Three Perfect Days: San Juan - United Hub
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


This article was from Rhapsody Magazine and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Amazing destination

Porto: Portugal’s surprising second city

By Bob Cooper

“Second cities" or those that rank #2 in population often surprise world travelers. And second doesn't mean second-rate. Porto is Portugal's second city — so off-the-radar that many world travelers haven't even heard of it. Yet, Porto and nearby spots in northern Portugal can be delightful destinations even if you don't visit the more well-known city of Lisbon.

Search flights

Old city by day

The best place to get oriented, as in most European cities, is in the old city center. Porto's Old City is so well-preserved that it's a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A 12th-century cathedral and the 15th-century Church of St. Francis, notable for interior wood carvings gilded by hundreds of pounds of gold, are mixed in with a rich collection of imposing granite, red-roofed Baroque buildings. Add 225 stairs and a stirring view to your walking tour by ascending the 250-foot-high Clérigos Church bell tower, built in 1754, which dominates the Porto skyline. Historic bridges over the Douro River and Soares dos Reis National Museum, an art museum housed in a palace, are also excellent sites to see.

Food and music by night

Porto's youthful population has turned it into a lively city after dark. You might start off the evening in the Old City at Abadia do Porto, a 1939 restaurant that serves traditional Portuguese dishes like roasted lamb and grilled octopus, or at Astoria, with its modern Portuguese fare served inside a former palace. Whether you choose a Portuguese, French or fusion restaurant, seafood is likely to be highlighted, drawing on Porto's proximity to the Atlantic and the Douro. Then, you can head to the large collection of bars and nightclubs in the nearby Galerias district, which includes Radio Bar, inside a former court building, and Gare, a disco in a tunnel that stays open until 6 a.m.

Head west to the beaches

The closest Atlantic beaches to central Porto are at Foz do Douro (mouth of the Douro), just 20 minutes away by city bus. But why settle? In a rental car you can explore Atlantic beaches and beach towns that extend for hundreds of miles along Portugal's coastline. Two of the best are Foz do Minho, the nation's northernmost oceanic beach that's just across the Minho River from Spain, and Quiaios, a dune-fringed paradise of sand south of Porto. Many beaches in northern Portugal are cradled in coves protected by rocky promontories, similar to northern California and Oregon beaches.

Or east to the wine country

The Douro Valley wine region is another World Heritage Site and one of the world's best and most scenic wine regions. It's up the Douro River from Porto by boat or 90 minutes by road. Namesake port wines and other fortified wines are the region's signature beverages, which can be sampled at tasting rooms on the Douro along N-222, a wine road that's been called the world's most scenic drive. While you're in the area, check out the wine and anthropology museums in the wine towns and yet another World Heritage Site — Coa Valley Archaeological Park — known for its prehistoric rock carvings.

The basics

Portugal's Mediterranean climate and coastal breezes bless it with mild weather year round, as the average temperature ranges from 57 degrees (and rain) in January to 78 degrees (and a little rain) in August. Whenever you come, there's no need to learn Portuguese as English is spoken even more widely than elsewhere in Western Europe. Once you arrive, rent a car only if you don't mind ridiculous drivers. The trains are more relaxing — light-rail and subway trains crisscross the Porto area and funicular cable cars climb its steepest hills. There's even a scenic train that follows the Douro nearly to Spain, with a roundtrip fare of only about $30.

Getting there

Portugal requires that visitor passports don't expire until at least three months after the arrival date, so check that. Next, buy some Euros (for a great exchange rate) and reserve a flight. United Airlines flies nonstop from New York/Newark to Porto and MileagePlus® award miles can be redeemed to cover accommodations and Hertz rentals. Go to united.com or use the United app to plan your trip.

Search flights
Contributor

United 787-10 Dreamliner launch

By The Hub team

Story was contributed by: Jennifer Lake | Photography: Alicia of Aesthetica

It was a typical Monday morning. I'm sitting at my desk at work, drinking coffee, reviewing my to-do list for the week. All around me, heels are clacking through the office and phones ring intermittently. However, this particular Monday morning was different. Ultimately, I would receive an offer from my favorite airline for a collaboration to participate in the United 787-10 Dreamliner launch from Los Angeles LAX to New York/Newark EWR. Read the full story here featured on Style Charade.

Featured story

Fit for the runway: We begin testing new uniforms

By The Hub team , January 16, 2019

Last year we announced new partnerships with Tracy Reese, Brooks Brothers and Carhartt — best-in-class fashion and apparel designers — to help reimagine uniforms for more than 70,000 of our employees. Focusing on high quality fabrics, improved breathability and overall enhanced fit, our goal is to design and develop a more cohesive collection that looks good, feels good and enables employees to perform at their best on behalf of our customers.


United employees can learn more on the uniform designs by visiting Flying Together.

An insider's guide to Boston

By Betsy Mikel

Boston is a pack-it-all-in kind of place. Founded in 1630, one of America's oldest cities does many things well. Boston's many claims to fame include many of America's oldest historic landmarks and one of its oldest ballparks. It's a destination for history buffs, culture vultures, foodies, sports fans, families and more. No matter who your travel companions are or what they're interested in, everyone will find something to pique their interest in Beantown.

Getting there & around town

Fly direct to Boston's Logan International Airport (BOS) from many U.S. cities — visit united.com or use the United app to book your flight. Flights are 90 minutes from New York, two hours from Cleveland and five to six hours from California. From Logan International Airport, it's easy to hail a taxi, use ridesharing apps or take public transportation. If you want to take the scenic route, take a water taxi across Boston Harbor directly into downtown.

Downtown Boston is easy to navigate. It's walkable and taxis are plentiful. The MBTA, Boston's public transportation system, offers affordable access to Cambridge, many attractions and the suburbs. Keep in mind it's one of the oldest transportation systems in the country, so expect a few bumps. Because the city is dense, parking can be expensive or hard to find, so avoid driving if you can.

When to visit

Summer and fall are the most popular seasons to visit. Summer is prime time to enjoy Boston's many parks, outdoor eateries, open-air concerts and baseball games at Fenway Park. Mild fall weather, beautiful autumn foliage and Halloween festivities in nearby Salem, Massachusetts make October one of Boston's busiest months. The city also sees an influx of visitors for the Boston Marathon in April. You'll find smaller crowds and more affordable prices in winter, but brace yourself for the cold.

What to do

There's so much to take in just by walking through Boston's cobblestoned streets. Downtown is quaint, compact and easy to explore by foot. The small city is packed with historic sites, New England's finest food, proud sports fans and friendly locals.

As the birthplace of the American Revolution, Boston's historic sites are an attraction in themselves. Walk the 2.5-mile Freedom Trail to visit 16 of them around the city, including Revolutionary-era museums, churches, buildings and an impressive warship. Faneuil Hall Marketplace is on the trail, too, and is one of Boston's top attractions, with plentiful shopping, dining and live music. Not much of a walker? Boston Duck Tours operate land-and-water historic tours on World War II-inspired vehicles, which transform from truck to boat mid-tour.

Many museums and sites are tucked along Boston Harbor. The waterfront is always bustling with activity year-round. The harborwalk is the perfect place to meander and explore without a strict agenda. Plan to visit a major attraction or two, but leave time to enjoy the scenery or to pop into a café for a coffee and sweet treat (award-winning Flour Bakery + Cafe is a local favorite).

Deemed the “Athens of America," Boston boasts not only some of the country's oldest and most architecturally significant buildings, but also a thriving arts and culture scene. You could spend your entire trip touring its dozens of world-class museums. Take in classical music at the famous Boston Symphony Orchestra, or take a leisurely stroll through Boston Public Garden and Boston Common, the city's most well-known public parks. Riding the giant Swan Boats through the Public Garden lagoon is a kitschy, yet delightful experience, especially for kids.

What to eat

What must you absolutely eat in Boston? In short, everything. Long ago the city was nicknamed Beantown, allegedly after slow-cooked molasses baked beans served to sailors and traders. Today, Boston continues its reputation as a great eating city. From clam chowder to cannoli, the most popular dishes here are often hearty and decadent. Boston is also known for fresh lobster rolls, roast beef sandwiches and, of course, Boston cream pie.

Ask any Bostonian where to find “the best" of anything, and everyone will recommend a different spot. Cannoli from Mike's Pastry, Boston cream pie from Omni Parker House (where it was invented) and the roast beef 1000 sandwich from Cutty's frequently top the must-try lists. If you make it to a ball game at Fenway Park, Fenway Franks are a Boston staple.

Featured story

Our role in ‘Spider-Man™: Far From Home’

By Matt Adams , January 15, 2019

In Columbia Pictures upcoming release in association with Marvel Studios, "Spider-Man™: Far From Home," our web-slinging hero finds himself – yep, you guessed it – far from his home in New York City. And since flying is one of the few superpowers Spider-Man doesn't possess, we gave him a little help, meaning United is featured in the film.

The scenes of Peter Parker and his pals traveling to Europe take place on one of our Boeing 777s with the all-new United Polaris® business class, and several of our employees – including members of our Tech Ops, Inflight, Flight Operations and Airport Operations teams – served as actors and production support during shoots at New York/Newark (EWR) and London-Stansted (STN).

London-Heathrow (LHR) Customer Service Representative Manjit Heer and LHR Cargo Warehouse Operations Manager Richard Miller were background extras on board, and multiple flight attendants had a role, including San Francisco (SFO) Flight Attendant Tammy Harris.

"It was extremely surreal," said Tammy. "I was in my element because I was on the plane in uniform, but not really, because I'm not an actor."

Tammy said she hit her mark and delivered her line with gusto, and she's excited to see if she made the final cut when "Spider-Man™: Far From Home" hits worldwide theaters this summer.

"Hopefully, I'll have my two seconds of fame and all will be well," she joked.

Los Angeles (LAX) Aircraft Maintenance Supervisor Fernando Melendez is a veteran of several film shoots but said this one was his favorite. When the production went to London, he was one of five members of LAX Tech Ops who went over to look after our airplane and make adjustments to its interior based on the filmmaker's needs.

"When we parked the plane at Stanstead, there were lights and cameras surrounding us. It was like the plane was the star of the movie," he said. "Each day, we would work with the assistant director; he would go through and say, 'Okay, for this shoot we need these seats, or these panels removed,' so they could get the camera angles. Pretty much, the airplane was our responsibility; we opened it in the morning and closed it at night. We were the first ones there and the last ones to leave every day."

Fernando said the actors were all very gracious and engaging, and said the whole experience was fantastic from start to finish. It also earned him a little cooler cred with his 18-year-old son, who is a massive Marvel fan.

Leading up to the film's premiere this year, there will be plenty of ways for employees and customers to get into the Spidey spirit in anticipation of our cameo. Stay tuned for more details.

---

Peter Parker returns in "Spider-Man™: Far From Home," the next chapter of the Spider-Man™: Homecoming series! Our friendly neighborhood Super Hero decides to join his best friends Ned, MJ, and the rest of the gang on a European vacation. However, Peter's plan to leave super heroics behind for a few weeks are quickly scrapped when he begrudgingly agrees to help Nick Fury uncover the mystery of several elemental creature attacks, creating havoc across the continent!

Directed by Jon Watts, the film is written by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers based on the Marvel Comic Book by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. The film is produced by Kevin Feige and Amy Pascal. Louis D'Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Thomas M. Hammel, Eric Hauserman Carroll, Stan Lee, Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach serve as executive producers. The film stars Tom Holland, Samuel L. Jackson, Zendaya, Cobie Smulders, Jon Favreau, JB Smoove, Jacob Batalon, Martin Starr, with Marisa Tomei and Jake Gyllenhaal.

"Spider-Man™: Far From Home" makes its way to North American theaters on July 5, 2019.

What to expect from our improved app

By United Airlines , January 15, 2019


"Talking Points," host Brian Kelly, aka The Points Guy, is joined by Linda Jojo, Executive Vice President for Technology and Chief Digital Officer at United Airlines to discuss what passengers can expect from our improved app.

Read more about the improvements to the United app here.

20 million miles and counting...

By The Hub team

On November 7, while flying from Newark Liberty International Airport to Los Angeles International Airport, United customer Tom Stuker made history when he reached 20 million miles flown on a single airline. We were fortunate enough to capture the milestone he reached with us.

To mark the special occasion, we hosted a celebration in Mr. Stuker's honor at the United Polaris lounge at O'Hare International Airport on Saturday. The celebration was delayed a couple of months, so Mr. Stuker could celebrate the event with his family.

The party included a room full of employees, media members and Mr. Stuker's friends and family enjoying food, cocktails, stories and laughs. To thank him for his long-standing loyalty to United, we also presented Mr. Stuker with gifts made specially for him.

"United makes my dreams come true," Mr. Stuker said to the room full of people.

He also praised United's MileagePlus program, the United Polaris lounges across our system and Oscar's leadership of the airline but, most of all, he praised the service he receives from our employees.

"My favorite part of United is the people. United is such a big part of my life…you are a family to me," he said addressing the United employees. "It would take me days and days and days to say thank you in the right way to the right people. They all know me by now and know how much I care about them as people, how much I care about this airline and its success, and how much I care about the greatest leader this airline has ever had, Oscar."
Amazing destination

Bora Bora: The most beautiful island in the world

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 Chicago-based United Club Customer Service Representative Amile Ribeiro.

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I know it can be very subjective but, once you set your eyes on it, I'm sure you'll agree with me: Bora Bora is the most beautiful island in the world.

Search flights

There are very few things that can get me out of bed early in the morning, and airplanes are one of those things. We were already in Tahiti and woke up at the crack of dawn to catch our quick flight to Bora Bora. After checking in at the airport and getting a quick breakfast, we headed over to the gate to line up for our flight. Air Tahiti has an open seating arrangement, and we wanted to make sure we got the best possible seats. We were able to secure two windows seats. Travel tip: Sit on the left side of the plane when landing in Bora Bora. We took off from Papeete and within minutes we were flying over Mo'orea. Then we flew around Ra'i ātea and Taha'a, and finally arrived in Bora Bora, the island that Polynesians call "First Born." Pora Pora is the actual local pronunciation, but the first explorers misunderstood it and 'Bora Bora' stuck. Though after setting foot on the island, I've come to call it "Paradise on Earth."

At the airport we were met by a representative of our resort, given flower leis and directed to our high-speed boat. I couldn't believe the color of the water; it was as if Paul Gauguin himself had painted it. After a thrilling ride, we reached our hotel's dock, where a local playing the ukulele welcomed us. We were then given a tour of the astonishing property and were taken by golf cart to our overwater bungalow. We have stayed in many beautiful properties around the world, but when we opened the door of our bungalow our jaws dropped. It is truly a one-of-a-kind experience that all should have at least once in their lifetimes. And worth every penny. The view of majestic Mount Otemanu is something right out of a fairy tale. After the sun set, the nighttime dance show was equally enchanting.

Employee and her husband at local ball

We had planned to be in Bora Bora during the final leg of the famous Hawaiki Nui Va'a canoe competition, which happens to be a major event in the cultural life of French Polynesia and has the reputation for being the toughest canoe race in the world. The center stage was at the island's most beautiful beach, Matira. We stood in awe as the winners reached the finish line after several hours (and days before that) of frantic paddling from island to island, showcasing the power of human strength and endurance. Besides being an incredible sporting challenge, it is also a colorful spectacle that filled the beach with flower-clad women and the air with the pulsating beat of drums. We were also able to celebrate and dance with them later that night at the local ball in Vaitape (Bora Bora's largest city). It was a marvelous way to get a deeper understanding of another culture!

Besides having the time of our lives at the resort's infinity pools, inner lagoons and beach, we also went to the Turtle Center and had a chance to feed these amazing creatures while they're being rehabilitated to go back into open waters. From there, we took a boat tour of the main lagoon and went swimming with stingrays and sharks. Few things scare me in life, and sharks are on the very top of that short list, but I mustered the courage and what a thrill it was! To commemorate my bravery on the last day of our trip, I got my very first tattoo: a hammerhead shark. Polynesians believe that such sharks act as guardian angels to humans and protect us from the Great White. My husband got a Polynesian design that was custom made just for him, and it represents travel, freedom and courage. We also got a set of matching Polynesian wedding bands. Since the art of tattoo originated in Polynesia, this is the most enduring souvenir one can get from such an amazing culture, but I'm sure the memories of our trip will also stay with us forever!

Search flights
Scroll to top