Three Perfect Days: Charleston - United Hub

Three Perfect Days: Charleston

By The Hub team

Story by Ellen Carpenter | Photography by Peter Frank/Edwards | Hemispheres, February 2019

Back in 1874, The Atlanta Daily Herald's Henry W. Grady coined the term “the New South" to encourage people to move beyond the fraught antebellum period and see the region in a fresh light, “thrilling with the consciousness of growing power and prosperity."

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That tag has been bandied about in recent years—Nashville is the capital of the New South one day, Atlanta the next—but nowhere are that growing power and prosperity more evident than in South Carolina's largest city, where it seems as if 10 new (and great) restaurants open each month, where Volvo just set up shop with a $1.1 billion plant and Boeing is building its 787 Dreamliners, where 28 people move in each day. The Holy City is a mecca for tourists—6.9 million came in 2017, probably half of them for a wedding—who are just as hungry for rice grits and selfies in front of Georgian row houses as they are for a history lesson. What they'll find will fill them up and still leave them asking for seconds, albeit very politely.

Opener: The Historic District's colorful Elliott Street. Here: the backside of the Dock Street TheatreOpener: The Historic District's colorful Elliott Street. Here: the backside of the Dock Street Theatre

Day 1:

Playing pirate, "firing" cannons, and plowing through pimento cheese

Eric Lavender of Charleston Pirate Tours

Let's go ahead and get the kid questions out of the way: Yes, I'm a real pirate. No, I'm not firing my gun. Yes, my parrot is real. No, we're not gonna take any ships. No, pirates did not make enemies walk the plank—that was Peter Pan."

Eric Lavender, swashbuckling chic in full pirate regalia—tricornered hat, knee-high suede boots, black breeches, regal gray captain's coat with pewter buttons, pistol at one hip, saber at the other—is standing in front of the Powder Magazine, the oldest government building in Charleston (built in 1713). He's about to lead me, my husband, Chris, our 6-year-old son, Calder, and five other history-hungry out-of-towners on one of his daily Charleston Pirate Tours, and to spin yarns about “the who's who of pirates that came through."

"What better way to get a first grader excited about history than having a guy with a parrot on his shoulder tell him about beheadings and pillaging?"

Charleston's history is intrinsically linked to piracy (did you know pirates introduced the rice that's so integral to Lowcountry grits, bringing it from Madagascar?), which is why we want to start our trip with Captain Eric. What better way to get a first-grader excited about history than handing him a foam sword and bandanna and having a guy with a parrot on his shoulder tell him about beheadings and pillaging? As we amble through the Historic District, down Unity Alley, where George Washington kept his mules when he was in town (“If it's good enough for Washington's ass, it's good enough for us," Eric jokes), and past the multicolored houses on Instagram-friendly Rainbow Row and the country's oldest liquor store (“Charleston is a drinking city with a history problem"), Eric tells us about famous pirates of yore—Mrs. Chang, Stede Bonnet, Anne Bonny, and, of course, Blackbeard, who marauded the port of Charleston before meeting his bitter end off of North Carolina's Outer Banks. “You know how he knows all that stuff?" Calder whispers, after Captain Eric lets each of us hold one of his weapons for a final group photo. “Because he's a real pirate." Success.

Rainbow Row, a series of pastel Georgian houses on East Bay Street dating back to 1740

After two hours of walking, we're ready to eat. Luckily, Husk is just four blocks from the Old Exchange Building, where our tour ends. Just as piracy put Charleston on the map back in the late 1600s, Husk ushered in the city's foodie era when it opened in 2010. Founding chef Sean Brock recently departed for Nashville, but the restaurant—located in a beautiful, late-19th-century Queen Anne–style home—and executive chef Travis Grimes still celebrate Lowcountry cooking with highfalutin technique. We start with addictively sharp pimento cheese toasts that are way better than pimento cheese has any business being. The fried chicken has the kind of crackly crust you only see on TV, and the Bibb lettuce salad is a lesson in simplicity. The only negative is that we're too full to eat dessert.

"We amble through the Historic District, past the multicolored houses on Instagram-friendly Rainbow Row and country's oldest liquor store."

Chris and I figure we should keep the history lesson going, so we take a cab to the waterfront and catch the ferry to Fort Sumter, where the first shots of the Civil War were fired in 1861. I grew up spending my spring breaks touring Civil War battlefields and forts with my American historian mother, but I'd forgotten how fascinating they are for kids. As soon as we reach the fort, Calder is off: hiding in the shadows of the munitions room, looking for enemy ships through peepholes, loading the cannons with imaginary gunpowder. When he sticks his head inside the barrel of a columbiad cannon, I explain how that's not proper protocol—but only after I snap a photo.

Before heading back on the ferry, everyone convenes for the lowering of the flag. A park ranger, James Drass, invites 20 volunteers to come help. “Don't ever take your freedom for granted," Drass says, as the group folds the flag, south to north, north to south, then in triangles. “I submit to you that America is an amazing country," he continues. “We are a diverse country. It's inherent we're going to have differences. But despite all of our differences, we have one common denominator: We are all Americans." The crowd is silent, and more than a few people wipe away tears, me included, and then everyone breaks into applause.

The meticulous garden at the Pineapple Gates House

The sun is already setting when we make it back to the mainland, but we decide to walk the 15 minutes back to the Historic District (it's easy to get around on foot downtown) and meander through the Charleston City Market before dinner. It seems as if every tourist in town has the same idea. The market, a series of sheds that stretches four city blocks, opened in 1804—statesman Charles Cotesworthy Pinckney gave the land to the city, stipulating that it had to be used as a market “in perpetuity." I doubt they had a Christmas shop open year-round in 1804, but they do now, along with 300 other spots, including a toy store, a haberdashery, and a handful of places selling traditional sweetgrass baskets. We stop to watch an artisan weave one, her nimble fingers methodically alternating strands of dried native sweetgrass. I want to buy one, but Calder is waning and I realize we better get him fed before a meltdown ensues. Traveling with kids!

"The addictively sharp pimento cheese toasts are way better than pimento cheese has any business being."

Fortunately, our hotel, the grand Belmond Charleston Place, is a block away, and dinner is just downstairs, at the Charleston Grill. We do a quick costume change—thank goodness for our spacious suite's two bathrooms—and make it to the restaurant only five minutes late for our reservation. Five minutes after that, I'm sipping a glass of Bone Dry rosé (Calder goes pink too, with a Shirley Temple) and we're enjoying the jazz trio's rendition of “Billie's Bounce."

I devour my crab cake, bathed in a lemony butter sauce, while Calder co-opts Chris's charred octopus. “Next time, you're getting your own appetizer," Chris tells him as he concedes the plate. We all trade bites of our mains—sea bass in a creamy curry sauce for me, scallops with salsa verde for Chris, kid's menu spaghetti for Calder—and then take turns choosing from the assortment of chocolates and gelées that our waiter brings us as a parting gift. We leave humming the strains of “The Very Thought of You," take the elevator upstairs, and promptly pass out.

The Charleston Grill, where a jazz trio plays every night

Day 2:

Making BBQ, rescuing sea turtles, and rocking out

I promised myself biscuits for breakfast every morning in Charleston, and by golly I'm starting out right at Hominy Grill, a beloved 23-year-old spot in the residential Cannonborough-Elliotborough neighborhood, just north of downtown, that serves breakfast all day. I go savory with biscuits and gravy while Chris and Calder both go for pancakes, fluffy and stacked high. The coffee refills keep coming, and in no time we're ready to tackle the day.

An 1857 Italinte home in the Historic District

We hop a cab back to the Historic District and climb into a different set of wheels: a carriage pulled by two brown and white horses, Sally and Deedee. Horse-drawn carriages seem to outnumber cars downtown—a trend Palmetto Carriage Works launched in 1972 when it became the first company to offer tours. And the horses, I've made sure, are well cared-for: They work only five hours a day and get to spend about five months a year relaxing on a farm on Johns Island. Our guide, Gay Spear, is brash and witty and an endless font of information. As we mosey along, past landmarks like the Circular Congregational Church on Meeting Street and dozens of perfectly preserved historic homes, she offers up funny one-liners (“If you dig here, you're gonna find one of two things: a cannonball or a body") and interesting design notes, like the origin of the pineapple as welcome sign. Turns out back in the 1700s women used to put pineapples out on the gate port to let people know their husbands were home from their sailing voyages—or “to let their lovers know not to come that night!"

Rodney Scott at his namesake BBQ spot

We bid farewell to Sally and Deedee, and then I bid farewell to Calder and Chris—they have a date with the rooftop pool at the Belmond, while I'm due to meet Mr. Rodney Scott BBQ himself for a lesson in whole hog cooking. Scott won the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southeast in May, just a year after opening his restaurant in the North Central neighborhood. “Now I can't go anywhere without someone recognizing me," Scott says with an easy smile as he leads me from the bright restaurant to the pit out back. “People at the airport will be like, 'Are you that guy?'"

"When he opens the door to the pit, the smell of oak and hickory practically knocks me over."

When he opens the door to the pit, the smell of oak and hickory practically knocks me over—in the best way possible. He heads over to the fire and shovels a pile of wood coals into one of the five pits, something staffers do every 15 to 20 minutes. “It's more procedure than secret," he says, as one of his employees mops “Rodney Sauce" over the hogs.

I somehow refrain from ripping off a piece of meat to eat right then and there, and head back into the restaurant for a proper lunch: a big pile of pork, potato salad, and coleslaw with a sweet iced tea that is sweeter than any iced tea I've ever had (and I grew up in Kentucky). The vinegar tang of the Rodney Sauce cuts through the fat of the meat perfectly, and I'm in hog heaven.

The Great Ocean Tank at the South Carolina Aquarium

Now it's time to feed something else: We've arranged for Calder to get a behind-the-scenes tour of the South Carolina Aquarium, where he is literally able to feed the sharks. But first we check out the Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery, which the aquarium opened in 2017. Sea turtles are Calder's favorite animal, so he couldn't be more excited to play vet at the interactive stations where he can “diagnose" a sick turtle and also meet the rehabilitating patients currently swimming in individual tanks. Many of them are named for Harry Potter characters; Voldemort and Hagrid are dead ringers.

After a trip to the gift shop to buy a snap-bracelet sea turtle stuffie (yes, it's a thing), we meet our behind-the-scenes guide, Lea Caswell, who leads us to the top of the 42-foot Great Ocean Tank (the tallest in North America), where another aquarium worker has a bucket of fish ready to feed the blacktip, sand tiger, and nurse sharks. Calder asks why the sharks don't eat the other fish in the tank, and Caswell responds, “Would you rather take a free meal or cook your own?" “I'd rather have Mommy cook me a meal," Calder says. That's my boy.

"The turtles are named for Harry Potter characters; Voldemort and Hagrid are dead ringers."

A patient at the Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery

Tonight, however, Mommy's leaving the cooking to the pros. From the aquarium, we hop a ride up King Street—a 300-year-old thoroughfare that's now restaurant row, basically—for dinner at The Grocery, a farm-to-table spot that's a fixture on Eater Charleston's “essential" list. We start with the charcuterie plate, which features duck-liver mousse topped with watermelon-rind mostarda, sopressata, coppa, and an array of pickled vegetables, including okra, which Calder inhales. The manager notices his fondness for pickles and brings us another helping.

My glass of gamay pairs perfectly with my duck confit, cooked with shatteringly crisp skin. Chris is so into his snapper that he forgets to give me a bite, and Calder attacks his pizza as if he hasn't eaten all day. (Note for parents: There's a “verbal" kids menu.) We cap it off with a shared banana pudding topped with gorgeous peaks of toasted meringue.

The charcuterie spread at The Grocery

Calder's ready to pass out, but I have a big night ahead of me. While the boys roll back to the Belmond, I head down King Street for a night out on the town with the Grammy-nominated rock group Band of Horses. Shaggy-haired lead singer Ben Bridwell grew up in South Carolina, and he and mustachioed drummer Creighton Barrett relocated to Charleston in 2006 after a decade in Seattle. I meet them and James Hynes, the CEO of local recording studio and record label Rialto Row, at The Rarebit, which they tell me has “the best Moscow mules anywhere."

The band is in the thick of recording a new album, their first time doing so in Charleston. Bridwell actually rented a plantation—on Airbnb!—for a personal writer's retreat. “A real-a** plantation!" he says, eyes wide. “For $150 a night!" The music scene in Charleston, he says, has changed dramatically in the past few years—from “residual Dead hippie college stuff" to “indie rock, Americana, melodic punk…" So, basically, it's cool now.

To show me just how cool, they take me to the center of the scene: The Royal American, a former ironworks on the train tracks that's now a music club. A rock band is playing on a stage behind the bar, smoke machines in full effect, and the place is packed shoulder to shoulder with 20-somethings sipping beers. We grab a round and take a seat on the patio, where we compete with passing trains to be heard. It's approaching 11 now, bedtime for me—but the guys' night is just getting started. They're raring to head into Rialto Row to record. “We'll work until 3 or 4, go home and sleep a couple hours, and be up with our kids at 6," says Barrett. “It's great." Amazed at their stamina, I say g'night and leave them to it.

A band performs behind the bar at The Royal American

Day 3:

Catching waves, slurping oysters, and looking through an artist's lens

A brick walkway at Waterfront Park

A brick walkway at Waterfront ParkOh, biscuits, how I love you. This morning we feast at Callie's Hot Little Biscuit on King Street, where the line is already out the door by 8:30 a.m. We dig into a variety of fluffy buttermilk creations: plain, cheddar-chive, blackberry jam–topped. I pop the mini cinnamon ones like Cheetos. I want to get some to go, but I know we have a full day of eating ahead.

But first, a beach excursion to Sullivan's Island. We rent a car for the day and cruise over the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, with its two diamond-shaped cable towers, through Mount Pleasant, and on to the sand-lined streets of Sullivan's in just 25 minutes. On the agenda: roll up our pants and splash in the waves, hunt for seashells, and admire the gorgeous three-story cottages lining the wide beach. Calder keeps his eyes peeled for sea turtles to rescue and is amazed to learn that this ocean is the same one we have in New York.

All this oceanside action has us hungry for some seafood, so we drive back into town for lunch at Leon's Oyster Shop, a fun spot on the upper reaches of King Street famous for oysters, yes, but also fried chicken. The space, a former auto body shop, is kitted out in fairy lights and maritime paintings. Chris and I fight over the last of the chargrilled oysters, which taste like ocean and fire bathed in butter, while Calder happily munches his fried shrimp. I move on to the fried chicken sandwich, moist and crunchy and served with a cooling cucumber and sesame seed salad, and Chris opts for the seafood fry-up. Calder declares his rainbow sprinkle–topped soft-serve better than Mister Softee in New York.

Leon's Oyster Shop

We check into our new digs, The Dewberry, a hip Mid-Century Modern–style hotel that opened in 2016 in a former 1960s federal building, and while all we want to do is take a nap, we rally and cross Marion Square to The Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art at the College of Charleston. I'm eager to see the current exhibit, Southbound: Photographs of and About the New South, which runs through March and features images taken by 56 21st-century artists exploring their perceptions of the American South. The variety is astounding. There are shots of Civil War reenactors, Black Lives Matter marches, empty storefronts, migrant workers, and high school homecoming queens. Seeing all these snippets of life makes me think that there's not just one South—it's impossible to generalize about or judge such a wide swath of our country.

The pecan-smoked fish spread at Parcel 32

Calder's beat and not up for a restaurant meal; Chris gamely offers to take him back to the hotel for some takeout so I can keep my res at Parcel 32, a new Lowcountry-Caribbean restaurant with an airy, outside-in design. I take a seat at the bar and get the pirate-inspired Anne Bonny rum cocktail (and somehow refrain from making an “arrrr" joke). Serendipitously, Band of Horses' “The Funeral" plays over the stereo. Even though I'm dining alone, I order as if I'm with the fam: I start with a pecan-smoked fish spread served with Ritz crackers and pecan-meal hush puppies topped with pimento cheese and Benton's bacon powder. (I need a jar of that in my life.) Next are short ribs, fragrant with clove, allspice, and nutmeg atop a bed of creamy coconut-milk Carolina Gold rice grits.

The Panic Button cocktail at The Living Room, in Dewberry

Chef Shaun Brian, wearing a white apron and a bicycle cap, swings by to say hello. He grew up on St. John—he moved to Charleston after losing his restaurant there to hurricanes Irma and Maria—so he comes by the island influence in his cooking naturally. “It makes a lot more sense than I ever thought it would‚" he says, giving me a thorough history of the spice trade and the Caribbean's influence on Charleston, going back to the 1600s. “At the end of the day, I still think of myself as an ambassador for my home islands, but I'm in a place where I have much more ability to make an impact."

I get a slice of sweet potato pie to go for Chris and walk back to The Dewberry. There's a wedding party going hard in the ballroom, but The Living Room, with its beautiful bronze bar, is calm and inviting, so I get a couple of drinks to take upstairs for us to enjoy with the pie. I tiptoe into our room, past Calder asleep on the velvet couch, turtle stuffie tucked under his arm, and join Chris in the four-post bed. We pass the pie back and forth—it goes great with my Dewberry Daiquiri—and share photos from the trip, laughing at the videos Calder took without our knowledge on the carriage tour. One starts on a perfectly preserved Federal-style home and then goes slo-mo (Calder's favorite video function), weaving down the street and stopping at a dump truck outside a derelict home ready to be remade. The significance—the city's constant push and pull to preserve and reinvent itself—doesn't hit me until we turn off the lights and say good night.

Sullivan's Island

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Family friendly cities: Summer fun in Seattle

By Bob Cooper

A newly renovated Space Needle, fantastic flight museums and nearby national parks are among the attractions that families visiting Seattle can enjoy on a summer or holiday getaway. Summer is also a good time to visit for the comfortably mild weather — typically in the seventies — and weeks-long Seafair celebration.

Seattle Space Needle and skyline

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Needle of glass

The 605-foot-tall Space Needle has been a leading “point" of interest in Seattle since it sprouted as the futuristic icon of the 1962 World's Fair. The view from atop the landmark tower's elevator ride is now better than ever, with nearly 200 tons of glass added to upper, lower and outer observation levels that permit an unobstructed view in all directions. One floor below is the world's first and only glass rotating observation deck and lounge, with the glass floor revealing a unique downward view of the Needle.

Seattle Center

Riding the Space Needle elevator is only one of many options at Seattle Center, the city's art, museum and entertainment hub. After arriving from downtown on the Seattle Monorail ($1.25-$2.50 per person), you can let the kids indulge their imagination at the Seattle Children's Museum; enjoy sci-fi and pop-music interactive exhibits at the Museum of Pop Culture; or take in the stimulating shows at the planetarium, Laser Dome theater or IMAX theaters at the Pacific Science Center. Not enough? Chihuly Garden and Glass displays homegrown glass artist Dale Chihuly's dazzling creations, and the Artists at Play playground beckons with a 50-foot tube slide and 30-foot climbing tower.

Pike Place Public Market in Seattle

Pike Place Market

Seattle visitors eager to enjoy an authentic experience where the only price of admission is an appetite for food and fun have to fit in a visit to Pike Place Market. At Seattle's most visited venue, newly expanded in 2017, everyone in the family will smile while watching fishmongers toss salmon through the air as street entertainers perform nearby. Food, beverage and craft purveyors sell their wares at more than 500 shops and stalls at the century-old farmers market that overlooks Puget Sound.

Flight of fancy

A 3D theater, flight simulators and the Kids' Flight Zone are indoor highlights of Seattle's Museum of Flight. Just outside is an unrivaled collection of major commercial jets, including the only Concorde on the West Coast, the first Air Force One jet and the first Boeing 747 and 787 Dreamliner. Boeing jets-to-be can be seen north of Seattle at the Future of Flight Aviation Center, the only place in North America where you can watch commercial jets being assembled on a Boeing factory tour.

Mt. Rainer National Park

Mountains, islands and lakes

Visitors renting a car can reach Mt. Rainier National Park, or be on board a ferry bound for the San Juan Islands (where there's a national historic park), in less than two hours. Both are breathtaking family destinations. But there are also many outdoor summer recreational activities available right in Seattle, a city surrounded by water on three sides and home to several lakes. Seattle's zoo is in Woodland Park on Green Lake, where you can rent all sorts of boats. There are also kayak and paddleboard rentals at Lake Union, and great tide pools to explore at Discovery Park on Puget Sound.

Summer celebrations

Seafair is a series of Seattle events that span most of the summer. Surely the loudest is the Seafair Summer 4th festival and fireworks show. Also on the Seafair calendar are big food events, cultural festivals and air-and-boat festivals. Nearly all are free.

If you go

United Airlines offers numerous flights to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport from several U.S. cities. MileagePlus Rewards can help cover your hotel room and rental car once you arrive. Go to united.com or use the United app to plan your Pacific Northwest family vacation.

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How to spend 12 days in Italy

By Nick Harper

Home to so many of the world's great works of art, so much of its most historic monuments and such glorious gastronomy, it's little wonder millions of tourists flock to Italy each year.

What's also great about Italy is that it's quick and easy to drive between its key cities. To experience everything the country has to offer would take a lifetime, but give yourself 12 days and you can easily experience five of the country's most iconic cities. Because United flies to and from most of the cities mentioned, it's easy to shorten or extend the trip to suit your time. But here's what we'd suggest for the ultimate 12-day Italian road trip.

The duomo in Milan, Italy at night

2 days in Milan

Touch down in one of the few Italian cities that doesn't appear to be frozen in time. Milan is a more cosmopolitan and cutting-edge affair, befitting the city's status as the capital of finance and fashion. That isn't to say it lacks history — the grand marble Duomo, the masterpiece-packed Pinacoteca di Brera and the Basilica di Santa Maria delle Grazie will sate your historic hunger, the latter housing Milan's most famous mural, Leonardo Da Vinci's The Last Supper.

But this is a city fixed more on the future than the past, one where its history stands side by side with sleek, modern skyscrapers, vibrant bars and cutting-edge hotels. As a result, you can expect a more frenetic pace of life than you'll find further south.

The must eat Risotto alla Milanese con ossobuco — the classic Milanese saffron risotto with braised veal shank is elevated to a silky, smooth masterpiece at Ratanà in Isola.

The must stay Bulgari Milan ($) — a luxurious hotel in the tranquil artists' quarter. Also consider: NYX Milan ($); The Yard Milano ($).

The next leg Milan to Venice is an easy 173 miles, about a three-hour drive. Take the train and it's around two hours 25 minutes from Milano Centrale to Venezia Santa Lucia.

A canal street in Venice, Italy

3 days in Venice

Venice is La Serenissima — Italy's Most Serene Republic — a city of your imagination and a place beyond your wildest dreams. A treasure trove of glorious art and extraordinary architecture, of 150 canals and almost 400 bridges, you know the city from the photographs, movies and paintings made famous the world over. As you explore Piazza San Marco or take a tour through history down the Grand Canal, so much here seems reassuringly familiar. Yet nothing can prepare you for the for the reality of stepping out from the station to the site of a glittering canal and the dome of San Simeon Piccolo, with Venice's canals and lanes twisting out before you. At that moment, expect your heart to skip a beat as the reality and romance of La Serenissima hit home.

The must eat Fritto Misto — taking full advantage of Venice's lagoon location, this mix of fried fish usually includes squid, shrimp and moeche, a soft-shell crab available only in autumn and spring.

The must stay Aman Venice ($) — 24 luxury suites in a stunning 16th-century Grand Canal palace. Also consider: La Calcina ($); Palazzo Morosini degli Spezieri ($).

The next leg — Venice to Florence is 160 miles and about two hours and 40 minutes away by car. By train, Venezia Santa Lucia to Firenze Santa Maria Novella takes two hours and five minutes.

The duomo in Florence, Italy

2 days in Florence

The search for la dolce vita will lead you to Florence, the heart of Tuscany, the cradle of the Renaissance and the most beautiful of all the Italian cities. For art enthusiasts, the city has no equal. Its galleries and museums home to so many of the world's finest examples of Renaissance art, much of it housed at the breathtaking Galleria degli Uffizi. The pink, white and green marble facade of the iconic Duomo, or cathedral, is worth the trip alone — without even stepping foot inside its adjoining museum. But, with so many quirky boutiques, trendy cafés, restaurants and bars, not to mention the beautiful Tuscan countryside close by, there is so much more to the city than its glorious history. Indeed, a single visit will never do it justice.

The must eat Bistecca alla Fiorentina — the city's culinary calling card is a vast slab of T-bone steak rubbed with olive oil, chargrilled, seasoned and served al sangue — bloody.

The must stay Portrait Firenze ($) — central hotel offering luxury and astonishing views. Also consider: BBH Firenze ($); AdAstra ($).

The next leg Florence to Rome is 168 miles away, or three hours by car. If traveling by train, Firenze Santa Maria Novella to Roma Termini takes about 90 minutes.

The Colosseum in Rome, Italy

3 days in Rome

In existence for more than three millennia, no other city does history quite like Rome, from its classical ruins and places of worship, to the Renaissance palazzo and the Baroque fountains. You can't leave without having seen the Colosseum, the Pantheon, St Peter's Basilica, the Palatino and the artistic treasures of the Vatican museums. There's also the Roman Forum, the Spanish Steps, the Museo e Galleria Borghese and far too many others to squeeze in a single visit, so throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain to guarantee you return.

For all its history, Rome's past blends effortlessly with the present, through the chic boutique stores, the neighborhood trattorias and the vibrant street life that lingers long into the night. The whole city is a stage — and you have a walk-on role.

The must eat Cacio e pepe — one of Rome's most iconic pasta dishes is also one of its simplest: hand-rolled tonnarelli pasta topped with salty pecorino cheese and black pepper, stirred with pasta water to create a smooth, spicy, simple and sumptuous sauce.

The must stay Hotel Eden ($) — magnificently renovated icon hotel, located beside the Spanish steps. Also consider: Nerva Boutique Hotel ($); Hotel Martis Palace ($).

The next leg The drive from Rome to Naples is 140 miles and a little over two hours south. Taking a train from Roma Termini to Napoli Centrale in one hour and 10 minutes.

Naples and Vesuvius volcano in Italy

2 days in Naples

For the first-time visitor, the sights and noise of Naples can overwhelm the senses. But at its heart lies a charm and vibrancy that has to be experienced at least once in your life. In the city itself you'll unearth a UNESCO-recognized historic core, vast Romanesque piazzas, world-class museums, castles and a labyrinth of ancient lanes hidden beneath the neighborhood washing.

Just a short journey further on lies the ruined city at Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius, the brooding volcano that looks down on the city and the Bay of Naples.

The must eat Pizza — in the city of its birth, it's hard to find bad pizza. L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele is Naples' original pizzeria, where the options have always been and will always be a Margherita or a Marinara. Chow down on a slice of history.

The must stay Grand Hotel Vesuvio ($) — an understated icon overlooking the Castel dell'Ovo. Also consider: Micalò ($); Hotel Excelsior ($).

The next leg If you have the time, explore the jaw-droppingly beautiful Amalfi Coast or the Bay of Naples' three nearby islands of Capri, Procida and Ischia, the latter made famous by Elena Ferrante's My Brilliant Friend. If your time has run out, fly home or on from Naples International Airport.

United now flies from New York/Newark (EWR) to Naples (NAP), in addition to Rome (FCO), Venice (VCE) and Milan (MXP). To explore further, you can also fly to Ancona, Bari, Bologna, Genoa, Florence, Pisa, Trieste, Turin and Verona with our Star Alliance™ member partner airlines. Book your Italian adventure at united.com or use the United mobile app.

10 essential tips for the solo traveler

By Nick Harper

Are you a solo traveler? The sort of person who wants to head out into the world and experience whatever you like, wherever you like, whenever you like? You're not alone.

Research shows a spike in bookings for solo travelers across almost all age groups in recent years — from baby boomers to millennials. More and more of us want the freedom to travel on our own terms, and more and more of us are turning those dreams into reality.

If you're a first-time solo traveler, you'll feel liberated, but before you head out on your first solo journey, here are 10 things you should know.

Woman traveling by herself


1. You'll come back a better person

Of the many benefits of solo travel is that you'll come back a more confident, independent person, regardless of how confident you were when you set out. When you travel in a group, or even just a pair, you're free to fall back on others and let them decide for you. But when you're traveling solo, every decision is ultimately up to you. And with each decision you make, you'll grow as a person.

2. You need to tell people where you're going

While solo travel isn't unsafe, you won't have anyone to watch your back, or your bags. Give yourself, your friends and your family peace of mind by leaving a copy of your itinerary that includes your flight times, accommodations and anything that helps them keep track of your whereabouts. Then, make another list with international emergency lines, U.S. embassy numbers, toll-free and international numbers for your credit card company, travel insurance documents and anything you might need in an emergency. And before you travel, register your trip with the U.S. State Department's STEP program, so that the local embassy or consulate can assist you if they need to.

Two men traveling together in an airport

3. You don't have to go solo all the way

It's very easy to make friends on a solo vacation, should you choose to. Stay in lodges or hostels rather than hotels and you'll share space with like-minded travelers but be prepared: you probably won't have peace and quiet like you would in a hotel room). If you're up for meeting other solo travelers, choose small group or escorted travel, particularly to destinations that are off-the-beaten-path. Expedition cruises and safaris are two other popular options if you're looking for more social experiences.

4. Buddying up can be good for your budget

Two words send shivers down the spines of solo travelers: single supplement. Since hotels charge by the room — not by the number of people using the room — you'll likely be charged the same rate as two people sharing a room if you book alone. . Try to reserve a single room well in advance, but if you can't do that, check any single supplement charges before you book. You can also ask about a roommate option where you sign up to share a room with another solo traveler, saving money and making a friend.

Man traveling through Kuala Lumpur

5. Choose your destination wisely

The world is your oyster but be careful not to bite off more than you can chew. A shorter trip somewhere close to home will give you a good idea of how solo travel works. From there you can work up to bigger adventures. London, Tokyo, Sydney, Melbourne and Bangkok all rank very highlywith solo travelers from the U.S. And there are plenty of great U.S. destinations, like New York, Seattle, San Diego and Washington, D.C., and lots of great options on a smaller scale, like Austin, Texas; Charleston, South Carolina; Asheville, North Carolina; and Boulder, Colorado. Most of those are big, vibrant, bustling cities with enough to keep you entertained around the clock, and each gives you the chance to meet other travelers or explore on your own.

6. You're free to make it up as you go

Solo trips mean every decision you make is up to you and only affects only you. Want to ride a mule deep into the Grand Canyon? You can. Want to spend three days in the Louvre? That's your call. Want to sleep in until midday? Go for it.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of traveling alone is that you can do what you want whenever you want, and you can change your plans at any time. The freedom to make it up as you go is rare in everyday life and it won't last forever, so embrace it while you can.

Man exploring the Grand Canyon

7. You may encounter and defeat a new phobia

Solomangarephobia is the fear of eating alone in public. The dreaded table for one can be the most difficult and awkward part of solo travel, but it doesn't have to be. Seek out a casual cafe rather than a fancy restaurant. Then find a seat at the bar, on a terrace or in a booth, bring a book or your diary and chat to the restaurant staff. And from time to time, you can avoid the awkwardness completely by ordering room service and eating dinner on your bed.

8. You'll learn more by talking to the locals

Travel guide books and apps are great for gaining a better understanding of a place, but they're never as effective as speaking to the locals. An all-night salsa dancing joint in Havana, a secretive speakeasy in Brooklyn, the hands-down best street food in all of Bangkok — nobody knows the local scene like a local. Smile, attempt to say hello in their language, ask questions and you'll end up with a far better experience — and maybe even a friend for life.

9. You'll need a secret stash of cash

Running out of money a long way from home is never fun, but it's even more of a problem if you're all by yourself. To guard against an unexpected emergency, take a $100 bill and tuck it under the sole of your shoe. You might not need it, but if you do, that little piece of paper might just get you out of a scrape.

10. And you'll need to act appropriately

When you're traveling on your own, a little caution goes a long way. Research which neighborhoods are and aren't safe to roam, particularly alone and after dark. If you get lost, avoid standing around poring over maps like an obvious out-of-towner. If you drink, don't drink too much that you can't easily find your way back home. And as cynical as it might sound, keep an open mind but trust no one. The world is a big and beautiful place, but trust your common sense.

Solotravelerworld.com is an excellent resource to find out more.

And wherever you choose to travel, begin your solo trip by booking your flights via united.com or the United mobile app.

Hemispheres

New York City celebrates Stonewall 50

By The Hub team , June 10, 2019

Story by Matthew Wexler | Illustration by Made Up | Hemispheres June 2019

This month, New York City celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots—which sparked the modern LGBTQ rights movement—and hosts the first WorldPride event to be held in the U.S. Here, five artists and activists who are participating in the festivities share what Pride means to them.

Melissa Etheridge

Singer-Songwriter

“I grew up in Kansas, and it was the late '70s when I started hearing rumblings of the gay liberation movement. I remember looking at my mom's copy of Life magazine and seeing a photo of women sitting next to each other in a bar. I exploded inside. The LGBTQ community reaches across every ethnicity and every country on earth. WorldPride is a celebration of love and something we still have to fight for. It reminds me of where we were 50 years ago, when we said, 'We're not going to hate ourselves anymore.' It's my honor to create art that reflects what we're going through—the worries, hopes, and dreams of our times."

The Grammy-and Oscar-winning singer-songwriter will headline the WorldPride Closing Ceremony in Times Square (June 30)

Camilo Godoy

Artist

“There's a long history of presenting queerness and eroticism through photography, showing bodies in ways that are beautiful, poetic, and disruptive. Part of my recent project Amigxs appears in the
[current] Brooklyn Museum exhibit and explores the intersection of desire and activism in public space. I think of mentors—artists like Félix González-Torres and David Wojnarowicz—who died because of political inaction during the AIDS crisis. I'm thrilled this exhibit can be a place for people to learn about communities not at the center of our collective narrative."

The Colombian-born artist's work appears in the Brooklyn Museum's Nobody Promised You Tomorrow: Art 50 Years After Stonewall (through December 8)

Liz Bouk

Opera Singer

“A lot led up to the moment in 2017 when I looked in the mirror and said, 'Oh my gosh, I'm a man.' After walking in my first Pride March last year with my family, I grabbed a bunch of books about Stonewall to understand how the current transgender movement fits into history. People like Sylvia Rivera, Lou Sullivan, and Marsha P. Johnson
were fearless and gave themselves permission to live their truths. In New York City Opera's Stonewall, I'll be portraying a transgender character created specifically for a transgender singer. I hope people leave celebrating the progress we've made and also feel moved to advocate for change and acceptance of all LGBTQ people."

The mezzo-soprano appears in Stonewall at New York City Opera (June 21–28)

Tommy Hom

Stonewall 50 Director

“I was born and raised in New York City and attended my first Pride event in 1985. My friends brought me to the Village, and I wound up in the middle of the crowd among so many diverse people, thinking, 'I'm not the only one.' I've discovered through my lifetime that we're constantly coming out as we evolve as individuals and as a community. Stonewall is a pivotal point in our history, and this commemoration takes it back to the streets. We should never forget that dancing under starlight or holding hands in public was once an act of rebellion. It's a rallying call, because we're not finished with the fight for equality."

The Stonewall 50 director spearheads a rally at the site of the original uprising, Christopher Street and Waverly Place (June 28)

Gina Yashere

Comedian

“I've never seen myself as an activist—I'm a straight-up entertainer. I fell into comedy by accident when I wrote a skit for a charity talent show, and people were pissing themselves laughing. I thought, 'Oh, this is comedy!' I talk about myself and my life experiences, and so I'm political just by virtue of who I am: a black, female, gay immigrant. I discovered and came to admire people like Wanda Sykes and Whoopi Goldberg, black women making it in the industry against the odds. Let's suspend the doctrine of what we've been fed. See people as people. At the end of the day, we're all just walking hunks of meat."

The British comedian will appear at Levity & Justice for All, a comedy benefit for Project LPAC, at PlayStation Theater (June 25)

Photo Credits: Rob Kim/Wireimage (Etheridge); Courtesy of the artist (Godoy); Sarah Shatz (Bouk); Courtesy of Tommy Hom (Hom); Gabriel Olsen/FilmMagic (Yashere)

Denver’s airport in full bloom

By United Airlines , June 07, 2019

With our summer schedule in effect, we set a new record at Denver International Airport today by offering more than 500 daily departures from our Rocky Mountain hub for the first time ever. Since January 1, 2018, we've added 32 new domestic and international routes out of Denver, creating more than 2,600 additional connection opportunities for our customers there. The 500-plus-daily-flights milestone is a result of those efforts, which are all part of our strategy to significantly grow our presence in our mid-continent hubs.

"Denver's record growth symbolizes the investments we're making in our people and our company, both in Denver and throughout our network," said President Scott Kirby. "As we focus on strengthening our mid-continent hubs, our record schedule allows us to provide our customers with a better travel experience by offering more connections and more destinations."

Along with being the airport's largest airline, we are also one of the region's biggest employers and economic drivers. The city is home to our brand-new, state-of-the-art flight training center, the largest single-site flight training center in the world, and we've increased our employee headcount in the area by 970 in recent years. This growth is all about giving our Denver customers unrivaled choice and convenience when it comes to destinations and flight times. Along with that, thanks to our new Denver flight banks, we have increased the number of morning flights available to business customers traveling from Denver to the East and West Coasts, while improving connectivity to Midwest and mountain region destinations.

For more on our Denver operation, see the infographic below.

Denver celebrates record-breaking flight schedule

United in Denver is operating more than 500 daily departures this summer – the largest schedule in our history.

DEN – FLL is the 500th daily flight out of DEN

The historic milestone is a testament to United's commitment to Denver and our overall growth strategy

32 domestic and international routes have been added out of DEN*

Unveiled world's largest single site flight training center *

United's employees are the foundation of our success

Everyone is key to continuing to provide our customers with excellent service while we grow to provide them access to the places they want to go.

970 employees hired in Denver*

Denver is proof that the growth strategy we rolled out in 2018 is working

2,600 new connection opportunities for our customers flying through DEN since last year

Flying our heroes for the 75th anniversary of D-Day

By Matt Adams , June 06, 2019

Over the past several days, on flights out of Washington D.C., Houston, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver and others, we had the distinct honor and privilege of welcoming more than two dozen World War II veterans en route to Holland and France, back to the places where many of them fought 75 years ago during the Allied D-Day landings and associated battles.

D-Day veteran pictured with his family before boarding a flight to the 75th anniversary in France

At Los Angeles International Airport, Customer Service Representative Cindy Good, whose uncle, Eric Meissner, took part in the invasion of Normandy, France that began on June 6, 1944 — D-Day — said a few words to the assembled crowd of onlookers who had gathered to see veteran Rudolfo Huereque off before he boarded his flight.

"My mom and family grew up in Austria under Hitler's rule, so if it were not for the Americans and Allied Forces that liberated countries across Europe, I know that I would not be here today," Cindy said. "Many World War II veterans will say 'they didn't do anything,' or 'they were only doing their job.' To those, I will say, 'You did everything… you saved the world.'"

Owing to that debt of gratitude she feels, Cindy works year-round with organizations that arrange for veterans to revisit the former battlefields where they served. Leading up to the 75th anniversary of D-Day, she contacted the airports from which a number of veterans would depart for remembrance trips, working with local employees who ensured the veterans received the hero's welcome they deserve when arriving at the airport.

In a particularly powerful scene at Washington D.C.'s Dulles Airport, a group of the veterans spoke with area high school students before leaving for Europe. As the veterans recounted their experiences, the students listened in intense silence, seeing the war for the first time through the eyes of the men who lived it.

"What was amazing to see is how they expressed no regret, and that they knew it was their duty and honor," said Dulles Airport Managing Director Omar Idris, who led the proceedings alongside members of our United for Veterans business resource group.

Among was 100-year-old Sidney Walton, who served in the China-India-Burma theater of World War II and is one of the oldest surviving veterans of the war. He's been on a mission to visit all 50 states, in addition to battle sites overseas, so that he can tell his story as a living link to a past that is quickly fading as more and more World War II veterans pass away.

At Denver's International Airport, employees and customers paid their respects to Ronald Scharfe, an Iwo Jima veteran, and Leila Morrison, who served on the front lines as a U.S. Army nurse and 2nd lieutenant during the war. We threw them a catered reception at the gate, where they were met with a round of applause, and arranged a water cannon salute as they taxied before takeoff.

"We owe so much to them that this is the least we can do for our 'Greatest Generation' American heroes," said Denver Airport's Customer Service Supervisor Cheryl Searle. "It felt like a Fourth of July parade in small town USA with American flags waving throughout the concourse."

Elsewhere, we had veterans depart from Birmingham, Alabama), San Diego, Las Vegas, Rochester, New York, Little Rock, Arkansas, Chattanooga, Tennessee, Akron/Canton, Ohio, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Minneapolis/St. Paul, San Antonio, Greensboro, North Carolina, Savannah, Georgia, Charlotte, North Carolina and Missoula, Montana.

United captain retraces historic D-Day flight

By Matt Adams , June 06, 2019

They came through the clouds from across the English Channel, dozens of Douglas C-47s in tight formation, just as they had 75 years earlier, when the low hum of their propellers signaled the coming liberation of Europe.

As the squadron soared over the beaches of Normandy in France, a swarm of dark specks suddenly appeared beneath them, silhouetted against the bright sky. Hundreds of men and women wearing period-correct parachutes and World War II uniforms drifted down from the planes toward the original drop zones the Allies used on D-Day in 1944.

Captain Steve Craig pictured with the C-47 aircraft he flew over the beaches of Normandy, France

With the last parachutist clear, the aircraft proceeded eastward to Caen, France. San Francisco-based 787 Captain Steve Craig, who piloted one of the C-47s, looked down upon the rolling green meadows below, where the Battle of Normandy had raged following D-Day, and tried to imagine it as it was all those years ago.

This flight was a dream come true for Steve, an aviation history buff with a keen interest in old warbirds. He earned his chops flying Douglas DC-3s, the civilian version of the C-47, back in the 1980s, transporting crates of fish between Seattle and Anchorage, Alaska, and to hear him tell it, that plane was his first love. Even after joining United as a pilot in 1990, he sat for check rides on the DC-3, and today he is one of perhaps 100 pilots in the United States still qualified to fly the aircraft.

That put him in a unique position when, several months ago, private DC-3 and C-47 owners were finalizing plans for a Normandy flyover commemorating the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Hundreds of C-47s had transported thousands of paratroopers from England to Normandy during the invasion, making it the plane most synonymous with D-Day. Now, they needed pilots like Steve so they could fly once more.

The mission was known as Daks Over Normandy, "Dak" being short for "Dakota," which is what the British called the C-47 (in the U.S. it was known as the "Skytrain"). Starting late last month, roughly 30 Daks from around the world converged upon the Duxford Aerodrome, an airfield in Cambridgeshire, England, for a military aircraft show. On the night of June 5, they departed for France, following the same flight path and schedule Allied airmen used on D-Day, arriving over Normandy early on the morning of June 6.

The aircraft Steve flew, tail number N341A, was actually designated as a C-41 during World War II, which was a version of the C-47 modified for VIP travel. It was one of two identical aircraft that U.S. General Henry "Hap" Arnold used as aerial command posts in the theater.

Polished silver aluminum, with a red-and-white tail rudder, it was delivered to U.S. Army Air Command in 1939 and subsequently based at Bolling Army Airfield in Washington, D.C., before serving overseas. Knowing his reputation and experience with this kind of aircraft, the C-41's owner contacted Steve this past February and arranged for him to fly the plane in the Daks Over Normandy event.

Steve's journey started in Oakland, California, where N341A resides, on May 26. It took him seven days, with all the fuel stops, to make the trip to Duxford, where he arrived on June 1. Once there, he had a few days to take care of general maintenance while the aircraft was on display before departing for the historic flight over the channel, the largest single gathering of Dakotas since the war.

ABC News correspondent David Kerley covered the Daks Over Normandy flyover, highlighting the efforts that made it possible. Click here for the video. You can also relive Steve's trip through his blog here.

The ultimate guide to San Francisco's top neighborhoods

By Bob Cooper

Seeing the sights of San Francisco is fun, but once you've been to Fisherman's Wharf, Pier 39, Union Square, the waterfront and the major museums — what's next? Try venturing out to San Francisco's colorful, eclectic neighborhoods for a more authentic experience.

Each major neighborhood is filled with pleasant people-watching, rave-worthy restaurants and a major upcoming festival. And each is within 20 minutes of downtown hotels on foot or by light-rail, streetcar, bus, taxi or ride-share.

Chinatown neighborhood in San Francisco Chinatown

Chinatown

First generation Chinese-Americans have crowded into America's oldest Chinatown for more than a century, so it feels like a slice of China with its hundreds of shops, produce markets, teahouses and restaurants (check out China Live). Visitors should explore Stockton Street and the alleys where locals shop — not just tourist-oriented Grant Avenue.

North Beach

Italian-Americans rebuilt San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake and fire and settled in North Beach, where you can still enjoy pasta and Italian espresso. (Try crazy-fun Stinking Rose, the iconic Caffe Trieste or America's oldest Italian restaurant, Fior d'Italia.) And if you're in town in June, check out the North Beach Festival (June 15-16) and in October, the 151st Italian Heritage Parade (October 13).

The Marina

Marina residents enjoy the city's best Golden Gate Bridge views, and it's the best place by far to watch the Blue Angels perform over the bay during the San Francisco Fleet Week Air Show, presented by none other than United (October 11-13). It's also a bonanza for the upscale shopping and dining — try Pacific Catch or Kaiyo — on two parallel commercial streets: Union Street attracts a well-heeled older crowd and Chestnut Street attracts a livelier and younger crowd.

The Castro neighborhood in San Francisco Castro neighborhood

The Castro

The Castro has been at the heart of LGBTQ culture in the U.S. for 50 years, and the neighborhood is as vibrant as ever. Visitors should stop by the GLBT Museum, enjoy lunch and a chamtini (champagne/martini) at Harvey's — named after "Mayor of Castro Street" Harvey Milk, and catch a classic movie at the Castro Theatre, a 1,400-seat art-deco gem. The Castro is at its liveliest during San Francisco's Pride Parade & Celebration (June 29-30).

People sun bathing at Dolores Park in the Mission District in San Francisco Summer at Dolores Park

The Mission

In the heavily Hispanic Mission District, rapidly gentrifying Valencia Street is just edgy enough to be a favorite of millennials. Taco joints stand alongside fine dining, but affordable, restaurants like Locanda and Al's Place — the least-expensive Michelin-star restaurant in America. Between meals, check out Mission Dolores, the oldest building in the city (1791), and Dolores Park, millennial central on sunny days. Valencia Street teems with 10,000 bookworms during Lit Crawl (October 19), a three-hour circus of 108 readings by authors and poets.

The Haight

Fifty-two years after the Summer of Love, there's still a lot to love about the Haight besides taking a selfie at the famed intersection of Haight and Ashbury. The hippie vibe still lives on even as once-radical concepts like socialism and marijuana use are now more accepted. On the street once prowled by Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and the Grateful Dead are Hippie Thai, the world's largest independent music store, a dazzling Buddhist-merchandise shop and a unique tie-dye shop, Love on Haight.

Fillmore/Japantown

Japantown is the Bay Area's cultural hub for Japanese-Americans and the Fillmore District is a hub of African-American culture. They are side-by-side on Fillmore Street, with the Japan Center Mall the focal point of Japantown and the Fillmore District stretching north along Fillmore. Enjoy Waraku's ramen for lunch or nightly jazz and Italian fare at Zingari. The Fillmore's rich jazz history is celebrated during the Fillmore Jazz Festival (July 6-7) and Japantown's big festival is the Nihonmachi Street Fair (August 4-5).

Conservatory of Flowers in the Golden Gate Bridge Park Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park

Inner Richmond

The predominantly Asian-American Inner Richmond District is the thickest concentration of Asian restaurants in the city outside Chinatown. The 12-block-long buffet line of eateries on Clement Street includes memorable spots like Chili House, where you can enjoy a dim sum lunch between visits to the Conservatory of Flowers and the California Academy of Sciences and De Young museums in nearby Golden Gate Park. Also in the park on October 4-6 is Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, a free, six-stage outdoor concert that draws more than a half-million people.

If you go

A San Francisco visit is a great escape from summer heat or for a fall getaway when the weather is the most pleasant. United offers numerous flights to San Francisco from cities throughout the U.S. and worldwide. MileagePlus® Rewards can help pay for your hotel room. Go to united.com or use the United app to plan your San Francisco vacation.

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