Three Perfect Days: Paris Vacation
Hemispheres

Three Perfect Days: Paris

By The Hub team , July 05, 2017

Story by Boyd Farrow | Photography by Haleigh Chastain Walsworth | Hemispheres, July 2017

Paris is a cinematographer's dream. No city is more dazzling in the sunshine or sexier in the rain—or, better still, lit up at night. Which is why it is so achingly familiar to anyone who has ever bought a movie ticket. View Notre Dame from the Quai de Montebello, and you get An American in Paris; have a coffee at Café des Deux Moulins in Montmartre, and you're in Amélie. But Paris has always been as much about discovery as déjà vu. Whether it's the reinvented Pigalle, a rejuvenated République, or the rebooted Sentier district, there's always something new to besot the next generation of dreamers—and to keep the older ones returning.

Day 1 Graphic

In which Boyd wings his way through the Louvre, samples 18-month-ripened fruit, and meets a chanteuse after dark

One of the things Parisians like to say about their city is that it's endlessly walkable—the operative word here being “endlessly." While each of the city's 20 arrondissements is conquerable by foot, if you're planning to see them all in one go, you'd best pack a comfortable pair of shoes. Before I attempt (and fail) such a feat, I need to be dragged away from my breakfast in my hotel's resplendent surroundings. La Réserve, a grand mansion a block from the Palais de l'Élysée in the 8th arrondissement, was built for Napoléon III's half-brother. Now, it's a 40-room hotel and spa, all ruby-red and emerald-green silk and velvet and herringbone oak floors. I'm wedged in an armchair wiping globs of apricot jam from my cheeks when my butler appears, tactfully wondering if I'm ready for my swim.

With too much ground to cover, I instead begin the day with an earnest jaunt through the immediate neighborhood—the most central of Paris's arrondissements and the one most frequently used as a backdrop in perfume ads. Going out on Avenue Matignon, I reach Rue Saint-Honoré. Home to outposts of some of the world's most chichi fashion labels, this slender street still has its share of idiosyncratic shops, like Colette, which “curates" everything from rare sneakers to a hundred types of bottled water. Admirably, the sales assistant displays no hauteur when I ask her to remove a $5,000 rose gold iPhone from its cabinet, but she also doesn't register surprise when I hand it back. “Too heavy," I say with a wince.

Haylen Namvarazad, a musician in Paris, FranceHaylen Namvarazad, musician

Then it's off to the Louvre, where my ToursByLocals guide, Eugénie, marshals me through thickets of selfie sticks to the must-sees—Venus de Milo, the Mona Lisa—while delivering factoids about the masterpieces we hurtle past. “This was the inspiration for the first FIFA World Cup trophy," she hollers over the din of the horde, as we clatter past the second-century BC marble sculpture The Winged Victory of Samothrace.

There's no time to catch my breath in the Jardin des Tuileries outside. Eugénie steers me toward the park's southwest corner and the dinky Musée de l'Orangerie. Inside, in twin oval rooms, are Monet's large-format Nymphéas (Water Lilies) paintings, which seem disconcertingly out of focus in such an intimate space. Downstairs are 120 works from Renoir, Matisse, Picasso, and Cézanne. There are two portraits by Cézanne of his wife, who looks like a completely different person in each. Neither is particularly flattering. “They didn't get on," whispers Eugénie.

Lunch is at Les Chouettes, a buzzy eatery whose spacious, iron-clad interior is a blend of 1920s cocktail bar, SoHo loft, and the Eiffel Tower. In the ground-floor restaurant, far below the glass ceiling, the menu is also an artful mash-up: My dish of soft-boiled eggs baked with mushrooms and Brie de Meaux—the ultimate comfort food—is accessorized with a bang-on-trend, Instagram-ready charcoal wafer.

My next stop is Saint-Paul, a medieval neighborhood in the 4th that is often clumped in with the Marais—though it's far less self-conscious. I check out Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis, the city's best-known Jesuit church. The elaborate facade is gorgeous, but most of the 17th-century art was plundered during the Revolution. Inside, two rows of golden chandeliers hint at the glory days.

“I adore going to the places the tourists go to—but late at night, when they are totally empty. Montmartre is gorgeous, but the Square du Vert-Galant, on the western tip of the Île de la Cité, is even more atmospheric." —Haylen Namvarazad

I head west past Hôtel de Ville—a post-Revolution rebuild of the 16th-century city hall, its facade teeming with statues of notable Parisians, ranging from Cardinal Richelieu to Molière—then cross Pont d'Arcole to the Île de la Cité. On this slim river island stands the city's most celebrated cathedral. Not only is Notre Dame impressively old (construction started in 1163), it's impossibly gorgeous—a Gothic extravaganza of flying buttresses, sullen gargoyles, and bristling spire. If Paris really were a film set, this would be the Tim Burton quarter.

The line to enter moves surprisingly quickly. Several people troop in, take the obligatory selfie, then shuffle out. Others sit in the candlelight, contemplating the high-vaulted nave and the 42-foot purplish South Rose window featuring the New Testament's heavy hitters. Then I notice that many of them are fast asleep. Instead of joining, I cab it back to La Réserve for a rejuvenating dip in the pool.

A couple of hours later, in a crisp shirt and my loosest pants, I leave the hotel once more. I have scored a table at three-Michelin-starred chef Yannick Alléno's restaurant at the nearby Pavillon Ledoyen. My seven-course meal contains two of the best things I have ever eaten: a millefeuille of celeriac and 18-month-ripened avocado, with coconut extraction and chia seeds, and “Stroganoff-style" Wagyu beef. The avocado explodes in my mouth without any of the sweetness I was dreading—the waiter tells me a regular avocado mellows for just three months—but, to be honest, they had me at “Would sir like some bread?" There is even time for a chocolate nib and black olive soufflé before my taxi rolls up.

A view through the clock face at the Mus\u00e9e d'OrsayA view through the clock face at the Musée d'Orsay

Soon I'm in Pigalle, the storied red light district on the fringes of Montmartre. Much of this dirty old neighborhood has been cleaned up. The Moulin Rouge, immortalized by Toulouse-Lautrec, looks as if it belongs in Vegas, and the area's new boutiques and bars, with names such as Dirty Dick, are freighted with hipster irony.

I'm meeting the singer and Pigalle habitué Haylen Namvarazad. I spot her waiting for me on the still slightly sleazy Rue Pierre Fontaine, but the bar we're meant to be going to doesn't seem to exist. L'Orphée is hidden behind the frontage of a former massage parlor and reached only by pressing an unmarked buzzer, then passing through a strip-lit corridor and a second unmarked door. I can't help thinking about the last 10 minutes of Taxi Driver.

After years of busking in Metro stations, Namvarazad found fame on a TV talent show and has since starred in the hit rock opera Le Rouge et le Noir. Musicians come to L'Orphée to jam in its red glow after hours. Tonight, a bearded singer delivers a bluesy rendition of “Hit the Road Jack." A guy with a falsetto pays tribute to Ed Sheeran. Namvarazad channels Amy Winehouse with a tingling take on “Back to Black."

Parisians on \u00cele Saint-LouisParisians on Île Saint-Louis

“This is the real spirit of Paris," she says over a Desperados beer with a lime wedge. “It is creative, inclusive, optimistic. This city is very tribal, but in bars like this it doesn't matter where you're from or what stage your career is at. It's people doing what they love and helping each other out."

The loveliness of Paris has drawn artists for centuries, but you do wonder about living here, whether a person might start taking it for granted. “I was born here, and yet there is not a single day that I'm not aware of its beauty," Namvarazad says. “Or rather, there is not a single night. When there is no one around and the city is lit up, it is magical. How could anyone not be inspired?"

Later, as my cab bounces past sprays of flowers cascading from tiny balconies, I see what she means. I can barely keep my eye on the meter.

Day 2 Graphic

In which Boyd encounters a large cheese, a large religious work of art, and a very, very large fish

An early start. I drop my bags in my minimal room at the Amastan, a small design-focused hotel at the foot of the Champs-Élysées. On one wall hangs a rug that drapes the sofa before continuing to cover the floor. Talk about minimal. After scarfing down some baby croissants in the courtyard, I head east to Le Marché Popincourt in the 11th arrondissement, where I meet Pierre Sang Boyer, owner of two eponymous restaurants nearby.

Boyer, who was born in South Korea and adopted by a French family when he was 7, is one of the city's hottest chefs. He is also, by his own admission, a produce nerd. He squeals with pleasure at every stall, snapping stalks, fondling tubers, stroking fish, massaging poultry. “Look, this langoustine is still alive," he chirps, dangling a twitching crustacean in my face.

“Markets remind us that we are all part of the same chain," Boyer continues, hurrying on to another fascinating stall. “The farmer, the person preparing the food, the person eating it." He stops before a meat display and asks a vendor to cut me some salami. As I chew, I notice a sign: Boucher Cheval, or horse butcher. “Delicious," I whimper.

Pierre Sang Boyer, chefPierre Sang Boyer, chef

This part of the 11th has a lively nightlife scene, but by day its narrow streets teem with grocers hosing down sidewalks, shoppers swinging baskets, and men hauling sacks of produce. In Le Jardin Fromager, matronly Madame Sananès vacuum-packs a whole Camembert de Normandie for me to take home. In Poissonnerie Lacroix, Charly Hanafi gives me herring that's been marinated for days in garlic and onions. I can smell the thing from six feet away, but at least it gets rid of the taste of Seabiscuit.

At Boyer's pared-back restaurants (a walk-in counter that straddles the corner of rues Gambey and Oberkampf and a more upmarket spot about 100 feet away), there are no menus. Diners get a bunch of small plates, their contents dictated by the freshest ingredients that day. I decide to try out both kitchens. At the small one, I sample the radishes and spring onions Boyer scored at the market, served with shrimp and chili flakes, followed by slow-cooked pork belly in ssamjang, a sauce made with chili and fermented soybean paste. At the ritzier joint, I'm served a slab of seared beef with the same zingy ssamjang. As fusion food goes, French-Korean is tough to beat. Also, I can light my candle just by breathing on it.

Another Metro ride takes me to the Musée d'Orsay, the former grand railway station on the Left Bank of the Seine that now houses some of the greatest European art of the 19th and early 20th centuries. At the security check, the guards eye my sealed camembert suspiciously. Inside, the museum still feels like a train station, its concourse filled with people in a hurry to get somewhere else—possibly the Impressionism section on the fifth floor. Here, people are queuing up with their selfie sticks to insert themselves among the revelers in Renoir's Bal du Moulin de la Galette or to photobomb Van Gogh's Self-Portrait. Two years ago, the Musée was forced to lift its photo ban after someone noticed that France's culture minister had posted photos she took there on Instagram. Selfie sticks remain forbidden, but no one seems to care.

“In many other cities, it is the artists who are responsible for rejuvenating areas. In Paris, it is restaurateurs. That says a lot about how important food culture is to Parisians." —Pierre Sang Boyer

Next, I cross the Léopold Sédar Senghor footbridge, recently purged of its burdensome lovers' padlocks, and pass back through the Jardin des Tuileries, to the hotel Le Meurice, on Rue de Rivoli, for afternoon tea. Only in Paris can a pastry chef be a superstar, and the pâtissier here, Cédric Grolet, is Ryan Gosling in a toque. Grolet is famous for his ambitious trompe l'oeil confections; I sample a tart that looks exactly like a real apple. It is good—and you have to admire the evil genius who disguises cake as fruit—but I prefer the gooey caramel-and-pistachio cookie.

A short stroll northwest takes me to La Madeleine, the Greek temple–like church built to celebrate the glory of Napoleon's army. Fifty-two Corinthian columns, each 65 feet tall, skirt the exterior. In the gilded interior, the dominant fresco resembles the Sgt. Pepper's album cover, with Napoleon surrounded by Mary Magdalene, the Apostles, Dante, Raphael, and Pope Pius VII, among others. Clearly, the Little Corporal was not short on self-esteem.

From here I'm off to Abbesses—which, at 118 feet down, is the Metro's deepest station—to explore hilly Montmartre. Having learned that the station elevator is broken, I wheeze up 90 spiraling steps before surfacing into what appears to be the set of Amélie. A cobbled square is framed by colored crêperies—all called Chez this or Le Petit that—while sketch artists sit at easels and vendors hawk roses. All that's missing is … no, wait, there is someone playing an accordion.

Parisians enjoying the grounds of La Basilique du Sacr\u00e9-CoeurParisians enjoying the grounds of La Basilique du Sacré-Coeur

I check out the Sacré-Cœur, the 272-foot basilica at the top of Montmartre's butte, the highest point in the city after the Eiffel Tower. Construction began in 1875 and was completed in 1914—as a penance or a pick-me-up after France lost its war with Prussia, it's hard to say. Inside, a half dozen Benedictine sisters are beginning their vespers. Even above the mumble of tourists, the Latin song is ethereal and lovely, amplified by the huge apse rendered with a mosaic of Christ, in white, arms extended. I sit down with my giant cheese and watch as people file in and light votives or stealthily angle their phones for the ultimate shot: a selfie with Jesus.

For dinner, I head to the 1st arrondissement to meet my friend Sara at the Fish Club, a seafood restaurant from the team behind London's Experimental Group. At 8:30, Sarah and I are the only ones here—but by the time we've drained a couple of drinks, the place is jammed, and I have to raise my voice to order the special: grilled sea bream, which our waitress says is big enough to share. No kidding. Other diners leave their own meals to Instagram our monster catch. Fileted tableside, it is so good we don't touch our greens.

I'm exhausted, but Sara tells me that the Experimental guys have a speakeasy next door. Beyond an unmarked (of course) entrance, we feel our way down a metal stairway and arrive in a barely lit bar with low velvet seating and a well-dressed—as far as I can tell—crowd. I down a Bourbon & French; Sara knocks back something citrusy. “Quick, let's make a run for it," she jokes. Or it may have been a delinquent on an adjoining banquette. Either way, we decide to stay for more cocktails.

By the time we leave, I'm so relaxed I hail a cab standing in the middle of the street. The driver looks terrified. Now, if I could only remember where I put my room key.

Day 3 Graphic

In which Boyd breakfasts like Ernest Hemingway, shops like Louis XV, and has a Hugh Grant–like effect on the ladies

I check into the grand Hôtel Plaza Athénée on Avenue Montaigne, the backdrop for Carrie Bradshaw's Paris adventures in the last two episodes of Sex and the City. The iconic red awnings match my eyes. After a refreshing shower, I head for the Left Bank.

The 5th and 6th arrondissements, along the Seine's southern bank, used to be a bohemian enclave, home to struggling artists like Picasso and Matisse. Today, you'd have to sell a Picasso just to buy a small studio here. Next to Les Deux Magots, the café where Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir used to hang out, stands a Louis Vuitton store.

The café now offers a “Sartre" breakfast, which includes yogurt or fruit salad, and the more robust “Hemingway," which has bacon and fried eggs but, disappointingly, no whiskey. I settle for a croque monsieur.

Tanya Blumstein, movie dialect coachTanya Blumstein, movie dialect coach

Despite its embourgeoisement, the Rive Gauche (South Bank) hasn't lost its soul. The cobbled streets and tastefully worn courtyards, along with a bounty of medieval churches, give the area a timeless feel. I especially enjoy the sixth-century Église de Saint Germain-des-Prés, the oldest Romanesque church in Paris, its square tower the focal point of the 6th. Some of the shops seem almost as old. Cire Trudon's origins date to 1643, when it was founded as a candle shop. (Its wares lit Louis XV's court.) Now it supplies tourists with $100-plus wax busts of Marie-Antoinette and Napoléon.

I head east along Boulevard Saint-Germain to the 5th arrondissement, known as the Quartier Latin since the 13th century (when the Sorbonne was founded and Latin was the language of learning). I zip around the Panthéon, the glorious Neoclassical monument that Louis XV built as a thank-you to God after he survived what was probably a case of man flu. Now it houses the tombs of Voltaire, Rousseau, Zola, Victor Hugo, and Marie Curie.

Not feeling too lively myself, I loop back to the Jardin du Luxembourg, where I slump into a garden chair. With 60 acres of immaculate parkland around me, the only sound is the crunch of gravel as the occasional jogger goes by. These are Parisian joggers, so no one is wearing lime Lycra. One woman may actually be wearing heels. On my way out, I step into the sweet little Musée du Luxembourg to catch an exhibition of Pissarro's later pastoral scenes—a nice bonus.

“Parisians tend to enjoy life more—spending time with family, enjoying their surroundings. Of course, it does help when your surroundings are this beautiful." —Tanya Blumstein

After enjoying a fortifying salad of quinoa, goat cheese, and broccoli at the restaurant at Hôtel Bachaumont, which anchors the newly fashionable Rue Bachaumont in the 2nd arrondissement, I walk south to check out Paris's regeneration project du jour, the billion-euro revamp of the previously forlorn Les Halles shopping mall. Approaching Les Halles from the north takes me past one of the loveliest buildings in Paris—which is saying something. Église St-Eustache, built between 1532 and 1637, is primarily Gothic, though a Neoclassical facade was slapped on its western side in the 18th century. On a wall inside hangs a Rubens painting; outside stands a gigantic Henri de Miller sculpture of a head and hand. All this makes the new retail and leisure complex look even more weirdly modern. Les Halles's curvy yellow six-acre canopy makes it seem as if someone has dropped a giant omelette on the city.

A 15-minute stroll brings me to Rue des Rosiers, the higgledy-piggledy center of the Marais and the heart of the Jewish community. Poignantly, the sign outside the bustling kosher bakery Sacha Finkelsztajn announces the community's postwar comeback: “From Father to Son since 1946."

The view from the H\u00f4tel Plaza Ath\u00e9n\u00e9eThe view from the Hôtel Plaza Athénée

Dotting the medieval warren are many enchanting gardens. Place des Vosges is one of the oldest squares in Paris and regarded as one of the best, but I prefer the smaller Square Georges Cain, which is filled with treasures from the adjacent Musée Carnavalet. One of the most intriguing objects is a small electronic bird designed to sing like a nightingale when the wind blows. I don't hear any birdsong, but the gate screeches like an angry parrot.

Near the Carreau du Temple—an iconic industrial market that reopened in 2014 as a cultural and exhibition venue—I meet Massachusetts-born Tanya Blumstein, who was so smitten when she arrived in Paris more than 20 years ago that she never went back. “It just felt like home as soon as I got here," says Blumstein, a voice and dialect coach for theater and film who recently worked with Natalie Portman on Jackie. “Everywhere here has a real community feel. You tend to keep an eye on your neighbors' kids; you know your butcher, baker, and florist. In most big cities, people don't live like that anymore."

We mooch around some of the city's most gentrified rues Saintonge, Bretagne, Poitou. On the corner of Poitou is the Petit Moulin, a tiny hotel that's housed in a former boulangerie and whose interiors are a riot of Christian Lacroix. As we pass, the actor Pierre Niney, who played Yves Saint Laurent in a 2014 biopic, cycles past. Could this be any more French?

Notre Dame from across the SeineNotre Dame from across the Seine

It could. In Jacques Genin's showroom-size chocolate shop on lively Rue de Turenne, a loved-up couple agonizes over a chocolate display as if choosing an engagement ring. I'm agonizing too, over how many kirsch caramels I dare take from the sample jar.

The Marais has long been Paris's most BoBo (Bourgeois Bohemian) area, but things may have gotten out of hand. At Nanashi on Rue Charlot, vegetarian “Parisian Bento" boxes are served by staffers with lion-tamer mustaches. We pause to nibble retro shortbread at Bontemps, a patisserie opened by a former financier, and sip blueberry-lavender smoothies at Wild & The Moon.

Back at the decidedly un-BoBo Plaza Athénée, I soothe my limbs in a deep marble tub. The blisters on my feet are so big they may soon need their own arrondissement. I'm dining in the hotel restaurant tonight, and I wonder if the dress code extends to the fluffy white slippers that were left beside my bed.

That dinner, taken in a corner berth in the handsome Le Relais Plaza brasserie, is a gratifyingly no-nonsense affair: an entrée-size starter of crevette salad, tender beef served with mashed potatoes, and a trio of sorbets. I'm glad I went with regular shoes—I have to walk at least some of the bread basket off before I can even contemplate going to sleep.

I cross nearby Pont de l'Alma and walk along the Left Bank, admiring the way each building is subtly and artfully lit, like movie stars in a black-and-white film. I can hear the chatter of tourists pleasure-cruising the Seine and the muffled voices of a couple sharing a bottle of wine by the water's edge. People throng outside Faust, a nightclub beneath the exuberant Pont Alexandre III. As I thread my way through the crowd, a young Frenchwoman bumps into me, spilling wine down my shirt. Being English, I apologize. She smiles, kisses my cheek, and disappears. Okay, so it's not a Robert Doisneau moment, but it's not a bad way to say goodnight to the city—the Eiffel Tower to the west, its sparkling light show reminding us that the clock has just struck 12.

Berlin-based writer Boyd Farrow is not the first person to fall in love in Paris. Three weeks after he returned home, he is still blissfully happy with his camembert.

Teaming up with the Chicago Urban League to bring students to China

By The Hub team , July 20, 2018

For many, a visit to China is a once-in-a-lifetime trip that often falls on one's bucket list of destinations. But through a partnership with the Chicago Urban League, some Chicago high school students are checking this dream destination off their lists early.

The Chicago Urban League's annual Student Mission to China brought a group of high school students from Chicago-area schools, including Lindblom Math and Science, Urban Prep and Kenwood academies, to Beijing and Shanghai for an immersive, two-week trip. An extensive application and interview process helped the organization choose the students who would benefit most from the trip. While the trip is not directly tied to the students' school curriculum, the Chicago Urban League teaches prep courses leading up to the trip, and some of the students are independently studying Asian languages.

Many of the students are hoping to share their experience with family and friends from their communities that aren't able to participate in opportunities such as this one, said corporate and community affairs associate Marissa Warren. "Students are also excited about the chance to be submerged in a different culture for an extensive amount of time."

With one look at the students' itinerary, it's clear that the program truly does offer a complete immersion in Chinese culture. The itinerary includes a mix of landmarks, seminars and cultural activities. Students attend a tea art performance, learn how to make dumplings, practice Chinese calligraphy, painting, paper-cutting, and even play ping pong with local students. Seminar topics range from Chinese language to China's international policy. And no visit to China would be complete without trips to the Great Wall of China, Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.

Warren said that sponsoring the annual trip is a huge part of United's relationship with the Chicago Urban League. One of the pillars of the company's shared purpose is breaking down barriers and promoting inclusion, and through this trip, students are able to step out of their comfort zones and engage with people from different backgrounds and cultures.

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.

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Featured

Watch the new Big Metal Bird: Island Hopper

By The Hub team , July 20, 2018

Five magnificent stops between Honolulu and Guam filled with spectacular scenery along the way, and then back again. Join Big Metal Bird host, Phil Torres, as he explores our unique Island Hopper route, and discovers what the route means to the people of Micronesia.

Hemispheres

The Hemispheres guide to family vacations

By The Hub team

Illustrations by Stacey Lamb | Hemispheres June 2018

Whether your kids dream of being superheroes, star athletes, or, yes, wizards, we've got the perfect family vacation — for them and for you.

If your kid wants to be Iron Man

Have a kid who thinks he can fly? Who shoots repulsor rays from his hands and jumps off the couch into pits of lava to save strangers (i.e., his stuffed animals) from danger? The new Marvel Day at Sea Cruise was designed for him.

Launched in late 2017, this five-day trip offers everything that's normally on a Disney Magic cruise—incredible stage shows, interactive dinners, a stop on Disney's private island, Castaway Cay—with a special all-Marvel day that will leave your kiddo shouting “Avengers assemble!" before passing out on his sleeper-sofa.

Aside from superhero meet-and-greets (smartly, tickets for the most popular characters are timed to avoid lines wrapping around the ship; also, moms, know this: Thor is very attractive), Marvel activities abound. Kids can head to the Oceaneer Club for tutorials with Thor, who teaches them how to wield their own Mjolnir for good, and Spider-Man, who shows how quick reflexes are the key to capturing bad guys. Artists offer budding comic-book illustrators Bob Ross–style lessons in how to draw Iron Man and his pals, and afterward, families can head to one of the movie theaters (plural) to catch a screening of the latest Marvel Studios flick (this year it was Black Panther; next year, maybe Captain Marvel?)

It all culminates in a grand live spectacular on the top deck that sees basically all the Avengers—yes, even Black Widow and Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy—battling Loki, Red Skull, and the Hydra agents to secure Stark Industries' new (and dangerous) power source. It's a clever, high-action show with acrobatics, choreographed fight scenes, and fireworks that will have you cheering louder than your kid. —Ellen Carpenter

The Digs:
Book a deluxe oceanview stateroom with a verandah—because verandah. Being able to sit outside and watch the whitecaps crash while recapping the day with a glass of wine (each adult is allowed to bring two bottles aboard—money saver!) is key once your little ones conk out.

The Feast:
In general, the food is great—crab legs and shrimp at the lunch buffet; beef Wellington at the Animator's Palate; even Hulk green bread on the Marvel day—but definitely do an adults-only dinner at Palo, a northern Italian restaurant offering superb antipasti, lobster pappardelle, Dover sole, and more. And be sure to get the Palo cocktail, made with pear vodka, limoncello, grappa, and prosecco.

Illustration of platform 9 3/4 from the beloved Harry Potter movie

If your kid wants to be Harry Potter

Have a kid who keeps a wand in his bookbag so he can keep trying the Accio spell? Who introduces himself by saying which house he's in? (Gryffindor, obviously.) Fly to London—preferably on Hagrid's motorcycle—where a surfeit of Harry Potter–themed activities await.

Your first task is to visit Warner Bros. Studios, Leavesden (20 miles outside London), where all eight of the Harry Potter films were made. Reservations are required, but once you're there, a docent leads you into the Great Hall, where you'll have hours to roam two sound stages and a back lot full of sets (Diagon Alley!), costumes (Hermione's Yule Ball gown!), props (the intricate 1:24 scale model of Hogwarts castle used for wide shots!), and interactive exhibits that reveal the films' secrets. You can also get your picture taken while riding a broomstick and sample the infamous butterbeer.

Back in the city, visit Platform 9 ¾ at King's Cross Station and other locations depicted in the films with Tours for Muggles, a two-and-a-half-hour walk that starts near London Bridge tube station. By night, head to the West End to take in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a two-part stage play based on an original story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany. Finally, book a visit to Enigma Quests' School of Witchcraft & Wizardry, where adults and kids work in teams to solve puzzles and riddles to escape their rooms. “Graduates" don Hogwarts-style robes and receive calligraphy diplomas. —Kathryn Jessup

The Digs:
You'll want to book a Wizard Chamber at the Georgian House Hotel to form the foundation of your experience. These cozy suites are hidden behind bookcases and replicate Hogwarts dormitories in detail (cauldrons in the fireplaces, four-poster beds). Also magical: the full English breakfast, which will keep you fueled for hours.

The Feast:
You'll think you've walked into the Leaky Cauldron itself when you descend to Fleet Street's Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, a family-friendly pub dating to 1667 that played host to Samuel Johnson and Charles Dickens. Kids will love the fish and chips—with mushy peas, of course—and you'll love having a proper pint.

Illustration of skier going down a mountain slope

If your kid wants to be Mikaela Shiffrin

Have a kid who collects trail maps and sleeps in her speed suit the night before every trip to the slopes? Who watches the weather incessantly for storm advisories and sets up gates in your backyard, planning her fastest lines?

Wax those skis and head to Colorado, home of Olympic gold medalist and World Cup Champion Mikaela Shiffrin. Earlier this year, the Centennial State native became an investor in Denver-based Alterra Mountain Company, which owns 12 year-round mountain destinations, including one of the best places for kids to learn and race: Steamboat.

Besides having terrain perfectly suited to kids—and the Steamboat Snowsports School to help them master it—the resort operates one of the largest recreational race facilities in the world. The Bashor Race Arena offers daily NASTAR (National Standard Race) events, which give kids of any age an opportunity to compete and compare scores. Top competitors are invited to the annual NASTAR National Championships, where winners earn medals like real Olympians. If that's not enough, racers here also have access to historic Howelsen Hill, the home of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, which has been helping Steamboat Springs produce the most Olympians of any town in the U.S. for more than 100 years. Better clear some shelf space for all those future medals… —Amiee White Beazley

The Digs:
One Steamboat Place, at the base of the Steamboat gondola, is made for families. A heated outdoor pool, three hot tubs, and a game room equipped with flatscreen TVs, pool tables, and shuffleboard courts ensure that the kids will be able to work off any energy left over from the slopes. Book your stay at the private residence club through Moving Mountains, which offers a hand-picked collection of spacious places.

The Feast:
Before hitting the slopes, fuel up at the Creekside Café in historic downtown Steamboat Springs. Try the Barn Burner—bacon, cheddar cheese, and scrambled eggs on a homemade biscuit smothered in sausage gravy—and pair it with a freshly pressed organic juice. Après-ski, head to Rex's American Bar & Grill, which serves “2 Handed" sand-wiches, brick oven pizzas, and some of the best fish tacos north of the border.

Illustration of surfer hitting the waves

If your kid wants to be Kelly Slater

Have a kid who watches The Endless Summer weekly? Who practices popping up on the coffee table? Take your aspiring surfer where the mountains meet the sea, along the American Riviera.

In spite of recent wildfires and mudslides, the surf scene in Santa Barbara is thriving, and this city with a small-town feel is the perfect place to travel with a teen in search of waves.

“Surf schools and camps are the norm here, just like soccer and baseball," says Heather Hudson, a local surfer and director of the documentary series The Women and the Waves. The best is the Santa Barbara Surf School, which will outfit your kid with a wetsuit and board and select a beach tailored to his level of ability (Leadbetter Beach and Mondos are great for beginners). The school's guides could not be more prudent or more devoted to getting your youngster up on his board and having fun in the Pacific. One-on-one classes are $85, and though they last just an hour and a half, they will leave the kid exhausted. Afterward, let him catch his breath at Rincon Point, “the queen of the coast," and watch the pros catch waves that seem to never end.

Picking out his dream board is next. Head to the Funk Zone, a neighborhood packed with surf shops like Channel Islands, J7, and Beach House, to ogle boards crafted locally by some of the world's most famed shapers and, maybe best of all, share wipeout stories with the righteously tanned store clerks. —KJ

The Digs:
Check in to the new Hotel Californian, where a classic Santa Barbara Spanish exterior gives way to a modern Moorish interior with just a touch of youthful edge. Borrow the complimentary bicycles to explore the Waterfront district and then cool off in the rooftop pool.

The Feast:
Refuel after the lesson with salmon, ahi, or yellowtail poke bowls at Big Eye Raw Bar downtown, and have dinner at the hotel's fine-dining spot, Blackbird. End your meal with a dessert of goat cheese, blood orange sorbet, crispy quinoa, basil, and fennel pollen. It's gnarly—in the best way possible.

Illustration of storybook character, Robin Hood

If your kid wants to be Robin Hood

Have a kid who's slick with a plastic sword? Who hits the bull's-eye on her Nerf archery set 9 out of 10 shots? Who's always surrounded by merry compatriots? Time to pay a visit to the home of “the world's first superhero."

Nottingham, a midsize city 110 miles north of London, is known for being the former haunt—possibly, maybe—of the world's most famous outlaw (who may or may not have existed). What is undeniably real is the moral at the heart of the mythology: It's OK to steal, as long as you take from the rich and give to the poor. Kids who challenge this premise are quickly corrected: “The laws he was fighting were unjust!" the men in tights will tell you.

At Nottingham Castle, see where the evil Sheriff once—possibly, maybe—imprisoned Robin. Just across the way is The Robin Hood Experience, a quirky attraction run by a faux Robin named Adam Greenwood. Wander a labyrinth of tiny rooms inhabited by various characters who tell tales of yore. On the way out, buy a mini longbow and a green outfit.

Next, take Ade Andrews's Robin Hood Town Tour—as much a theatrical performance as a historical overview. While tracing the line from bloodthirsty medieval ballads to the sanitized Hollywood version, Andrews is apt to twirl his sword in the air or toot his cow-horn trumpet.

Finally, take up bows and arrows—Robin's weapon of choice—at a lesson with the archery club Wilford Bowmen, where seasoned archers will show your tiny outlaw how to hit a (not very distant) target. Be sure to take a turn yourself, so she can laugh at your failure. —Chris Wright

The Digs:
Not only is the boutique Hart's Hotel within arrow's range of Nottingham Castle, part of it is built on the ramparts. Book one of the two suites so you have room to spread out and don your finest for a meal at the hotel's restaurant, one of the best spots in town.

The Feast:
If fine dining doesn't grab you, head to The Alchemist, which recently opened an outpost in a glorious Victorian building in downtown Nottingham. The food ranges from beet risotto to Moroccan lamb rump, neither of which was likely on the menu in Sherwood Forest.

Illustration of child and mother walking through the National Mall in D.C.

If your kid wants to be Michelle Obama

Have a kid who spends her weekends volunteering at the Salvation Army? Who follows notable figures instead of her friends on Instagram? For a dose of history and hope, head to Washington, D.C.

Make your first stop the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, which opened in 2016 and has been the hottest ticket in town ever since. The lower three floors are dedicated to History, from the slave trade to #BlackLivesMatter. It's a painful but necessary exhibit that displays slave shackles so small they must have been for a child, as well as murdered teen Emmett Till's coffin. Before heading upstairs to the more celebratory exhibitions in the Culture gallery, stop in the Contemplative Court, where a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. adorns the wall behind a waterfall fountain: “We are determined … to work and fight until justice runs down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream."

The Washington Monument stands mere yards from the museum, so afterward saunter over to the National Mall and think about how 200,000 people gathered there in 1963 to hear MLK speak about a new future. Next, catch a glimpse of that imagined future at the National Portrait Gallery, which unveiled the Obamas in February. The power of Kehinde Wiley's floral-encased depiction of Barack is impossible to deny. Finally, cab to another depiction of the Obamas that's a must-see for any aspiring Civil Rights leader: the mural at Ben's Chili Bowl, which also features Muhammad Ali, Harriet Tubman, and even Taraji P. Henson. Anyone, after all, can make a difference.—EC

The Digs:
The Hay-Adams is the stay for a kid who wants to be right in the action. (Sasha and Malia Obama slept here before calling the White House home.) From free cookies at check-in to loaner wellies on rainy days, the hotel puts its youngest guests first.

The Feast:
NMAAHC's Sweet Home Café
invokes the African diaspora in foods like black-eyed-pea-and-corn empanadas. Later, head to the InterContintental at The Wharf's Kith/Kin, where chef Kwame Onwuachi mixes flavors from Nigeria, Jamaica, and New Orleans.

Illustration of baseball park

If your kid wants to be Willie Mays

Have a kid who asked for a subscription to MLB.TV as a birthday present? Who cracked every fence slat in your yard pitching imaginary games? Get your little seamhead close to the action without breaking the bank by heading to the Cactus League.

Each year, from late February through late March, 15 MLB teams prepare for the season at facilities located within a 47-mile radius of Phoenix. Here, there's no such thing as nosebleed seats, and a box of Cracker Jack won't set you back $10. The outfield lawn seats at Scottsdale Stadium offer a perfect vantage point for the game while also allowing younger kids to run around. Starting at only $10 a ticket, you'll pay a fraction of the admission at AT&T Park in San Francisco.

Games often sell out, so get tickets in advance, and look for family packages. There are also kid-themed days, such as at Peoria Sports Complex where on Sundays, kids 12 and under can stand with a player during the national anthem or announce who's stepping up to bat. At Sloan Park kids get “First-Timer Certificates" to memorialize their first Cactus League.

The Digs:
The Phoenician, a five-star resort in Scottsdale, offers six swimming pools, I.Fly trapeze lessons, and s'mores and stargazing at night. The Funicians Club gives parents a chance to hit the spa while kids explore the on-site cactus garden and play video games.

The Feast:
For great Mexican food, head to La Hacienda by Richard Sandoval, at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. The kids' menu will keep your little ones happy, while a custom tequila flight (there's a Tequila Goddess on staff) and guacamole made tableside will do the trick for you.

United Journey

How traveling changed the course of our future

By Kelsey + Courtney Montague
Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness…Mark Twain knew this, and anyone who travels and gets out of their comfort zone understands this same concept.

This is one of the reasons we love to travel — our perceptions and stereotypes are constantly being challenged. This is also probably why we've built a business that requires us to travel regularly — we create street art pieces in cities around the world.

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But we weren't always like this. Our love of travel first began when our Mom took us backpacking through Europe for a month. At the time, we were both young teenagers who had never been out of the country. We carefully planned our outfits and fit them into one backpack each. Mom carried our Rick Steve's travel guide and off we went. We stayed in shabby hotels across the United Kingdom, France and Spain, visiting every museum we could find, eating every baguette, croissant and paella dish we could get our hands on, and loving every second of it.

We've been addicted to travel ever since.

Kelsey sketches at a street cafe in Paris Kelsey sketches at a street cafe in Paris

I (Kelsey) fell so in love with London on that trip that I grew determined to study there. Fast forward to years later when I graduated from Richmond University in London. That trip changed the course of my life because I learned about and experienced street art during my studies in London. Courtney fell so in love with Paris that she learned French and graduated with a degree in comparative literature from the American University of Paris. That first trip changed the course of our lives forever and opened our eyes to how massive the world was. I don't think our Mom could have given us a better gift than that first trip abroad.

As adults who travel constantly we feel like a MileagePlus® membership is another important piece of the equation and something we've benefitted from tremendously over the years. The various United Club℠ locations are little refuges we escape to in busy and overwhelming airports. Being able to board early, getting upgraded and having nice flight attendants on long haul flights really can mean the difference between arriving well rested and having a good trip, or arriving tired and having a rough trip.

At the end of the day a company is all about the people in it and the kindness we have experienced on United flights has been wonderful. I remember once on a flight, one of our captains wrote a personal note thanking each passenger flying in United First® class for traveling on United. On another, a flight the attendant saw I was not feeling well and hunted down an Airborne (vitamin pack) for me. Still another flight attendant asked about my art (I was sketching on the plane) and when I explained what I do they committed to buying my coloring book. It's these connections that really make flying United so memorable for myself and my sister.

So if you're looking to give your child a gift, take them traveling. And if you're looking for a present for yourself, sign up to enjoy the benefits of a MileagePlus Membership. You won't regret either.

Join MileagePlus to start earning miles from the world's most rewarding loyalty program℠ and share your story with #UnitedJourney.

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Welcome day brings employees and Special Olympics athletes together

By Matt Adams , July 13, 2018

As part of the weekend's festivities, our CEO, Oscar Munoz, joined a group of employees and retirees in greeting nearly 700 arriving athletes, coaches and volunteers at Seattle's Sea-Tac International Airport (SEA), as well as hundreds more at local light rail stations, all of which were decorated with our Special Olympics superhero campaign banners.

Oscar also had the honor of giving Special Olympics athlete Nikki Jones her first in person look at her superhero alter ego Lane Lightning, a moment that was captured on the video below.

Introducing a more personalized experience on united.com

By Gladys Roman , July 13, 2018

Our united.com homepage is getting some big enhancements. Yesterday, we announced the launch of the new site, which will offer a more modern, user-friendly design, allowing users a more personalized digital experience.

Each one of our customers is unique and has different needs for his or her travel, and personalizing our digital offerings is just another step toward giving our customers the experience and the products that they ask for, said Digital Products and Analytics VP Praveen Sharma. "Our goal with this new homepage is to provide customers with a more seamless experience."

The new website will provide personalized content based on a customer's MileagePlus® status as well as upcoming, current or prior trips. It will also include a new display that will be fully responsive for optimal viewing on desktop and mobile devices. Later this year, the site will include a travel section that will provide customers with curated content from destinations United serves.

We began rolling out the new homepage in April and continued expanding it to more users while we added more functionality throughout the phased rollout. The site will be live to all customers in early August.

These efforts are part of our commitment to improve our customers' travel experience through every step of their journey. Earlier this year, we updated our mobile website, adding a more optimized display, additional flexibility to adjust flights throughout the site, Japanese language translations and more.

Our new homepage will also appear on our mobile website, creating a more seamless experience when customers are managing travel and bookings across multiple devices.

United Journey

Transcending borders and languages in Tanzania

By The Hub team

Story and photos by Davis Paul

I have been very fortunate to travel the world telling stories with a camera for the last decade. Being a United MileagePlus® member for many of those years has absolutely opened the world and eased my ability to get around. And, it enabled me to authentically document the way in which different people and cultures do life, which has now become an obsession. How can you make someone feel what you witnessed despite not being there?

Dirt road in Tanzania

The world is full of amazing stories and incredible lessons that can transcend borders and languages. I believe every location is uniquely beautiful on it's own, we just need to see it for what it is and not in comparison to others. Bangladesh can be just as beautiful as Tahiti if we remove expectation and appreciate the uniqueness each location has to offer.

However, of all the trips I have ever taken, out of every project I have embarked on, from X Games to Real Madrid, there is one that hit me in a very different way. That was my trip to Tanzania to work on the border of Burundi out of two Refugee Camps. I was contracted to help train and build soccer programs within the camp as well as create content that would provide impactful insight into the circumstances taking place throughout the region as well as to connect the outside world with these amazing people fighting for their lives. I had zero preparation for the trip, having only booked my flight a week in advance. I had never traveled to Africa, let alone a refugee camp that couldn't be more difficult to get to. In fact, it was roughly 38 hours of travel by myself including having an 8 hour drive on something that barely resembled a road. Because it was so last minute, I actually wasn't able to secure a driver to take me to the town of Kibondo which meant once I landed, I had to find any local with a car who would be willing to take me the distance. Luckily, I found a man named Frankie who had a Toyota Corolla which consequently broke down within the first hour of our journey.

Group of kids in Burundi, Tanzania

Once I arrived, I had never witnessed life in this manner. Hundreds of thousands of refugees all piled together within 2 square miles. Mud huts, tarps, tents, anything and everything to sustain life was being used. Almost everyone in this camp had lost a loved one to violence yet I had never seen so much hope and joy. It completely changed my perspective on life to live amongst these people for 3 weeks. I ate with them everyday in the camp, eating the local food with my hands. To hear their stories, to see how they live and to dream with them on the brighter future they all hope exists was truly humbling. I'll never forget the lessons I learned within this camp and from these people — their love and optimism despite having experienced unimaginable tragedy was uplifting. When I asked if there was one message I could bring back to the United States, they simply would say, "we just want people to know we exist". I hope that my time and efforts there at least provided that. Although I tried to make the biggest impact I could while there, it is safe to say I was the one impacted the most and I will be forever grateful for that. I just hope I can help in half of the way they helped me.

Davis Paul pictured in Tanzania

I'm never sure where the next story will exist, but I can guarantee you'll find me on the ground, always laughing with a camera in hand. Traveling is a gift that allows us insight into both our differences and similarities, and the more you travel, the more you realize we all share in the same struggles, same hopes and same dreams. I believe that despite bad things happening, the world is full of good — we just need to seek it in every situation.

Join MileagePlus to start earning miles from the world's most rewarding loyalty program℠ and share your story with #UnitedJourney.

How to experience the best of Prague in 3 days

By Nick Harper

Every bit as historic, as beautiful and as culturally enriching as the European heavyweights of Paris, London or Rome, Prague, the capital city of the Czech Republic has emerged over recent decades to be a jewel in the continent's crown.

The city escaped significant bomb damage during World War II and its historic center remains magnificently intact, with a maze of cobbled lanes, quiet courtyards, chic cafés and ancient chapels just waiting to be discovered. To see enough of the city, we suggest visiting for at least three days.

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Getting into the city

Upon arrival, regular and reliable buses and trains will get you into the center of the city within 20 minutes. Unless you're heading outside of Prague, you shouldn't need to rent a car. The center of Prague is compact and easily to explore on foot, with excellent and cheap trams, buses and the subway if you don't want to walk.

Where to stay

Central Prague is broken down into 10 districts, with most visitors staying in Prague 1, the heart of the city. Here you have two good options: The Old Town or the Lesser Town – linked by Prague's most celebrated landmark, the Charles Bridge. The Old Town is at the heart of everything, full of historical sites, bars and restaurants but can be overpriced and often considered 'touristy' as a result. The Lesser Town is still close to the heart of everything but with a more tranquil atmosphere that's particularly good for families.

Old Town in Prague

What to see

There's too much to see in a single visit, however, one of the absolute essentials has to be Prague Castle, which is literally unmissable. The largest castle complex in the world, it dates back to the 9th century and is also home to the presidential palace, the vast St. Vitus Cathedral and Golden Lane — an original 16th-century street of tiny cottages that was home to Franz Kafka. The lookout tower of St. Vitus Cathedral gives you a bird's eye view of the city, as does Petrin Lookout Tower at the top of Petrin Hill, which climbs 206 feet to look down on the city.

From there head to the Old Town Square, which is the medieval center of Prague, surrounded by cobbled streets awash with cafes and restaurants. It's home to the Old Town Hall and Astronomical Clock, the Rococo Kinsky Palace and the stunning Gothic Church of Our Lady before Týn. If you visit in December, it also hosts the city's largest Christmas market.

Also close by, Klementinum is a series of historic buildings worth visiting just to see what is arguably the most beautiful library in the world. If you're looking for a world-class collection of historical artifacts, minerals and zoological specimens, the National Museum ticks all of the boxes. It's located at the top of Wenceslas Square, which is not actually a square but a boulevard – and one of Prague's most popular shopping streets.

Kampa Island is a great alternative to the National Museum. Literally an island located beneath Charles Bridge, you'll find the museum of modern art, The John Lennon Wall and giant, slightly unnerving sculptures of crawling babies. Speaking of Charles Bridge, it is one of Prague's most popular and photographed sites for good reason. You'll no doubt use it to cross the Vltava River, but for the best photographs, visit at dawn, before the crowds arrive.

And if all this walking gets to be too much, see the city from a different perspective, floating gently down the Vltava on a river cruise.

River Vltava in Prague

Where to eat

Restaurants to suit every taste and budget dot the center of Prague. Great breakfast options include Coffee Room, Mezi Srnky and the always-popular Café Savoy, which is also great for lunch or dinner.

In a city full of carnivores, the Real Meat Society's porchetta sandwich is a lunchtime highlight, Dish is a stylish little burger joint full of fashionable people, while Lokál Dlouhááá offers a beer hall feel and Czech classics of pork, sauerkraut and dumplings washed down with beer.

The city's only two Michelin-starred restaurants are Field and La Degustation Bohême Bourgeoise, the latter creating modern takes on old Czech recipes using the highest quality local produce. Both restaurants require a reservation. Highly recommended 'Bib Gourmand' restaurants within easy reach of Charles Bridge include Sansho, Divinis and Maso A Kobliha, where the salty caramel pie may elicit happy tears.

Prague skyline at sunrise

Where to drink

In the number one beer-drinking nation on the planet, the locals refer to it as 'Liquid bread.' Prague is home to many of the nation's finest bars and ale houses, many of which brew their own beers. Two of the most historic are U Zlateho Tygra, which President Clinton visited in 1994, and U Cerneho Vola, which stands in the shadow of the castle. Letná Beer Garden offers an outdoor setting where you can enjoy a beer and views of the Old Town below.

And keep an eye out for 'tankovna' – tank pubs – where the beer is not pasteurized, as most beers have to be to be transported around the globe. In tank pubs such as U Pinkasu, the beer is probably the freshest you'll ever taste. But if pilsner is not your preference, head to Hemingway Bar, one of the world's finest cocktail bars. You may have to wait in line as it is a popular with both locals and tourists alike, but it's well worth the wait.

When to go

Prague is the warmest and busiest during the summer months, from April until October and peak season starts in July through August. The longer nights of spring and summer will give you more time to explore, while the celebrated Beer Festival fills the city's Letná Park in May. Spring and autumn are generally quieter and can be less costly than the summer months. If you can cope with the colder temperatures and darker days, winter is a magical time to be in the city.

Getting there

United, together with many of its Star Alliance partner airlines, offers service from multiple cities in the U.S. to Prague. To explore all that Prague has to offer and to book your trip, visit united.com or use the United app.

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