The new hotel top 20
Story by Nicholas DeRenzo | Hemispheres, May 2018
To compile our annual list of the best new hotels in the world, Hemispheres went everywhere, from the beaches of Tulum to the glaciers of Alaska to the palaces of India. We have a tough job, we know, but we managed to narrow it down to our 20 favorites, and no matter what kind of traveler you are, we're sure you'll find a must-stay destination. Bon voyage.
For the solitude seeker
Sheldon Chalet, Alaska
The Sheldon Chalet is definitively this year's coolest new hotel. The five-bedroom family-run luxury lodge opened this February on a rugged nunatak (an exposed rocky point surrounded by ice) 5,800 feet above sea level, surrounded by the remote, 6 million–acre Denali National Park. That location—in an area appropriately called the Don Sheldon Amphitheater—means views of North America's tallest peak and near-perfect conditions for seeing the aurora borealis. Guests arrive by air on a “flightseeing" helicopter tour over the glacier fields and, perhaps to quell any fears that this place qualifies as “roughing it," are met with a glass of Champagne and a selection of fresh Alaskan seafood, such as halibut and king crab, prepared by the chalet's private chef.
For the military history buff
Alila Fort Bishangarh, India
This architectural icon, a 230-year-old blush-pink fortress atop a granite hill in Rajasthan's Aravalli Range, lay in a state of ruin for decades, taken over by bats, snakes, and monkeys. Now, after nearly a decade of work, the Alila Fort Bishangarh is once again fit for a king, with design touches recalling the Mughal and British eras, such as jali lattice window screens, Thikri mirror mosaics, and petal-shaped arches. The 59-suite hotel makes clever use of the fort's many nooks and crannies: You can sleep in the royal residences or the barracks, relax in the library lounge in the former war room, and drink cognac in the turret cigar bar, where soldiers once poured boiling oil on their enemies through the musket slots in the 10-foot-thick walls. And the spa? It's in the old dungeon.
For the New England nostalgic
Sound View; Greenport, New York
Long Island's North Fork is more casually cool than its glitzy neighbor to the south—home of Montauk and the Hamptons—and last August, the 19th-century whaling village of Greenport got a fittingly laid-back yet luxe lodging. In-demand Brooklyn designers Studio Tack kitted out the appropriately named Sound View—the hotel overlooks Long Island Sound—in a spare Modernist New England style that pairs cedar shiplap walls with cork and rubber floors meant to evoke a sandy beach. At James Beard Award–winning chef Galen Zamarra's on-site restaurant, The Halyard, dig into fresh seafood (fluke tacos, roasted scallops) paired with North Fork wines and beers.
For the eco-friendly skier
Valsana Hotel & Appartements Arosa, Switzerland
Skiing is surprisingly tough on nature, but the Valsana, which opened in December in the resort village of Arosa, has found clever ways to combat environmental degradation. The 40-room, nine-suite hotel is nearly carbon-neutral thanks to fair trade–certified toiletries, sustainable building materials, and a state-of-the-art energy recovery system called an “ice battery" (ask a physicist). Playing off this progressive outlook, the Valsana eschews Alpine clichés for millennial-approved thrift-shop design touches, such as vintage turntables and secondhand books in guest rooms and hammocks on balconies. For an updated take on après-ski, hit the lobby's self-service wine dispensers, which are often stocked with vintages from the surrounding Graubünden region.
For the art collector
21C Museum Hotel Nashville, Tennessee
Last May saw the opening of the seventh member of the 21c Museum Hotel chain, which together forms one of the nation's largest multivenue contemporary art institutions. The Nashville location occupies the historic Gray & Dudley Building, which opened in 1900 and lends its name to chef Levon Wallace's lobby restaurant, where diners come face to face with Beth Cavener Stichter's evocative stoneware animal sculptures. In addition to the public gallery spaces, the hotel offers three Artist Suites, curated by painter Sebastiaan Bremer, composer Josephine Wiggs, actor Adrian Grenier, and artist Yung Jake. The chain's most famous pieces, however, remain Cracking Art's army of 4-foot-tall plastic penguins, which come in a different color at each location (Nashville's is teal) and which staffers move around the hotel throughout the day. Pick up a miniature ceramic version at the gift shop.
For the adventurous oenophile
Mitchelton Hotel and Day Spa, Australia
The Mitchelton Wine Estate, set among apple orchards and horse farms about 80 miles north of Melbourne, has produced award-winning rieslings and shirazes for five decades. It never ascended to the ranks of destination winery, however, until December, when it opened a design hotel and day spa. The warm, masculine space mixes natural materials both hard (blackened steel, copper) and soft (merino wool, buttery Italian leather). Sample the estate's wines while taking in vineyard views from one of the 58 rooms and suites—or, better yet, from the 180-foot-high observation tower.
For the cocktail connoisseur
Henrietta Hotel, London
The Paris-based Experimental Group is shaking up the hospitality scene with its growing roster of slinky bars and buzzy boltholes. The past year saw the opening of both its second lodge in Paris (Hotel des Grands Boulevards) and its first in London, the 18-room Henrietta Hotel, which debuted last May in side-by-side Victorian townhouses in Covent Garden. Dorothée Meilichzon's understated interiors—all brass accents, mirrored surfaces, and soft curves—call to mind an Art Deco bar cart. Confirm the bed-and-beverage's boozy bona fides in chef Ollie Dabbous's French-accented restaurant, where the cocktail menu was put together by a pair of drink historians, or in your room, which is outfitted with a bedside Experimental Cocktail Club recipe book and a minibar arsenal of 50 ml bottles of craft spirits.
For the au courant countess
Verride Palácio Santa Catarina, Lisbon
If the words “palace hotel" conjure oppressive dark woods and heavy fabrics, the Verride Palácio Santa Catarina—opened in October across from Lisbon's Pharmacy Museum—is just what the doctor ordered. Occupying a hilltop 1750 townhouse once owned by a count, the 19-room hotel is studded with historic touches, including blue and white azulejo tiles, Rococo molding, and hand-painted silk wallpaper. The space transcends Baroque weightiness by employing a palette of crisp white tones—from Celso de Lemos organic cotton linens to Carrara marble accents—bathed in the city's greatest asset: the intense Iberian sunshine.
For the introverted island-hopper
Myconian Kyma; Mykonos, Greece
Mykonos is Greece's undisputed party island (Lindsay Lohan celebrated her 30th here), but the 81-room Myconian Kyma provides a welcome respite for guests who would rather spend time under the Aegean sun than nightclub strobe lights. Opened last May on a rocky hilltop less than 10 minutes on foot from the ouzo-fueled downtown, the stark, whitewashed space is replete with shadowy alcoves for midday napping, as well as a double-level infinity pool that overlooks the sea. Many of the suites come with their own plunge pools or hot tubs, but for the best chance at relaxation, head to the Satori Thalasso Spa, which uses mineral-enriched seawater in many of its treatments.
For the midwestern modernist
Ace Hotel Chicago, Illinois
The ultra-hip Pacific Northwest–born Ace brand made its Third Coast debut in August in a former cheese factory—très Midwestern—in Chicago's burgeoning West Loop district. The building's aesthetic draws on the sleek industrial style of architect László Moholy-Nagy, who founded the New Bauhaus school here in 1937, with visual references to luminaries like Frank Lloyd Wright, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and Josef and Anni Albers. Rooms feature a host of Midwestern-made goods, including blankets from Iowa's Amana Woolen Mill, football-inspired details from Chicago's Horween Leather, and original works by students at the prestigious School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Don't miss the rooftop bar, Waydown, which takes its name from a song by John Prine, the bard of Maywood, Illinois.
For the stuffed-to-the-gills gourmand
Hotel Akelarre; San Sebastián, Spain
San Sebastián's culinary reputation precedes it: Basque Country boasts the highest concentration of Michelin stars per capita on the planet. One of the city's trio of three-starred restaurants, Pedro Subijana's Akelarre, opened a 22-room inn this March—the perfect spot for foodies to tuck in after a marathon eight-course tasting menu (with dishes like this squid risotto with butter flower) and a few too many glasses of wine from the 650-label cellar. Done up in a crisp minimalist palette of cream, gray stone, and warm oak slats, the hotel features floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Bay of Biscay. Enjoy that view over a room-service breakfast of tortilla española, chorizo, and local charcuterie from the world-class kitchen.
For the hollywood elite
NoMad Los Angeles, California
New York's NoMad Hotel and its Michelin-starred restaurant brought a touch of European elegance to an unloved stretch of Broadway, and now the brand is hoping to recreate that magic in Downtown LA. The Sydell Group filled the 1923 Neoclassical former Bank of Italy headquarters—the lobby bathroom is inside the old vault—with lush, tactile details that would fit right in at the estate of an Old Hollywood mogul: jewel-toned velvet, coffered ceilings, potted palms, even the odd stuffed peacock. Naturally, the on-site restaurants are from chef Daniel Humm and restaurateur Will Guidara, the team behind the original NoMad and Eleven Madison Park, which was named the World's Best Restaurant in 2017.
For the boho beach bum
Habitas Tulum, Mexico
Guests checking in at Habitas Tulum are asked to burn a bit of copal, a tree resin known as much for its spiritual cleansing properties as for its (perhaps more useful) ability to ward off mosquitoes. Tucked away on a secluded beach not far from Mayan ruins, this off-the-grid retreat contains 32 air-conditioned canvas tents complete with palapa roofs, king-size beds, kilim rugs, and outdoor rain showers. You can follow the property's jungle walking trails, join an Ashtanga yoga class, or borrow a complimentary bike, but this place was really designed for doing nothing, artfully: You're never more than a few feet from hammocks hanging in palm thickets, poolfront beds, or the rope swings swaying in front of the bar.
For the bargain hunter
The Hoxton, Paris
The lodging scene in Paris is booming. Reopenings of historic grandes dames like the Hôtel de Crillon and the Hôtel Lutetia have grabbed all the headlines, but for our money the most exciting recent debut is The Hoxton, which burst onto the scene last summer in the startup-filled Second Arrondissement (sometimes called “Silicon Sentier"). Nightly rates start at a cool $120 (less than one-tenth of the Crillon's), but don't expect a no-frills hostel. After all, the 172-room hotel occupies the High Rococo 18th-century townhouse of Louis XV's diplomatic adviser. Even the self-effacingly named Shoebox rooms are decked out in sumptuous detailing, such as decorative molding and herringbone parquet floors. Use all those Euros you've saved at the Rivié all-day brasserie or the Moroccan-themed Jacques' Bar.
For the aspiring lumberjack
The Douglas Vancouver, British Columbia
You could see why the Parq Vancouver might have made locals nervous: With its 72,000 square feet of casino space, the $500 million urban resort had the makings of a Vegas-style intrusion. But the developers were savvy enough to build not just a sleek JW Marriott but also an eco-friendly Autograph Collection hotel, the Douglas. The property opened in October as an ode to its namesake, the Pacific Northwest's favorite conifer, which appears throughout public spaces (the check-in area has a 25-foot replica Douglas fir encased in glass) and in the rooms and suites (each of which contains a bottle of Douglas Fir gin from the nearby Yaletown Distillery). The best part is the 30,000-square-foot park that's perched on the resort's sixth floor and is home to 200 native pines and 15,000 local plants.
For the antiques collector
When the construction of a reservoir threatened a collection of Ming and Qing Dynasty structures in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangxi, native son Ma Dadong sprang into action. Over the course of 16 years, the entrepreneur rescued and reassembled historic villas and replanted more than 10,000 camphor trees about an hour southwest of Shanghai, creating the backbone of Aman's fourth Chinese property, Amanyangyun, which opened in January. Guest villas are decorated with centuries-old calligraphic carvings and reliefs, and the 30,500-square-foot spa employs traditional Chinese medicine in its treatments.
For the urban pioneer
Hotel 50 Bowery, New York City
The Bowery in Lower Manhattan was synonymous with crime and urban decay for more than a century, but two decades of revitalization have made the neighborhood ripe for stylish visitors—and a boutique hotel to serve them. Joie de Vivre's newest New York City outpost, 50 Bowery, opened last May in a 22-story glass tower designed by Hong Kong–born architect Peter Poon. The property, located just across the street from the ornate entrance to the Manhattan Bridge, fully embraces its Chinatown location in everything from its robes (emblazoned with red dragons) to its color scheme (blue and white, à la Chinese porcelain) to its pan-Asian restaurant, Rice & Gold, from Top Chef contestant Dale Talde. In fact, the designers literally mined the area for influences: The Museum of Chinese in America curated an on-site exhibit of the artifacts that were found while excavating the building plot, which was once home to vaudeville theaters, gaming dens, and a German beer hall.
For the Instagram influencer
The Drifter, New Orleans
Tulane Avenue, at the southern end of Route 61 (the Blues Highway), is home to some seedy motels, one of which has now been revived as the Big Easy's trendiest hotel. Set around a courtyard pool, the 20-room Drifter occupies a '50s motor lodge built in the Googie style, a mid-century look that borrowed shapes from car culture and the Space Race. Expect interiors decked out in Instagram-ready pinks, mint greens, and teals, with eye-catching design touches such as Oaxacan tiles, retro Formica tables, and a wall-size installation by Carlton Scott Sturgill that's covered in roses made from upcycled Ralph Lauren dress shirts. Happy filtering!
For the eager upcycler
Trunk (Hotel), Tokyo
Tokyo's lodging scene skews toward the glossy and corporate, but when the 15-room Trunk (Hotel) opened last May in the Harajuku/Jingumae district (a part of trendy Shibuya), it brought a refreshing dose of local craftiness. The space is filled with creatively eco-conscious details: Rooms are clad in reclaimed wood, staff aprons are made from salvaged deadstock denim, cushions on the terrace were once boat sails, and even the coat hangers are repurposed factory iron remnants. Speaking to its fast-paced, youth-oriented neighborhood, the Trunk also houses a kushiyaki grilled-meat stand and an elevated take on a konbini (convenience store) that sells grab-and-go snacks and gifts, including locally sourced honey.
For the contemporary kosher-keeper
Alvear Icon Hotel & Residences, Buenos Aires
Since 1932, the Alvear Palace Hotel has stood as one of the most luxurious grandes dames in the New World. The brand added a second property, the Alvear Art Hotel, in 2013, and now it has a third, with the debut last June of the Alvear Icon Hotel & Residences. Set in a jagged glass tower on the banks of the Río de la Plata in the upscale Puerto Madero neighborhood, the hotel features 159 rooms and suites with arabescato marble wall accents and French and Italian fabrics, as well as South America's first fine-dining glatt kosher restaurant, Glitter, and a kosher dairy bar, Milk & Co.
To celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month — recognized nationwide from September 15 to October 15 — we're highlighting the extraordinary impact of Hispanic Americans on our nation, starting close to home with our more than 13,000 Hispanic colleagues at United.
As part of our festivities, we're showcasing the stories of a few of our Hispanic employees, who were nominated by their colleagues as rock stars. In addition to their personal or professional achievements, these employees were selected because of the significant contributions they've made to United by going above and beyond to help our customers, their fellow colleagues, and the communities we serve, thrive. Whether donating their time volunteering for a worthy cause, leveraging their unique perspective to address a critical business challenge or helping foster an inclusive culture, they make United a better place to work. Let's get to know them better here.
Captain Gabriel (Gabe) Vaisman, based in Houston, has been part of the United family for over 34 years. As a native of Argentina who immigrated to the U.S. with his family at a young age, Gabe faced multiple challenges during his school years, including financial struggles and learning a new language. However, with discipline and determination, and even working two jobs in high school, he was able to obtain his commercial pilot's license and multi-engine rating at the age of 18. He quickly moved up the ladder and landed his first job at United in 1985, where he continued to move up and became a captain for our Boeing 737 fleet 22 years ago. When he is not busy flying customer to their destinations, you can find Gabe visiting children hospitals as part of his volunteering efforts with the Pilots For Kids organization in Houston. For the past 14 months, he has also served on the board of Lone Star College, acting as an advisor for their professional pilot degree program and inspiring a new generation of pilots.
Gabe pictured at a lecture at Lone Star College (LSC), with LSC students, and at one of our recent events for Girls in Aviation Day.
"All the volunteer work I do has helped change one life at a time, and I hope that my career story inspires anyone who feels hopeless with no way out of their current situation. The message I always try to leave with young people is that no matter what career you choose, you will have to sacrifice time and maybe give up a few good times with your friends to accomplish what you are pursuing."
Vania Montero Wit
The daughter of Bolivian immigrants, Vania earned her law degree from Harvard University and joined United's legal department 20 years ago. Throughout the years, Vania Montero Wit has advanced to become one of the key leaders of United's legal department as vice president and deputy general counsel. As one of the highest-ranking Latinas at United, Vania represents a crack in the glass ceiling for Hispanic women in corporate America. Despite the heavy demands of her job, Vania is very generous with her time, serving as executive sponsor for uIMPACT, a business resource group supporting women at United, and has given career advice to employees as a panelist for UNITE, United Airlines multi-cultural business resource group. She has made a positive impact in the community as Chair of the legal department's Pro Bono and Community Service Committee, where she even took on and won an asylum case. Vania's compassion for others and continued support of the company's diversity-and-inclusion initiatives make her a role model for both Hispanics and non-Hispanics alike.
Vania (center) speaking at a leadership event at United.
" As a working Latina woman, I strive to be a role model for any and all who are working in a corporate environment and struggling to find their voice or simply looking to make connections and expand their network. My long tenure at United has afforded me a range of experiences and teaching moments all of which I am happy to share with others."
Katherine Gil Mejia
Katherine Gil Mejia is a human resources representative for United Ground Services in at New York/Newark. A native of the Dominican Republic who moved to the U.S. only 8 years ago, she joined United shortly after at the young age of 19. With her work ethic and drive, she quickly became a go-to-person for many departments offering assistance or guidance when needed. Katherine never hesitates to step in and translate for customers or colleagues that are struggling with a language barrier, and she does so while providing amazing customer service. Katherine's knowledge of United — as well as her caring and friendly personality — have earned her the trust and respect of her colleagues. Katherine also has a passion for helping others, giving back, and making a difference in the community. She always offers to volunteer during United Airlines Fantasy Flights, and when she can, she also takes the time to bring Ben Flying bears to kids at hospitals.
Katherine in Newark.
"I know the language barrier for some employees can play a role in potential miscommunication. I often put myself in their shoes and try to relate. My upbringing in Dominican Republic taught me to work and trust my neighbors, community and family. It was natural to bring that trust mentality into work with my colleagues and employees. I believe that is what makes me successful in HR."
Antonio (Tony) Valentin has been working as a ramp service employee at Chicago O'Hare for three years. He's earned the respect of his colleagues by going above and beyond and always stepping in to help both colleagues and customers alike. It's not rare to find him around the terminal translating for Spanish-speaking customers and helping them find their ways to their gates. Tony's caring personality shines beyond the airport in all the volunteering work he does in the local community, especially in the Chicago Humboldt Park area, and in the work he has done as lieutenant commander in the U.S. Coast Guard, including his deployment to Puerto Rico where he assisted with relief effort after Hurricane Maria.
Antonio at Chicago O'Hare.
"I've always had a passion for helping people and I truly believe that being a good person is equal to being successful. As a prior educator, I am always encouraging members of RSE (ramp service employees) to return to school and to live their lives as lifelong learners."
Sylvia Gomez is the daughter of Mexican immigrant parents that moved to the U.S. in 1960. At the age of 5, her family moved back to Mexico so they could build strong connections with their heritage and culture. They eventually returned to the U.S. in pursuit of a better education, as her father believed that education was the key to success. The move back to the U.S. was not easy, but it gave Sylvia the opportunity to understand two different cultures, which has been instrumental in her career. She recently celebrated 30 years at United, where she currently serves as managing director of IT Infrastructure Program Management. Sylvia has been making a mark in the company with her efforts to pass forward her experience and knowledge, and she spends a great amount of her time mentoring United employees. She is currently mentoring five young women, and she also makes sure to stay in touch with previous mentees to make sure they are still on a path toward success. She is also an active participant on the planning committee for a Women in Technology group and volunteers with Junior Achievement USA, mostly working with inner-city high school students.
Sylvia (center) pictured with Digital Products managing director, Francisco Trejo and Security Technology managing director, Diego Souza at the HITEC San Jose Summit.
"Always look for people that have been there and learn from them. And, always look to see who you can help. Never underestimate the power of having people around you. Have the confidence to take risks and celebrate your successes."
Carlos Palacio, a lead customer service representative in Houston, has been part of the United family for 20 years. When speaking to Carlos, you can clearly see how passionate he is about his job and about United, and embracing his Cuban heritage has been instrumental in delivering excellent customer service at the airport. He even takes extra time with Hispanic customers that cannot speak English, making sure they have all their travel documents and that they have all they need for their journeys. On his spare time, the new father often travels to Latin American countries like Colombia and Cuba to visit children's hospitals and to donate schools supplies for children in need. Seeing the smiles of the little kids he helps keeps Carlos motivated and pushes him to continue his efforts to help others.
Carlos pictured in the cockpit of a United aircraft (left) as well as donating school supplies to children (right).
"I want young people to know that this is a great country … to go to school and make a career and pay attention to mom and dad who want the best for them, and one more thing, never forget we are all human. My culture is very fundamental in my job. I help people every day who need help in Spanish. Speaking Spanish at work helps many of our customers."
Roberto Hernandez was born and raised in Puerto Rico. His passion for travel and customer service ultimately led him to the airline industry four years ago, when he joined United as a flight attendant. Roberto worked as a purser for a while, displaying excellent leadership skills and customer service. He now works as a base supervisor at New York/Newark and is also the local chapter director for EQUAL, a business resource group at United. In his role at EQUAL, Roberto has been focused on fostering diversity and inclusion at United, especially for the LGBTQ+ community. In fact, he recently played a great role organizing this year's company celebration of Pride in New York and was there front and center representing our company in Pride Live's Stonewall Day on World Pride. Roberto really values his heritage and culture, and is very proud of where he comes from, which is why he did not hesitate to help with the relief efforts in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.
Roberto, posing in the engine of one of United's aircraft.
"I bring my true, authentic self to work each day, ready to assist in whatever way I can. When I say 'true, authentic self' I mean the person I was raised to be. A kind, caring and patient individual who is ready to assist in any way I can. I think the most important piece is to respect each other and to learn from one another. Be proud of who you are, no matter where you're from. We're all different, but if we all integrate together we can make things happen. That's what I love about United. We're doing that."
In their own distinct way, these rock stars exemplify the many ways our company is enriched by our differences and unique journeys. When we create an environment where people feel valued, this influences how we treat one another and our customers across the globe. In the words of our chief executive officer, Oscar Muñoz: "This month is also an opportunity for us to think about our efforts to build bridges between cultures and communicate authentically to all the communities we serve," he said. "By becoming more culturally aware, we can be more effective ambassadors for United's values around the world and embody them in the way we serve our customers and one another."
We hope you're as inspired by this group of dedicated, passionate and talented rock stars as we are.
Yirlany Moya, a United aircraft move team employee in Los Angeles, is nothing if not an eternal optimist. Which is part of the reason why, for the longest time, she wasn't too concerned about the lump that had formed in her right breast. It couldn't be serious, she reasoned. After all, she was young and healthy.
One afternoon, while talking with her neighbor Cari, Moya joked about the "little ball," as she called it. Cari shot her a serious look and urged her friend to get it checked out. Moya's sister, Joscelyn, did the same after hearing about the lump, but, for weeks, Moya stubbornly refused.
"I kept telling them, 'It's not cancer, stop being negative.'"
Finally, the pestering got to her and Moya called her mom, Esther, who is a retired nurse, for advice. Over the phone, Esther told her daughter not to worry, but talked her into coming to Costa Rica, where she was living, so that they could see a doctor together just in case.
There, a physician examined Moya. When he finished, he asked her to get dressed and meet him in his office. With a grave expression on his face, he said there was a fairly significant chance the mass was cancerous. Her mother broke down in tears, but Moya took the news in stride, not yet ready to consider the worst-case possibilities. It wasn't until she was back in Los Angeles a few days later, after a mammogram and ultrasound confirmed that she had stage-3 cancer, that reality set in.
In March of 2017, Moya underwent a double mastectomy, followed by a difficult three months of chemotherapy. By that fall, she was cancer free, but she wasn't physically able to return to work until October 2018. When she did finally get back to the airport, it was a welcome return to normalcy and a long-awaited reunion with her colleagues, many of whom are like family to Moya after 23 years with the airline.
They welcomed her back with open arms and she, in turn, talked openly about her cancer with them, hoping that it might help someone else. There's nothing wrong with assuming the positive, Moya says, but she tells other women to get checked out immediately if they notice a lump or anything else out of the ordinary. She also reminds them of the importance of yearly mammograms. And recently, when her supervisor was diagnosed with a form of cancer, she guided him through his treatments with encouragement and advice.
Sometimes, she's certain that she went through her ordeal so that she could be a beacon for others in that way. If that's the case, she feels it was worth it. Cancer gave her an ironclad resolve to spread goodness and hope. Her tattoos say it all: Inked across her chest, where her breasts once were, is an anatomically correct heart wrapped in bright pink swirls, with the words "Life doesn't allow you to be weak." On her right calf is a cancer awareness ribbon, with splotches of pink exploding out of it, symbolic of Moya's unbridled joy, which stems from her feeling of unending gratitude.
Moya's Tattoo across her chest: "Life doesn't allow you to be weak."
"I'm in a good place in my life," Moya says today, two years removed from her last round of chemotherapy. "I have a great job, and I'm blessed with a great family and great support system. I wake up every day and give thanks to God. I think there was a bigger purpose for what I went through. Ask me what it is, and I can take a guess, but I haven't figured it out yet. One day, though, I know the dots will connect."
Ask someone to name their favorite thing about fall and you'll likely get a different answer depending on where they live. For many people, the mosaic of vibrantly colored leaves and foliage is what defines the months of September through mid-December. Others find the scent of autumnal spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and turmeric is what makes the fall so special. And for some, it's the cooler temperatures that make being outside even more enjoyable. Plus, fall is full of fun activities no matter where you are — from pumpkin patches and apple picking to watching football and enjoying a bowl of chili. All of these things, and more, make the fall so magical. To help you celebrate the season, here are seven fall-themed activities to try this year.
Go apple picking
Apple picking combines outdoor fun with delicious and healthy snacks that can be used in a variety of ways, making it the perfect fall activity for adults and children of all ages. Though you'll find countless orchards around the country worth visiting this season, New England is widely considered a prime apple picking destination with over 120 varieties found in the region. It can be argued that the variety they are best known for is the McIntosh apple. This type of apple and many more can be found at Honey Pot Hill Orchards in the lovely town of Stow, Massachusetts, so be sure to stop in and take home a bushel that you pluck from the trees yourself. Picking times are from 9 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. daily, making it easy to schedule a trip.
Meanwhile in California, apple season runs until the end of November, giving you plenty of time to pick a few baskets of Red Delicious or Gala apples before winter. Riley's at Los Rios Rancho in the city of Yucaipa is one of the largest farms of its kind in Southern California and has been welcoming apple pickers to their 10,000-tree farm for more than 100 years.
Visit a pumpkin patch
If there was a fall mascot, it would be a pumpkin, so to celebrate the true essence of the season, it's hard to beat a trip to a colorful pumpkin patch. A pumpkin patch is more than just a place to find the perfect candidate for this year's prize-winning jack-o'-lantern, it's a wonderful way to create cherished new memories with your children or friends. The Great Pumpkin Farm in Clarence, New York, is perfect for pumpkin picking, but also offers weekend activities throughout the fall, including scarecrow making lessons, cider brewing demonstrations, pumpkin pie eating contests, and live music and barbecues.
If you're traveling through the Midwest this season, hop aboard a vintage farm wagon at Polly's Pumpkin Patch in Chilton, Wisconsin, and make your way out into their scenic fields where you can pick as many pumpkins as you want. Other activities at Polly's include a livestock petting zoo, a 40-foot slide and a popular corn cannon that lets older kids launch corn cobs at targets for cash prizes.
Enjoy a harvest festival
An annual tradition in America that dates back to 1613, harvest festivals are outdoor celebrations that coincide with the growing and reaping seasons we all enjoy. Filled with food, fun, music and dance, you haven't truly experienced the wonder of the fall season until you've participated in a local harvest fest. The good news is that there are plenty to choose from around the country this year. Two of the most popular are the Autumn at the Arboretum festival in Dallas, Texas, which runs until October 31, and the incredible North Carolina Pecan Harvest Festival in Whiteville, North Carolina, which ends on November 3. Both of these festivals have been drawing huge crowds for years.
For a harvest fest that's slightly spookier, head to Wisconsin where you'll find the classic Jack O' Lantern Days celebration in the cozy town of Fish Creek, and the Halloween-themed Zombie Days festival on the coast of Chequamegon Bay. Ghoulish activities include an undead musical show, a zombie pub crawl and a traditional harvest festival pumpkin parade. The scary fun lasts from October 26 through October 27.
Hit the trails
Hiking is more than just great exercise; it's an excellent way to bring the whole family together during the fall. And since the leaves are changing colors, it's also a great way to snap some incredible nature photos. So lace up your hiking boots, grab your kids and your camera, and find a trail that's right for you. If you're looking for suggestions, Sterling Point Trail in Vermont and Rome Point Trail in Rhode Island are impossible to beat when it comes to picturesque fall hiking.
On the opposite side of the country, the trails at Dry Creek Falls in Portland, Oregon, were voted one of the most photogenic hiking spots on the west coast by BuzzFeed, and it's easy to see why once you've been there. Covering a distance of just over 4 miles, this beautiful trail is perfect for all skill levels, making it a solid choice for families with kids.
Roll in the hay
Hayrides and corn mazes are traditional fall activities that have never gone out of style, and for very good reason. There's just something wonderfully nostalgic about introducing a new generation of children to the simple pleasures of wandering through an overgrown corn maze, and with so many participating farms scattered across the country, there's a plethora of options to choose from. The Johnny Appleseed corn maze at Shady Brook Farm in Yardley, Pennsylvania, and the popular horse-drawn hayride at Papa's Pumpkin Patch in Bismarck, North Dakota, are two of the best.
In honor of Halloween, the massive haunted hayride at Fear Farm in Phoenix, Arizona, brings an assortment of ghosts, goblins and ghouls to life from early October until the first week in November. Filled with sinister special effects, creepy costumes and macabre makeup, this Hollywood-worthy hayride is recommended for adults and children over the age of 12. With five terrifying corn mazes to choose from, Fear Farm certainly lives up to its name!
Up, up and away
Hot air ballooning during the fall is a dazzling way to experience the season in all its natural splendor. After all, how else can you get a spectacular birds-eye view of the colorful trees as their leaves change from green to golden orange? Balloons Over Letchworth, located near New York's Letchworth State Park, offers astonishing views of the surrounding area, including majestic waterfalls and stunning forests. Best of all, they offer a variety of family tour packages, so you'll find just what you're looking for, regardless of the size of your group.
If you're visiting Southern California's wine region this fall, reserve a balloon ride with the fine folks at California Dreamin'. Their friendly FAA commercial licensed pilots will take you and your family on an unforgettable balloon voyage high above the vineyards of Temecula wine country.
Pitch a tent
Though typically associated with summer, in many ways the fall is truly the best time of year to go camping. Thanks to the cooler weather, there are few — if any — insects to bother you and your family. Plus, there are less people claiming all the best spots, so you should have no problem picking a prime location to pitch your tent. And when it comes to toasting marshmallow for s'mores over an open campfire, everyone agrees that they simply taste better when eaten on a brisk autumn night.
For the ultimate fall camping trip, book a spot at Earth First Farms in southwest Michigan and set up your tent in an actual organic apple orchard. The 49-acre farm provides campers with complimentary firewood and plenty of fresh produce to pick.