doing." It wasn't only the Pakistani community that would have frowned on her career choice. Before the discovery of oil in the late 1960s, Norway was relatively poor, and its people made a virtue of austerity. Eating out was rare, foreign holidays were pretty much unheard of, and young women of Pakistani heritage did not go into the film business.

“It's difficult to talk about the local character, because we are two different people: In the winter, we are hunched up; in the summer, we smile." —Iram Hhaq

Things are different now, says Haq, but a few traditions remain, such as the age-old emphasis on consensus: “Everyone agrees, even when they don't."

Later, Haq offers to show me the nearby Vår Frelsers cemetery, which contains the graves of notables such as Ibsen and Munch. To get there, we walk up Telthusbakken, a steep, narrow street lined with the brightly colored wooden cottages that used to be everywhere here. At the top of the street is the austere 12th-century Old Aker Church, but Haq's attention is elsewhere. “Hello!" she says, pointing her cameraphone at a flat-faced, sunbathing cat.

The Vår Frelsers monuments seem oddly modest, given who's lying beneath them. But Norwegian society prizes humility, even among its more illustrious members. Haq recalls passing then–Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg in a park: “He said, 'I read about you in the paper!' so I said, 'I read about you, too!' We laughed. He was normal."

I say goodbye to Haq and head for Damstredet, another cobbled clutter of too-cute-to-be-true wooden houses. But I can't stand around annoying the residents for too long—Einar Holthe has offered to take me to a must-see attraction on Bygdøy peninsula.

We meet in Gamle, a blue-collar eastside neighborhood that's being colonized by creative types. Our first stop is at Haralds Vaffel (motto: “Everyone Loves Waffles"), a hole in the wall where Harald himself serves us bacon-and-blue-cheese waffles followed by a traditional jam. Fortified, we jump in Einar's car and drive west, to one of Oslo's weirdest exhibitions.

Bygdøy is sometimes called Museum Island, on account of it having a bunch of museums, including the Kon-Tiki Museum, the Viking Ship Museum and the Norwegian Folk Museum. This last one is actually a small town, made up of buildings that have been dismantled and rebuilt here. There are 160 in all, ranging from medieval peasant huts to 19th-century townhouses, the rooms of which have been furnished to reflect the lifestyle of, say, a Victorian-era family, or a swinging bachelor circa 1975.

The ups and downs of TelthusbakkenThe ups and downs of Telthusbakken

Most impressive is the Gol Stave Church, a pagoda-like wooden edifice built in 1200. Inside it is gloomy, with faded murals in the apse and tortured faces in the rafters. Restorations have revealed strange carvings on its walls, scripts and symbols that, according to the elderly woman keeping watch, have yet to be deciphered. I ask her if she ever finds herself alone in here, and she says yes. “Spooky," I say, and she huffs. “I am not easily spooked."

Einar drops me off downtown, outside the Hotel Continental, where I'll be dining at Eik Annen Etage. The restaurant is low-lit, with classical columns and modern art. I sit next to a window overlooking the National Theater, and a friendly Swedish waitress brings me a golden menu. What the heck, I'll have the full-course: raw marinated halibut with grilled romaine lettuce and horseradish emulsion; smoked salmon with creamed morels; deep fried lamb sweetbreads with wild garlic; slow cooked pork. It's all good—but that lettuce. From now on, I'm grilling all my salads.

I end the night at Etoile, the Grand's rooftop bar, where you get a real sense of how lovely this city is. As I gaze at the flickering Freia sign next door, a seagull big as a dog lands on a neighboring rooftop and stares me down. For some reason, I'm reminded of a story someone told me earlier, about a local soccer pitch where children play, a field that once “ran with Swedish blood." There was no malice in the telling of this story, but there was a kind of appreciation. So, yes, Oslo is an unusually lovely city, but it's a little more complicated than that.

Hemispheres executive editor Chris Wright strongly recommends that people who fall into the Oslofjord change their damp trousers before going sightseeing, to avoid unpleasant chafage.


This article was written by Chris Wright from Rhapsody Magazine and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Best aviation-inspired museums to visit

By Benét J. Wilson

With National Aviation Day right around the corner (August 19), a great way to celebrate is by visiting an aviation-themed museum. Many of the museums have hands-on, interactive exhibits —and some even have retired airplanes you can visit. Below are seven museums to visit this Aviation Day and beyond.

The Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington

Seattle, Washington

The Museum of Flight in Seattle bills itself as the largest independent, nonprofit air and space museum in the world. The museum's 20 acres is home to more than 160 significant aircraft and spacecraft, including the world's first fighter plane, the first jet Air Force One and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. It's also one of a handful of museums in the world that has a Concorde supersonic jet on display —located in its British Airways livery. The campus also includes the original Boeing factory, the NASA Space Shuttle Trainer and the only exhibit to house the original rocket engines used to launch Apollo astronauts to the moon. Additional activities include flight simulators that make you feel as if you're flying an airplane, a 3D movie theater and an aircraft exhibit that includes the world's only presentation of the first Boeing 727, 737 and 747 jets.

Tucson, Arizona

The Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson boasts 2,600 acres and is one of the largest non-government funded aviation and space museums in the world. It features more than 350 historical aircraft, from a Wright Flyer to a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Visitors can take an hour-long tram tour narrated by experienced docents who share stories about the planes' significance and personal stories of service. There are bus tours of its aircraft boneyard, home to more than 4,000 military and federal government aircraft. If decide you want to participate in the tour while visiting the museum, it's recommended that you make a reservation 10 business days ahead of time.

A P-51 Mustang takes off from Oshkosh, Wisconsin, during EAA Airventure.

Oshkosh, Wisconsin

Each year, Oshkosh attracts nearly 500,000 spectators to what is considered the largest airshow in the world — EAA AirVenture. But if you can't make this annual event in July, you can still visit the EAA AirVenture Museum year-round. While there, check out the museum's display of more than 200 historic aircraft — aircraft like the 1918 Curtiss JN-4D 'Jenny', a 1945 Chance-Vought F4U-4 Corsair and a 1930 Cessna CG-2 Glider. For attractions, visit the Eagle Hangar, a tribute to World War II aviation. And lastly, make sure to take a ride in a vintage 1929 Travel Air E-4000 open-cockpit biplane located at Pioneer Airport.

Palm Springs, California

Named by CNN as one of the best aviation museums, the Palm Springs Air Museum is one of the few that actually allow visitors to go inside aircraft to explore the exhibits. It features 59 aircraft from World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Aircraft include a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, an F-14A Tomcat and even a Russian MiG-21+. Take a ride in aircraft like the P-51 Mustang, the iconic plane flown by the Tuskegee Airmen in World War II. The museum is also home to permanent and temporary exhibits, artifacts, artwork and a library.

The inside of the closed Smithsonian Air and Space Museum is seen in Washington

Washington, D.C.

The National Smithsonian Air & Space Museum has two outposts — the original building in downtown D.C. and the more than 100-acre Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center facility near Washington Dulles International Airport. The downtown location has aircraft like the Bell X-1 flown by Chuck Yeager when he first broke the sound barrier, an Airbus A320 flight deck simulator and the forward fuselage of a Boeing 747 jumbo jet, along with the popular “How Things Fly" exhibit.

The Udvar-Hazy center has thousands of aviation and space artifacts on display, including a Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, an Air France Concorde, the Space Shuttle Discovery and the Boeing 367-80 — the prototype for the Boeing 707 and America's first commercial jet airliner. There's also the Airbus IMAX® Theater and the Donald D. Engen Observation Tower, which gives you a 360-degree bird's-eye view of Washington Dulles International Airport and the surrounding area.

Denver, Colorado

The Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum is located on a portion of land that used to be Lowry Air Force Base, a technical training center until it closed in 1994. The museum is home to aircraft including a Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, a Cessna O-2 Skymaster and even a Star Wars X-Wing Starfighter. The brand-new Boeing Blue Sky Aviation Gallery at Centennial Airport is phase one of the museum's second location that will focus on the present and future of aerospace. It offers interactive exhibits, the latest in general aviation technology and the chance to fly realistic Red Bird simulators as well as tours of the airfield.

Planes At Intrepid Sea Air And Space Museum

New York, New York

The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum complex in New York is located on a World War II aircraft carrier. Among its many exhibits are Enterprise, the prototype of NASA's Space Shuttle and a Harrier fighter jet. It also includes the British Airways Concorde that made the world's speed record for passenger airliners in 1996 when it flew from New York to London in 2 hours, 52 minutes and 59 seconds. Before leaving, make sure to check out the 4D aircraft simulator, something you won't want to miss.

Getting there

United flies to most of the destinations above, including Denver, New York, Palm Springs, Seattle, Tucson and Washington, D.C. You can fly into neighboring Appleton, Wisconsin, to visit Oshkosh. Visit united.com or use the United app to plan your aviation-themed museum trip.

United and Special Olympics

Taking inclusion to new heights

Our shared purpose is to connect people and unite the world — and no organization better embodies that principle than Special Olympics.

Learn more

Weekend inspiration: Savannah

By Kelsey + Courtney Montague

The key to visiting Savannah in the summer? Planning outdoor and indoor activities, so you can enjoy all of the treasures this charming Southern city has to offer. If you only have a few days to spend here, it is even more important to plan your time and itinerary carefully. Luckily, we've gathered the best of the best to visit in historic Savannah with carefully planned air-conditioned stops along the way. Put on your walking shoes, grab some sunscreen and get ready to explore.

Day 1

Before your trip, make sure to make reservations for dinner at The Olde Pink House restaurant in advance. Adjacent to the Planters Inn, this popular spot has been serving Southern food at it's finest at one of Savannah's oldest mansions. While there, make sure you order the fried chicken — voted one of the best in Savannah and it does not disappoint. The braised pork shank is also a must-try. From there walk over to Leopold's Ice Cream. Choose a fancy pre-made ice cream or create your own treat. A Savannah tradition, this shop has been serving the best ice cream in Savannah since 1919.

Abe's on Lincoln | Photo credit: Kelsey + Courtney Montague

If you're looking for a dive bar instead of ice cream, drop in to Abe's on Lincoln. Create your own artistic rendition of Abraham Lincoln on your napkin, and your creation might end up on the ceiling where other patrons' artwork is displayed.

Day 2

The next morning get started before the crowds and visit the Waving Girl Statue. This statue commemorates Florence Martus who (from 1887-1931) became the unofficial 'greeter' of Savannah and waved at every ship that came into port. From there head down River Street to Huey's on the river for beignets and their potato casserole. Don't worry about the calories, you will walk them off.

The potato salad at Hueys on the river

Photo credit: Kelsey + Courtney Montague

The Georgia Queen on River Street

Photo credit: Kelsey + Courtney Montague

After Huey's, stop by the Savannah Bee Company and sign up for a mead tasting. For just a few dollars you will get to taste all sorts of variations and flavors from all over the country. Interestingly mead, created from fermenting honey, is one of the oldest alcohols in human history. Evidence of mead in clay pots dates back to 7000 BC. After you've had a few sips of mead and tasted the honeycomb, head out for a bit of shopping. We recommend Broughton Street, especially 24e and the Paris Market.

Artillery - Savannah The Artillery restaurant | Photo credit: Kelsey + Courtney Montague

Stop by Juliet Gordon Lowe's birthplace (Girl Scout's founder) to see when the next tour is and make a reservation. Go to Husk for lunch while you wait. Husk, founded by James Beard award-winning chef Sean Brock, uses local ingredients in his ever-changing, scrumptious menu. After your tour of Ms. Lowe's home, put on your finest and head over to Artillery for a fancy cocktail and then on to The Collins Quarter Restaurant.

The Collins Quarter - Savannah Collins Quarter restaurant | Photo credit: Kelsey + Courtney Montague

The Collins Quarter restaurant is an Australian take on Southern food and is exquisite. Get the hot chicken — it's delicious. Wander over to Chippewa Square after dinner where the movie Forrest Gump was filmed. The exact bench he sat on for the movie is no longer there, but everything else in the park is the same. Nearby on Bull street is another boutique, Red Clover, you should stop at if you're in the market for a gorgeous new frock. End the evening with dessert at Chocolate by Adam Turoni. Adam's shop feels like you stepped into wonderland, complete with a grass floor and bookshelves full of delicious treats.

All that's left is to head home full of southern food and southern hospitality.

P.S. If you have a few extra hours rent a car and go see the Wormsloe Plantation. The entrance will take your breath away. Also check out the Bonaventure Cemetery where poets, revolutionaries and the founders of Savannah have ornate gravestones in a picturesque, photo-worthy setting.

How to prepare for your child's first flight

By Benét J. Wilson

Traveling can be stressful at times, even when you're flying solo. But imagine what a child must feel, especially as they prepare to take their first flight. The key to any successful first flight is to take a cue from the Girl Scouts motto: be prepared. I'm a mother who started traveling the world with her child since she was 10 days old. So if you're planning your child's first flight soon, read on for my helpful tips to make your child's first flight a success.

Before the flight

Make sure to choose your seats as soon as you book your flight. Since restrooms are usually located at the back of the plane — and also near the front of the cabin, depending on the aircraft — you may want to choose seats near those areas so you won't have to go far if you and your child need the restroom or you need to change your baby's diaper. Additionally, children oftentimes enjoy looking out the window during a flight, so you may want to opt for a window seat so they can see other planes, a busy tarmac or clouds once you're up in the air.

Most airlines, including United, allow a child under the age of two to sit on a parent's lap. But if it fits within your budget, you could consider buying them their own seat and, depending on the child's age, bringing a government-approved child seat for them to use in the purchased seat. This allows you and your child to travel more safely and comfortably, and can help create a better sense of security for your child if they're used to the child seat you bring along.

Make sure to prepare your kids prior to the flight. Although airplanes can be exciting, they can also be scary for kids at first. Take time to explain what to expect during your journey, from the time they arrive at the airport until the plane lands at your destination. You can tell them about the kinds of people they will meet, such as gate agents, flight attendants and pilots, and the different events that occur, like boarding, the flight attendants' safety message and the sound of the aircraft engine during takeoff. This way they can enjoy identifying the people and events that make up their first flight.

two kids playing on a tablet at the airport

At the airport

To avoid any unnecessary stress, print your boarding passes or download them to your mobile device before arriving at the airport. Also plan to check your baggage as soon as you get to the airport so you don't have to worry about carrying along extra gear.

You can check with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) if you're unsure about what's allowed past security checkpoints, but baby formula, breast milk, food and medications aren't subject to the 3.4 ounce liquid restriction, so you're able to bring larger amounts of those items with you. Just make sure to let TSA officers know right away that you're carrying those items so you're not slowed down during the screening process.

After you've made it through security and are waiting at the gate, make sure your children have entertainment to keep them occupied while you wait. While most flights offer entertainment, there may be times when the inflight entertainment is not available, so bring toys, games, a tablet, coloring books or whatever it takes to keep them occupied and happy during a flight. If you're traveling with babies or toddlers, be sure to double check your diaper bag and make sure it has clothing, baby wipes, lotion, toys and extra bottles. Also, pack a favorite blanket and pillow for inflight naps.

You'll also want to carry various snacks, such as sandwiches, fruit, nuts, crackers or popcorn, and account for possible delays because food options may be limited. It's also a good idea to pack empty sippy cups or water bottles to fill up with inflight beverages.

On board the flight

When it's time to board your flight, you can take advantage of United's policy that allows families with children two and younger to pre-board. This will give you that much-needed time to stow your items and get you and your children in your seats so you're comfortable and ready for your flight.

By request, strollers can be checked at the gate at no additional cost. Before boarding starts, simply ask the gate agent to put a baggage tag on the stroller and you can leave it at the bottom of the jet bridge as you board the plane. When you get to your destination, your stroller will be waiting for you on the jet bridge after you exit the plane.

Once you're on board and settled, it helps to have a bottle on hand during takeoff and landing because it can help alleviate ear pressure for babies and toddlers. For older children, tell them what's about to happen and encourage them to look out the window to see what's going on before take-off. While in the air, create easy access to all the things you need to keep your children entertained and happy, and before you know it, you'll be on the ground again in no time. With just a little preparation, flying for the first time can be an exciting experience for both you and your child.

United heroes: Saving the life of a newborn

By Gladys Roman , August 13, 2018

Pediatrician Elizabeth Triche was so touched by how our employees went above and beyond to transport her critical ill newborn patient from Saipan to Guam then Honolulu to San Francisco and from there to their final destination of San Diego, that on July 27, she wrote the heartfelt note below to CEO Oscar Munoz and President Scott Kirby.

"Mr. Munoz and Mr. Kirby,

I am writing to give you my greatest gratitude for running a company that just did everything possible, every step of the way, to allow us to get our critically ill newborn with a fatal heart defect to life-saving emergency specialty care in San Diego.

Geoff Larson [Customer Service De-escalation Senior Manager] had given me his cellphone number one month ago and said to call if we ever needed any help getting patients to critical care. When I did call 3 days ago, he burst into action. We exchanged at least 10 emails and phone calls over the next 36 hours as he opened seats on fully booked flights, got us cleared to use oxygen (a process that usually delays our exit by 48-72 hours), and called on colleagues to make sure that all of our "special handling needs" in the airports were met. He emailed me as our first (of 4) flights arrived, letting me know that he was available to help with any glitches.

In Honolulu they held everyone on the plane so that we could get TSA and customs clearance first, gate side, avoiding our having to carry a sick baby in a car seat through an entire airport to customs. Helpers met us at each destination as gate agents from our departing cities warned the gate agents at our next arrival destination that we would need a wheelchair and help with bags.

Finally, as we were 30 minutes from our final destination, the pilot of United Flight 284 on 7/26/2018 from SFO to SAN called me up to the front of the plane to chat, as [there was] fog in San Diego. He wanted to know if the baby would be adversely affected if he [diverted] the flight to LA to refuel. We truly appreciated his taking our patient into account.

Ultimately, we arrived in San Diego without any major mishaps, and our newborn is currently undergoing definitive treatment for his condition.

Mr. Larson and his colleagues at United helped to save a life yesterday, as this baby may not have survived to make the flights had we had to wait for an open seat. Now that he has gotten to care, he will likely have a great chance at a normal life.

I just wanted everyone know that there are truly compassionate, dedicated people working for your organization."

We fly Australian firefighters to wildfires

By Gladys Roman , August 10, 2018

As parts of Oregon and California continue to battle blazing wildfires that have already consumed thousands of acres of land, we stepped up to help and flew a group of Australian firefighters to Boise, Idaho, over the weekend.

We created an extra section to fly a group of firefighters from all over Australia to Los Angeles International Airport, where they departed on a flight to Boise, Idaho on August 4.

Australia/New Zealand Contingent Field Liaison Officer Barry James explained that firefighters were selected to come help based on their qualifications, and they're all proud to support their fellow firefighters in the United States.

"We're flying to Boise for a couple of days of training and then we'll be splitting up. Some of us are going to Northern California and the rest are going to Oregon for a six-week deployment," explained Officer James, who flew United for the first time, but said it won't be his last. "It was an awesome, awesome experience; it was really hospitable," he added.

Our Los Angeles based employees and crews made sure the firefighters felt their appreciation by giving them a special welcoming message in the gate area, where they thanked them for their hard work.

"It was such an incredible honor for us at LAX to meet and fly these men and women, who are sacrificing their time and putting their lives on the line to help us battle the wildfire devastation in this part of the country," said LAX Station Operations Control Manager Maggie Ronan. "The crew in general was just outstanding. They were all so honored to fly this group and felt it was amazing that United built the extra section for their journey. There was a very special energy felt on the flight as we closed up to send them off to BOI."

We're teaming up with leading disaster relief organizations to provide aid to those impacted by the California wildfires. We will match up to $50,000 in total donations made to our charitable partners, Airlink, American Red Cross, Americares, North Coast Opportunities and Shasta Regional Community Foundation. For more information and to make a donation California Wildfire relief efforts, visit our CrowdRise fundraising campaign.

Lots of sweat, lots of on-time departures: Summer on the ramp

By Ryan Hood , August 10, 2018

It's 10:30 in the morning and the temperature gauge already reads 89 degrees. The Texan summer sun beams down from above. Heat waves emanate from the ground. Sweat glistens atop Ron Davis's shiny, bald head.

This isn't bad at all, Davis says. "I played high school football. Two-a-day practices? Those were hot. Some of the really hot days out here? Those feel more like three-a-day practices. We got it easy today."

A few gates down, employees revel in the "relief" that this weather feels like compared to the prior week.

"This is nothing," quips Tom Saavedra.

"A few clouds up there and a bit of a breeze – it's our lucky day," Leroy Taylor chimes in, a wide smile on his face.

Air temperature nearing 90 degrees. Tarmac temperature eclipsing 100 degrees most everywhere you step. 10:30 in the morning. And this is "easy". Welcome to life as a United ramp service employee at Houston's George Bush International Airport (IAH) in the summer.

United isoperating more than 500 flights out of Houston each day this summer, and thanks in part to the hard work of our ramp service employees, more flights have left Houston on time this summer than any prior summer.

How? Hydration and nutrition have played huge roles.

United ramp employee hydrating on the job

Posters with hydration reminders adorn the walls of ramp break rooms and hallways. It's the first topic of every meeting. Regular reminders are sent out over the group's radio system.

Employees have a flight schedule to keep, but as leaders, we have to provide them with the tools to do their job, says Gary Snead, a United supervisor based at IAH. "That includes keeping them fit to work in the summer heat."

And provide they do. Here are the resources deployed in an average summer month on the ramp in Houston:

  1. Over 10,000 bags of ice, totaling more than 100,000 pounds of ice.
  2. 313, 5-gallon water coolers refilled at least four times per day.
  3. An athletic trainer on site.
  4. One day a month, the IAH ramp holds a fruit & hydration day, where supervisors distribute over 1,000 pieces of fruit to our sun-soaked employees.
  5. 1,000+ cooling towels distributed.
  6. 10 misting tents

The increased focus on hydration has helped increase productivity, and it's also resulted in a record-low number of heat-related illnesses among employees.

You take care of the employees, Snead says, "and the employees will take care of your operation."

That's proved true around the world, as we have flown more customers this summer than ever before, all while topping our competition in on-time departures in recent months. Our 13,000+ ramp service employees have played a huge role in that.

Summer heat? It's been beat.

Top 7 things to experience when visiting Las Vegas

By Matt Chernov

When picturing Las Vegas, you probably see shimmering lights, felt-covered poker tables and the ecstatic sound of slot machines. But the truth is that the city offers visitors far more to experience than just gambling and excess. Located on the edge of the vast Mojave Desert, this uniquely American destination is constantly reinventing itself with every passing day, which makes it an ideal vacation spot for virtually every type of traveler. To help you get the most from your next trip to Vegas, here are seven attractions in and around the city that you won't want to miss.

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The Neon Museum

Since 1996, this magical outdoor art gallery has collected hundreds of old and discarded neon signs from the Las Vegas strip and displayed them for visitors on a 2-acre plot of land. With so much colorful history available to see, it's no wonder that the Neon Museum is one of the city's top Instagram spots. Though new signs are constantly being acquired and refurbished, many date back to the glory days of the 1950s, when Vegas icons like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. were the entertainment headlines at the casinos.

Red Rock Canyon, Las Vegas

Red Rock Canyon

This stunning nature preserve is just a 15-mile drive west of Las Vegas, and is the perfect place to experience all the scenic beauty that Nevada has to offer. Red Rock Canyon features 26 clearly marked hiking trails, indoor and outdoor conservation exhibits and a plethora of majestic wildlife and desert flora to view. There's even a picturesque waterfall, so bring your camera along with your sunscreen and bottled water. A variety of educational programs are held each month, including a popular “Bats in Our Belfry" presentation in which rangers take visitors on a bat sightseeing tour of the canyon.

The Mob Museum

Because the birth of Las Vegas is intricately connected with organized crime, this fascinating museum is a must-visit for anyone who wants to understand how a dry Nevada desert became a worldwide symbol of glitz and glamour. Filled with amazing artifacts, vintage photos and life-size recreations of some of the city's most infamous residents, the Mob Museum focuses on both the gangsters who built Las Vegas and the law enforcement heroes who pursued them. A rotating collection of exhibits brings the town's colorful history to life in a way that no movie or book could ever hope to duplicate.

The Hoover Dam in Nevada

The Hoover Dam

A monument to man's industrial spirit and a marvel of American engineering, the spectacular Hoover Dam is located less than an hour's drive from Las Vegas — and it's truly an unforgettable sight to behold. Tours of the 726-foot-tall dam are highly encouraged and will fascinate young and old alike. While you're in the area, why not spend some time cruising the beautiful waters of nearby Lake Mead, which was created by the dam itself. Boat tours are available all week long from several locations around the lake, so advanced reservations are not needed.

Dig This Last Vegas

Are you visiting Las Vegas with children? If so, then this one-of-a-kind experience should definitely be on your travel itinerary. Dig This Last Vegas lets you and your kids drive and safely operate heavy duty construction equipment like bulldozers and excavators on a massive outdoor playground in the heart of the city. Anyone who grew up with toy tractors and plastic earth-moving machines can now climb behind the wheel and try them for real. With the help of trained instructors, kids as young as 8 years old can make their dreams of operating a genuine Caterpillar D5 bulldozer come true at this hands-on attraction site.

Spring Mountain Ranch State Park

Spring Mountain Ranch

This Nevada state park is a relatively short drive from downtown Las Vegas and will instantly transport you back to the region's historic past. The perfectly preserved old west-style ranch is an excellent place for an afternoon picnic when you need a break from the hustle and bustle of the casinos. Thanks to the lush green surroundings and man-made lake, the temperature at Spring Mountain is noticeably cooler than you might expect of the hot Nevada climate. Explore further as gentle hiking trails allow you to stretch your legs in comfort while you navigate some of the loveliest scenery in the entire state.

Lotus of Siam

Widely considered to be one of the best Thai restaurants in the United States, Lotus of Siam earned its prestigious James Beard Award the hard way; by serving incredibly delicious Northern Thai dishes every day for the past 19 years. Owner and head chef Saipin Chutima recently opened a second location in Las Vegas, which means you'll have no trouble making reservations while you're in town. Considering that top foodie magazines like Gourmet, Saveur and Bon Appétit have praised this restaurant's incredible dishes for almost two decades, you'd be wise to book a table in advance. Try their crispy rice salad with house-made pork sausage for a flavor that will make your taste buds sing.

Getting there

When you're ready to experience the fun and excitement of Las Vegas, book your flight at united.com or by using the convenient United app, and share your story on social media with the #UnitedJourney hashtag.

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The 8 most underrated American road trips

By The Hub team

You've gotten your kicks on Route 66. You've wound through Highway 1. So how do you take another quintessential American summer vacation without repeating yourself? Good thing this country is not lacking in incredible vistas and varied landscapes—trust us: there is so much more than purple mountains majesty and amber waves of grain (although, those aren't so bad themselves). From badlands to waterfalls, here are eight American road trips to consider.

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RELATED: 10 Waterparks Worth Traveling for

View of the Rockies in Colorado RondaKimbrow/Getty Images

Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway, Colorado

This western road trip through and around the Rocky Mountains has three separate routes that converge in Leadville, Colorado (the highest incorporated town in the country at 10,152 feet above sea level). There's no rule against traversing all three, especially since each is pretty short (82 miles total). First, take in the five enormous mountains surrounding Leadville, two of which are the tallest in the state. Head up through Tennessee Pass and cross the Continental Divide to reach the majestic town of Minturn for incredible fields of wildflowers. The route through Independence Pass toward Aspen has unbelievable views of the Rockies and Twin Lakes. Driving along the Arkansas River through Fremont Pass to Copper Mountain is ideal for spotting ranches, old mines and—fingers crossed—some Colorado wildlife.

Overseas Highway in FloridaFilippoBacci/Getty Images

Overseas Highway, Florida

You do not need a boat to enjoy the Florida Keys, and we can prove it. The Overseas Highway is one of the most unique roads in the country, as it basically island hops along Florida's hottest vacay spots like Islamorada (home of the Florida Brewing Company) and Marathon (home of Long Key State Park). The Seven-Mile Bridge is a highlight nestled into the 113-mile trip, so make sure to cross during the day for sprawling views of turquoise water and boaters galore. Other fun pit stops: Swim with dolphins at the Dolphin Research Center in Grassy Key, snorkel with sea critters at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park and pose for a selfie at Southernmost Point Buoy, the farthest south you can get on the continental U.S.

Columbia River Highway, OregonJason W Lacey/Getty Images

Columbia River Highway, Oregon

This stretch of highway was the first of its kind to be officially declared a National Historic Landmark, and it's easy to see why. Set out from Troutdale, Oregon, and immediately you'll see the gorgeous Columbia River Gorge. Get ready for a roller-coaster decent as you roll into Crown Point—the 600-foot drop toward the Columbia River is designed specifically for road trippers as it curves and winds through lush green forests. There are at least six notable waterfalls you'll pass along the way; step out at Multnomah Falls for a pic of its stunning bridge. Once you hit the town of Mosier, consider trekking through a tunnel of lava rock on the Mark O. Hatfield Trailhead. The road officially ends after roughly 70 miles at The Dalles, conveniently close to the Sunshine Mill Winery. Treat yourself to a glass of the wildly popular Nirvana, a white blend with touches of honey and melon.

Hana Coast Highway, HawaiiBobbushphoto /Getty Images

Hana Coast Highway, Hawaii

While Hawaii's island of Maui is a hot destination for tropical romance, the Hana Coast Highway is not for the faint of heart. The road is affectionately called the “Divorce Highway" in honor of its precarious turns and proximity to the edges of tall cliffs. That said, the frequent waterfalls, black sand beaches and eucalyptus trees along the country's lengthiest rainforest highway make the trip totally worth the adrenaline rush. Though it's only 52 miles, the 25-miles-per-hour speed limit (with blind spots and one-lane bridges galore; this is a very good thing) makes it a two- to three-hour trip. But we have a feeling you'll happily take your time—the views from Kahului to Hana are beyond breathtaking.

Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway, New MexicoScott_Walton/Getty Images

Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway, New Mexico

If you're in the mood for dry heat and history up close, the Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway is calling. West of Albuquerque is Chaco Canyon, an important ceremonial site for the Pueblo peoples between 850 and 1250 A.D. After taking in the incredible expanse of the canyon, drive south through the towns of Crownpoint and Grants toward the El Morro National Monument. Ogle the 2,000 or so signatures weary travelers have carved into the sandstone over centuries. Continue east through the Zuni Reservation to Zuni Pueblo, an arts community still practicing ancestral traditions and ways of life. Cap off this winding 360-mile desert tour in Farmington, where you can see Aztec Ruins National Monument and Salmon Ruins, both of which date back to the 1050s.

The Black Hills and Badlands, South DakotaAndrewKrav/Getty Images

The Black Hills and Badlands, South Dakota

Together, the Black Hills and Badlands National Park in South Dakota offer 5 million acres of grassland, forest and rock formations. Might we recommend not hitting it all in one day? Instead, start out on the Badlands Loop State Scenic Byway near the town of Interior. Check out the millions-year-old (literally) jagged geographic deposits before heading north to Spearfish Canyon, home of sky-high pink limestone and gorgeous waterfalls. Meander down through Black Hills National Forest to check out Crazy Horse Memorial, Custer State Park and (drumroll, please) Mount Rushmore. Set aside a few days for the entire 232-mile journey because you'll probably find yourself either driving slowly to take it all in or stopping the car every few miles to hike or swim.

View of one of Minnesota's many lakes from North Scenic DriveNickJKelly/Getty Images

North Shore Scenic Drive, Minnesota

For a truly otherworldly experience, drive along the coast of the biggest freshwater lake in the world: Lake Superior. The northern Minnesota gem means ample opportunity to really get away from civilization. (Heading off the beaten path into the Boundary Waters just north of the coastline leaves you with no cell service, almost complete solitude and a chance to catch the northern lights!) Start your drive in Duluth and head north, scoping out the many lighthouses dotting the rocky coastline on your right and the distant Sawtooth Mountains on your left. Everywhere else is covered in pine and birch trees—and crawling with wildlife. Beaches pop up along the 142-mile ride, although Lake Superior is notoriously chilly, reaching 65 degrees Fahrenheit max during the hottest months of the year. But, in the height of summer, this might be exactly the cool-down you need.

Holcy/Getty Images

Rangeley Lakes National Scenic Byway, Maine

For the ultimate, rugged New England road trip, you must drive the Rangeley Lakes National Scenic Byway. On the western side of the state, near New Hampshire, the lake is flanked by Rangeley Lake State Park and rolling hills of trees, flowers and wildlife. Start at Smalls Falls, and let the Appalachian Mountain ridgeline be your guide on this 36-mile tour. The route is straightforward but provides sights of everything from lakes and rivers to valleys and farmland. Swift River and Mooselookmeguntic Lake (who named this lake?) are outstanding photo ops. Summer is always a good time to visit when it comes to temps, but come autumn, the bright colors pop along this route, and might just be worth a second trip.

RELATED: The Most Serene Spot in Every Single State


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