Three Perfect Days: Vancouver
Story by Jacqueline Detwiler | Photography by Grant Harder | Hemispheres, November 2014
There are many reasons to love Vancouver: cleansing salt breezes, landscapes that could sell a high-definition TV, the fact that everyone stands at crosswalks and waits for the little green man to appear before moving. Then there's the city's signature seafood, which is everywhere: smoked and salted and candied and glistening pinkly next to oysters on appetizer trays.
Here's a thing about salmon: They're anadromous, meaning they swim from ocean to river to spawn—they're equally comfortable in open swaths of the Pacific and frigid mountain streams. In this sense, salmon are like the people here. Spend five minutes in Vancouver and you'll pass dozens of folks perfectly at home in anything the environment can throw at them. They're on skis, on bikes, on boats. They're running, swimming, hiking, camping.
While the pioneering spirit endures here, there is plenty to keep the more cerebral (or sedentary) visitor occupied. You can, for instance, get an absorbing primer on the city's history at the Museum of Vancouver, or beef up on its seedier side at the Vancouver Police Museum. You can watch movies under the stars in Stanley Park or hear live music at the Railway Club. Or you can simply munch elk sausage while sipping a local craft beer at a top-notch eatery, secure in the knowledge that somebody went to great lengths to bring these things to you.
DAYONE | The first few seconds after you awake in the Rosewood Hotel Georgia are a little disorienting. You're lying in a kingsize bed the color of Champagne. There are white flowers everywhere. Everything seems to be made of marble or burnished wood. Did you wake up a 19th-century railroad baron? You catch your reflection in the mirror above your stand-alone soaker tub. Nope. Still you.
Outside your window, a few pink-cheeked locals are huffing along the sidewalk in long-sleeved shirts and running shorts. You look disapprovingly at your gut and pull out a pair of sneakers. A half hour later, you're jogging along the Seawall, a path that circumscribes the peninsula of 1,001-acre Stanley Park. To your right are clutches of red-and-white sailboats bobbing in the choppy bay. Mossy rocks lie about like lazy dogs. Vancouver Island makes occasional appearances from the fog beyond. You think: Gosh, this is pretty. And: Hey, is that a lighthouse? It is a lighthouse.
The Vancouver skyline seen from the Lions Gate Bridge
After a few miles, you reach Girl in a Wetsuit, a statue of, um, a girl in a wetsuit sitting on a rock in the harbor (a wry update on Copenhagen's Little Mermaid). She looks kind of forlorn, out there on her own. You snap a picture with the intention of Photoshopping a few friends in for her later. Speaking of being alone, you can barely see downtown Vancouver in the distance. It's time to head back.
After a quick shower at the hotel, you're off on a short walk to Wildebeest. All brickwork and communal tables, this carnivore-friendly eatery has light fixtures made out of theater pulleys and a slushy machine that's been repurposed to make frozen cocktails. Your run has earned you an indulgent brunch, you feel, so you order the Pig Face Eggs Benedict with tangy tarragon mayo on a steaming biscuit and the thickest bacon you've ever had (pictured below), followed by sugar-dusted mini donuts with gooey caramel centers. You attack this spread as if you've been deprived of food for several days.
When you finish, you emerge into the city's oldest neighborhood, Gastown, which grew up around a single saloon in the 1860s and '70s before being incorporated as Vancouver in 1886. Gastown is now a bustling shopping and entertainment district dominated (fittingly) by bars. You wander into the trendy boutique LYNNsteven, intrigued by the cylindrical dressing room made out of stacked books, and leave with a plaid smoking jacket. Down the street, you find a selection of improbably small bonsai cactuses at Parliament Interiors, a quirky home goods store. They're cute, but not easily packed, so you opt instead for a Ryan Gosling–themed journal covered in tiny hearts. Your teenage niece will love it.
You continue this way for hours, poking around the shops and taking breaks to admire the moody bay behind them. Eventually, realizing that you haven't eaten anything since your pig-out brunch, you head for Pidgin. While the decor here is simple—like a café in a Japanese modern art museum—the menu is not. Your first course is a fresh oyster in a zingy foam of apple and horseradish. There are delicate raw scallops topped with apple and daikon and curry oil. Potatoes come matchstick-thin with spicy cod roe and earthy seaweed butter. For dessert, you order a Midnight Grogg: a glass of rum, lime cordial and verjus stuffed to the brim with frozen grapes. What a great idea.
The chic LYNNsteven boutique in historic Gastown
It's still early—plenty of time for a nightcap. You walk down the street to a cozy spot called Notturno. Behind the bar stands a charismatic local celebrity with a tongue ring and a lot of opinions. Known only as “H" (“The nickname's a holdover from private school," he says), he won Vancouver magazine's bartender of the year award last year. H has been aging a few of his cocktails in barrels lately; he insists that you try the Boulevardier. A bourbon version of a negroni with a little extra wood flavor, it tastes like an evening in front of a log fire.
After a few more of H's homespun cocktails, the idea of cozying up for the night is increasingly appealing. You weave your way back to the hotel through iridescent streets, peering up at lights that look like neon through vaseline, then step into the Rosewood's mahogany lobby, where you find a fire roaring in a century-old hearth. The railroad tycoon is home at last.
DAY TWO | You wake to a rare sight: It is snowing in Vancouver. Down here, where Pacific currents temper the weather, snowfall is generally confined to a few flurries, so it's safe to say that, up in the mountains two hours north of town, the powder must be gangbusters. You've got to get up there. And you will. But first: supplies.
You take a cab to the edge of False Creek, the inlet that separates downtown from the foodie shopping destination of Granville Island, and climb into a rainbow-colored Aquabus ferry, which looks like a large bath toy. Still, you figure it can handle the five-minute trip to Granville. Heck, you can see it from here. This tiny peninsula is known for its covetable produce, and a quick snoop around the Public Market and the food stores that surround it reveals why. You stuff your bag with flawless fruit, reindeer sausage, tangy smoked salmon candy (basically sweet salmon jerky) and salted caramel peanut butter. You also make a concession to your immediate hunger and buy a creamy clam chowder pot pie to eat on the spot. It's fantastic.
A view of Howe Sound from the Sea-to-Sky Highway
Larder stocked, you're on your way north to the mountains—specifically, to Whistler. The drive takes you on one of the most scenic roads in the Pacific Northwest. Maybe one of the most scenic roads anywhere. You navigate northward on the Sea-to-Sky Highway, a ribbon of road that marks the extreme western edge of North America. To your left is the water, as thick and clear as vodka straight from the freezer. To your right are soft smudges of pine. Eagles hang in the sky. Even the mist is cinematic. You could be hurtling through a still from a nature documentary.
Eventually, the water gives way to snowy mountains. Nearly every car on the road is a four-wheel-drive stacked with equipment. The skiers are coming. Before joining them on the slopes, you make a turn for Whistler Olympic Park, where you'll be trying your hand at biathlon: cross-country skiing followed by shooting at targets followed by more cross-country skiing. In the Olympics, the event doesn't look particularly hard; in real life, it's impossible. After a half hour of trying to find your snow legs in a set of parallel tracks, you move to a shooting range, where you race around a track, occasionally flopping down to shoot an air rifle at a target the size of a plum. With your heart rattling around like a shoe in a dryer, you hit exactly none of them.
Sweaty and spent, you finish the drive to the Four Seasons Whistler and stroll into a hunting lodge of a reception layered with Native American rugs. You're ready for a pre-dinner nap, but your body is in knots. The concierge has a solution. A short drive from your hotel is an outdoor thermal bath called Scandinave Spa, where visitors perform repeated cycles of hot, cold and rest. Do this three or four times, he says, and you'll be as relaxed as if you'd been on vacation for a month. You're in.
You find the spa in a glittering pine glade that could be home to a wood nymph in a Disney movie. The most obvious place to start is the hot tub, so you hop in. Then it's a cold plunge pool and 15 minutes in a hammock. That was pleasant, but you think you can beat it. By your final round, you have found the perfect cycle: 20 minutes in a Finnish wood-burning sauna followed by a quick Nordic shower and a solid half hour curled up in a ball next to an outdoor fireplace. Someone with a nightstick might have to force you to leave this place.
Outdoor après-ski at Dubh Linn Gate Irish Pub in Whistler
It's then that you remember the meat. You've got a reservation at Sidecut, the Four Seasons' sleek steakhouse. With a pang of regret (mitigated by a pang of hunger), you leave the spa and make your way to the restaurant, where you order a sushi roll made out of rare steak, avocado and dried tomato (the restaurant logo is etched into the wasabi); a 12-ounce ribeye served with house-made steak sauce; and roasted mushrooms and mashed potatoes. Sated, and with your eyes at half mast, you retire to your room to find another fireplace. Your porch overlooks a teal puddle of swimming pool. The lights illuminate a row of icicles thick as your forearm. You flop face down on your bed. Now, if this were an Olympic event…
DAY THREE | There's a knock on your door at 7a.m. Blearily, you open it to find a beaming room service attendant, who wheels in a tray of Bircher muesli and a creamy avocado, apple, spinach and strawberry smoothie. Healthy is as healthy does, and you've got miles of mountain to scream down over the course of the day.
You flick on the fire and lay out your gear to warm while you ponder your dilemma: Blackcomb or Whistler? Whistler or Blackcomb? At 8,171 acres, the Whistler Blackcomb complex is larger than Vail, Aspen, Big White or Mammoth. Your pass will allow you to ski either of the mountains, which are connected at the base and by the Peak 2 Peak Gondola. But with only a single day to ski, it's too big to take on all at once. You flip a loonie. Blackcomb it is.
You can handle almost any blue run with grace, but black runs leave you looking like a drunk in a log-rolling competition. With this in mind, you sign up for Max4 Group Ski Lessons at the Whistler Blackcomb Snow School, where you meet your instructor, Aniello Campagnuolo. After a quick diagnostic ski-off, he selects you and three similarly abled skiers, and leads you up the Wizard lift. On the next, the Solar Coaster, he points down at a few teenagers swooping in and out of trees on a black diamond below. “You ladies will be doing that later," he says. You and your new friends make doubtful faces.
Enjoying the spa at Four Seasons Whistler
As the day goes on, the powder starts looking a little carved up—time to hit the moguls. But first, lunch. This is no time for gourmet aspirations: You grab a bowl of chili and a hot chocolate at Roundhouse Lodge on the mountain. Then you're back on your skis, crisscrossing Blackcomb's face, hitting progressively steeper pistes until, finally, you huck off a small hill onto a black diamond and make it down without a single anxiety attack. Campagnuolo points at a lift above your head, the one you were on earlier, back when you were afraid.
This calls for a drink. You stow your skis and meander over to the Whistler basecamp, where you can see a crowd already gathering outside the Garibaldi Lift Co. Inside, it's a virtual nightclub—a roiling warehouse crammed with rosy-cheeked ski bums in ear warmers and fashion baselayers. You locate a spot at the bar and eavesdrop on two dudes in beanies who are swapping snowboarding war stories. Most of them end with a phrase like “...and that's how I broke my other leg." When the bartender comes by, you order the après specialty, the Great Canadian Caesar, a Canadian Bloody Mary with Clamato. Yours comes with a pickle, green olive, spicy green bean and a strip of bacon.
You find yourself focusing a little too intently on the garnishes, so after the drink you take a quick shower and head for dinner in Whistler Village, which is the size of a small town and looks like a hobbyist's railroad set. Every corner you turn you find another Swiss-looking square and more young, smiling folks in sweatpants lounging on balconies. You pause on a little covered bridge over a bit of half-frozen stream. You wouldn't be too surprised to hear jingling bells and a “Ho! Ho! Ho!"
Oyster shucking at Araxi
Finally, you arrive at Araxi, an oyster bar and high-end seafood restaurant that glows like a seaside pub in a storm. You have a seat at a corner table and submit to a succession of plates each more beautiful and local and healthy than the last. There are deep-cup Kusshi oysters and sockeye salmon sashimi and several glasses of excellent British Columbia pinot noir, but the star is a plate of rare venison loin with ruby-colored baby beets and a cheese ravioli. It's as tasty as it is artfully composed.
Fully recovered from your exploits on the slopes, you slink out into the clear night, boots crunching on the snow. It's chilly, but you are warmed by the amber glow of the windows, and the occasional burst of laughter echoing through the streets. Outside the Dubh Linn Gate Irish Pub you see a circle of people sitting around a low stone fireplace. Will they let you join them? Of course they will. This is Canada. You buy a round of stouts and sit mesmerized by the licking flames, the way people have since this place was wild. Conversation drifts upward like the sparks from the hearth, but you catch only snippets: “...magic double black diamond..." “...smells like cedar..." “...isn't this nice?"
Popular Mechanics senior editor Jacqueline Detwiler also dances like a drunk in a log-rolling competition.
Around the web
Farm-to-table in Guanacaste, Costa Rica
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 Manager - Creative Project Management Robin Olsen
Fifteen years ago, I volunteered on an organic farm in the Galápagos Islands. The farm was in the beginning stages, so I helped with prepping the land and maintaining the few crops that were growing. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to see the farm fully cultivated by the time I left. When my husband and I decided to travel to Costa Rica this year, I came across La Senda organic farm, where you can arrange a tour and have a farm-to-table dinner experience, and I knew that I needed to add it into our itinerary. Finally, I was going to see a fully operating organic farm, and I was so excited.
We were picked up at Cala Luna hotel in Playa Langosta and drove 30 minutes to Santa Cruz to La Senda farm. The owners of the hotel started the farm two years ago with the intent of building a sustainable, organic farm that would help employ local families. The tour started with walking around the property and having the chef and sous-chef explain what all the plants, trees, vegetables and fruits were, how long it took to grow them, how to maintain them, and he even showed us what we would be eating for dinner later that day. It's a sensory tour, where you are able to taste, smell and feel the various herbs, plants and fruits. We were shown papaya, pineapples, hibiscus flowers, cocoa beans, a variety of lettuce, vegetables and cashews. The chef wanted to cook the food as true to the taste as possible to bring out the natural flavors. The mission behind the farm is to feed people healthy food while also educating them on organic farming and sustainability. Everyone who works on the farm truly believes in this mission, including the chef giving us the tour, who said he took great pleasure in his role at the farm.
The tour was fantastic, and I was reminded of how much work goes into prepping land and maintaining crops. The farm has had two years of a trial-and-error period to determine which crops could thrive in the environment. The crops each require different nutrients in the soil and need to be rotated to reduce soil erosion, increase soil fertility and increase crop yield. Instead of using pesticides and chemicals, they use natural methods like growing plants that naturally fend off insects. After the tour, we were brought to an outdoor candlelit table, where we were served dinner overlooking the farm. We could taste how fresh and to-the-source the food is. Needless to say, the food was incredible, and we were very satisfied.
The next day we went to El Barco restaurant at the Capitan Suizo hotel in Playa Tamarindo. Like Cala Luna, this hotel also started an organic farm nearby. Although the restaurant is not yet fully 100 percent organic, the owners are very focused on achieving that goal. Currently, they use fresh and organic ingredients from their garden whenever possible. Like at Cala Luna, they also don't use any pesticides in maintaining the property. The property is also a sanctuary for wildlife, including iguanas and howler monkeys, which you can come face-to-face with while eating at the restaurant, as they are free to roam throughout the property. The view from our table looked out into the Pacific Ocean – perfect for watching a beautiful sunset.
The restaurant is only a five-minute walk to downtown Tamarindo. Guanacaste, the province where Tamarindo is located, has beautiful beaches, is known for great surfing and attracts surfers from all around the world.
The hotels in the area offer numerous outdoor activities, like horseback riding, surf lessons, yoga, fishing, scuba diving, snorkeling, sailing, golf, kayaking, zip lining and more. The hotels can also arrange day tours to volcanos, national parks, the rain and cloud forests and even to Nicaragua.
I highly recommend visiting this region of Costa Rica. Whether you're looking to experience an eco-adventure or just relax, the adventures are truly never ending.
From near paralyzation to 7-minute miles
Twelve years ago, Dylan Batz couldn't walk or talk. A seizure when he was in the eighth grade robbed him of those motor skills and hospitalized him for two months.
His mom, Denver-based United 737 Captain Suzanne Batz, didn't know if he'd ever walk again.
No one could've predicted what happened next.
Dylan got out of the hospital, eventually re-learning how to walk and talk. Through Special Olympics, he became an avid runner. He hasn't stopped since, having run three marathons and, this past weekend, completing the United Airlines NYC Half Marathon in 1:40. Watch his inspirational story above.
Discover Hilton Head Island
Voted America's favorite island for a reason, Hilton Head has everything you need for the ultimate escape from the real world. Enjoy easy days on one of the many beaches, at one of the world-class golf courses and tennis courts, learning about the rich history or simply adapting to the leisure-paced lifestyle of the locals. The Lowcountry region in South Carolina has something for everyone.
Welcome to Hilton Head.
The best time to visit and getting around the city
Thanks to its location, it's hard to choose a bad time to visit Hilton Head. Though if you visit in April-May or September-October, you'll notice fewer crowds and temperatures averaging in the mid-70s and 80s. In the spring, the water sport rentals will have just opened for the season, from parasailing to kayaking. If you visit in April, you may be able to catch the RBC Heritage PGA golf tournament. Hilton Head doesn't have your typical fall weather, making it a great time to visit. Summer weather lingers so you can still swim. Because the leaf colors don't change, you can enjoy instead an array of fall colors in the sunset each night.
The only drawback of visiting during the late summer and fall months is hurricane season. Hurricanes and tropical storms rarely hit the island, but they tend to be close enough that the island experiences some rain. If you're visiting around this time, be sure to pack a raincoat.
Getting around the city:
The island may be small, but it's still scattered enough that you'll want to bike or drive while exploring the town. There's little to no public transportation. Thanks to its renewed emphasis on environmental tourism, you're sure to notice plenty of bikers and the new bike paths that trace the island. You can rent a bike for around $30 a week. Another option is renting a car. Most attractions are spread out, so having your own car will offer you the most convenience.
The town's main attractions are the pristine beaches, golf, with 24 world-class golf courses, and the vibrant history — with the environment at the center of everything.
Twelve miles of beaches makes Hilton Head an ideal destination for anyone looking to relax in the sand. One of the most popular beaches is Coligny Beach Park, due to its location and the multiple beach bars that line the water. If you're looking for beaches that are a little less touristy and more secluded, make your way over to Adler Lane or Burkes Beach.
This island is a golfer's paradise, which is why many flock to here to tee off and test out their skills on one of the many championship courses. If golf isn't your sport, perfect your backhand at one of the 350 tennis courts on the island instead.
If you're looking to do a little more than relax on the beach or play a round of golf, spend the day in the charming Harbour Town. Visit the 90-foot red-and-white striped lighthouse that offers incredible views of the water and town from the top. And if you have the time, head over to the marina and embark on a dolphin viewing tour.
Learn more about the South Carolina's Lowcountry at the Coastal Discovery Museum. Here you'll gain an understanding of the region's history and interesting ecology. Wander through the butterfly enclosure, take a tour to learn about the marine life or visit the wild horses of the island left by Spaniards many centuries ago. Those who also love to explore and experience wildlife first hand should visit Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge, about a half mile from Hilton Head.
Food & drinks
Being on the water, it makes sense that seafood is a staple item for restaurants in this town. From high end dining to local favorites, you'll have plenty of restaurants to choose from. If you're looking to enjoy a nice dinner on the water at sunset, check out Old Oyster Factory, Hudson's Seafood House on the Docks and ELA's. With a contemporary feel, live music and a chic bar, this award-winning restaurant in Shelter Cove Harbour is perfect for a casual dinner or a romantic evening out. No table disappoints at Hudson's because they all offer incredible views of Port Royal Sound. By employing one of the only two remaining fishing fleets on Hilton Head, you're guaranteed fresh seafood truly brought from sea to table. Many of these restaurants on the water can book up quickly so be sure to make reservations in advance.
Don't forget to try some of the local favorite dining spots either. If you're looking for Lowcountry-inspired cuisine and incredible seafood, head over to Skull Creek Boathouse, an open air restaurant with an extensive wine and cocktail menu – perfect for a long, relaxing dinner. You'll enjoy an exquisite view and an even better dining experience. The Salty Dog Café is a must when it comes to the Hilton Head food scene. Here you'll have an authentic dining experience with fresh seafood and a family-friendly atmosphere.
Book a flight from multiple U.S. cities to Hilton Head Island Airport (HHH), which is right on the island and only approximately 5 miles from all of the Island resorts. To book your trip visit united.com or download the United app.
The latest updates for New York/New Jersey
Hard to believe spring is around the corner, and if you're like me that means starting to think about our family travel plans. Highlighted below are a few ways we are working hard to help make your journeys faster, easier and better in the months ahead.
Improving your experience at our airports
We're excited to move into the new Terminal B at LaGuardia later this year. This is a world-class state-of-the-art facility with fabulous local dining and shopping options such as District Market, Kingside, Shake Shack and FAO Schwarz. Our United Club℠ location will also now be located after security to help you comfortably settle in before your flight.
At Newark Airport, United and our partner, the Port Authority, are working together to improve your experience by adding more pods for nursing mothers; new, larger restrooms; and this summer, an expanded TSA checkpoint that shows expected wait times.
Growing our network and fleet
This summer, we are introducing new seasonal nonstop flights to Naples and Prague and offering the return of great destinations such as Nantucket, Massachusetts, and Rapid City, South Dakota, for an easy trip to the Badlands and Mt. Rushmore.
Additionally, through April, we'll continue to fly nonstop from Newark to Palm Springs. And on March 30, we'll begin flying our brand-new Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner to Dublin, Frankfurt and Tel Aviv, with Barcelona, Brussels and Paris routes to follow this summer.
Investing in our community
United has been serving the New York/New Jersey area for almost 100 years and giving back to our community continues to be a steadfast commitment from the United family. We are proud to announce new partnerships including the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in Manhattan, the Trevor Project, and the Aviation High School in Queens. This year we'll also continue cheer on runners as the official sponsor of the New York Half Marathon on Sunday, March 17, and are proud to have representatives from Special Olympics running alongside of United employees.
Newark is also featured as the Three Perfect Days destination in the latest issue of Hemispheres, so you can learn about great restaurants and cultural institutions that don't even require a flight to visit.
Thank you for choosing United
In Greater New York, we know you have many choices of carriers to fly, so from our family to yours — thank you. We appreciate your loyalty and welcome your feedback. Hearing from you is important to us, so please continue to send your thoughts and ideas to me at JillKaplan@united.com.
Arizona's outdoors in the spring
This may be the best time of year to visit Arizona — and not just for relaxing by the pool. Smart travelers flock to the state in May, June and July for hotel rates that are often lower than the peak-season rates paid by winter “snowbirds" from northern states. But resort bargains and swimming-pool temperatures aren't the only reasons to visit Arizona at this time. There are also plenty of outdoor opportunities to enjoy, as long as you choose the right activities, locations and time of day to get out.
Desert Dawn peak climbs
Residents of Phoenix and Tucson who like to get outdoors in late spring and early summer know they can best enjoy short hikes by rising early. The busiest time on the trails is before 8 a.m. The most popular hiking paths in Phoenix and Scottsdale climb iconic mid-city peaks, which span from the desert floor up to panoramic views at the top. The hikes up Camelback, Piestewa and Pinnacle Peaks are all wonderful, well-marked and popular — each taking less than two hours roundtrip. In Tucson, the best short hikes are in Sabino Canyon and Saguaro National Park on the outer rim of the city.
Hikes in the mountains
Phoenix and Tucson visitors who aren't early risers or who don't want to settle for short hikes can drive to spots where the temperatures and mountain vistas are similar to those in Colorado. Only a two-hour drive from Phoenix, you can head to Sedona, with an altitude of about 4,300 feet, or Flagstaff, with an altitude of about 6,900 feet, where the higher elevations mean much lower temperatures. Sedona has some of the world's most dramatic day hikes among its stunning red-rock formations, while Flagstaff offers mountain hikes that soar up to 12,600 feet, such as Humphries Peak Summit Trail. From Tucson, the usual triple-digit temps drop to the 60s during the twisting, 90-minute drive up 9,157-foot Mt. Lemmon. Trails through the sub-alpine forest await hikers at the summit.
Paddle the Verde River
Another good way to beat the Arizona heat is to get splashed by cool water — but not just in your resort pool. You can also take a dip in the Verde River in an inflatable kayak. Verde Adventures hosts guided trips down the river through the end of summer. You'll paddle through narrow limestone canyons and float past hardwood forests on the shallow river, which has plenty of tame rapids that are just adventurous enough to please both the thrill-seekers and the mild-adventurers. You can choose between a kid-friendly two-hour tubing trip or half-day inflatable kayak trip, or enjoy the Water to Wine Tour with an adult companion, which ends with a tasting at Alcantara Vineyards. You'll be driven the short distance to the river from Cottonwood or Clarkdale, both less than a two-hour drive from Phoenix.
Jump in a Jeep
Following along the dusty dirt roads that rim the edges of Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tucson and Sedona, the Jeep tour is a classic option for visitors to Arizona. The 4x4 Jeep probably won't be air-conditioned, but the wind and Arizona's rich red earth will be in your hair. Less adventurous options include tours in enclosed Hummers or vans. After bumping along scenic back roads for miles, many Jeep tours offer a “cowboy cookout" at a pretty spot in the desert or mountains before you return to civilization. From Phoenix, Scottsdale or Tucson, most Jeep tours venture into the Sonoran Desert, while Sedona Jeep tours bring you up close to its renowned red-rock formations.
Up, up & away
Arizona's dry air makes it one of America's prime locations for hot air balloon rides. Colorful balloons lift off in the cool temperatures and low winds of sunrise from all over greater Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tucson and Sedona, often providing a champagne breakfast afterward. Some also offer sunset flights; one Phoenix company serves hors d'oeuvres from a gourmet restaurant after evening landings. Prevailing winds dictate whether you'll fly up to a mile high or close enough to the ground to spot desert wildlife, but regardless, it's a memorable bucket-list thrill.
If you go
We follow the FAA's order to ground all Boeing 737 Max aircraft
Nothing is more important to us than the safety of our customers and employees. As we have said since Sunday, we have been in close contact with investigators as well as Boeing to share data and fully cooperate with regulatory authorities. We will comply with the FAA's order and will ground our 14 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. We will remain in close contact with authorities as their investigation continues.
Since Sunday, we have been working diligently on contingency plans to prepare our fleet to minimize the impact to customers. Our Boeing 737 MAX aircraft account for roughly 40 flights a day and through a combination of spare aircraft and rebooking customers, we do not anticipate a significant operational impact as a result of this order. We will continue to work with our customers to help minimize any disruption to their travel plans.
We extend lease agreement at iconic Willis Tower in Chicago
Today, we announced that we will keep our current headquarters at the iconic Willis Tower in our hometown of Chicago while making investments to transform our current workspace and experience. Our new agreement extends our existing lease by five additional years to March 31, 2033.
Remaining at Willis Tower will allow us to completely reimagine the workspace from the bottom up. Over the coming months and years, we will redesign our workspace to allow employees to better collaborate, use the latest technology and interact with each other — all with the end goal of providing unmatched service to our front-line employees and customers. And today's announcement is part of our overall effort to improve workspaces and facilities across the system.As we begin the work to reimagine Willis Tower for our employees, a majority of the funding to transform the building is being made by the building's owner, The Blackstone Group. In addition, they are investing more than $500 million in the building for all tenants, which will transform it from the inside out that will deliver exciting new dining, fitness and retail options.
"As one of the city's largest private employers and its hometown airline, we are excited to deepen our roots here in Chicago while making the investments needed to reimagine the headquarters for our employees," said United Chief Executive Officer Oscar Munoz. "The investments we are making will help our employees provide unparalleled service to their front-line colleagues and to our customers as we continue to improve and realize our airline's full potential."
And as one of the most ideally situated buildings in the city, with easy access to all Chicago Transit Authority train lines and Union and Ogilvie Stations, as well as nearby bus stops, Willis Tower already provides distinct advantages and will remain attractive to future job seekers throughout the metropolitan region.
Weekend inspiration: Palm Springs
After a combined 60-plus years of living in cities with snowstorms and cold weather, this winter we decided it was time to pack away the parkas in exchange for a month of sun in Palm Springs.
And it was heaven. 70-degree days filled with morning swims, long walks without a jacket and joyful dogs running around the backyard. Working on murals throughout the valley in perfect drawing conditions was paradise for us, considering we were typically working in freezing weather with pale skin, chapped lips and cracking knuckles. We found our new January normal.
Our month in paradise consisted of many highlights, so if you're in town for a few days, here are some of our favorite spots.
If you're looking to rent a place in Palm Springs, we recommend Relax Palm Spring on Airbnb. They have more than 60 rentals in the Coachella Valley area, and we loved the house we stayed in. Every single thing we needed was available on-site or just a phone call away with this professional vacation rental group.
If you're looking to go the hotel route, we highly recommend The Colony Palms Hotel. This Spanish Colonial-style hotel features high-end casitas and a sweet hotel pool with stunning mountain views. La Serena Villas has a similar small-town feel with a wonderful restaurant attached. Further outside of the downtown area, Parker Palm Springs is a stylish and creatively fulfilling place to stay and play.
No matter where you stay, we recommend Azúcar for dinner (at La Serena Hotel). Make sure you get the watermelon appetizer, refreshing with bursts of sweet balsamic beads trickled over the top. You'll feel like a kid at the pool in summer all over again.
Get up early and head to Palm Desert. Make your way over to Wilma & Frieda at The Gardens on El Paseo for one of the best breakfasts you'll find in the valley. The pastries are all excellent and homemade. The dishes are creative with items like "churro waffles" and "banana caramel French toast."
After breakfast, stop by Kelsey's giraffe mural at the Gardens on El Paseo (directions found here) to give her giraffe a kiss. Then drive up the highway to The Living Desert.
The Living Desert Zoo & Gardens is an incredibly well-designed zoo that takes advantage of the stunning desert scenery with every animal exhibit.
On your way back, stop for a sweet treat at the café at Shields Date Gardens for one of their legendary date shakes. Wander through the 1950's feeling diner and gift shop and into the 17-acre date garden. These shakes are a Palm Springs staple and worth every delicious calorie.
For lunch, wander around the hotel lobby at Parker Palm Springs to admire their excellent interior design decisions before heading into Norma's restaurant for an al fresco lunch.
If you have time, spend the afternoon at Joshua Tree National Park. The blend of Mojave and Colorado deserts results in a unique and stunning landscape. Begin your tour/hike at one of the visitor centers. From here, you can go on a relaxed half-day tour with a guide or head out on one of the 12 self-guiding nature trails.
Spend sunset here or head back downtown to enjoy the sunset at The Colony Palms Hotel's Restaurant, The Purple Palm, with a quality craft cocktail. After sunset, make your way to the popular Italian restaurant Birba for dinner. Birba boasts excellent pizzas with a wide variety of interesting toppings. Be sure to make reservations beforehand.
Spend the day exploring Palm Springs. Go to Cheeky's for breakfast, but make sure to get there early, as a line forms before the doors even open. Their world-famous bacon flight is a must – it's unique and so tasty.
Palm Springs boasts an unbelievable amount of art experiences. Experiential art, art museums and mid-century Modern Design galore. If you can, try to visit Palm Springs during their Modernism week in February. Be sure to get tickets to their house events and tour some of the most breathtakingly beautifully designed houses. And if you're lucky, Desert X might be around during the same time and hunting for art installations throughout the valley, which would be quite the sight.
If a large art fair isn't happening while you're in Palm Springs, we highly recommend heading to the City of Coachella. Their downtown boasts some incredible murals and Kelsey was honored to join the ranks recently. Kelsey completed a pair of "What Lifts You" wings that are colorful and an ode to the Hispanic roots of the community on the side of City Hall.
A trip to Palm Springs isn't complete without a picture with the Cabazon Dinosaurs. Made famous through their feature in movies like National Lampoon's Vacation and The Wizard – it's an Instagram-worthy stop.
For lunch, head back to downtown Palm Springs and enjoy a healthy meal at the charming restaurant Farm. Tucked into an interior courtyard, this restaurant feels like you've stepped into the French countryside. It's healthy, clean food even tastes like the South of France with their traditionally French dishes.
Walk off your lunch by exploring the boutiques in Downtown Palm Springs. These mid-century modern shops are not to be missed: A La Mod, Modernway, Vintage Oasis and The Frippery.
Complete your weekend with dinner at the chic Workshop Kitchen + Bar. Their wine cellar is massive and their waiters expertly trained. Trust them to find a new and different flavor for you – something you'll remember long after your weekend in Palm Springs.
The feedback from customers and employees was clear: we needed to improve our boarding process. As part of our ongoing efforts to put customers at the center of everything we do, we identified boarding as an opportunity to improve the airport experience. We tested a variety of different boarding processes on thousands of flights across multiple airports. Best practices emerged from each test, and combined, they now form what we are calling "Better Boarding".
Better Boarding consists of three key improvements
Less time in line:
By reducing the number of boarding lanes, there is more space for customers to enjoy the gate areas, many of which have been completely remodeled with more comfortable seating and in some airports, the ability to have food and drinks from within the airport delivered directly to the gate area. Over the years, we have invested millions of dollars in our terminals, and now with less time spent standing in line, customers will have more time to dine, shop, relax, work or enjoy a United Club℠.
Simplified gate layout
Say goodbye to the five long lines we see today
Group 1 will board through the blue lane.
Group 2 will board through the green lane, followed by groups 3, 4, and 5.
Late arriving customers in Group 1 and 2 will use the blue lane.
Customers in groups 3, 4, and 5 always use the green lane.
We are providing customers with more information throughout the boarding process so that they feel more at ease, and more equipped with the latest information about their flight. Customers with the United app can receive a push notification once their flight starts boarding. Customers will only receive the notification if they've opted in for push notifications and have a mobile boarding pass in the app's wallet.
Be in the know about boarding
Customers will receive boarding notifications through the United app (if they've opted in for notifications).
Improved gate area digital signage to guide customers through boarding.
Balanced groups and better recognition:
United MileagePlus® Premier 1K® customers will now pre-board and United MileagePlus Premier Gold customers will be boarding in Group 1. For more information on our boarding groups, visit: https://www.united.com/web/en-us/content/travel/airport/boarding-process.aspx
Improved premier customer recognition
We're happy to make them happy
Improved premier recognition and better positioning of customers to create balanced boarding groups.
The new Better Boarding process is just one of the steps we are taking to improve the customer experience. We will continue to collect feedback from customers on ways we can further improve boarding and you may receive a post-travel survey to tell us more about your experience
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Neighbors, coworkers, parents, protectors, heroes. All of these labels and more encompass the men and women whose devotion to our country serves as the truest embodiment of the American spirit. We're talking about Veterans. Join host Phil Torres as he heads to our nation's capital to learn more about these heroes and to explore just how many United employees are veterans on this Big Metal Bird.