We are revitalizing our route network with more destinations, more flights and more convenient connections for customers in both domestic and international markets. Four U.S. cities, including three in the Midwest, will open their gates for the first time to United Airlines travelers from June through August. Flights will begin service on June 8 to Champaign-Urbana, Illinois; Rochester, Minnesota; and Santa Rosa (Sonoma County), California. United connections to Columbia, Missouri, will begin on August 1.
Don't let their sizes fool you — there's plenty to do in these midsize cities.
When you step off of the plane in Champaign-Urbana in central Illinois, you'll be stepping onto University of Illinois property, which owns the airport. This is fitting because nearly all of the Champaign County's top attractions have a connection to the university of 45,000 students, which boasts 647 buildings on a seven-square-mile campus stretching across Champaign and Urbana. After visiting the iconic Alma Mater statue and adjacent bell tower in Altgeld Hall, sports fans will want to see the 60,000-capacity Memorial Stadium, where the Fighting Illini have won 15 Big Ten titles, and the State Farm Center, home to 17 Big Ten men's basketball titles. Nature lovers can stroll through the university's arboretum, notable for its Japan House and Japanese tea garden, and art lovers will appreciate the extensive collection at the university's Krannert Art Museum.
Minnesota's third-largest city, Rochester, is tucked in the state's southeast corner and is best known for the renowned Mayo Clinic. It isn't surprising that a city known for its hospital was ranked by USA Today in 2016 as America's healthiest city, determined by the quality and length of residents' lives. Visitors can enjoy a slice of that high quality of life by hiking the trails at Quarry Hill Park, known to be the “jewel" of the Rochester Park system, or Silver Lake Park, where renting a canoe is a summertime option. In the winter, you can snowshoe in these parks or skate at any of its eight outdoor rinks. The city's unique attraction is the Mayowood Mansion, part of the History Center of Olmstead County, where you can tour the palatial estate and gardens of the co-founder of the famed hospital.
Columbia, home of the University of Missouri, is undoubtedly a college town. But this city in the middle of the “Show Me State" has more to show than a 32,000-student campus with an array of historic 19th-century buildings. Locals are also delighted to show off the parks nearby. At Columbia's Stephens Lake Park, you can ice skate or ice fish on the lake in the winter and enjoy swimming in the summer. At the 2,200-acre Rock Bridge Memorial State Park, you can follow a boardwalk path beside an underground stream — one of several unusual geologic features. On “indoor" days, you can step inside the free and recently renovated Museum of Art and Archaeology, which displays everything from 2,500-year-old Greek pottery to works by Andy Warhol.
Santa Rosa, California
Some time ago, people started referring to America's most famous wine region as “Napa-Sonoma" rather than “Napa Valley." Today it's too hard to ignore the abundant wineries of Sonoma County, as they've achieved the same acclaim as their Napa County counterparts.
Santa Rosa, a city of 175,000, is in the heart of Sonoma County and within a half-hour drive of Carneros, Sonoma Valley, Sonoma Coast, Russian River Valley and Dry Creek Valley appellations. Each one has dozens of wineries with daily tastings, and some offer daily tours. If you favor beer over wine, there's something for you too. The renowned Russian River Brewing Company calls Santa Rosa home and serves up delightful suds to a healthy mix of tourists and locals in their lively taproom. Between winery or taproom visits, you can stop at the Charles Schulz Museum, a charming spot for all ages. The “Peanuts" cartoonist was so beloved in the county that the airport is named the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport.
If you go
United Airlines offers three daily flights connecting Champaign-Urbana's Willard Airport and Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, three daily flights connecting Rochester International Airport with Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, two daily flights connecting Columbia Regional Airport with Chicago's O'Hare International Airport and three daily flights connecting Sonoma County Airport with San Francisco International Airport. Visit united.com or use the United app to plan your visit.