Total solar eclipse, a breathtaking sight
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By London-based Flight Attendant Rebecca Robbins
As the U.S. prepared for the Great American Eclipse on Aug. 21, I, too, planned my own trip to witness what was surely one of the most awe-inspiring spectacles in Mother Nature's extensive repertoire.
I can directly attribute my excitement for total solar eclipses to my job as a flight attendant: I vividly remember in late 1994 - just 18 months after I began my flying career with United - encountering a group of very excited passengers boarding a flight I was working. Having an inquisitive nature, I asked them, "Where are you going? What is all the equipment for?" They replied, "We're going to see the total solar eclipse in Chile!" With those words, a seed was sown deeply and irretrievably in my consciousness, a seed that in future years would take on a life of its own when I would myself become an occasional eclipse chaser.
There is no other way of describing it: To witness a total solar eclipse is breathtaking and humbling. Here is my story of the total solar eclipse I was so fortunate to see in 2015.
It was March 20, 2015, and we were bobbing around in the Norwegian Sea somewhere east of Iceland and north of the Faroe Islands.
Why there and why then? Every so often it happens that in the normal course of their current orbit, the earth and moon align with the sun to create the perfect conditions for something very, very special: a total solar eclipse. On this particular occasion, it coincided with both a supermoon and the spring equinox.
So it was that, in 2015 after negotiating hurricane force 12 winds on our way to reach the area closest to the greatest eclipse and greatest duration, now that the big day had finally arrived, I drew back the curtains at 6 a.m. in great anticipation and ventured excitedly outside.
My heart sank to find leaden, heavily overcast skies where we were hoping for cloudless blue. Instead, we had snow. With little under two-and-a-half hours to go before "first contact," the very special moment when the moon begins its passage over the face of the sun, all we could do was hope that we might be lucky and that something miraculous would happen. I asked the clouds to kindly go away and retreated inside for a cup of steaming hot coffee as I wished for the skies to clear, deciding that a positive mindset was the only order of the day: I truly believed it was possible.
An hour later, it became apparent that dreams really can come true. I could see a slight thinning of the clouds -- things were definitely looking up!
Sure enough, as the first moment of "contact" between moon and sun arrived, the clouds had thinned sufficiently for us to see this long-awaited, momentous event. There it was: a small crescent of the mighty sun disappearing as the relatively tiny moon arrived right on time to begin blotting out its fiery counterpart, seemingly nibbling away at the sun's surface second by second, almost imperceptibly.
As the eclipse progressed over the course of the next hour, we were overjoyed to see the clouds becoming ever thinner. Noticing a large patch of blue sky a little way off, I felt curiously confident that, with gentle winds now blowing in the right direction, this cloud-free spot could actually coincide with the moment we were waiting for... and indeed it did. With the moon moving farther and farther over the face of the sun, the temperature started to fall. By now, the penumbra (the dimmer shadow of the moon cast by the many points of the sun) was very apparent. The penumbra is experienced to some degree in all places that see the partial eclipse. It was as if twilight was falling at 9:30 a.m. Magical.
Those leaden skies of the early morning had almost gone, and the last sliver of sun was clearly visible, a tiny crescent of light: an amazing vision in itself, but what came next was just breathtaking.
I could hardly believe it: The eclipsing sun was now seen in a patch of clear, blue sky. After earlier fears that this marvel of astronomy - so anticipated for many, many months, even years - would be hidden by thick clouds, we watched almost with our breath held as the moon made its final progression over the face of the sun. First, the beautiful "diamond ring" as the last visible rays of sun shone between the deep ridges and valleys of the moon's surface (Baily's beads), then ... totality! The moon eclipsed the sun completely. The only sound was a spontaneous, collective gasp of wonder from everyone gathered there.
In an instant, we were plunged into nighttime as the moon's actual shadow, the umbra, passed directly overhead and all light from the sun was obscured. Now it was possible to take off the protective glasses needed during the partial eclipse and observe features of the sun it is not possible to see with the naked eye.
Around the circumference of the moon, the sun's searing chromosphere could be seen, blazing prominences firing from its surface. Totally lost in the moment, this sight was so magnificent, I felt entirely overwhelmed by its beauty and tears of joy flowed uncontrollably down my face.
The sun's corona could be seen streaming away from the surface of the sun (as seen in my photo) extending thousands of miles above the surface of the star. It's been determined that the corona can reach super-heated temperatures greater than 1,000,000°C (1,800,000°F).
In the darkness of daytime, stars and planets appeared, the temperature plummeted and it was impossible not to feel deeply thankful at that moment for the light and warmth that the sun provides us day in and day out with no expectation of gratitude. For a while, time seemed to stand still as we stared in wonder at the incredible scene playing out before us. Sadly, after a glorious two minutes and 46 seconds, it was time for the planet to move on.
For a while, it was possible to observe the moon progressing away. Seeing the planet quietly moving on was a little like waving off an old friend after a long-anticipated, particularly joyful reunion, and I couldn't help but feel rather sad that the moment was now over.
Curiously at this point the clouds returned and began in wisps to hide the diminishing eclipse from view. Before long, they had covered it and we were left with only thoughts and memories of a most majestic and unforgettable event.
From the sublime to the ridiculous, with nothing else to see, I headed off to get a celebratory and warming cup of mulled wine and a couple of sausage and bacon sandwiches. But then, whilst most people headed off to the warmth of the bar or to their cabin to grab a sneaky, mid-morning snooze before lunch, I felt unable to allow the moon to finish its eclipse without an audience. Just as I will sit in the cinema at the end of a film to watch the entire credits roll, I wanted to see this show through to the very end in gratitude to the moon for an awe-inspiring performance. Seemingly taking pity on my terrestrial pathos, the clouds offered me a parting gift and drew back to reveal the final moments of the eclipse as if in a final ovation. Back out on deck, leaning on the ship's rail, with the sea foaming noisily below as we headed toward our next destination and with the sun now gently warming my face, I stared up at those two celestial bodies - still partially aligned - for several minutes more until thick, grey clouds literally brought the curtain down on this wondrous show, and for the second time that day it began to snow. The chilly wind sent me scurrying back inside to contemplate the immensity of what I had witnessed. I wondered where the little moon was heading all alone. Two nights later I found out and I will share that with you soon.
This most stunning spectacle left me in a state of disbelief, and for the remainder of the day I drifted around in a daze, unable to stop reflecting on what we had seen and our extreme good fortune that the weather had been so very favorable. This was due in no small part to the navigational expertise of our ship's captain under the guidance of our brilliant astronomer on board, Pete Lawrence, who had spent many evenings poring over weather projections for a small, remote zone close to the area of maximum totality/maximum duration where the weather was, naturally, largely unpredictable. Fortunately we had the advantage of being aboard a very powerful ship, so we were able to change our position overnight. Eclipse chasers, literally. It could easily have become an unsuccessful game of cat and mouse, but Pete's brilliant foresight took us to exactly where we needed to be and we are all indebted to his tireless efforts on our behalf.
Long after the event, I still find myself pondering on it. I had never imagined that I would be there in that remote place, at that time, to see the remarkable sight. How fortunate indeed I was. On a much greater scale, the knowledge that in years to come this simply won't be possible makes me very philosophical. We do not notice it, but the moon is actually moving away from earth at a rate of almost four centimeters per year, meaning that at some time in the future, total solar eclipses as seen from our earth will cease to be. The perfect alignment of planet and star will still occur, but the relative size of the moon will be too small when seen from the earth to cover the face of the sun in its entirety and only an annular eclipse will be seen, a ring of light around the moon. But don't worry, you still have plenty of opportunity to seek out a total solar eclipse, as this won't happen for approximately 563 million years from now.
We live in times that are more fortunate than we know. Above us, the planets' infinite orbital course continues uninterrupted. The sun and the moon don't even know how special they are, they just do what they have always done. After the glorious eclipse of March 2015, I returned to terra firma, literally and metaphorically (well, almost). Back home, the usual routine resumed for me, too, but I found myself somehow changed by the experience. For whilst the timing and occurrence of the eclipse was a certainty, having traveled to the middle of the ocean and with the best will in the world, there was no guarantee that we would actually see it. But see it we did, and it was (believe it or not, in spite of my ramblings) beautiful beyond words and something I would recommend anyone to try to see once in a lifetime.
Just as I put all my trust in the simple belief that it could indeed be possible for this eclipse to manifest itself to me, I approach the future with the same optimism. If I dare to venture into those places to which my mind guides and tempts me, be they actual locations or ideas in my imagination, why should I not believe that wonderful things can happen there? I just need to go, see, do and believe. With that in mind, I'll share with you a passage by W.H.Murray from "The Scottish Himalayan Expedition, 1951" that sums up precisely how I am left feeling by this moment:
"We had definitely committed ourselves and were halfway out of our ruts. We had put down our passage money, booked a sailing to Bombay. This may sound too simple, but is great in consequence. Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness.
"Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation) there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favour all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way." In common, contemporary parlance, "Just do it."
I feel so very fortunate that my chosen career with United affords me endless opportunity for discovery and a constant wellspring of inspiration in the form of the people I meet in the course of my everyday work, both colleagues and customers. It has been almost a quarter of a century since I began flying, and in that time I have been taken to adventures I never imagined. My life changed forever that day I first put on my uniform, and whilst I am no longer able to physically fit into it, I carry with me always the magic it bestowed on me, opening my eyes to potential far beyond my view. All I have to do is reach out my arms and take flight.
Watch the new Big Metal Bird: Charters
From players and personnel to thousands of pounds of equipment, it takes not only a game plan, but a team to get the San Francisco 49ers to their next game and back all within 24 hours. This process is a little thing in the airline business we call chartering. Learn more about how our Charter team gets professional sports teams to their away games and back on the newest episode of Big Metal Bird.
United and Special Olympics
Taking inclusion to new heights
Our shared purpose is to connect people and unite the world — and no organization better embodies that principle than Special Olympics.Learn more
Spending a week in Singapore
Singapore brings to mind images of modernity and stunning architecture — the unmistakable profile of the towering Marina Bay Sands Hotel, the luminescent trunks of Supertree Grove, the dramatic roof of the Esplanade Concert Hall. But beneath that opulent exterior lies a city bustling with energy and a vibrant mix of cultures and traditions. During our recent trip with United Airlines, we traveled along the new route from San Francisco to Singapore and visited some of the Lion City's most popular attractions. If you have the opportunity to visit, check out some of our favorite spots in this metropolis.
Have a bite… or four
One thing's for sure… you'll never go hungry in Singapore. From hawker stalls and wet (food) markets to Michelin-starred fine dining establishments, the city offers food that caters to every visitor's mood. Those with a refined palate should head to Baba Chews in Katong Square or New Ubin Seafood in Hillview. The former offers an all-day selection of modern and traditional cuisine from the Straits of Malacca, while the latter specializes in sumptuous seafood and Singaporean cze char fare. If you prefer something a little more contemporary, head over to Mount Emily and make a reservation at Wild Rocket. There, head chef Willin Low has brought modern Singaporean cuisine to life by creating a fresh twist on the dishes he grew up eating. For a truly unbeatable dining experience, hop in the elevator at the Marina Bay Sands and ride it all the way to the rooftop, where you can enjoy a delicious take on Italian-American cooking at Lavo Kitchen while looking out over the spectacular city unfurled below.
The most exciting dining experiences in the city, however, aren't enjoyed at a restaurant table. You've likely heard of the Maxwell Road Food Center, where you can try world-famous Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice, but the meal doesn't stop there. Singapore offers a vast array of food markets and hawker stalls where curious diners can sample sizzling dishes cooked right in front of them. Also at Maxwell Road, you should indulge in a crispy snack at Fuzhou Oyster Cake or grab a bowl of hot-and-sour soup at Special Shanghai Tim-Sum, otherwise known as the "dumpling stall from Queenstown." And be sure to make your way over to the Chinatown Wet Market, which charms and enchants each and every traveler. There, the sights, sounds, and smells are just as delicious as the edible offerings, which include Chinese herbs and vegetables, live shellfish, and exotic meats such as eels, frogs, and turtles.
Relax and soak up the view
Few cities interweave modernity, architecture, and greenery quite like Singapore. Look, for example, at the stunning Gardens by the Bay, a 250-acre nature park featuring intricately designed, flora-infused structures such as the Cloud Mountain and the Flower Dome. When the giant trunks of the Supertree Grove light up come nightfall, you'll feel overwhelmed by the natural enchantment that pulses through this magical city.
Of course, the superb views don't stop there. Anywhere you go, you'll be treated to spectacular urban vistas that seem to blend into their ecological foundation. For early risers, consider a sunrise excursion and venture to the Marina Barrage, a dam covered in a lush-green lawn, where you can gaze across the water to the majestic figure of the Marina Bay Sands. Throughout the day, duck into Singapore Botanic Gardens. The only tropical botanic garden on the UNESCO World Heritage List, this tranquil paradise offers 180 acres of green space perfect for walking, picnicking, or simply relaxing — all in the heart of the city. Alternately, you can take a stroll along the Henderson Waves, an aptly-named pedestrian bridge that cascades through the forest between Mount Faber Park and Telok Blangah Hill Park.
When night falls, be sure to make your way to the Event Plaza of the Marina Bay Sands for Spectra, a 15-minute dance of water fountains and laser-driven special effects all set to a gorgeous orchestral soundtrack. The performances start at 8 p.m. and 9 p.m., with an additional 10 p.m. showing on the weekends.
Spend an afternoon on the water
As Singapore is an island city, any exploration of it would be incomplete without spending some time on the river. Luckily, you can do just that on Singapore River Cruises. This line maintains a fleet of modern bumboats — electric, eco-friendly iterations of the rustic vessels once used to ferry supplies to ships anchored off-shore — that will guide you on a tour of the spectacular waterway that cuts through the Lion City. Along the way, you'll marvel at the buzzing markets and unique eateries that line the Boat, Clarke, and Robertson quays. You'll duck under architecturally aesthetic bridges like the Alkaff and the Helix, and you'll spot eye-catching landmarks like the Merlion and the Esplanade. It's an aquatic adventure that you shouldn't miss!
Be still in the city's temples
Though Singapore is a spectacularly modern city, it also houses a rich history. And one of the best ways to immerse yourself is to visit the island's various temples. One of our favorites is the city's oldest Hindu temple, Sri Mariamman. Built in the mid-19th century, the temple remains an ornate monument to the area's Indian influences. It features six colorful tiers decorated with gods, mythological beasts, and soldiers. Nearby, in the heart of Chinatown, you'll also find the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, a four-story pagoda that includes a bell tower, a sacred stupa made of solid gold, a museum featuring over 300 Buddhist artifacts, and even a tea room on the second floor where you can enjoy a mid-day respite.
If you find yourself in need of someplace quiet to escape the bustle of the city, make your way toward the Thian Hock Keng Temple, Chinatown's oldest Hokkien Temple. Originally a landing point for Chinese soldiers in the 19th century, the grounds act as a haven of quietude in the center of a hectic metropolis. In addition, check out the outside rear wall, where a 145-foot (44-meter) mural traces the stories of the Hokkien immigrants who left China and landed in Singapore. The mural was painted by local artist Yip Yew Chong and covers the hardships, tragedies, and elation faced by those early immigrants.
Additionally, Singapore is a great launching pad to the rest of Southeast Asia — if you're interested in exploring Thailand, Vietnam, and beyond, you can check out United's Excursions Perk.
Discover Kansas City: The City of Fountains
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.
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
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
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.
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Where to eat and drink in Salem
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.
The Roof at Hotel 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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
Introducing travel experiences with PlacePass
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.
`qOur 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
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.
Gaze into a volcano
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Fun and spooky travel destinations for Halloween
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
Celebrating Girls in Aviation Day
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.
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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Five magnificent stops between Honolulu and Guam filled with spectacular scenery along the way, and then back again. Join Big Metal Bird host, Phil Torres, as he explores our unique Island Hopper route, and discovers what the route means to the people of Micronesia.
It was an unusual sight: a flame on a plane -- but that's exactly what passengers on a flight from Boston to Chicago witnessed as we transported the very special cargo on July 18. The flame was enclosed in a secure lantern and accompanied by a Special Olympic athlete and two Guardians of the Flame – members of a group of more than 100,000 law enforcement officers whose role is to protect and ensure the delivery of the Special Olympics Flame wherever it travels.
This wasn't just any flame, however; it was the Special Olympics' Flame of Hope, the flame which lit the Eternal Flame of Hope to kick off Special Olympics' 50th anniversary celebration Friday morning.
CEO Oscar Munoz, General Counsel and EVP Brett Hart; and Community Affairs VP Sharon Grant, along with many employees and customers, greeted the Flame upon arrival to O'Hare International Airport, where it was presented to local Guardians of the Flame.
We didn't just transport the Flame of Hope on board one of our flights, said Oscar. "That flight symbolized how we are taking the values of inclusion and respect, which that Flame represents, fully on board as a company."
From O'Hare, the Flame traveled to Soldier Field, the site of the very first International Special Olympics Summer Games 50 years ago, and where the Law Enforcement Torch Run® took place the morning of Friday, July 20. More than 100 employees participated in the event, a four-mile course along the lakefront in downtown Chicago, along with hundreds of law enforcement officers and Special Olympics athletes from throughout Illinois and the world.
I saw people from all over the world come together for a great cause, said Global Catering Operations Projects and Performance Manager Yana Strutz, who participated in the Torch Run, "It is wonderful to see my colleagues take time out of their busy schedules to ensure that Special Olympics athletes get the time and attention they deserve."
The run concluded with the lighting of the Eternal Flame of Hope monument, a flame that symbolizes the eternal hope that Special Olympics provides to athletes and their families. The flame will stay forever ignited inside the permanent, 30-foot monument outside of Soldier Field.
United will go beyond just flying the Flame of Hope on one flight, we will 'carry the torch' everywhere we fly and spread the light of this inclusion revolution. We intend to be ambassadors for this movement everywhere we operate, said Oscar.
Our partnership with Special Olympics represents our continuing effort to break down barriers and further build on Special Olympics' remarkable legacy of inclusion by engaging our employees around the world.
On March 8, 2018, we announced a new global relationship with Special Olympics, an organization we've partnered with for many years focusing on supporting the spirit of inclusion with our employees through local communities and through our Charity Miles Program. United's increased sponsorship includes support for major Special Olympics events, including the Special Olympics 50th Anniversary celebrations in Chicago, site of the very first International Special Olympics Summer Games in 1968, and the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle.
In addition, United will engage with local Programs in our key markets around the world. Special Olympics embodies our shared purpose to connect people and unite the world. With more than 5 million athletes and 1 million coaches and volunteers in 172 countries, our employees and customers will join forces with Special Olympics to achieve our shared vision of inclusion. Together, we hope to end discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities.
Our relationship with Special Olympics represents a continued effort to break down barriers and further build on the organization's remarkable legacy by engaging our customers and employees around the world. Working together, we created new training that specifically reflects insights from Special Olympics, including training scenarios with real-life situations that individuals with intellectual disabilities face when traveling. By the end of 2018, more than 60,000 United frontline employees will have participated in the new training modules that reflect Special Olympics insights as United takes steps to deliver a world full of inclusion.
Check back this summer for coverage from Special Olympics 50th Anniversary celebrations in Chicago and 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle.