Doing Our Part to #SheddTheStraw - United Hub
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Doing our part to #SheddTheStraw

By United Airlines , September 06, 2018

You may think that foregoing a single plastic straw won't effect change, but small actions can lead to big changes. That's why we are eliminating non-recyclable plastic stirring sticks and cocktail picks on our aircraft, and replacing them with an environmentally-friendly alternative made out of bamboo. Starting in early November, you'll see these items onboard our planes. It's a small, but meaningful step to help minimize the impact plastic products have on our environment.

With 8.8 billion tons of plastic in our oceans, our collective efforts have the ability to go a long way. Plastic products can take up to 22 years to degrade and even then aren't ever completely gone, as plastics are not fully biodegradable. And we're not just stopping there. The elimination of plastic stirring sticks and cocktail picks is just one part of a larger initiative we're taking here at United. We recycle aluminum cans, paper including newspapers and magazines, and plastic products onboard our planes. These efforts are part of our company-wide commitment to operating sustainably and responsibly. We're also evaluating more sustainable options for our onboard catering operations beyond our current partnership with brands that are committed to sustainable practices like illy coffee, which we proudly serve onboard our planes and in United Clubs℠ and lounges.

Additionally, we're partnering with the Shedd Aquarium in our hometown of Chicago, whose goal is to spark compassion, curiosity and conservation for the aquatic animal world, and which is doing its part to help animals and protect our waters through their #SheddTheStraw campaign. "We've partnered with Shedd Aquarium for over 30 years and we're proud to do our part to #SheddTheStraw and help conserve our oceans from excessive plastic waste," said Catering Operations Vice President, Charlean Gmunder.

Join us and the Shedd Aquarium to #SheddTheStraw.

"We are thrilled to work with United Airlines to reduce single-use plastic items used globally, which often pollute waterways and can harm wildlife," said Cheryl Mell, Senior Vice President, Conservation Partnerships and Programs. "United's commitment to Shedd the Straw by removing plastic stirrer sticks and cocktail picks is a shining example that plastic comes in different shapes and we can all be part of the solution to reduce our plastic footprint. A supporter of Shedd for 30 years, United's leadership toward environmentally-friendly business operations brings a positive impact that extends worldwide."

It's easy to go about our daily lives forgetting every little bit helps when it comes to protecting our environment. Here are a few things you can do to help when traveling:

  • Bring along a refillable bottle to use while you travel. Remember to fill it up once you have gone through security
  • Make sure to recycle any paper products like old magazines or newspapers
  • Separate your garbage items from your recyclable items until collected by a flight attendant
  • Use our United mobile app instead of a paper boarding pass

For more information on our commitment to the environment, visit our United Eco-Skies® page.

Recognizing our commitment to LGBTQ+ with Stonewall Ambassador Program induction

By The Hub team

On June 28, we became the first public company to be inducted into Pride Live's Stonewall Ambassador program in recognition of our commitment to LGBTQ+ equality. From being the first U.S. airline to fully recognize domestic partnerships in 1999, to becoming the first U.S. airline to offer non-binary gender options throughout all booking channels earlier this year, we continue to thrive in our efforts toward equality and inclusivity.

The honor took place in New York at Pride Live's Stonewall Day on World Pride, a celebration for the 50thanniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Riots that served as a catalyst for the gay rights movement. We served as one of the presenting sponsors of the day that included a live outdoor concert produced by iHeartMedia NewYork.

"We recognize, embrace and celebrate the individualism that makes our customers and employees unique," said Jill Kaplan, President of New York/New Jersey. "We have long believed it's important to support the LGBTQ+ community by upholding inclusive policies and practices and are honored to be the first public company recognized as a Stonewall Ambassador from Pride Live along with an extraordinary group of trailblazers."

Kaplan represented United at the induction ceremony along with members of EQUAL, our business resource group for LGBTQ+ and ally colleagues. Fellow new inductees this year are Hillary Rodham Clinton; Donatella Versace, Chief Artistic Director of Versace; Bozoma Saint John, Chief Marketing Officer of William Morris Endeavor; Conchita WURST, global LGBTQ+ activist and recording artist; Stuart Vevers Executive Creative Director of Coach and Samira Wiley, activist and actor. The new ambassadors join current members such as Chelsea Clinton; Laverene Cox, actress and advocate; Anna Wintour, Editor-in-Chief of Vogue and more.

United employees pose in front of the United Airlines banner at the Stonewall induction ceremony in New York

"I cried on stage when Jill was speaking," said Newark Liberty International Airport Flight Attendant Kayleigh Scott. "To be standing up there with my colleagues and looking out to the crowd where thousands of people from all different backgrounds came together to celebrate love was an overwhelming feeling."

"I never thought 20 years ago I would ever be comfortable being out, let alone at work," said United Safety Management and Systems Programs Senior Manager and Stonewall Day attendee Keith Ellis. "To be at a company who is at the forefront of our community — of being a leader of change and acceptance not just through our words, but our actions is a humbling and an indescribable feeling. I'm honored and happy to be here today, among so many iconic people and changemakers."

"We are pleased to welcome United Airlines as a Stonewall Ambassador and grateful for their support of Stonewall Day, which brings multi-generational LGBTQ+ communities and allies together to actively advance the Stonewall legacy and fight for full LGBTQ+ equality," said Diana Rodriguez, Founder of Pride Live.

Prior to the concert, the group walked the red carpet among the stars that included Whoopi Goldberg, Donatella, Cyndi Lauper and more. On stage, Lady Gaga made a surprise appearance, giving an empowering speech that showed her continued appreciation and love for the LGBTQ community. To close out the festivities, it was Alicia Keys who stepped on stage as a special performer and belted out a few of her famous hits, ending with a special rendition of "New York" for Stonewall Day.

"The day was amazing," said Denver International Airport Flight Attendant Christopher Boelens. "To see United represented in such an important fashion on the 50thanniversary of Stonewall made me feel proud of where I work. The fact that all of us could be out there celebrating as friends and family was one of my favorite parts. We still have a ways to go, but I'm proud to be at a company that encourages and celebrates us for being ourselves."

Hemispheres

Louisville’s new Southern Cuisine

By The Hub team

Story by Ellen Carpenter | Photography by Scott Suchman | Hemispheres July 2019

To misquote Joni Mitchell: You don't know what you've got till you've gone. At least, that's how I feel about Kentucky.

Growing up there in the '80s and '90s, I scoffed at so-called “Kentucky food," like country ham and spoon bread. Sure, biscuits and gravy was good, and Derby-Pie (walnuts, people! Not pecans!) was tradition, but did it compare to the Ethiopian food I tried on vacation in Washington, D.C., when I was 10? Or the tiramisu I devoured in New York at 13?

I moved to New York at 22, sure I had hit the culinary jackpot. And I had. But a few years later, my mom moved from my hometown of Murray to “the big city"—Louisville—and told me that she had hit the culinary jackpot. Every time I went back to visit, she took me to a new restaurant and all but taunted “told you so" when I cleaned my plate. On my last couple of trips, what wowed me the most was how many of these restaurants were taking typical Kentucky ingredients or dishes and reinventing and elevating them in ways that no one dared when I was a kid. I realized I had to go back and investigate further (aka stuff my face).

And so here I find myself, in Louisville, a week before the Derby, pink dogwoods lining the wide streets, phlox overfilling window boxes. “You can't beat spring in Kentucky," says my mom, who, I should note, is a Londoner by way of Canada who has now lived in the Bluegrass State for 43 years. And I'm ready to eat.

Couvillion

Paul Skulas

First stop: Couvillion, a “Kentucky-Cajun" spot in Germantown that LEO Weekly, the local alt-weekly, named the city's best new restaurant of 2018. The chef, Paul Skulas, a friendly, bearded Midwesterner whose arms are blanketed with colorful tattoos, meets me before dinner service in the spacious barroom, which is decorated with old cast-iron skillets and local voodoo-inspired art. After five years in the Marine Corps, Skulas went to culinary school and cooked at a Creole fine-dining spot in Mississippi before moving to Louisville in 2012 and working at a handful of “meat and potatoes" restaurants. He opened Couvillion in April 2018, seeing a gap in the market for a Cajun spot—but, he notes, “not a cheesy, Bourbon Street concept." Instead he wanted to emulate how the Acadians would have cooked when they first arrived in Louisiana in the 1700s. “I thought about what consists of the Cajun vibe and those people taking in their surroundings and the way their mothers or families cooked, and putting a spin on those traditions," he says. “Being in Kentucky, it only makes sense for me to put spins on those same traditions the way they would if they were here."

Couvillion's eponymous catfish dish and smoked corn bread

For Skulas, that means adding country ham to the gumbo—“I put country ham in as many things as I can!"—and serving up pinto soup beans, an Appalachian standard, instead of red beans and rice. “That's the classic-heritage Kentucky thing," Skulas says. “Country ham and soup beans. You have to have that on a menu—that's Kentucky." He also swaps in catfish from Lake Barkley (right near my hometown) for his restaurant's eponymous couvillion, which itself is a play on the French dish court-bouillon and is generally made with redfish in New Orleans.

Of course, I have to try it all. I start with the smoked corn bread—the most popular dish on the menu, Skulas tells me—which is made with cold-smoked cornmeal from local organic grain supplier Louismill. The country ham lends the gumbo a smokiness that beautifully cuts through the roux, and the catfish holds its own in the rich and tomatoey couvillion. I also try the duck creole with ricotta dumplings, Skulas's Cajun take on chicken and dumplings, because, well, how could I not? I leave with a newfound respect for local Kentucky ingredients—and enough take-out boxes to feed my mom for a week.

“Being in Kentucky, it only makes sense for me to put spins on those traditions"

Boujie Biscuit

Cyndi Joyner

I somehow wake up hungry the next day, and I know exactly where to go: Boujie Biscuit, a new spot on Frankfort Avenue. Here, Brooklyn transplant Cyndi Joyner takes that heavenly Southern staple, the buttermilk biscuit, and piles it high with any combo of savory or sweet toppings you can imagine. "I decided to use the biscuit as a vehicle to introduce people to other foods from around the world," says Joyner, whose bracelets match the copper-colored font on her Boujie Biscuit T-shirt. She credits her creative palate to her melting-pot Brooklyn childhood, Southern grandparents, and time living in Prague and traveling around Europe. Her Euro Biscuit is topped with the Hungarian stew lecsó, and she's debating adding a chicken tikka masala biscuit and an African peanut stew biscuit to the ever-growing menu. "If you can throw it on something that people are already familiar with just to give it a little twist, then it doesn't look so foreign," she says, leading me over to a couch at the front of the laid-back space. "I kind of feel like I'm being sneaky in a way! Some people think they may not be adventurous, but the spices that I use are not necessarily found at Kroger."

A breakfast biscuit at Boujie Biscuit

“I use the biscuit as a vehicle to introduce people to other foods from around the world."

I can't help myself and go straight Southern, choosing The Gravy Train on Fire, which consists of “cluckin' hot" chicken chunks and sausage gravy heaped over a flaky biscuit about the size of my head. Joyner laughs when I prove incapable of finishing our interview because I can't stop eating. “This is the part where I walk away while you take a huge bite," she says, grinning. After helping a slew of hungry customers, including two women celebrating Administrative Professionals Day (“So the whole office is getting Boujie Biscuit!" shouts one woman as she does a little dance of joy), Joyner rejoins me on the couch. She tells me she chose to open up in Louisville after visiting and liking the city's “funky" vibe. “People aren't afraid to experiment," she says. “I think this place fits right in."

Seviche

Anthony Lamas

After a long walk along the waterfront to burn off the sausage gravy (it pains me that I was too full to finish that biscuit), I meet up with Anthony Lamas, a mainstay of the Louisville food scene. He opened his restaurant, Seviche, in the Highlands in 2005 and has been winning accolades for his creativity and flair ever since. Seviche's tagline—“Inspired by heritage. Influenced by locality."—couldn't be more accurate or, for Lamas, more natural. He was raised in California by a Puerto Rican dad and a Mexican mom and cooked at a resort in San Diego before making the move to Louisville in 1994. “I didn't know about Southern things, like country ham, sorghum, or grits. " he tells me, sitting on a leather couch in the restaurant's event space. “But I just started to adapt my flavor profiles to them. It was a natural marriage, because we do use a lot of the same ingredients, just in different ways. You know: corn bread, corn tortillas; grits, pozole. So I fell in love with what was here."

The Tuna Old Fashioned at Seviche

His menu pairs grits with roasted poblanos and manchego cheese; tuna ceviche is marinated in bourbon and Bluegrass Soy Sauce (from local company Bourbon Barrel Foods); and empanadas are filled with Kentucky bison. When Lamas tried pawpaws (a custardy, mango-like fruit) from a neighbor's tree for the first time, he realized they'd be great in flan. But whatever you do, don't call his food fusion. “I don't like that word," he says, grimacing and adjusting his white frame glasses. “I call it confusion. It's bad. People are always like, 'Are you Latin fusion?' No, no, no, no. I'm a Latino chef in Kentucky, and my restaurant's influenced by that. My food changed because Kentucky changed me, because it introduced me to so many things that I didn't know. For a chef, that's exciting, right?"

What I eat that night is beyond exciting. The Kentucky Hot Brown empanadas, filled with chunks of turkey and served with a jalapeño Mornay sauce and pico de gallo, make me rethink the quintessential Louisville dish, a broiled open-face sandwich created at the Brown Hotel in 1926. Even my cocktail, the Best Boy, is a cultural mash-up, pairing bourbon with Aztec chocolate bitters. (“If you don't like it," my waiter, Benjamin, tells me, “I'll finish it for you." Nice try, Ben.) The Tuna Old Fashioned ceviche comes in an old-fashioned glass, naturally, and explodes with flavor. My main is a special that night: a sous vide beef tenderloin topped with ramp butter and served over mashed red potatoes. A chipotle country ham demi-glace seals the deal. I somehow refrain from licking my plate. When I leave (OK, after also eating the flan with chili-spiced peanut brittle), I'm reminded of something Lamas told me earlier: “I always say what 'mi casa es su casa' is to Latinos, 'Southern hospitality' is to the South."

“My food changed because Kentucky changed me."

V-Grits

Kristina J. Addington

For lunch the next day, I try something even more foreign to Kentuckians: vegan food. Last October, not far from Seviche, Kristina J. Addington opened V-Grits with the aim of serving vegan versions of her favorite Kentucky classics. She grew up in nearby Shelby County, where her mom would make Hot Browns weekly. “All of our food had meat in it—even bacon in the green beans," she says, sitting at a two-top in the bright, airy space, rainbow earrings complementing her Rainbow Brite tattoo and orange-dyed hair. Thirteen years ago, she became vegan, and after five years working for PETA, she started wholesaling her homemade vegan baked goods to natural food stores in Louisville. She won an episode of Food Network's Cutthroat Kitchen in 2014 and, with her earnings, started a food truck. Last year she partnered with False Idol Brewery to open a brick-and-mortar location.

The Vegan Hot Brown at V-Grits

I ask whether she was worried about finding an audience here, and she shakes her head. “Southern food was what I grew up on, and I knew that was the easiest way I was going to win people over," she says. “I think fresh, healthy food is very important, but people around here are used to stick-to-your-ribs comfort food, so that's why we specialize in that." More than half of her restaurant's customers aren't vegan, she says; they just like the food: five kinds of loaded mac 'n' cheese, chicken-fried mushroom wings, a breakfast skillet with grits, hash browns, and baked beans…

Knowing that Addington used to have a weekly Hot Brown habit, I have to try her vegan take. It's served in a cast-iron skillet with vegan cheese grits, a housemade biscuit, vegan turkey, “gouda" béchamel made with coconut milk, and “bacon" bits made with seasoned and roasted coconut shreds. It's decadent and utterly comforting. My glass of False Idol's kombucha provides the perfect zing.

“For me, growing up with the typical Southern family, food is what brings you together," Addington says. “Regardless of what you're eating, it's that feeling of security and comfort. You eat good mac 'n' cheese and you think of being at your grandmother's house when you're five and her making that. Comfort food gives you that sentimental memory of being with your family around the dinner table."

“Southern food is what I grew up on, and I knew that was the easiest way I was going to win people over"

610 Magnolia

Edward Lee

On that note, I ask my mom to join me for my last meal out—at Old Louisville's 610 Magnolia, probably the local restaurant with the highest national profile. Chef Edward Lee was nominated for an Emmy in 2014 for his role in PBS's The Mind of a Chef, and this spring his second book, Buttermilk Graffiti, won the James Beard Foundation Award for writing.

In the book, Lee, a Korean-American who grew up in Brooklyn, challenges the idea of authentic Southern cooking. “I always ask myself, What South are you talking about?" he writes. “Pre-colonial South? Plantation South? Post-colonial? Post–Civil Rights movement? Paula Deen's South? The immigrant South? All are part of the complicated history of the South. None can claim a true authenticity."

Way beef tongue two ways with daikon pancake, sauerkraut kimchi, and gochujang at 610 Magnolia

That's something Lee learned when he moved to Louisville in 2002. He started cooking at 610 Magnolia (taking it over in 2003), at first making regional foods out of necessity, “because I couldn't get tamarind and I couldn't get lemongrass," he tells me. But then bits of his family's Korean cooking traditions started seeping into his dishes. “If you love Korean food but you happen to live in the South, sooner or later you're going to mix the two," he says. “It's inevitable. Because you're like, Oh, I wanna make this pork dish, but I don't have what I really want. Well, what's around me?" He had collard greens for the first time and realized they would be great for kimchi; he started doing a Southern-style dim sum special that ended up being the impetus for his second restaurant, MilkWood. Meanwhile, he notes, “more immigrants moved in, and now there's more of an international presence. So it works both ways: The immigrant food becomes more Kentuckyfied in a way, and the Kentucky food becomes more global in a way. With local food and global food, it's not a line in the sand. That's the place that's most exciting for me: where things crossover, overlap, and mix."

My four-course tasting menu does just that. There's miso-chicken-liver mousse with benne seed crackers; beef tongue with a daikon pancake and sauerkraut kimchi; delicately cooked halibut with buttermilk, navy beans, ramps, and bok choy. Dessert, the Bourbon Aficionado, ends up being the showstopper. Our waiter removes the slate tile covering the serving dish and bourbon-barrel smoke rolls out, immediately transporting me to a campfire at my childhood friend's property by Kentucky Lake. My mom has the exact same thought, and we laugh as we dig in, scooping up bites of banana cake, freeze-dried corn, butterscotch, brown-butter ice cream, and Pappy Van Winkle maple syrup—“everything you find in bourbon," our waiter notes. We each sip a cocktail made of Michter's rye and ruby port, savoring our last bites and our time together. “Go ahead and say it," I tell Mom, shaking my head. “Told you so!" she sing-songs, and then adds, “Does this mean you'll come visit more often?"

“With local food and global food, it's not a line in the sand"

Thinking back on everything I've eaten over the last three days—and knowing how much more there is to try—the answer is obviously yes. As Lee writes in Buttermilk Graffiti, “In order for any cuisine to evolve it has to be passed on to people who have not lived the authentic life from which it germinated." And, as I've learned, in order to appreciate the cuisine and ingredients you grew up with, maybe you have to go away for a while and come back with an open mind—and an empty stomach.

The Lee Initiative

Edward Lee and Lindsey Ofcacek were brainstorming a mentorship program for their two-year-old LEE (Let's Empower Employment) Initiative when the #MeToo moment hit the restaurant world, at the end of 2017. “We were like, This is terrible, but for every bad chef there are 100 good ones," says Ofcacek, the executive director of the Initiative and the wine director for 610 Magnolia. “We wanted to find a way for young women in the industry to go and work with great chefs."
Last year, they launched the Women Chefs Initiative, a six-month program that pairs five budding female chefs from Kentucky, Cincinnati, and Southern Indiana with female-led restaurant groups across the country. The program culminates with a dinner at the James Beard House in New York, where the women cook their own food alongside Lee. “That partnership is invaluable, because every young chef dreams of cooking at the Beard House," says Ofcacek, adding that it was emotional for the first class of women last summer: “At the end, they were all weeping." This year's mentors include Nina Compton, the chef-owner of Compère Lapin in New Orleans, and Mindy Segal, the pastry chef behind Chicago's Mindy's Hot Chocolate. Lee notes that last year's class is also invested in this year's mentees: “Now they're mentoring the five chefs that are in it this year," he says. “Can you imagine after five years? That's 25 chefs. That's an entire community. That can make change." leeinitiative.org
Amazing destination

From Bangkok to Koh Kood: Two weeks in the Land of Smiles

By Nick Harper

A record number of tourists visited Thailand in 2018, more than 38 million lured by the promise of heavenly beaches and glorious cuisine, historic shrines and glittering temples. Even more are expected in 2019, making Thailand the most popular travel destination in Asia. If you've already visited the "Land of Smiles," you'll understand why. If you haven't, it might be time to plan your visit.

With so much to see, do and experience, it can be hard to know where to start. But to help, we've created a first-timer's guide to Thailand, covering the key places to visit over 14 glorious days.

Wat Pho Temple in Bangkok, Thailand at sunset

Two days in Bangkok

Fly into Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK), which sits 18 miles east of the city.

What started out as a small trading center and port on the west banks of the Chao Phraya River 200 years ago is now one of the world's most densely populated cities, a land of towering skyscrapers and gleaming temples.

Venture onto the backpackers' beloved Khaosan Road to witness east and west collide. Look beyond to The Grand Palace, the Temple of Dawn and the giant reclining Buddha of Wat Pho. Slurp noodles and coconut juice among the city's floating market stalls, get ringside seats for brutal but balletic Muay Thai, and take a tuk tuk (auto rickshaw) to the astonishing Chatuchak Weekend Market, where 8,000 market stalls sell everything imaginable and more.

And if time allows, take a tour to the infamous River Kwai Bridge in Kanchanaburi, about 80 miles to the west of Bangkok. The bridge and Kanchanaburi War Cemetery offer a poignant reminder of those who lost their lives during World War II.

Two days in Bangkok works well: fly in, shake off your jet lag and familiarize yourself with a new country. Then we suggest you escape the crowds and chaos by heading north of the city.

Buddha statues in a long hallway in Phitsanulok Province, Thailand

Two days around Phitsanulok

Take a slow-but-enjoyable train ride north to Phitsanulok, the sleepy but attractive provincial capital that sits 249 miles north of Bangkok and 186 miles south of Chiang Mai. While Phitsanulok is pleasant enough for a night, the main reason to stay here is to visit the nearby UNESCO World Heritage City of Sukhothai, an hour's drive west.

The first capital of Siam, Sukhothai was the cradle of Thai civilization and is considered to be the birthplace of Thai art, architecture and language. Today it's home to a vast array of historical sites and temple ruins that will fill your phone and Instagram feed. Eat at the homely Ban Mai, stay the night at Yodia Heritage Hotel, then fly the hour north to Chiang Mai the following morning.

If you prefer to stay in Bangkok and want a similar experience, take a day trip to Ayutthaya and the ruins of the old city in Ayutthaya Historical Park. Expect larger crowds as a result of its proximity to the capital. Upon your return to Bangkok, fly the hour north to Chiang Mai.

Temple in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Three days in Chiang Mai

Around 435 miles north of Bangkok stands Thailand's second city – its name translating as 'new city'.

While Bangkok squeezes in nine million people, Chiang Mai is home to around 200,000 people, and life shuffles by at a more sedate pace here. Set in a verdant valley on the banks of the Ping River, the city was founded in 1296 as a walled city surrounded by a moat.

Today, with both city and moat remaining, past and present weave seamlessly together. The old city and temples at the city's heart retain the atmosphere of an ancient village while the new city boasts modern buildings rising up around it.

Historic temples, museums, handicraft shops and the night (and day) markets are essential stops while day-long cooking courses allow you to master several Thai specialties — and give you an excuse to slurp hot and sour soup for breakfast.

When in Chiang Mai, you really should take an adventure tour in the jungles north of the city. Elephant trekking, cycling, kayaking, white water rafting and zip-lining through the canopy of the jungle are just a few of the options, with 200-plus companies offering an adventure to suit every appetite.

After all that exertion, you may need a beach. Luckily, the paradise island of Phuket is an easy two-hour flight south.

A boat sits in the water on a beach in Phuket, Thailand

Three days in Phuket

Thailand's largest and busiest island is joined to the mainland by a bridge that supplies a steady stream of tourists, and it's easy to see why. The "Pearl of the Andaman" is the Thai island of your imagination, with the powdery-white beaches and shimmering turquoise sea you've been dreaming of, but it's also so much more.

Phuket has it all — a six-star resort with your own private butler, designer boutiques, world-class celebrity-chef restaurants and nightlife to take you from dusk until dawn. In addition, you'll find major temples, wildlife sanctuaries and national parks. Not to mention world-class diving and snorkeling at nearby Ko Similan. Phuket ticks every box and is almost everything you'd imagine it to be.

At the heart of it all is an island of staggeringly beautiful beaches. The busiest and most developed stretch are along Phuket's southwest coast at Patong, Karon and Kata, with lower key alternatives scattered further north at Layan, Surin and Bangtao, while the hidden secrets of Banana Rock and Nui Beach reward those who venture off the beaten track.

At this point you have a choice. Either stay as long on Phuket as your time allows before flying back to Bangkok, or fly five hours north-east to Trat, hop across to Koh Chang and turn the relaxation levels down even further.

White sand beach in Koh Chang, Thailand

Three days on Koh Chang

Koh Changis one of Thailand's most laid-back and relatively untouched islands. Its west coast has succumbed to development around its main beaches, but head south or along the east coast and you'll uncover a low-key experience, with small, mostly family-run hotels and guest houses, yoga and spa resorts, and traditional Thai fishing villages.

You could happily stay here forever. But if Koh Chang somehow feels too crowded, hop on a passenger-only boat to Koh Kood — a smaller, even quieter version of the island you're leaving behind. Koh Kood brings you the beaches, the mountain jungles, the low-key bungalows and the ultra-luxurious resorts, but with very few tourists to spoil your view. You won't quite have the island to yourself, it will just feel that way.

You won't want to leave, but you can't stay forever. So, to complete your vacation, we suggest you head back to where it all began.

Woman at a rooftop bar overlooking the skyline of Bangkok

One final night in Bangkok

If you are visiting Bangkok for the first time, returning for a night at the end of your vacation will allow you to appreciate the city without the jet lag or the sense of mild bewilderment. Enjoy one final night before flying out of Suvarnabhumi Airport.

When to visit:Aim for between November and early April, the driest period of the year and also the warmest, with temperatures in the upper 80s to mid 90s and up to nine hours of sunshine daily. Thailand's rainy months are between March and October. It's still beautifully warm, but you should expect sudden and often heavy rain showers. To avoid the crowds, visit between May and September, the quietest period of the year when temperatures and prices are a little lower.

United flies to Hong Kong, which can be a stepping stone to everything Thailand has to offer. From Hong Kong, you can fly with one of our Star Alliance member airlines. For more details and to start your adventure, visit united.comor use the United mobile app.

Hemispheres

Three Perfect Days: Chicago

By The Hub team

Story by Jacqueline Detwiler | Photography by Lucy Hewett | Hemispheres July 2019

A spiked riot of original architecture. A vintage boulevard where everyone speaks Spanish. The wellspring of the blues. The birthplace of house music. The way you think about Chicago depends entirely on which part of it you've been to. The city of 2.7 million on Lake Michigan manifests as a collection of neighborhoods, each one a mini ecosystem, with its complementary restaurants and public spaces, denizens and habitats. And then, in the next neighborhood, everything all over again, only this time there's a beach, and the taquerias have been replaced by German beer halls. Like the river that made it, the Windy City is different every time you set foot in it. The first time I visited Chicago, I was in awe of its surreal, hyperambitious restaurants. The second time, I was amazed by its towering, audacious buildings. The third time, a random guy invited me to his housewarming party. This is the story of the fourth time.

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Day 1

Diving into Lake Michigan

Appreciating architecture and cheering in the Cubs

I am pretty sure that if you're good in this life, when you get to the pearly gates, St. Peter hands you a kitten-soft robe from the Art Deco St. Jane hotel and says, “Here you go. This is what we all wear up here." I was set to leave my moody Victorian suite (complete with interior brass stairwell!) and start my day, but I hadn't counted on the heavenly perfection of this garment.

A room at the Art Deco St. Jane Hotel

OK, fine, I'll get coffee. The St. Jane is inside Chicago's Loop, so named for the circuit the elevated subway system (called the L) travels around it. It's about an eight-minute walk to Anish Kapoor's Cloud Gate sculpture, which locals have nicknamed “The Bean." Across from that, the cheeky Crown Fountain spits water into a reflecting pool at the edge of Millennium Park. I buy a Limitless Salted Caramel Cold Brew from Michigan Avenue's Fairgrounds Coffee and Tea, which offers kombucha, cold brew, and even nitro matcha on tap, then walk across the sinuous BP pedestrian bridge to see Lake Michigan. Its endlessness always shocks me; today it fades into mist at its far edge.

The Chicago River, seen from the St. Jane

But Chicago is not all, or even mostly, the lake. The best way to get acquainted with the city is by river, on the Chicago Architecture Foundation Center River Cruise. From the top deck of the Chicago's First Lady, downtown's high-rises loom like the cliffs of a Utah canyon. We cross under bridges with just a few feet of leeway, learning how the city came to architecturally dominate the United States. Nancy, the volunteer docent leading the tour, fills in the cracks (OK, chasms) in my architectural education: In high-rises, the term spandrel refers to the space between the window tops on one floor and the sills above; the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 crossed the river because the water was full of wooden boats; yes, Art Deco buildings do kind of look like armchairs. We learn the similarities between Bertrand Goldberg's 1963 Marina City, its lobes like the petals of a hippie's daisy pin, and his 1986 River City, a Brutalist, organic cliff dwelling. We see 150 North Riverside, the ballerina, cantilevered over the river in defiance of God and physics. If I remember even half of what Nancy says, I'll have dinner party factoids for years.

History reminds me of school, which reminds me it's lunchtime. Chicagoans can debate the merits of their favorite pizza for hours: Pequod's is puffy and caramelized; at Gino's East you can order your pie topped with a full-size sausage disc. Lou Malnati's, which operates some 56 locations in the area, is a bit touristy, but it's tasty (and ubiquitous) enough that I'm calling it in their favor. I order the Lou: spinach, garlic, basil, onion, three cheeses, mushrooms, and sliced Roma tomatoes. The classic deep-dish crust, which is yanked up the sides of the pan before going in the oven, is lighter and crispier than I remembered, the flavor deeper and more buttery. I'm a thin-crust girl at heart, but I could (unfortunately) eat a lot of these. I have to stop myself, though; I've got a game to catch.

Wrigley Field

At 105 years old, Wrigley Field is one of the last remaining prewar ballparks in the country. (The only one that's older is Boston's Fenway, at 107.) It's a true neighborhood park, with skybox-style bleacher seats topping some of the surrounding apartment buildings—but I'm headed to the cheap seats. On the way in, I pass a little boy and his sister playing an elaborate game of catch/dodgeball against one of the stadium's walls, a lemonade stand sitting forgotten behind them. I'm peckish, so I head to the Garrett Popcorn kiosk and buy the local fave, a mix of caramel and cheese, and head to my seat.

I don't quite get my Ferris Bueller moment—the only ball to make it into my section is caught by a guy a few rows over—but I do get to sing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game" during the seventh-inning stretch, following comedian Roy Wood Jr., who leads the chorus from the jumbotron. There are so many stats on the oldschool scoreboard it's almost impossible to find the score. Who's winning? Oh, the Cubs. Whew.

Comedians at iO Theater

The game ends (Cubs 6, Cardinals 5) with just enough time for me to cab down to iO Theater, on a leftover patch of land between Old Town and Ranch Triangle, to experience Chicago's storied improv scene. For this show, Whirled News Tonight, audience members are supposed to cut out their favorite articles from the day's newspapers and tack them to bulletin boards while the lights are up. I select a story about hard times falling on Canada's maple syrup industry, then sit back and order some wings and nachos, which seem in keeping with the day's theme. When the show begins, the troupe turns the article I chose into a family meeting: “We've got to get millennials interested in maple syrup," the father says in a ridiculous Canadian accent. They settle on putting the syrup in vape pens, and the audience is in tears anytime anyone says “Sooorry?"

“The Aviary's cocktails, produced with tweezers and smoking guns and so vide baths, fizz and steam and melt."

Afterward, the comics mill around with friends and family, rehashing moments of exhilaration and terror. Surely one of these people will be the next Amy Poehler or Stephen Colbert (both iO alums). I'd stay to chat but I have one more stop before bed: The Aviary, the ultimate shrine to cocktail-making from obsessive chef-cum-scientist Grant Achatz. Inside a monochromatic sanctuary, Achatz's chosen bartenders toil on the other side of a floor-to-ceiling fence. The cocktails they produce with their tweezers and smoking guns and sous vide baths fizz and steam and melt. My favorite is the Jungle Bird: rum, pineapple and lime juices, and Campari layered over a pile of liquid-filled gelatinous balls that pop in your mouth. “That one'll get you," says the host as I wobble out. “All those little balls are full of rum!"

The Lou pizza at Lou Malnati's

Day 2

A South Side history lesson and a Fulton Market food tour

I'm back in the robe, and while there are many museums here worth getting out of it for—the Field Museum, with its titanosaur; the Art Institute of Chicago, with American Gothic—none is as deeply necessary as the Stony Island Arts Bank. The museum is an extension of the physical art of local creator Theaster Gates, who is trained in both ceramics and urban planning. Gates, whose Rebuild Foundation invests in the cultural redevelopment of underserved neighborhoods, found out the city was planning to demolish a beautiful South Side bank from the 1920s and convinced the government to sell it to him for $1. He refurbished it, creating a cultural space and museum dedicated to the experiences of black people.

Hans Haacke's Gift Horse on the roof of The Art Institute of Chicago

Everything here is free and open to the public, including film screenings, live music, and DJ sets. An exhibition of Rob Pruitt's Barack Obama paintings—quotidian portraits of the 44th president painted in white on red and blue canvases—fills the downstairs. The research library of Johnson Publishing, which was once the largest African-American-owned publishing company in the country and the creator of Jet and Ebony magazines, spans two floors and contains a comprehensive history of black culture in the United States. Inside the library, you can watch an archivist digitizing the collection of records belonging to Frankie Knuckles, the godfather of Chicago house music. There's more, all of it powerful, but nothing screams the museum's mission more than its Neoclassical facade, sitting alone on this long, desolate street. Where are the lines of patrons? Where are the passersby? I want to tell everyone about this place.

I get my chance in a cab, telling the driver, who has a lot of DJ friends, about the Frankie Knuckles collection. He's so excited to visit that he has me spell the museum's name for him. “You gotta listen to house," he says, by way of a solution to just about everything. “The house music crowd doesn't talk about killing. They just talk about partying and dancing and positive things."

Cabra at The Hoxton

Speaking of partying and dancing and positive things, could my driver drop me off at The Hoxton, Chicago, in Fulton Market, so I can check in? The hip London-based mini-chain has a knack for anointing the just-hit-it-big neighborhood in every city it touches. Decked out in Mid-Century Modern furniture, with a window framing the tracks of the L, the lobby looks like a place where that absurd party from the Leonardo DiCaprio version of The Great Gatsby could break out at any moment.

Beloved Chicago chef Stephanie Izard has bestowed her latest restaurant, Cabra, a Peruvian cevicheria, on the Hoxton's rooftop. And, wouldn't you know it, here she is in the lobby, wearing her hair piled on top of her head the way she did while becoming the first woman to win Top Chef. Izard is insanely busy, overseeing four restaurants in Fulton Market, but as a de facto ambassador for the district, she has agreed to give me a tour. “When you're trying to pick where to open a restaurant, you pick a neighborhood and you determine what your restaurant is going to be from there, because the neighborhoods are so different," she says. “The day [my partner and I] came down to look at Fulton Market 10 years ago, none of this was here. It was kind of barren and empty and warehousey, and he was like, 'All right, use your imagination and give this space a chance.'" Now, Izard says, the nabe has come up so much that it's turned into “the restaurant epicenter of the city." She might be a little biased.

“I take the elevator up to Cabra, a breezy oasis decorated with carved llamas and bottles of pisco."

Or maybe she isn't. At our first stop, JP Graziano Grocery, we order a juicy Italian sandwich called the Mr. G to split, and I realize I am (oops) starving. The sandwich is rich and salty, with sharp provolone, hot soppressata, prosciutto, salami, basil, artichokes, and lettuce, on soft bread with zingy Italian spices and condiments. Izard introduces me to Jim Graziano, the founder's great-grandson, who turned his family's 82-year-old meat and grocery business into a sandwich shop in 2007 in anticipation of Fulton Market's rise. “When I grew up, this neighborhood was all wholesale markets. At 2 p.m. you could shoot a cannon down Randolph Street and not hit anything," he says, as the theme from The Godfather plays over the restaurant's speakers. “I was just like, 'This building is so cool, and this corner is right in the middle of everything.' I saw an opportunity." Izard says she has about 25 plants at home, and her 3-year-old son, Ernie, is going through a flower phase, so our next stop is Asrai Garden, which smells of forest floor and palo santo. I ogle the jewelry and candles while Izard pulls together a bouquet of bright red ranunculus, baby pink wax flowers, and what looks like lavender candytuft. The cashier wraps it all in black paper. “I feel like I'm in a wedding!" Izard says, gamely marching down the aisle and out the door.

Chef Stephanie Izard

On our way back to the hotel, we stop where balloons mark the spring reopening of Baobing, Izard's Taiwanese street food takeout window, which is connected to her restaurant Duck Duck Goat. Izard wants to take a picture with the fans who waited in line, but first she orders me the Jian Bing Thing, an ice cream bar wrapped in a custard-coated crepe, with cilantro, hoisin caramel, and sweet and crunchy chili oil. It's the most unexpected flavor combination I've ever experienced (and I drank a cocktail made out of Campari, pineapple juice, and rum balls last night).

Izard has to get ready for her evening, but I have one more shop to visit—the men's clothing store Independence, which carries sophisticated floral shirts and vintage denim. After much convincing, it earned the right to import shirts from a Japanese brand called Kapital. My fiancé salivates over these things, and I'm always on the lookout for gifts.

For dinner, I take the elevator to the roof and Izard's Cabra, a breezy oasis decorated with leggy plants, carved llamas, bottles of pisco, and a rolling door leading to a pool. Looking at the menu, I immediately realize I don't know a lot about Peruvian food. What is choclo? Huancaina? Tiraditos? A friendly waiter comes to my rescue: Choclo is giant Peruvian corn. Huancaina is a sauce made of yellow peppers and cheese. Tiraditos are ceviches with sliced, rather than cubed, fish. I order a funky hamachi tiradito with parmesan leche de tigre (citrus marinade, basically), trout roe, and marcona almond slivers; and a hirame tiradito topped with pickled ramp and crab salad that I'd take home if they'd sell it to me (they won't). I also get huancaina dip with salmon ceviche, sweet-potato chips, duck-fat crackers, and a gin cocktail whimsically named Alpaca My Bags.

After a few more Alpacas at the bar, I swear I'm starting to hallucinate a full beach out by the pool. I end up talking to two women who work nearby; they were late to an evening exercise class and decided to say screw it and get dinner. They're on their way to see some live music at Bassment, a chichi underground venue in River North. Do I want to come?

I do, and in minutes I'm sitting on an old leather couch, watching a woman with a voice like a barrel of buttered rum belt out a cover of Stevie Wonder's “I Wish." “I wish those days could come back once more," she sings. And I wish I didn't have to go to bed.

Day 3

Bursting Milwaukee Avenue in Logan Square

Shopping in Logan Square and eating hummus in Lincoln Park

Studio Gang's artful wooden pavilion at the Lincoln Park Zoo

Last night was a late one, and a warm spring day in Chicago must not be taken for granted, so I grab some tea (Hoxton is based in the U.K., after all) from the room and head up to the pool for a pre-brunch dip.

It might seem impossible to find a place cooler than the Hoxton, but lo, it exists. It's a part of town called Logan Square, just a 22-minute ride northwest from Fulton Market on the L's blue line. The minute I disembark I see the signs: Tattoos? Check. Bearded dads in flannel carrying BabyBjörns? Check. A man in a floral button-down shirt on a skateboard carrying a case of Tecate? Triple check.

I'm meeting my college roommate, Michelle, who lives in Chicago these days, for brunch. Thanks in part to weddings, we see each other about once a year nowadays, but before 2016 it had been almost a decade. Unembarrassed, we long-hug in front of the height of hipster cool, Longman & Eagle, a contemporary take on ye olde public house. Inside, the wood-floored (and ceilinged!) dining room is decorated with jars of arrows, raw brick, and rusty factory lights. They've repurposed an old Statesman by Wurlitzer jukebox as a bussing station. Above us? Their own budget inn.

Any millennial worth her high-waisted sailor pants knows the thing to order in a place like this is the avocado toast. It's a good choice—spread with smoked salmon ricotta, sliced avocado, and caviar, it's more complex than the standard lemon-and-red-pepper-flake mash. Michelle, who is a maniac, orders Nutella-banana French toast and, reasoning that this place is also a beloved whiskey bar, a What's in a Name? cocktail, which is made from Dark Matter Coffee's Unicorn Blood espresso blend, Mr. Black cold brew coffee liqueur, George Dickel white, and cherry bitters. I get a mimosa. We tell lots and lots of old stories, absolutely none of which will be printed here.

The krembo dessert at Galit

After brunch, we wander over to Wolfbait & B-girls, a female-owned and-operated shop that sells wares from Chicago artists and artisans. The name comes from a 1950s guidebook: “Wolfbait" was a term for girls who moved to Chicago looking for success; “B-girls," for B-movie, B-side, or just bad girls, was what they sometimes became instead. We poke around the T-shirts with saucy slogans, coral rings, and candles. Michelle lifts up a studded leather bandanna and nods approvingly. I'm not sure I could pull that off, so I settle on a delicate necklace of the city's four-star flag and a candle in an old beer can. Now all I need is a $3,000-a-month loft to put this in.

Michelle recommends City Lit, a bookstore around the corner that has a cozy reading area in front of a fireplace in the back. Among the latest nonfiction sits An American Summer by Alex Kotlowitz, which chronicles one season's worth of life in areas of Chicago that are afflicted with gun violence. It's a tough topic, but we agree that these stories are the most important kind.

I buy the book, and we proceed to wander down North Kedzie Boulevard admiring the greystones—majestic Romanesque homes that look like New York City's brownstones, only they're (usually) made out of Indiana-quarried limestone. After about a mile, we reach The 606, an elevated biking and running trail grafted onto the old Bloomingdale train line. We stroll east, looking for chef Rick Bayless's 1,000-square-foot backyard garden, which Stephanie Izard told me was visible from the trail. We don't see it (turns out we should have kept going all the way into Bucktown), but we do see plenty of cyclists, rooftop hangouts, and grills. If there's one thing you can say about Chicagoans, it's that they appreciate a nice day.

“Galit is too new to have been seriously reviewed, but if it doesn't win any awards I'll say my hat."

At the Western L stop, we exit the park, making plans to meet later. I get on the train, heading back to Logan Square for happy hour at Lost Lake, which was named Best American Cocktail Bar last year by the Tales of the Cocktail Foundation. Marked by a stylized metal icon of a fish and a pink neon sign that says “Tiki," Lost Lake feels like your favorite bar from your gap year. There's a fish tank with a skull in it. Over the bar, pink lights shine out of loose-slatted fishing barrels. The cocktail names sound like stanzas from a poem, and I order From Pine to Palm/Like Ceremonies of a Pleasant Nature, both because I love fino sherry and because it has palo santo and pandan in it. Like all tiki drinks, it's sweet, silly, and comes with way too many garnishes, all of which I attempt to put in my hair.

Neighborhood Watch: Pilsen

There's no Hoxton hotel in Pilsen yet, but it wouldn't be surprising if the company were scouting. The neighborhood, a longtime Latin community, has hit on the perfect blend of vintage shops, unfussy Mexican restaurants, museums, and hip bars to be intriguing to visitors, locals, and residents alike. Start at the National Museum of Mexican Art, where you can see a collection of 10,000 pieces of folk art, photographs, sculptures, and paintings for free. At Pilsen Vintage, grab some old Latin and house records thoughtfully curated by Charly Garcia of local DJ collective Sonorama, then stop into Taqueria Los Comales for a couple of ridiculously cheap tacos al pastor. Finish up with a draft cocktail and a nationally recognized band at Thalia Hall, which is run by the folks behind Longman & Eagle.

Afterward, I take a cab over to Lincoln Park, home of the very old (151 years) Lincoln Park Zoo and the very new Galit, the first restaurant that chef Zachary Engel has helmed since winning the James Beard Award for Rising Star Chef as chef de cuisine at New Orleans's Shaya in 2017. The Middle Eastern spot is too new to have been seriously reviewed yet, but if it doesn't win any awards I'll eat my hat. I'd rather not, though, because the server just dropped off the airiest hummus I've ever had, topped with mushrooms, greens, and gribenes—crispy bits of chicken skin that are having a culinary moment. Next, fluffy, brick-oven-baked pita bread with little bowls of yogurt cheese, housemade pickles, tomato-and-pepper spread, and little tangy onions with coriander and crumbles of oiled feta. The falafel is actually moist, served over funky fermented mango labneh. A chicken thigh comes crispy-skinned under a caramelized coat of harissa.

Dessert is a classic Israeli children's treat called krembo—a sesame shortbread cookie topped with rose-infused marshmallow and a chocolate shell—plus adults-only anise-flavored arak, which comes with a tiny glass of ice and a tiny glass of water and makes my mouth go numb. I regret that I have but one stomach to fill, but I ask my waiter to pack up the leftovers so I can bring them to my friend.

Kayaking the Lincoln Park Lagoon

Michelle lives right down the street from Galit, and I walk over to her apartment so I can meet her cats. From her window, I can see The Wiener's Circle, a hot dog shop notorious for its sassy, expletive-spouting employees. Michelle tells me how her whole floor had a block party in the hall on that one winter day when it was 23 below and no one was allowed to go outside. “It's a good thing you've got these big ol' windows, then," I say, looking out at a beautiful evening. The sun is just beginning to set, painting the sky a dreamy mix of lavender and peach. There are people walking their dogs, following a pink path of fallen cherry blossoms. We see friends laughing as they wait for restaurant tables, and we hear saxophones wailing from the open doors of blues bars. The entire world in microcosm. Should we go back out? We must.


Where to Stay

St. Jane

Shaped like an Art Deco Champagne bottle, the St. Jane is housed in the historic Carbide & Carbon Building and contains two levels of opulent rooms: Contemporary Victorian respites with marble showers and tasseled closet pulls live in the Champagne bottle's shoulders, while suites that look like Gothic-Victorian artist parlors live in the neck, making up a hotel-within-a-hotel called the Tower at St. Jane. From $189, stjanehotel.com


The Hoxton, Chicago

With free Wi-Fi, a fireplace, and that amazing window looking out on the L, the sprawling Hoxton lobby is always full of people—especially at happy hour. When you're ready to call it a night, take a shower with the hotel's signature Blank products (which your correspondent now uses at home) and check out the curated book collections in the rooms, each of which contains 10 books chosen by a local luminary. From $129, thehoxton.com
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Fun, festive and fierce: Our first Drag Queen brunch in Chicago

By The Hub team

It was fun. It was festive. It was fierce… It was our first-ever MileagePlus® Exclusives Drag Queen Brunch in Chicago. As the sold-out crowd of over 200 entered The River Kitchen and Bar in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood on Sunday, cloud balloons hung from the ceiling, feather boas covered chairs, Lizzo and other pop music blasted from the speakers, rainbow lights shined bright and Drag Queens were on-hand to welcome everyone to what would be an epic event celebrating Pride Month and being proud of our commitment to becoming the most inclusive airline in the world.

To attend the event, participants donated their miles to our charity partner, The Trevor Project, a nonprofit that provides intervention and suicide prevention services for LGBTQ youth.


"This year, we wanted to take Pride Month a step further by bringing an experience that recognizes and embraces the different communities our customers and employees are part of while supporting a great cause and organization," said Luc Bondar, Vice President of Loyalty and President of MileagePlus. "The brunch created an inclusive environment to come together as a United family. To our Drag Queen performers and volunteers, thank you for allowing us to be part of your story and empowering others through your courage to be who you are."

As attendees took to their seats, sipping on mimosas and tasting entrees with names like, "Fierce Toast", "Snatch My Wig Wings" and more, they cheered, clapped and sang as the Drag Queens performed numbers that had them dancing around the restaurant, jumping on tables and even swinging from the rafters on the ceiling.

"It was very entertaining," said Kevin Mercer, a MileagePlus customer and event attendee. "I'm happy to participate in such a wonderful opportunity to help an organization like The Trevor Project. I want to do what I can to help others and make their situation better."

At the end, the Drag Queens walked the runway in travel and aviation inspired costumes. Bondar was joined by three of our employee volunteers who also are Drag Queens, "Koko Nutwata" (Newark Liberty International Airport Flight Attendant Nicholas Villeneuve), "Traci E" (George Bush Intercontinental Airport Flight Attendant David Revils) and "Valerie BeDanza" (Newark Liberty International Airport Flight Attendant Hassan Salazar) to determine who had the best costume. The winner won a trip for two to anywhere domestically.

"This is what Pride is about," said Hassan. "It was so exciting seeing everyone at the brunch having fun. I've been so overwhelmed with the love, support and acceptance I've received from United. This Pride Month has been so special to me as I continue to grow as a Drag Queen and be who I am."

Chicago's Drag Queen Brunch comes the weekend after we hosted the first-ever airport Drag Queen Brunch at Newark in partnership with the Trevor Project and OTG Management.

"As a company, embracing the LGBTQ+ community is a priority so that our customers and employees feel welcomed," said Jill Kaplan, United's president for New York and New Jersey. "We were extremely proud to host the inaugural drag brunch in partnership with OTG at Newark Airport in celebration of pride, but equally as enthusiastic to support organizations like The Trevor Project who provide assistance for LGBTQ youth."

The Drag Queens, which included "Valerie" and Kennedy Davenport, star of RuPaul's Drag Race, danced down a makeshift runway at Newark's Terminal C, revving up the crowd of onlookers with their moves and songs as those at the brunch enjoyed delicacies from places like Mélange Bakery and sipped on "Taste the Rainbow" cocktails.

Chicago Drag Queen Brunch 

Over a million miles have been redeemed through eight MileagePlus Exclusives Pride experiences offered to members this year. MileagePlus will be donating all the miles redeemed to The Trevor Project. The brunch at Newark raised over $10,000 for The Trevor Project.

"It's fun enjoying each other and knowing that we have come far," said Hassan. "We're continuing to grow and accept one another and at the end of the day, that's all that matters. Drag or not, we're all the same."

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Love flies with us: Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in NYC

By The Hub team , June 28, 2019

Today, we became the first public company to be inducted into Pride Live's Stonewall Ambassador program in recognition of our commitment to LGBTQ+ equality. The honor took place at Pride Live's Stonewall Day, a celebration for the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Riots which also included a live outdoor concert produced by iHeartMedia New York.

Watch the video below for more on how we're celebrating this momentous occasion and to learn more about our ongoing commitment to LGBTQ+ equality not just today, but every day.

The best National Parks to visit all year round

By Bob Cooper

National parks can be a refuge from the noise and hectic pace of everyday urban and suburban life — America's special places in nature. But during the summer peak season, they can be as busy as cities. Smart travelers visit between November and March when most parks are less crowded and accommodation choices are discounted. These national parks are especially worthwhile to visit and they're all close enough to major airports to make a three-day weekend getaway possible.

Yosemite, California

Fall and winter visitors to Yosemite National Park are treated to autumn leaves in the fall, snow-capped granite landmarks in the winter and replenished waterfalls in the spring. Tent camping can be cold, but hotel rooms in and around Yosemite Valley are widely available and Yosemite's historic lodge, The Majestic Yosemite Hotel (formerly Ahwahnee), hosts two big events in November and December: the Grand Grape Celebration and the Bracebridge Dinner (a recreation of Christmas in Olde England). Airport: Fresno Yosemite International Airport.

Everglades, Florida

Many summer vacationers are among the one million annual visitors to Everglades National Park, but the best time to come is in late-autumn or winter. Southern Florida's temperatures are milder, it's far less humid, hurricane season is over and summer flooding of the prairies has receded — letting you see more fish and reptiles. You can also see more birds in the winter via airboat tours through the Everglades, America's largest tropical wilderness. Not to mention this “river of grass" is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, International Biosphere Reserve and a wetland of International Importance. Airport: Miami International Airport.

Mammoth Cave, Kentucky

Another world lives beneath Kentucky in the world's largest network of caves known as Mammoth Cave National Park. You will walk beneath massive crystallized formations inside the caverns and may spot one of the eight species of bats that thrive in this environment. The caves are about 54 degrees inside year-round, as if regulated by a thermostat, so they are protected from the hot humid summers and freezing winter nights above them, making them a perfect place to visit any time of the year. Visitors to this southern Kentucky park will also benefit from this climatic predictability while taking any of eight cave tours. While cave tours should be at the top of your list of things to do here, this park also offers hiking, camping, horseback riding, kayaking and more. Airport: Louisville International Airport.

Haleakala, Hawaii

Your visit to Haleakala National Park may include a number of experiences, but witnessing the sunrise or sunsets are a must. Many visitors wake up early to drive to the Summit Visitor Center to view one of the best sunrises. But make sure to plan accordingly because the National Park Service now requires a reservation for vehicles to view the sunrise from the Summit District. Other activities on the 10,023-foot mountain include hiking one of the nine trails, guided horseback rides and bike rentals post-hike to coast most of the way down. An added bonus: Humpback whale watching season stretches from December to March in Maui. Airport: Kahului Airport.

Saguaro, Arizona

Saguaro, a type of giant cacti, serve many functions for desert wildlife — but they don't cast much shade. That's why winter is the best time to hike among them where they populate hillsides by the thousands in Saguaro National Park. The park is split in two, straddling the western and eastern boundaries of Tucson, with 165 miles of hiking trails. The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, a museum, zoo and botanical garden, is a must-see attraction on the edge of Saguaro NP West. Airport: Tucson International Airport.

Joshua Tree, California

The namesake of Joshua Tree National Park is an odd-looking tree that fits in well with the weirdly wonderful rock formations adored by photographers in this high desert park. Located between Palm Springs and the L.A. area, the park encompasses two major deserts and a mountain range, offering a profoundly contrasting appearance due to the two varying ecosystems. This park can be explored by car or by foot on one of the 27 hiking trails. A bonus to visiting in the winter is the desert wildflower blooms between February and April. Airport: Palm Springs International Airport.

Biscayne, Florida

Famous lighthouse at Key Biscayne, Miami

Most of Biscayne National Park is on water, not land, so the best way to see its coral reefs (among the world's largest) and the abundance of marine life (highlighted by manatees and sea turtles) is by renting a boat or taking a boat tour. Several marinas are found at the park's edges where you can do just that, as well as rent snorkeling or diving equipment for a closer look underwater, where you'll discover diverse and colorful aquatic life and multiple shipwrecks. Kayaking and fishing in Miami-Dade County are also popular. Airport: Miami International Airport.

If you go

United Airlines flies to airports within a two-hour drive of all of these national parks. MileagePlus® Rewards can help pay for your accommodations. Go to united.com or use the United app to plan your national park getaway.

The most important resources for LGBTQ travelers

By The Hub team

By Meredith Heil

This story was originally published on AFAR| May 8, 2019

From an interactive website that tracks global LGBTQ-related laws to a travel-oriented app that facilitates meetups abroad, these are the trip-planning tools that LGBTQ travelers should know about.

As a queer travel writer, I'm constantly thinking about LGBTQ culture and tourism on an international scope. I've learned that whether it's tracking down the best gay bars in Berlin or making sure it's safe to hold hands while walking the streets of an unfamiliar city, the LGBTQ community's travel planning needs aren't always met by picking up a one-size-fits-all guidebook.

Thankfully, the internet is rife with travel advice that provides lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adventurers with the information needed to design the trip of a lifetime. From navigating foreign laws to booking a gay-friendly resort, this trusty list of travel resources has you covered.

LGBTQ-specific travel news and safety basics

U.S. State Department A section of this government-run online resource offers basic pointers for LGBTQ travelers such as travel document checklists, general safety tips, and information about travel insurance and various U.S. embassy locations.

Equaldex Launched in 2014, this interactive map-anchored website keeps a running tab on LGBTQ rights-related laws around the world via a global network of user contributions.

National Center for Transgender Equality This Washington, D.C.-based advocacy organization addresses information relevant to gender-nonconforming and transgender travelers. It features a particularly comprehensive guide to airport security that addresses concerns related to potentially intrusive TSA screening procedures.

OutRight Action International Formerly known as the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, this nonprofit publishes news, studies, and reports on LGBTQ issues around the world that can help travelers stay informed about safety in various destinations.

Erasing 76 Crimes Journalist and LGBTQ advocate Colin Stewart heads up this news-oriented blog that spotlights global developments related to LGBTQ rights spanning countries across the Middle East, Asia, Africa, Europe, Oceania and the Americas.

GoAbroad's LGBTQ Study Abroad Guide For queer students interested in studying abroad, this PDF provides a wealth of information, including tips for coming out to a host family, LGBTQ-specific scholarships and a list of queer-friendly study abroad programs.

LGBTQ-friendly accommodations and services

The International LGBTQ+ Travel Association This website acts as a one-stop-shop for all things related to LGBTQ travel planning. It brings together a massive network of queer-approved hotels, transportation providers, tourism boards, travel agencies, tour operators, event promoters and local media in over 80 countries worldwide; it also maintains recommendation-based travel and business blogs.

Purple Roofs An LGBTQ mainstay since the late '90s, this booking website showcases small, family-owned bed-and-breakfasts, hotels, vacation rentals, inns, and tour companies worldwide. It also hosts a variety of related travel resources, including event listings and a dedicated LGBTQ travel blog.

World Rainbow Hotels This modern travel directory combines a curated list of stylish, queer-friendly hotels in countries where attitudes toward gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans travelers are for the most part accepting. The website also features an image-driven blog full of travel inspiration, global news, events and other articles.

Travel Gay and Travel Gay AsiaThese twin booking sites serve a predominantly gay male audience, pointing international travelers to city guides with relevant information about bars, clubs, saunas, shops, beaches, and events, as well as queer-friendly hotels across the globe.

GayCities A similarly gay male–focused online travel guide, this web resource recommends gay-friendly bars, clubs, restaurants, hotels, shops, gyms and more in 238 different cities from Cape Town to Mexico City.

In addition to explicitly LGBTQ outlets, you can now find pages dedicated to LGBTQ consumers on mainstream online travel booking sites like Expedia and Orbitz. Queer-oriented promotions and packages are also often offered by big-name hotels such as Marriott and Kimpton.

LGBTQ-specialized tour operators and agencies

LGBTQ-friendly tour operators for organized trips (both group and private)

For LGBTQ travelers who'd rather leave trip planning to the experts, award-winning tour operators such as Outstanding Travel, Zoom Vacations, Out Adventures, Toto Tours, Detours Traveland Concierge Travel all offer a diverse array of international group and private trips. International tour operator R Family Vacations also designs and leads LGBTQ family-friendly trips (plus a few new adults-only options) on land and at sea for public groups and individuals. The queer-run wilderness education organization, The Venture Out Project, operates LGBTQ-specific backpacking trips in the United States for teens, adults and families.

LGBTQ-friendly cruises

Inclusive travel company Vacaya hosts curated LGBTQ getaways on chartered cruise ships, as well as to all-LGBTQ international resorts. The popular lesbian travel brand Olivia Cruises has been running entertainment-filled cruise, resort, adventure, and riverboat group trips exclusively for queer female-identified travelers since 1990. And cruise company Source Events, which caters predominantly to gay men and their families, organizes both all-gay charters and private LGBTQ groups aboard larger cruise ships (as well as personalized cruise journeys and on-land group itineraries).

LGBTQ-friendly travel and networking apps

From joining queer-specific networking groups, to checking for upcoming LGBTQ events in different cities, to starting important conversations about shared experiences through hashtags such as #travelingwhiletrans, LGBTQ travelers have long relied on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter when planning for domestic and international trips. More recently, meetup apps have created new opportunities for connection between LGBTQ travelers.

Apps (available on iOS and Android)

Meetup This stalwart community-building platform is a great tool for connecting with fellow LGBTQ folks and getting to know local queer scenes on the road. The "LGBTQ Meetups" section points app users toward various happy hours, professional networking events, book clubs, and hiking groups, as well as playgroups for LGBTQ parents.

SCRUFF Venture Gay dating app SCRUFF recently launched a travel-oriented edition aimed at making it easier to connect with LGBTQ people "before and while you travel." By clicking into one of the app's 500-plus destinations, users can view members marked as "visiting now" or "visiting soon" in each given location. The app also provides travel tips from city "Ambassadors" (members who volunteer to give advice and recommendations to visitors), plus updates about

LGBTQ issue–related travel advisories.

Refuge Restrooms This important resource for trans, intersex, and gender-nonconforming individuals maps out safe restrooms in various countries around the world, which users can search for based on proximity to a location.

LGBTQ-focused travel magazines and blogs

Magazines

Out Magazine's online outpost Out Traveler covers everything from luxury LGBTQ-friendly hotels and nightlife hot spots to the latest must-have gadgets for jet-setters. Passport Magazine, available in both digital and print formats, touches upon a wealth of topics related to LGBTQ travel, with sections devoted to food and drink, hotel reviews, product roundups, and events. Also worth checking out is Connextions Magazine, which compiles long-form hotel reviews, human interest stories, destination guides and other global lifestyle content relevant to LGBTQ travelers. (The print and digital publication also has a Spanish edition.)

Although not their main focus, many widely circulated LGBTQ lifestyle outlets like theAdvocate, Curve, Autostraddle, Diva, and Chill also feature travel-related news, commentary, city guides, hotel reviews, profiles and more.

Blogs

Touted as "a lifestyle blog for men and other stylish travelers," the popular blog Travels of Adam hosts op-eds and personal essays, LGBTQ travel tips and hacks, and restaurant, bar, and hotel reviews in destinations from Egypt to England. Married couple Auston and David head up another gay male–focused travel blog called Two Bad Tourists, which features navigating international gay-friendly destinations, festivals and events.

On the queer female travel blog Dopes on the Road, you can expect to find a wide range of content, from travel diaries and safety tips to pop culture commentary. Beautiful photo galleries, travel journals, LGBTQ profiles and interviews, travel tips and destination guides dominate Once Upon a Journey, a helpful travel blog from lesbian couple Roxanne Weijer and Maartje Hensen.

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