Three Perfect Days: San Juan
Hemispheres

Three Perfect Days: San Juan

By The Hub team , December 29, 2015

Story by Nicholas Derenzo | Photography by Gabriela Herman | Hemispheres, December 2105

The Puerto Rican capital offers beautiful ocean views, pristine jungle, art and culture galoreâ and all the rum you can drink

San Juan is just five years short of its 500th birthday, but the old city shows no sign of slowing down. In fact, the rainbow-hued, salsa-fueled energy that hums through the Puerto Rican capital is spilling over into rough-edged areas like Santurce, which is emerging as an incubator for artistic and culinary talent. Beyond the city limits, meanwhile, in tropical forests teeming with birds and flowers, you'll see that the city's spellbinding energy and color have an even older precedent. It's an essence that infuses every aspect of life here, and visitors are often surprised to find that, within hours of their arrival, it's in them, too.

Day 1 Graphic

In which Nicholas takes a poetic tour of Old San Juan and explores art (both visual and culinary) at the museum

If you've ever wanted to feel like a well-to-do conquistador, you could do worse than booking into the Hotel El Convento. The property is set in a mid-17th-century Carmelite nunnery, its rooms decked out in Colonial style, its courtyard shaded by a 300-year-old Spanish nispero tree, its windows opening onto the waterfront and the multicolored jumble of Old San Juan. Just beyond the bay is the Art Deco Bacardi distillery. I can't help but feel that this trifecta—history, sea, rum—may come to define my trip.

It doesn't seem prudent to start on the rum so early, so I begin my day by exploring history instead. To help me unpack the secrets of Old San Juan—set on a jam-packed, three-square-mile island—I've recruited Lady Lee Andrews, a 43-year-old local poet with cascading braids and curls. “I'm a born and raised sanjuanera," she says, as we hug hello on the steps of the hotel. “I'm like a tree. I'm rooted here."

Before we even begin our stroll, we encounter local legend Saúl Dávila, who famously wanders the streets selling armfuls of azucenas (white lilies). “This man here walks miles every day selling flowers, and he's been walking since I was a little girl," Andrews says as she buys a bunch. “We'll give these away as we go."

We cross the street and head into the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista, the second-oldest church in the Americas (after the basilica in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic). The original structure was built in the 16th century, though Andrews is quick to point out that, due to centuries of being pummeled by hurricanes, only the front steps are original.

These vicious storms, Andrews continues, have left a mark on the city's people as well. “With hurricanes, there's a sense of kinship," she says, laying a flower at the feet of Our Lady of Divine Providence, Puerto Rico's principal patroness. “When I was a little girl, I longed for September hurricane season, because all the neighbors would come out and help each other. It breaks that pattern of everyone being in their own worlds."

Lady Lee Andrews, poet, artist, and owner of the Poet's PassageLady Lee Andrews, poet, artist, and owner of the Poet's Passage

Outside, the narrow colonial streets of the casco, or Old Quarter, are a riot of color, down to the bluish cobblestones, made with iron furnace slag and once used as ballast on Spanish ships. Lining the roads are stucco houses, many with wrought-iron balconies, painted lime green and banana yellow, guava pink, and papaya orange (think New Orleans' French Quarter with the volume turned up). Interestingly, these bright hues are a relatively new addition to San Juan; the city government used to dictate permissible paint colors, and the palette was surprisingly muted.

We pass a mural of the azucena man and his trademark bouquet of lilies and duck into Restaurant Siglo XX, a small traditional diner that's been around since the mid-1950s. At this time of day, the obvious choice is a mallorca, a sweet bread roll stuffed with ham and cheese and crowned with enough powdered sugar to make a beignet blush.

“San Juan is a village. We're called the Island of Enchantment, and you won't leave without getting bitten." —Lady Lee Andrews

I've noticed that Andrews can barely walk a block without stopping to hug someone, though she insists that this says more about the neighborhood's character than her own. “The first time I went to France to visit my husband's family," she tells me as she stirs brown sugar into her café con leche, “I was shocked that he had lived in the same house his whole life and didn't know his neighbors. So, being the Puerto Rican that I am, I went over, banged on the door, and said hi. And now, 18 years later, they're best friends."

Our casco walk takes us past chattering wild parrots fighting over a pizza crust near the port and the baby-blue facade of La Fortaleza, a 16th-century fortification that serves as the governor's residence. At the end of the cliffside Calle del Cristo sits a tiny, age-mottled chapel, which has a story: This street once hosted dangerous horse races, in which the rider who got closest to the edge would win. One man plunged over and miraculously survived the fall, and local residents went on to build the Capilla del Santo Cristo to thank God.

El Yunque National Forest's Mount Britton observation towerEl Yunque National Forest's Mount Britton observation tower

We continue down Calle Fortaleza, past Barrachina, the restaurant where the piña colada was invented in 1963, and duck into Andrews' shop, Mi Pequeño San Juan, where she and her painter husband, Nicolas, create plaster replicas of local landmarks. Around the corner from here is her café, the Poet's Passage, its counter modeled after a roll-top desk, with slips of paper and pens on each table in case the spirit moves you. There's also a chihuahua named Federico García Lorca, a green parrot named Pablo Neruda, and a lovebird named Robert Frost. Another bird, Maya Angelou, died a couple of years ago—coincidentally, at around the same time as Maya Angelou the poet.

I say goodbye to Andrews and head to the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico, which is housed in a 1909 neo-classical hospital with a contemporary annex. While outside the limits of Old San Juan, it's an institution steeped in history. Like the building, the museum's Laurel Kitchen/Art Bar plays with the theme of old-meets-new. Here, Next Iron Chef contestant Mario Pagán lovingly remixes the flavors of his homeland.

“We're all about the pork," he says, dishing up pig-ear crackling with tamarind sauce and plantain mofongo. So begins a cascade of courses that include brie croquettes with papaya skin preserves; lamb alcapurrias (fritters) with mint pique aioli; pegao (crispy rice that sticks to the bottom of the pot) with blood sausage, caramelized fennel, avocado, and egg white; black Chilean sea bass with truffled yuca puree and a port wine and foie gras sauce; and, for a finale, a slab of guava goat cheesecake. “I hope you're going to take a long nap after this," Pagán says with a grin.

But no rest for the gastronomically weary. I'm meeting the museum's Venezuelan-born curator, Juan Carlos López Quintero, for a tour. The museum is organized according to themes rather than chronology—“You have 18th-century paintings next to photographs next to video installations"—which makes for a lively experience. It seems fitting that the first gallery we enter, after such a gluttonous lunch, is “Plátano Pride"—a collection of artworks celebrating the island's staple starch, including a portrait of a boy wearing a life-size gold plantain on a chain around his neck.

“The plantain has been an icon of Puerto Rican art since José Campeche," López Quintero says, leading me to the master's 1797 portrait of the governor's two young daughters. “For the first time, you have elements that belong to this country—the maracas, the pineapple." I'm particularly taken with a massive triptych nearby called The Garden of Intolerance by Arnaldo Roche Rabell, a local neo-Expressionist painter whose swirls of thickly applied paint call to mind a tropical van Gogh. It also seems a perfect representation of the island's noise and humidity and color—the “muchness" of Puerto Rico.

Santa Mar\u00eda Magdalena de Pazzis CemeterySanta María Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery

I find my appetite inexplicably whetted, so I drive a few minutes to Jose Enrique, an unassuming eatery set in a bungalow on the lively square La Placita. Enrique trained at the Culinary Institute of America, and was the first Puerto Rican chef nominated for a James Beard Award. He personifies a new wave of chefs here, but his hearty rustic fare—rice and red beans, tripletail fish fritters, deep-fried skirt steak topped with fried eggs, coconut pudding—would satisfy the most ardently traditionalist abuelita.

Before bed, I stop for a drink at La Factoría, whose pocked walls and dim lighting call to mind the kind of place where (heavily tattooed) revolutionaries might have gathered to talk shop. The feeling of intrigue is heightened by the nesting-doll layout, with different bars extending beyond a succession of unmarked doors. I sit beside a wall inscribed with “Hijos de Borinquen" (Borinquen being the island's pre-Columbian Taíno name) and sip a De Lo Mejor, a cocktail of housemade horchata, tequila, Cointreau, lime, and a smoky local rum, Ron del Barrilito.

This hip speakeasy vibe is spreading. Just next door is La Cubanita, a new bodega-inspired cocktail bar (its shelves ironically stocked with saint candles and bottles of Clorox) where you can order spirits mixed with fresh juices. My Guayabera (Barrilito, guava, lime, and sugar) is a great drink but a terrible nightcap, in that it makes me want to go dance the merengue rather than settle down. But it's been a long day. Maybe tomorrow.

Day 2 Graphic

In which Nicholas explores newly hip Santurce and enjoys an ocean-view dinner by a Michelin-starred chef in Condado

I've been in Puerto Rico only a day, but I'm already singing salsa tunes in the shower. I don't know any lyrics, so it's just coming out awkwardly like boom t-ting-ting, boom boom t-ting-ting. It's almost scary how contagious the energy is here.

Having explored the city's past, today I'm turning my attention to its future. Just over the bridge from Old San Juan is Santurce, a scrappy urban area that has become an enclave of street artists, chefs, activists, and gallerists. The word “Brooklyn" gets thrown around a lot, but a more apt comparison might be contemporary Berlin or '90s Soho.

La Factor\u00eda cocktail bar in Old San JuanLa Factoría cocktail bar in Old San Juan

I fortify myself with croquettes and fresh-baked bread at Panificadora Jerezana, the favorite bakery of local artist Martín Albarrán López. After breakfast, he drives me to La Productora, his industrial gallery on thrumming Cerra Street. The gallery got its name from the recording studios that once lined the block, churning out tropical music from the 1950s on. “This was the mecca, where salsa began," Albarrán López says. “But with iPods, the Internet, it all went down."

A few years ago, artists began to fill the void. “I don't know if you understand the word 'cojones,'" he says, “but we had the cojones to make it happen." A block from La Productora, Jaime Rodriguez Crespo crafts whimsical plastic replicas of island wildlife, such as blowfish and the ubiquitous chango (grackle), a gregarious cousin of the crow, which he depicts stealing onion rings and dog food—an ironic urban take on the pink flamingo lawn ornament.

Albarrán López shares his gallery with two other artists:Jotham Malavé, a realist painter currently exploring the theme of voyeurism through nighttime images of the suburbs, and Gil Ramos, a former lawyer with no formal training who makes wild collages with found objects, like bikinis and scraps of paper. “I try to make conversations with these humble, discarded materials," he says. “I get a kick out of watching these materials elevate themselves. I'm trying to escape the value society gives them." It's an apt metaphor for the way artists are transforming this once-maligned area.

Artist Chemi Rosado-Seijo takes on the half-pipeArtist Chemi Rosado-Seijo takes on the half-pipe

The district's streets burst with art too. Much of the graffiti is produced during the annual Santurce Es Ley festival, in which street artists from around the world are invited to use buildings as canvases. Works range from Pop Art to Banksy-like stencils to Alexis Diaz's surreal zoological murals, including a crow-octopus-human hybrid on a wall outside the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico.

Next, Albarrán López, Malavé, and Ramos take me to lunch at Soda Estudio de Cocina. Named for Argentine rockers Soda Stereo (on the stereo when we arrive), it's a funky spot with wall-size shrines to the band's late lead singer, Gustavo Cerati, and pinup queen Bettie Page. And if the decor seems ambitious, you should meet chef Hector Rosa. “We call it the New Puerto Rican Kitchen," he says, “the food of the future."

Rosa lets the market-fresh ingredients do the talking, often with a subtle twist: chorizo with guava, papaya, tomato, and avocado; fettuccine with chicharrones de pollo, satay sauce, and an alfredo-inspired celery root puree; and, for dessert, a bread pudding made from Krispy Kreme donuts that winks at the role of American mass culture on the island.

“Santurce is a zone that's been stigmatized, because the slaves and workers used to live here," Rosa tells me. “As raw as it is now, you don't always have a neighborhood where you know it's going to be amazing."

Fried red snapper at Soda Estudio de CocinaFried red snapper at Soda Estudio de Cocina

Not far from here is LAB: Laboratorio de Artes Binarios, a stark space bookended by modernist cement windows latticed with geometric concrete gratings. The vast space works well for Chemi Rosado-Seijo, whose latest project involves skateboarding on custom ramps around the world, spreading the dirt from his wheels in abstract swirls and loops. “The shape of the ramp, the person skating, the dirt from that country affect the colors," he explains. “It's abstraction and performance art and modernism together." Across the hall, Ricardo Morales Hernández paints massive monochromatic works that expand on his daughters' doodles.

It's only a five-minute drive from Santurce to my next stop, but the two places couldn't be less alike. Condado is a South Beach–esque stretch of condos and resorts, including the Condado Vanderbilt, a Spanish Revival property built in 1919 (by the firm behind Grand Central Terminal) and restored to full glory late last year. I'm having dinner at the hotel's 1919 Restaurant, a place of sleek leather chairs and mother-of-pearl chandeliers. The Michelin-starred chef here, Juan José Cuevas, combines influences from Spain and his native Puerto Rico. I grab a seat overlooking the sea and tuck into a plate of cochinillo (suckling pig) ravioli with burrata, caramelized eggplant, and Iberico ham, and a paella-inspired dish of rabbit, bomba rice, maitake, conch, and octopus.

I'm spending the night across the street at the Mediterranean-themed O:Live Boutique Hotel. This is where the Real Housewives of Atlanta stayed while in town, but don't expect paparazzi—or catfights. Inspired by the owners' wedding in Sorrento, the hotel feels like a sanctuary you'd find in Campania or Provence, with furnishings crafted from century-old reclaimed wood. It's a little shot of the Old World in a city that's become a vibrant symbol of what it means to be “new."

Day 3 Graphic

In which Nicholas scales a jungle peak (sort of) and goes birdwatching at the St. Regis Bahia Beach

Having immersed myself in urban San Juan, today I'm turning my attention to the nearby countryside—specifically El Yunque, the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest System, a 40-minute drive from the city. My tiny rental chugs up the side of a mountain, which gets denser and greener as I go. Pretty soon, I'm surrounded by waterfalls, prehistoric-looking ferns, soaring palms, and exotic parrots.

At the forest headquarters, I meet archaeologist Raymond Feliciano, who has offered to drive me around the park in his SUV. The selfie-stick crowd tends to keep to the main route, but Feliciano wants to show me another side of the forest: the top. Because my idea of mountain climbing is getting up the subway steps in one piece, we make the ascent by car rather than foot.

As we navigate a series of treacherous switchbacks, I mention how untouched the forest feels. “I wanted to get in a couple of dinosaurs," Feliciano says dryly, “which wasn't well received. But you do get the whole Jurassic Park experience." In fact, this land-that-time-apparently-forgot is mostly second-growth forest, planted by the New Deal–era Civilian Conservation Corps following the ravages of erosion and misuse. Feliciano describes it as “created nature."

Raymond Feliciano, archaeologist, El Yunque National ForestRaymond Feliciano, archaeologist, El Yunque National Forest

Our destination is the 1930s Mount Britton observation tower, which looks like a giant rook from a chess set. We climb the spiral staircase and emerge onto a castellated roof overlooking a staggeringly epic expanse. From this height, you can see San Juan, as well as the islands of Vieques and Culebra. “On a clear day, you can see all the way to the Virgin Islands," Feliciano says.

Closer at hand is El Yunque Peak, the second-tallest mountain in the forest. “When the Spanish came to extract gold, the mountain was covered by a cloud," Feliciano tells me. “The Taíno natives called it yu-ke, the resting place of their god of creation. The Spanish heard yunque, which means 'anvil.' So now people come expecting to see an anvil." Anvil or no, it's easy to be swept up in the grandeur of it all.

“People see El Yunque as a spiritual, mystical landmark. It used to be called the Sacred Mountain. When the Forest Service tried to do timber in the '80s, they were up in arms. So we shifted from timber to recreation, and now it feels like a pristine area—what God created." —Raymond Feliciano

For lunch, I head to the nearby Luquillo Beach kioskos. These ramshackle eateries are a staple along Puerto Rican beaches, each serving its take on classics like alcapurrias de jueyes (crab fritters) and bacalaítos (fried salt cod pancakes). I stop at kiosk 20, Terruño, take a seat overlooking the palm-lined beach, and order a Medalla Light (a local light beer that's less than $2 a pop), a crispy rabbit turnover, and a snow-white dish of grouper cooked in rice and coconut milk.

From here, it's a 20-minute drive to the decidedly more elegant confines of the St. Regis Bahia Beach. Occupying 400-plus acres on a former coconut plantation bounded by two rivers, the resort is centered on the Plantation House, where I check in. I wander past a minimalist koi pond and into what feels like a grand private estate, where I'm immediately greeted with a rum punch.

Luxury, though, is only part of the story here. The St. Regis Bahia Beach is the first property in the Caribbean to be named a Gold-Certified Signature Sanctuary by Audubon International. “We function like a tiny national park," says resident ecologist Ashley Perez, who's waiting for me at the hotel's boathouse, ready to coax me into a two-person kayak.

Within minutes of paddling away from the dock, we're surrounded by a diverse array of wildlife, including a green heron, which responds to our presence with dramatic squawking. “He's cursing at us," she says with a laugh. “'You ruined my lunch!' They're very clever. They use tools—they throw sticks in the water as bait." We see egrets and chickenlike gallinules walking among mangrove roots on comically oversize feet. “I love the little sandpipers," Perez says, “because they always look like they're dancing."

A bird-loving Old San Juan localA bird-loving Old San Juan local

Then there's the feisty chango—the same bird that so inspired Santurce artist Jaime Rodriguez Crespo. These birds, Perez tells me, have a habit of whining and begging their parents for food even after they're old enough to feed themselves. “When Puerto Rican kids get really annoying," she says with a laugh, “their parents always say, 'Ay chango!'"

We dock the kayak and set out in a golf cart to explore the nonwatery part of the preserve, passing trees swollen with cementlike termite nests. Soon, a mongoose skitters across our path. “They're rare to see!" Perez exclaims. “Mongoose were brought to the island to kill rats. And now … Puerto Rico just has rats and mongooses."

The sun has started to set, so I freshen up in my suite's room-size rainforest shower, then head to dinner at the Plantation House. To get there, I navigate the boardwalks that crisscross the resort (better to leave the slithering blue ground lizards and lumbering iguanas below undisturbed), serenaded by a chorus of coqui frogs croaking the two-syllable refrain that gives them their onomatopoeic name. It's a sound that nearly every Puerto Rican I've met has said they'd miss if they ever left the island.

Spilling out onto a seafront veranda, Jean-Georges Vongerichten's Fern is an exceptionally refined affair. After a refreshing watermelon julep and a dinner of roasted lobster with creamy corn and chili vinaigrette, I pop down to the lobby bar. Every St. Regis boasts a signature Bloody Mary (the drink was invented at the Manhattan flagship in 1934), and here it's the spicy Encanto Mary, infused with ají picante chilies, rimmed with crushed plantain chips, and garnished with plantain-stuffed olives.

The bartender catches me staring at the painting behind the bar, a monumental neo-Expressionist work depicting a Taíno native cutting through a plant-filled marsh in a boat. “It's an Arnaldo Roche Rabell," she says, and I'm reminded of something an art museum employee told me: “Puerto Rican art is colorful and loud and spicy and full of flavor—and so is our food, and so is our music, and so is all of our culture." Even in a place like this genteel bar, you can't escape the true essence of Puerto Rico.

Hemispheres senior editor NicholasDeRenzo never considered himself a rum guy until the whiskeylike Ron del Barrillito came salsa-ing into his life


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Discover Kansas City: The City of Fountains

By The Hub team

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

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

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Make a wish at one of the many, many fountains

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

Don Ipock/Courtesy of Visit KC

Get artsy

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

Courtesy of Boulevard Brewing

Drink like a local

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

Brian Paulette/Courtesy of Visit KC

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

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

Courtesy of Visit KC

Check out City Market

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

DAVID D. MORRIS/COURTESY OF VISIT KC

Eat barbecue

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

Zach Bauman/Courtesy of Visit KC

…And not barbecue

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

Courtesy of Visit KC

Take a stroll in Swope Park

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

Courtesy of Visit KC

Explore the Crossroads Arts District

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

RELATED: 20 Cities Where Travelers Get the Best Value


This article was from PureWow and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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Where to eat and drink in Salem

By The Hub team

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

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The Roof at Hotel Salem

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

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

Kokeshi

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

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

Ledger Restaurant & Bar

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

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

Life Alive

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

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

Far from The Tree Hard Cider

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

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

Notch Brewing

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

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

A&J King Artisan Bakers

Baguettes! \A&J King Artisan Bakers

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

Caramel Patisserie

Morning 🥐🥐🥐 Patisserie & Macaron

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


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

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Introducing travel experiences with PlacePass

By The Hub team

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

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


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

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

9 things to do in Maui for families

By The Hub team

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

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Gaze into a volcano

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

Take a flowery scavenger hunt

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

Pet a goat

Zach Stovall

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

Enjoy an authentic luau

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

Go on a whale watching tour

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

See sharks at the aquarium

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

Soak up the sun at Kaanapali Beach

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

Explore the largest Banyan Tree

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

Take a road trip

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


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

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Fun and spooky travel destinations for Halloween

By Matt Chernov

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

Sleepy Hollow

Lighthouse on a dark day in Sleepy Hollow.

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

New Orleans Haunted History Tour

Above ground cemetery in New Orleans

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

The Stanley Hotel

The Stanley Hotel in Colorado

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

The Paris Catacombs

The Paris Catacombs

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

Poenari Castle

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

Newgrange Tomb

Newgrange Tomb in Ireland

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

Loch Ness

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

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

If you go

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

Celebrating Girls in Aviation Day

By The Hub team

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

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

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


Cuba: A city filled with culture and heart

By The Hub team

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

By Remote Reservations Sales and Service Representative Susie Grisley

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

Colorful, classic cars in Cuba.

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

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


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

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

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

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

7 family-friendly activities to celebrate fall

By Matt Chernov

Ask someone to name their favorite thing about fall and you'll likely get a different answer depending on where they live. For many people, the mosaic of vibrantly colored leaves and foliage is what defines the months of September through mid-December. Others find the scent of autumnal spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and turmeric is what makes the fall so special. And for some, it's the cooler temperatures that make being outside even more enjoyable. Plus, fall is full of fun activities no matter where you are — from pumpkin patches and apple picking to watching football and enjoying a bowl of chili. All of these things, and more, make the fall so magical. To help you celebrate the season, here are seven fall-themed activities to try this year.

Go apple picking

Apple Orchard

Apple picking combines outdoor fun with delicious and healthy snacks that can be used in a variety of ways, making it the perfect fall activity for adults and children of all ages.. Though you'll find countless orchards around the country worth visiting this season, New England is widely considered a prime apple picking destination with over 120 varieties found in the region. It can be argued that the variety they are best known for is the McIntosh apple. This type of apple and many more can be found at Honey Pot Hill Orchards in the lovely town of Stow, Massachusetts, so be sure to stop in and take home a bushel that you pluck from the trees yourself. Picking times are from 9:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. daily, making it easy to schedule a trip.

Meanwhile in California, apple season runs until the end of November, giving you plenty of time to pick a few baskets of Red Delicious or Gala apples before winter. Riley's at Los Rios Rancho in the city of Yucaipa is one of the largest farms of its kind in Southern California and has been welcoming apple pickers to their 10,000-tree farm for more than 100 years. If you're considering a visit, you might want to plan to be there on November 23, since that's when they're hosting their famous Apple Butter Festival this year.

Visit a pumpkin patch

If there was a fall mascot, it would be a pumpkin, so to celebrate the true essence of the season, it's hard to beat a trip to a colorful pumpkin patch. A pumpkin patch is more than just a place to find the perfect candidate for this year's prize-winning jack-o'-lantern, it's a wonderful way to create cherished new memories with your children or friends. The Great Pumpkin Farm in Clarence, New York, is perfect for pumpkin picking, but also offers weekend activities throughout the fall, including scarecrow making lessons, cider brewing demonstrations, pumpkin pie eating contests, and live music and barbecues.

If you're traveling through the Midwest this season, hop aboard a vintage farm wagon at Polly's Pumpkin Patch in Chilton, Wisconsin, and make your way out into their scenic fields where you can pick as many pumpkins as you want for only $3 each. Other activities at Polly's include a livestock petting zoo, a 40-foot slide and a popular corn cannon that lets older kids launch corn cobs at targets for cash prizes.

Enjoy a harvest festival

Autumn Harvest Festival

An annual tradition in America that dates back to 1613, harvest festivals are outdoor celebrations that coincide with the growing and reaping seasons we all enjoy. Filled with food, fun, music and dance, you haven't truly experienced the wonder of the fall season until you've participated in a local harvest fest. The good news is that there are plenty to choose from around the country this year. Two of the most popular are the Autumn at the Arboretum festival in Dallas, Texas, which runs until October 31, and the incredible North Carolina Pecan Harvest Festival in Whiteville, North Carolina, which ends on November 3. Both of these festivals have been drawing huge crowds for years.

For a harvest fest that's slightly spookier, head to Wisconsin where you'll find the classic Jack O' Lantern Days celebration in the cozy town of Fish Creek, and the Halloween-themed Zombie Days festival on the coast of Chequamegon Bay. Ghoulish activities include an undead musical show, a zombie pub crawl and a traditional harvest festival pumpkin parade. The scary fun lasts from October 26 through October 27.

Hit the trails

A path through autumn foliage forest in Silver Falls State Park, Oregon

Hiking is more than just great exercise; it's an excellent way to bring the whole family together during the fall. And since the leaves are changing colors, it's also a great way to snap some incredible nature photos. So lace up your hiking boots, grab your kids and your camera, and find a trail that's right for you. If you're looking for suggestions, Sterling Point Trail in Vermont and Rome Point Trail in Rhode Island are impossible to beat when it comes to picturesque fall hiking.

On the opposite side of the country, the trails at Dry Creek Falls in Portland, Oregon, were voted one of the most photogenic hiking spots on the west coast by BuzzFeed, and it's easy to see why once you've been there. Covering a distance of just over 4 miles, this beautiful trail is perfect for all skill levels, making it a solid choice for families with kids.

Roll in the hay

Corn Maze sign

Hayrides and corn mazes are traditional fall activities that have never gone out of style, and for very good reason. There's just something wonderfully nostalgic about introducing a new generation of children to the simple pleasures of wandering through an overgrown corn maze, and with so many participating farms scattered across the country, there's a plethora of options to choose from. The Johnny Appleseed corn maze at Shady Brook Farm in Yardley, Pennsylvania, and the popular horse-drawn hayride at Papa's Pumpkin Patch in Bismarck, North Dakota, are two of the best.

In honor of Halloween, the massive haunted hayride at Fear Farm in Phoenix, Arizona, brings an assortment of ghosts, goblins and ghouls to life from early October until the first week in November. Filled with sinister special effects, creepy costumes and macabre makeup, this Hollywood-worthy hayride is recommended for adults and children over the age of 12. With five terrifying corn mazes to choose from, Fear Farm certainly lives up to its name!

Up, up and away

Hot Air Balloon on a farm

Hot air ballooning during the fall is a dazzling way to experience the season in all its natural splendor. After all, how else can you get a spectacular birds-eye view of the colorful trees as their leaves change from green to golden orange? Balloons Over Letchworth, located near New York's Letchworth State Park, offers astonishing views of the surrounding area, including majestic waterfalls and stunning forests. Best of all, they offer a variety of family tour packages, so you'll find just what you're looking for, regardless of the size of your group.

If you're visiting Southern California's wine region this fall, reserve a balloon ride with the fine folks at California Dreamin'. Their friendly FAA commercial licensed pilots will take you and your family on an unforgettable balloon voyage high above the vineyards of Temecula wine country.

Pitch a tent

closeup of one tent in woods

Though typically associated with summer, in many ways the fall is truly the best time of year to go camping. Thanks to the cooler weather, there are few — if any — insects to bother you and your family. Plus, there are less people claiming all the best spots, so you should have no problem picking a prime location to pitch your tent. And when it comes to toasting marshmallow for s'mores over an open campfire, everyone agrees that they simply taste better when eaten on a brisk autumn night.

For the ultimate fall camping trip, book a spot at Earth First Farms in southwest Michigan and set up your tent in an actual organic apple orchard. The 49-acre farm provides campers with complimentary firewood and plenty of fresh produce to pick.

Getting there

Regardless of where you plan to celebrate the fall, 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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