Family friendly cities: Chicago fun
For kids in today's hyper-digital world, boredom comes easily. But a city vacation is a perfect remedy, and Chicago, where most family attractions are withing walking distance, is one of the best U.S. cities to consider visiting. The kids won't get bored, nor will you, because there's more to do on a family-friendly Chicago vacation than there are grains of sand on Chicago's beaches. (The beaches are just one more reason to go).
No, it's not the ocean. But your teenager can try stand-up paddleboarding on Lake Michigan (there are several rental shops) while younger ones construct a good ol' sandcastle, all while mom and dad play beach volleyball, take a swim or bronze on the beach. Twenty four free beaches line Chicago's 26-mile shoreline, most of them named for the streets that end at the water. The seven-mile string of North Side beaches that are part of Lincoln Park, the city's largest, are the most popular, especially side-by-side Oak Street and North Avenue Beaches, with less crowded beaches farther north.
Lincoln Park Zoo
Coco Chanel once said, “The best things in life are free. The second-best things are very, very expensive." Fortunately, the Lincoln Park Zoo is one of the best things. You won't even have to pay peanuts to enter the primate house. Other favorite stops include the lion house, a reptile house, an arctic tundra area (polar bears!), a penguin cove, a seal pool and the new macaque forest. New to the Farm-in-the-Zoo are American Guinea Hog piglets that were born in June. Check the Daily Activity Calendar for feeding times.
To celebrate its 100th year in 2016, Navy Pier unveiled the new Centennial Wheel, a 196-foot-high Ferris wheel affording spectacular views from air-conditioned gondolas. It's the biggest of several new additions on the massive pier, but old favorites also remain, like the hand-painted carousel. Also on the pier: the Wave Swinger, Light Tower ride and climbing walls for young thrill seekers; an array of sightseeing boats that venture out onto Lake Michigan; and the three-story Chicago Children's Museum geared to 10-and-unders.
Until the 1990s, the Chicago River was filled with sewage, garbage and industrial waste—an embarrassment to the city. Now it's not only clean, it has become an attraction for visitors who stroll the riverwalk as it snakes through downtown Chicago. Kids may be bored walking past restaurants and public-art installations, but should enjoy following the river with their parents on a rented bike, surrey or kayak—or in a water taxi or sightseeing boat.
Clustered together on Lake Michigan are three huge family attractions, collectively called the Museum Campus. The Field Museum presents “Jurassic World: The Exhibition" through December, plus the world's largest and best-preserved T-Rex skeleton, a massive mummy collection and much, much more—nine acres of mostly interactive exhibits in all. The Adler Planetarium features several daily shows in each of its theaters—two domed space theaters and a 3D theater—in addition to astronomy exhibits. And the Shedd Aquarium's massive windows overlooking Lake Michigan help illuminate its whales, sharks, dolphins, otters, gators, penguins, tarantulas and, well, seemingly every creature on the planet that lives in or near water.
If you go
United Airlines has more than 500 daily flights from the hub city of Chicago from dozens of cities, and MileagePlus Rewards can help pay for your car rental and a family-friendly hotel room once you arrive. Go to united.com or use the United app to plan your family-friendly Chicago vacation.
If you can't get to Mars, what's the next best thing? Apparently Iceland. A team of renowned explorers and researchers recently journeyed to Iceland to test a Mars analog suit in a Martian-like environment.
The United sponsored expedition, led by The Explorers Club — an internationally recognized organization that promotes the scientific exploration of land, sea, air and space — and in partnership with Iceland Space Agency, involved the team venturing inside the Grímsvötn volcano and across the Vatnajökull ice cap. The group traveled to the remote location and lived for six days in the Grímsvötn Mountain Huts and endured harsh weather conditions and unstable terrain.
Helga Kristin Torfadöttir, Geologist and glacier guide, using the LiDAR system to map the ground and test the suit's capabilities on the glacier.
The objective of the mission was to explore the potential of concept operations at the Grímsvötn location while testing the suit in an arctic environment similar to what would be found on the surface of Mars. "This mission was an important test of the design of the MS1 suit, but it was also incredibly helpful to understand the how to conduct these sorts of studies in Iceland," said Michael Lye, MS1 designer and NASA consultant and RISD professor. "No matter how thoroughly something is tested in a controlled environment like a lab, studying it in a setting that accurately represents the environment where it will be used is absolutely essential to fully understand the design."
The suit was designed and constructed by faculty and students at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) with input and guidance from members of the HI-SEAS IV crew and NASA's Johnson Space Center Space Suit Engineering team. At 50-60 lbs, the suit is similar to what a planetary exploration suit would weigh in Martian gravity. The suit was originally designed to be used in the warm climate of Hawaii, however the martian climate is much closer to what would be found on top of the glaciers in Iceland. The data collected will inform the future of habitat and spacesuit design that can be used to train astronauts on Earth.
Today, we remember the colleagues, customers and every single victim of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
I know each of us in the United family marks this difficult moment in our own way. Still, we all share a common commitment to honor how our brothers and sisters left us and also celebrate what they gave to us during their lives. We remember their professionalism and heroism. We cherish their camaraderie and friendship. We carry with us the examples they set forth, especially in the heroism and bravery displayed by so many on that terrible day. Above all, we understand a simple truth: While thousands of our fellow human beings lost their lives in New York City, Arlington and Shanksville, the attacks of September 11th were aimed at all people of peace and good will, everywhere. They were attacks on the values that make life worth living, as well as the shared purpose that make us proud of what we do as members of the United family: connecting people and uniting the world.
We may live in times scarred by discord and disagreement, and we know there are those around the world who seek to divide us against one another. But, on this day – above all – we come together, as one. We affirm our core belief that far, far more unites us as citizens and fellow human beings than can ever divide us.
Let us embody that belief as we go about serving our customers and one another – on this day and every day – as we continue to help building a world that's more united. Let that be our memorial to the sisters and brothers we lost, eighteen Septembers ago.