'Semper Paratus,' at Sea and at United
culture

Honoring United employees who have served

By The Hub team , November 14, 2016

Updated December 22, 2016

Beginning with Veterans Day on November 11, we are dedicating an entire month to honoring employees who have served in all branches of the military in appreciation for their sacrifice to our country and their service to United. Please follow along with us each Monday as some of our veteran co-workers share their stories about their service.

One conversation changed First Officer Stayce Harris's life

Stayce Harris is currently the Assistant Vice Chief of Staff of the Air ForceAndy Morataya

When Stayce Harris started college at the University of Southern California on an Air Force ROTC engineering scholarship, she wasn't initially planning to become a pilot. But one conversation with an ROTC instructor changed the course of her career.

"I'd honestly never considered being a pilot, I just wanted to be like my dad and serve in the Air Force," said Stayce. "My instructor suggested I compete for the pilot scholarship, and I thought, why not? Why be the passenger when you can be the pilot?"

After completing pilot training, Stayce flew C-141 cargo planes. "It was basically the airline of the military," she explained. Stayce had assignments across the country from California to Washington, D.C. After leaving active duty, Stayce joined United as a Boeing 727 flight engineer based in LAX (She is now a Boeing 747 first officer based at SFO). She wanted to continue serving her country, so she joined the U.S. Air Force Reserve, where she got to realize another one of her passions: leadership.

"I just had a passion for taking care of airmen," she said. One of Stayce's most memorable positions was as Commander of the 729th Airlift Squadron at March Air Reserve Base, outside Los Angeles, where she was stationed on Sept. 11, 2001.

"Although all civilian aircraft were grounded, military aircraft were still flying," she said. "The C-141s from my squadron were flying firefighters and their supplies to New York to assist with recovery."

Throughout her career, she has had assignments at the Pentagon, U.S. Africa Command, Air Mobility Command and as commander of the 22nd Air Force. This diverse background led her to her current position. Stayce is now on military leave from United and back on active duty, serving as the Assistant Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force, where she holds the rank of lieutenant general.

"I have a unique opportunity in this role. I was recalled to active duty, which is the first time a reservist has been chosen to do this for this specific role, so I want to do a really great job serving all the airmen of our Air Force."

As a female pilot and service member, Stayce has not allowed herself to be held back by stereotypes or biases.

"The beauty of flying is that the plane doesn't know whether you're male or female. It doesn't care – the plane wants to fly and I want to fly it. And as long as I know in my heart that I'm doing my best for the Air Force and taking care of the airmen in fulfilling my role, at the end of the day, I'm good. People will accept you or not, and that's for them to decide."

She has some advice for veterans making the transition to civilian life: "Veterans offer valuable operational, leadership and life experiences along with the core values of integrity, discipline, responsibility and respect. These are key strengths that every business needs. It is very competitive though – whether you're a pilot, or an engineer or an administrator. It takes preparation, homework and perseverance to translate your work experience to a civilian employer. United understands and values the skill sets of our veterans and has been especially supportive of me and of all our veterans; it makes me very proud."

After a career that has taken her all over the country, you might think Stayce would rather stay home than travel. Not so.

"I still just adore traveling, even after 34 years of flying. Until recently, I would always travel someplace I'd never been for my birthday, from Romania to South Africa, to Brunei. My favorites are Sydney, Australia, and Cape Town, South Africa."

Stayce plans to return to United when she has finished her position. Of all the aircraft she's flown – including C-141s, C-130s, KC-135s, Boeing 757s, 767s and 777s – her favorite is the 747.

"I just love that aircraft; it's a majestic airplane to fly."

Ooh Rah: Tech Ops' Don Larson carries on Marine past

Don Larson in his military decorated office.

On the fifth floor of the Tech Ops Maintenance Service Center at O'Hare International Airport, above the ratcheting sound of planes getting tune-ups, is an office of which Uncle Sam would be proud.

A platoon of G.I. Joe-esque figurines stand guard atop file cabinets and shelves, U.S. and Marine Corps flags decorate the back wall, pictures of military vehicles and missions past line the side walls, mementos of service time and military citations of the Bronze Star medal and Legion of Merit with the combat distinguishing "V" devise for valor are proudly displayed on the desk, and a grenade-shaped coffee mug and meal ready to eat decorate a table.

Welcome to Don Larson's office.

Don retired from the Marines in 2000 as a Chief Warrant Officer – a highly skilled position of leadership and responsibility – after 24 years of service that spanned more than 30 countries, all seven continents, a dozen separate combat operations and security duty for President Ronald Reagan. He and his wife moved 13 times during those years, and he missed 17 Christmases at home. You'd think he'd have taken a break for a bit after that, but no – 25 days after his retirement, he had his first day on the job with United. Don works as a line maintenance administration manager.

"If it's not turning a wrench or fixing an airplane, then we handle it," says Don, who handles administrative duties for ORD Tech Ops employees.

The impact of Don's military past is just as evident in his work as it is on his walls. Lessons learned on how to most effectively work with others, and building and managing relationships while fighting in Iraq, Kosovo, Somalia and other war-torn locales have helped him in his current role. Don and the others who work on the fifth floor have a team motto: mission always, people first.

"In the military, you have to deal with people of different ages from different places," Don says. "This helps, because in any job, you have to know your people and look out for their well-being."

The job helps him maintain his own wellness, as he suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress, multiple traumatic brain injuries and surviving cancer. To stave off head and neurological pain, he keeps the lights relatively dimmed in his office, and sometimes, if sleep is hard to come by, he'll come to the office in the middle of the night to start working, which helps occupy his mind.

"He is a remarkable individual to work with, and he never misses a beat with his work," ORD and DEN Maintenance Hub Managing Director James Montgomery said. "He ensures every member of his team learns everyone else's role, so that anyone can cover for anyone else if needed. The flexibility that creates is awesome, and they all love working with him."

Don learned during his service that humor can be a coping mechanism, so he likes to make people laugh at work.

He misses the 24/7 camaraderie of the military, but says, "The job has to get done – anything less is not an option."

Recently, his wife of 37 years asked him when he, 57, plans to retire. No sniper's scope can find that target date.

"As long as I add value through the work I'm doing and make a difference in the lives of the people I'm working with," Don said, "I'm going to continue."

From ORD to Afghanistan and back

Ryan Melby United Veteran from Army Reserve

Ryan Melby may be best known at United by the title he holds at the Chicago Corporate Support Center: director of airport operations ramp planning and airport services. What you may not be as familiar with is the title that he carries when he's away from the office – battalion commander as a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve.

Ryan, a former active duty solider and current Army reservist, joined United in 2005 through a military leadership recruiting program as a ramp supervisor, and has since worked his way up through the ranks of the company. Today, among other things, he oversees our below-the-wing policies and procedures, station openings and Airport Operations contract strategy.

"The Army taught me a lot about leadership, but I feel my experiences at United have helped me evolve as a leader," I learned as much working at O'Hare as I did in the military."

Ryan was first commissioned as a lieutenant through the ROTC program at the Marion Military Institute in Marion, Alabama. He finished college at Embry – Riddle with a focus in aeronautics before going onto active duty. He left the active service and became a reservist in 2001 so that he could pursue a civilian career as a pilot. But when the September 11th attacks occurred, he was called back into service.

"I was a captain responsible for preparing reserve units for deployment," Ryan said. "I was also part of an exercise in Germany that worked through the plans and 'war gamed' the Iraq invasion."

Over the next ten years, he served in the Army Reserves and worked in a variety of roles at United while he and his wife started a family. Then, in 2011, he received some surprising news: With only a month's notice, Ryan was deployed to Bagram, Afghanistan.

"I had three small children at home – my daughter was only three months old at that time – so it was a real tough experience leaving them, but that was the commitment that I made."

His deployment coincided with the ongoing U.S. troop withdrawal, and Ryan's unit was responsible for managing the logistics of sending vehicles and equipment back to the U.S. After the year-long deployment he returned home to open arms. "United was really understanding throughout my time in Afghanistan, and welcomed me back to my old position. I appreciated all of the support my co-workers provided while I was away."

It's those kinds of experiences that Ryan relies on in his leadership position at United. "In the Army, you're taught to always finish the mission no matter how difficult it is. If you have a can-do attitude, you really can accomplish anything."

'Semper Paratus,' at sea and at United

James Taylor, United Veteran from Coast Guard

Network Operations Principal Engineer James Taylor proudly served in the United States Coast Guard for four years, an experience that he still leans on today in his role helping to keep our IT operations running smoothly.

James enlisted right out of high school as an eighteen-year-old. His lifelong love of boats and the open water initially attracted him to the Coast Guard, coupled with the fact that, as he says, “Back then we were in peacetime, but the Coast Guard was still busy – they were doing search and rescues and drug traffic interventions. It seemed exciting."

After completing basic training in Cape May, New Jersey, James found himself stationed in an unlikely place for a Coast Guard Seaman: Keokuk, Iowa. During his time there, his team patrolled the Mississippi River down to St. Louis, maintaining buoys and keeping the water cleared for barges.

Looking for a new challenge, he attended Coast Guard “A" school (advanced school) and became a radarman, transferring to the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter (USCGC) Mellon, a high-endurance cutter based in Seattle. The Mellon's crew was tasked with patrolling the Pacific Ocean for months at a time, from Alaska down to Guatemala.

“We had two objectives, depending on which way we went out of Seattle," James said. “Going right (north) meant sailing to Alaska and handling fishery patrols; going left (south) meant looking for boats trafficking drugs."

Those missions at sea provided James with memories that he still appreciates to this day. “Of course I remember the month we spent training in Hawaii," he said, laughing, “and I'll never forget seeing porpoises and sea turtles in the Strait of Seward near Alaska and volcanoes erupting in the Aleutian Islands."

But it's not just the memories of the people and places that James carries with him; his time in the service made a much larger impact on him as a U.S. citizen and as an employee of United.

“Being in the military gives you a deeper pride for the U.S., and it instills in you a devotion to duty, respect for others and respect for authority," he said. “It also prepares you always to be ready for anything – and that's part of my job today. If our IT systems go down, it can lead to flight delays, so I'm always thinking about a back-up plan. The Coast Guard's motto is Semper Paratus – Always Ready – and that's what I live by."

Naples: The gateway to the Amalfi Coast

By The Hub team , December 14, 2018

There's a good reason the Amalfi Coast tops so many travel wish lists. All along this 30-mile stretch of rugged Italian coastline, small villages sit atop cliffs. Sun-soaked pastels, vibrant blue water and jagged mountains contrast magnificently. Pristine beaches and spectacular ocean views provide a scenic backdrop, while the climate remains mild and sunny throughout the year. Because of its natural beauty and unique landscape, the Amalfi Coast has even earned a UNESCO World Heritage Site designation. It's simply picture perfect.

With United's new route to Naples (NAP) launching May 22, 2019, you now have direct access to explore the lively villages, dramatic coastline and stunning scenery of the Amalfi Coast. Start your stay in Naples, then add a few coastal villages to your trip.

Naples

Piazza del Plebiscito, Naples Italy

Though the Amalfi Coast may be the main reason for your trip, be sure to spend time in Italy's third-largest city. Naples is a bustling metropolis with lots of local flavor. It's also a good home base for exploring the nearby ruins of Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius, which are some of Italy's most popular attractions. When Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D., it covered the city in a sea of ash that kept Pompeii extremely well preserved until it was discovered by archeologists nearly 2,000 years later.

From visiting centuries-old historical attractions to sipping espresso on an outdoor terrace, there are many opportunities to get a taste of what Naples has to offer. Your time in Naples can include browsing boutiques with wares made by Italian artisans, walking through the pedestrian-friendly old town or taking in artwork from Renaissance masters. And, it's the birthplace of pizza. It's extremely easy to find fresh, expertly prepared Neapolitan pizza almost anywhere. By some counts, Naples has the best pizza in the world.

Sorrento

Enjoy a change of pace on your first stop on the Amalfi Coast. Sorrento's breathtaking views of the sea have long made this resort town a popular favorite among international travelers and Italians alike.

Even if you're not staying at a high-end luxury resort, you can still enjoy a spa day at one. Dine at a Michelin-starred restaurant where seafood and shellfish are Sorrento's must-try dishes. Along the main shopping street of Corso Italia, peruse artisanal shops for authentic Italian leather goods or pick up a bottle of Limoncello to bring back home. Enjoy the gardens and fountains of Villa Communale Park, which sits at the top of a cliff. See the entire Bay of Naples below and soak in the panoramic views. Not far from the city, the Baths of Queen Giovanna are tucked away in a hidden cove; it's an excellent spot to sunbathe, swim or watch the sunset. More active travelers will enjoy a coastal hike on Sorrento's nearby trails and nature reserves.

Positano

Nicknamed the vertical town, Positano is perhaps one of the most precariously perched Amalfi Coast villages. It seemingly teeters on the cliff jutting out into the sea. Wander the steep, narrow streets and take in the magnificent pastel-colored buildings. Positano is also a go-to destination for upscale shopping. A thriving fashion scene offers locally made lace, handmade leather sandals and hand-painted ceramics.

Capri

Everything about the sunny island of Capri is idyllic. The elegance and beauty of the Amalfi Coast are well represented in its landscape, where white mountainous cliffs plunge sharply into the bright blue sea. You'll find not only gorgeous beaches, but also a lively nightlife scene and upscale shopping. Take an excursion to the nearby Blue Grotto, a cave where the water glows an electric blue.

Amalfi

Sitting below the Amalfi Coast cliffs, Amalfi is a more accessible town for some travelers. It's the largest town along the coast and offers some of the most historic attractions. Get beach time and explore famous monuments. White buildings and homes have earned it the name the Pearl of the Amalfi.

Ravello

Ravello village, Amalfi coast of Italy

Feeling touristed out? It's a little less crowded in Ravello, but none less beautiful. The medieval village has many elegant gardens and terraces that overlook the sea, making it a perfect stop along the coast to settle in and relax.

Getting there

Visiting as many towns as you can squeeze in isn't necessarily the way to go. Though this stretch of coast is compact, the narrow, winding roads can become dense with traffic. It may be more leisurely to spread your time out over fewer destinations.

United and many of its Star AllianceTM partner airlines offer service from multiple cities in the U.S. to Naples. Specifically, United announced a new summer nonstop service between New York/Newark and Naples, beginning May. 22, 2019 thorugh October 4, 2019. Visit united.com or use the United app to book your trip.

Sustainable biofuel plant announced near Chicago

By Gladys Roman , December 13, 2018

Fulcrum BioEnergy, one of our partners in producing sustainable aviation biofuel, announced on December 13 that it has selected Gary, Indiana for the location of its Centerpoint BioFuels Plant, which will convert municipal solid waste (MSW) into low-carbon, renewable aviation fuel. This fuel has a greater than 80 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions on a lifecycle basis.

We're proud to have partnered with Fulcrum since 2015 and are excited about furthering our commitment to sustainability.

As we announced in September, we're committed to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions 50 percent by 2050, nearly 99 percent of which is from jet fuel. Our partnership with Fulcrum BioEnergy will reduce our carbon footprint, divert waste from landfills and create 160 full-time permanent jobs and 900 construction jobs at the Fulcrum facilities located in and around Chicago.

"We're thrilled by Fulcrum's continued progress towards producing sustainable biofuel," said Environmental Strategy and Sustainability Senior Manager Aaron Robinson. "We look forward to their future contribution towards our goal of halving our greenhouse gas emissions."

Construction for this facility is expected to begin in 2020 and take approximately 18-24 months to complete. Once operational, the Centerpoint plant will divert and process approximately 700,000 tons of MSW from the greater Chicago area. MSW is an ideal feedstock to produce renewable fuels. The organic material found in our household garbage is rich in hydrogen and carbon, the building blocks for jet fuel and diesel. Using a proprietary thermochemical process, Fulcrum's Centerpoint plant will produce approximately 33 million gallons of fuel annually, nearly half of which will be jet fuel.

5 fun facts about our holiday operations

By United Airlines , December 13, 2018

This holiday season, get closer to the North Pole or ring in the New Year twice. With over 145,000 flights in the month of December, we're celebrating with five fun facts about our operations. Read on to discover something new, and if you're traveling on one of our seven flights that depart on December 24 and land on December 26, MileagePlus® members will receive 2,500 bonus award miles.

This December, United® will operate more than 145,000 flights

Here are 5 favorite facts about these flights…

Bah humbug

7 flights take off on the 24 th and land on the 26th

  • San Francisco
    to
    Singapore
  • San Francisco
    to
    Auckland
  • San Francisco
    to
    Sydney
  • San Francisco
    to
    Chengdu
  • Los Angeles
    to
    Melbourne
  • Los Angeles
    to
    Sydney
  • Houston
    to
    Sydney

United MileagePlus® customers on these flights will receive 2,500 bonus award miles

Double New Years

2 flights take off on Jan. 1 st
and land on Dec. 31 st

  • Shanghai
    to
    San Francisco
  • Guam
    to
    Honolulu

First flights to
leave in 2019

  • Domestic: Seattle
    to
    Houston
    12:05 AM Local Time
  • International: Mumbai
    to
    Newark
    12:15 AM Local Time

1,000 cups
of hot cocoa

served per day at
United Club℠ locations

Flights closest to the North Pole

  • Newark
    to
    Beijing
  • Newark
    to
    Hong Kong

Warmest wishes from #UnitedForTheHolidays

Tel Aviv: Miami of the Middle East

By Bob Cooper

Tel Aviv is called the “Miami of the Middle East" by many of the Europeans who flock to the Israeli city for beach holidays. The nickname is puzzling to North Americans who are unaware of not only its fine beaches, but also its other similarities to Miami, like the vibrant restaurants and nightclubs packed with young, diverse, progressive locals. While other parts of Israel are known for their ancient holy sites and trouble spots, Tel Aviv is modern and quite safe.

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The basics

You'll just need your passport when traveling to Tel Aviv. While Hebrew and Arabic are both official languages here, English is also widely spoken. The weather is mild year-round (similar to San Diego). Once you've arrived, a 20-minute shuttle-bus ride will whisk you to your Tel Aviv hotel, and once you're in the city, it's easy to get around in taxis or on foot. Most hotels and restaurants are located within a few blocks of the Mediterranean beaches.

Top experiences

Hit the beach

Your first day can begin with a beach stroll to shake off the jet lag. The seafront promenade lines the Mediterranean for more than three miles, with restaurants and bars overlooking a string of beaches. Some have breakwaters where you can swim in the seawater while others draw surfers. The scene changes from one beach to another, offering plenty of options for visitors.

Seeing the sights

Once you've had your share of relaxing at the beach, you can switch over to exploration mode. Northeast of the beaches, the Museum of the Jewish People, Eretz Israel Museum and Israeli Museum examine themes surrounding Israel and the Jewish people. Elsewhere are museums devoted to Israeli art and Bauhaus architecture (Tel Aviv's White City cluster of Bauhaus buildings is a UNESCO Heritage Site). Or you may be more interested in bargaining at the bustling open-air markets (shuks), including Carmel Market and nearby Nachalat Binyamin Market in central Tel Aviv and Jaffa Flea Market located in the ancient Arab port town on Tel Aviv's southern border.

Where to eat

Nosh across the city

Sightseeing works up an appetite, so now it's time to eat your way through Tel Aviv. Mediterranean and contemporary Israeli restaurants are found all over the city, as are falafel and shawarma cafes. But you can literally taste the city's international flavor in the exotic combinations found in the fusion cuisine at French/Mediterranean and kosher North African spots. A new wave of vegan restaurants and seafood restaurants that capitalize on the city's seaport location are especially popular in Tel Aviv.

Tel Aviv after dark

When restaurants start to empty out, nightspots begin to fill up. Wine bars, pubs, sports bars, underground bars and rooftop bars are all popular, but the city's DJ club scene is world famous. Music throbs from dozens of dance spots. Hangar 11, a converted warehouse, and Haoman 17 are legendary concert venues where world-class DJs perform. Then there's Spicehaus, the city's largest cocktail bar, where bartenders dress like pharmacists and serve drinks in beaker bottles.

Day trips

To Bethlehem and beyond

Israel is best known worldwide as the nexus of world religions — and the country is small enough that you can venture out to see many of the historic places tied to the origins of Christianity, Judaism and Islam on bus-tour day trips. These visit all the sites in and around Jerusalem and Bethlehem, only one hour away, including Jerusalem's Old City, the Temple Mount, the Western Wall, the Nativity Church, Mount Zion and the City of David. Longer trips to northern Israel visit Caesarea, Mount Carmel, Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee.

Getting there

United Airlines is the U.S. airline with the most flights to Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport, including nonstops from Newark and San Francisco, and will be the only airline to fly there from Washington, D.C., beginning on May 19, 2019. MileagePlus® award miles can be redeemed to cover accommodations and Hertz rentals. Go to united.com or use the United app to plan your trip to Tel Aviv.

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Holiday magic lands in Cleveland

By The Hub team

December 1 was a day filled with holiday cheer for dozens of children who came to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport for a magical trip to the "North Pole." We invited children from the Cleveland Clinic, A Kid Again and Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital to participate in our Fantasy Flight, which every year offers families raising kids with life-threatening illnesses an unforgettable trip to the "North Pole."

Once guests arrived to the "North Pole," they entered a magical winter wonderland and enjoyed Christmas carols, festive food and even received gifts from the wish lists they shared with their parents. The day wouldn't be complete without Santa Claus, and of course the children had a chance to meet him and take photos with him and Mrs. Claus.

7 winter wonderlands around the world

By Bob Cooper

Rather than heading to a beach destination this winter to avoid the cold, try something completely different by embracing winter with a trip to a winter wonderland. Whether you want to take part in some winter sports, attend a snow festival or just make a snowman with the kids, here are seven cities perfect for welcoming winter.

Sun Valley, Idaho

A-list celebs and Olympic champions have been flocking to Sun Valley for generations for the big-vertical-drop skiing — and so have snow sports enthusiasts of all ability levels. They also come for the natural beauty of the Sawtooth range and the mountain-town culture of Sun Valley and adjacent Ketchum. Activities from heli-skiing to snowmobiling and sleigh rides offer something for everyone. A Nordic-skiing festival (January 31-February 3) and symphony series (February 19-24) are among numerous upcoming special events.

Quebec City, Canada

Quebec City is a dreamy destination all winter, with abundant winter activities in and around the city, from fat biking to dog sledding. Twenty minutes away at Village Vacances Valcartier is a sprawling winter playground with 35 snow slides and North America's only ice hotel. During Carnaval de Quebec (February 8-17) — among the world's largest and oldest winter festivals — night parades are staged, a colossal ice palace is unveiled and contests range from snow sculpting to ice-canoe racing.

Geneva, Switzerland

Mont Blanc, the tallest peak in the Alps, means “White Mountain" in English as its summit is topped by a year-round dome of ice and snow. The peak is clearly visible from Geneva, a lovely French-speaking city of 200,000 at the southwestern tip of Switzerland, and the Chamonix-Mont-Blanc ski slopes are only an hour away. While in low-elevation Geneva, it's easy to get around to visit the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum or take part in a variety of winter activities.

Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota

Minneapolis and St. Paul boast the fittest residents — and coldest temperatures — of any U.S. metro area. That odd combination is possible because residents of the Twin Cities celebrate rather than dread winter. Mississippi River recreation paths are plowed and lakeside hiking trails become Nordic-skiing trails. And there is no bigger celebration of winter in the U.S. than the St. Paul Winter Carnival (January 24-February 3), which draws about 400,000 people to admire its multistory ice palace, cavort in its snow park and watch its parades.

Stockholm, Sweden

As one of the most northern major cities in the world Stockholm is the best winter destination for combining outdoor winter activities and the indoor attractions of a cultural capital. Outdoor ice rinks are found in the city center and five ski areas are within an hour's drive; Stockholm is a finalist for the 2026 Winter Olympic Games and hosted the same competition in 1912. Indoor enticements include the Nobel Museum, with a Martin Luther King, Jr. exhibition through September 2019, and the Vasa Maritime Museum, the most visited museum in Scandinavia.

Sapporo, Japan

Apart from its ramen restaurants and Sapporo beer (with free tours at the brewery), Sapporo is best known for its winters, which bring 20 feet of annual snowfall. Not only the site of the 1972 Winter Olympic Games, this city on Japan's northern island of Hokkaido is home to one of the world's largest winter festivals. The 70th Sapporo Snow Festival (January 31-February 11) features hundreds of snow statues and ice sculptures, offers snow slides and snow rafting, and attracts 2 million annual visitors — the population of the city itself.

Reno/Lake Tahoe, Nevada

Depending on which direction they head from Reno-Tahoe International Airport, winter visitors have plenty of options. They can go to North Lake Tahoe for major ski areas like Northstar, with its charming base village, or Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows, site of the 1960 Winter Olympic Games. They can venture to South Lake Tahoe for great skiing at Heavenly (North America's fifth-largest ski area) or Kirkwood (North America's third-highest snowfall). Or for those who are content admiring snow-covered mountains without skiing them, they can stay in Reno for the restaurants, casinos, and nightlife.

If you go

United Airlines flies to all seven of these cities, where MileagePlus® Rewards points can be redeemed to cover accommodations and Hertz rentals. Go to united.com or use the United app to plan your winter wonderland getaway.

The day off: Washington D.C.

By The Hub team

Story by Ellen Carpenter | Hemispheres, December 2018

Politics, finance, tech, no matter: Deals happen in D.C. at every hour. But if you find yourself on a business trip with a rare free day, consider yourself lucky: The city has never been cooler.

9 a.m.

Wake up in your spacious room at the InterContinental Washington D.C. – The Wharf, with floor-to-ceiling views of sailboats gliding down the Washington Channel, and forget for a moment that the craziness of Capitol Hill is just five miles away. Snap a photo of the waterfall chandelier in the lobby before popping next door for a delicious egg and bacon biscuit sandwich at Dolcezza, the first outpost of the D.C. mini-chain to offer a full breakfast menu.

Photo by Mark DeLong

10 a.m.

Hop a cab to the National Portrait Gallery, where you can take a selfie with Barack Obama (well, Kehinde Wiley's depiction of the 44th president) before viewing an entire exhibit on the art of the selfie, Eye to I: Self-Portraits from 1900 to Today, which features works by James Amos Porter, Elaine de Kooning, and more. Afterward, muse on the concept of identity under the undulating glass ceiling in the gallery's stunning Kogod Courtyard.

Photo provided by the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution/gift of Dorothy Porter Wesley

1 p.m.

Take the Metro's Green Line up to U Street for a taste of Little Havana at Colada Shop. The small counter spot dispenses flaky empanadas, decadent Cubanos, and the café's namesake—four shots of espresso commingling with sweet Cuban crema. You know you want one.

3 p.m.

Time to hit the National Mall and work off that caffeine injection. Every winter, the fountain at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden becomes an ice rink, where you can take in Alexander Calder's Cheval Rouge and Louise Bourgeois's Spider while practicing your triple lutz.

Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

5 p.m.

Cab over to the Kennedy Center for the free 6 p.m. show at Millennium Stage, offered every single night as part of the cultural hub's Performing Arts for Everyone initiative. Whether it's modern dance, West African blues, or experimental theater, it'll broaden your horizons.

Photo by Teresa Wood

7:30 p.m.

Give in to your carb cravings at the Michelin-starred Tail Up Goat, a relaxed yet polished restaurant in the Adams Morgan neighborhood. Toss back the complimentary shrub (tart!) and then dive into the red fife brioche (topped with chicken liver mousse, blueberry marmalade, and wood sorrel) and goat lasagna with tomato, anchovy, and salsa verde.

9:30 p.m.

Catch a ride to Blagden Alley—a historic area that used to house the stables and workshops behind stately row houses—for a cocktail at Columbia Room, a lounge that has topped every best-of list imaginable. Score a seat in the leather- and mahogany-lined Spirits Library and order a Maryland, made with rye, applejack, and chartreuse. Then get another.

Photo by Karlin Villondo Photography

3 under the radar places to visit in December

By Betsy Mikel

With the end of the year approaching, it's time to utilize those unused vacation days. If you're not traveling for the holidays, take an excursion to one of these under-the-radar destinations. Treat your family to fun in the sun in Florida, kick back on an island in Mexico that takes relaxation seriously, or take advantage of the slow season at a popular Arizona national park.

Isla Holbox, Mexico

For a leisurely vacation to relax on uncrowded beaches

Seeking a destination where you can unplug and sink your toes into the sand while surrounded by natural beauty? Isla Holbox is the spot. This laid-back island sits on the northwest tip of Mexico's Yucatan peninsula. It boasts spectacular beaches with endless turquoise ocean views.

What to do

Pack your flip-flops and beach reads for a seriously laid-back trip to Isla Holbox. Come here to sit on the beach (or in a hammock) while you kick back and relax as you've never relaxed before. Enjoy spectacular beaches without crowds.

Isla Holbox is small — just 26 miles long and one mile wide, with only 2,000 full-time residents. Bright colors and painted murals throughout the area evoke a bohemian vibe. Instead of cars, most people get around by golf cart or bike. (In fact, its taxi cabs are actually golf carts.) Isla Holbox won't give you the lively nightlife of popular tourist destinations like nearby Cancun, but there are plenty of beachside bars serving cocktails, food vendors and restaurants serving fresh Mexican fare.

Go on a wildlife excursion to spot whale sharks, crocodiles or flamingos. Head to the Yum-Balam Nature Reserve to see other exotic animals.

Getting there

The closest airport is Cancun (CUN). From Cancun, head to Chiquila, where you can take the ferry to Isla Holbox.

St. Petersburg, Florida

A family-friendly beach destination for fun in the sun

With award-winning beaches offering 35 miles of sand along Tampa Bay, calm waters and plenty of sun, St. Petersburg is quickly gaining momentum as a warm-weather destination for families. Downtown is home to many shops, restaurants, bars and unique attractions, such as an impressive Salvador Dali museum.

What to do

St. Pete beaches are known for their calm, warm and shallow waters. Add 360 days of sunshine per year and an average temperature of 73 degrees, and it's surprising that this sunny beach city still flies under the radar. Keep it laid back by relaxing on the shore, or bump up the action by parasailing, windsurfing or kiteboarding.

After a day of R&R, head downtown to enjoy the lively St. Petersburg culture and nightlife. There are 35 local craft breweries to choose from and many seafood restaurants ranging from casual fare to upscale. The most extensive collection of Salvador Dali's artwork outside of Europe resides in The Dalí Museum. You can even meet a local celebrity at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium — Winter the dolphin starred in the Dolphin Tale movies and is famous for her prosthetic tail.

Getting there

United offers direct service to Tampa / St. Petersburg (TPA) from many U.S. cities.

Grand Canyon, Arizona

To have one of the most magnificent national parks (almost) to yourself

Though the weather is crisp and the temperature a few degrees chillier, the sun shines all month long at Grand Canyon National Park. Traveling here during the low season means fewer visitors will crowd your panoramic views of one of the world's largest canyons and most magnificent natural wonders.

What to do

From scenic drives to backcountry hiking, visiting in the winter makes for a more tranquil and peaceful adventure. The South Rim remains open all year round. The national park offers many trails to view the Colorado River snaking through snow-dusted temples and buttes. Try to catch at least one sunset or sunrise, and be sure to arrive with enough time to stake out a good vantage point. The visitors center and park website have recommendations for the best spots.

Ride the Grand Canyon Railway and travel back in time. A 64-mile stretch of railroad has been transporting passengers from the South Rim to the small town of Williams, Arizona, since 1901. The historic train has an observation dome car to catch the spectacular scenery and even has Wild West-themed entertainment aboard. Every evening in December, the Grand Canyon Railway transforms into the Polar Express and makes a stop at the North Pole where Santa boards the train to greet everyone.

Getting there

Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport is the closest major international airport to the South Rim. United offers service to Phoenix (PHX) from multiple U.S. cities.

For details and to book your trip, visit united.com or use the United app. Don't forget to share your story on social media with the #MyUnitedJourney hashtag once you arrive.

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