Three Perfect Days: Island of Hawaii
Hemispheres

Three Perfect Days: Island of Hawaii

By The Hub team , February 02, 2018

Story by Nicholas DeRenzo | Photography by Daeja Fallas | Hemispheres, February 2018

They don't call Hawaii “The Big Island" for nothing. At 4,028 square miles, it is more than twice the size of all its archipelago-mates combined, comprising tropical rainforests, black-sand beaches, barren deserts, and even snowcapped volcanoes. Along with being the chain's (and the country's) largest island, Hawaii is also, in geological terms, its youngest. It's like a brash teenager, constantly growing and changing and flaunting its youth. This isn't a process measured in millennial increments, either—it's a pyrotechnic display of cracking earth and oozing lava. But what else would you expect from the home of Pele, the feared and fickle goddess of fire?

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Day 1

We should probably stop first and ask Pele's permission." It's early morning in MacKenzie State Recreation Area, a park of ironwood trees and volcanic cliffs on Hawaii's quiet eastern coast. I'm here with Mark Frost, who owns the Kipuka guesthouse, where I'm staying; his dog, Cosmo; and his friend Kanani Aton. Before we enter the forest, Aton pauses to chant a passage from an ancient saga. “I love when we ask permission," she says, “because then things just unfold beautifully."

As we bounce across spongy pine needles, Aton points out medicinal fruits, ferns that she weaves into leis, and lava alcoves that were once believed to house pixie-like Menehune. Like the rest of the island, the area is perpetually being reshaped by lava, a danger that's quite a boon for tourism. “You know that saying, 'If you build it, they will come'?" Aton asks. “Well, Pele's building, and they're all coming!"

A sustainable bamboo guesthouse at KipukaA sustainable bamboo guesthouse at Kipuka

After an hour of exploring, we return to Kipuka, four off-the-grid bamboo houses built in a palm garden with more than 5,000 trees from 350 species. Frost brews me coffee with beans from Ka'u, a burgeoning coffee destination on the island's southern flank. Enlivened, I head out for a drive up the coast.

This island is two-faced: The windward Hilo side, where I've started my trip, is all mist and rain, lush jungles and crashing waterfalls; the leeward Kona side is white-sand beaches and sun and big resorts. About an hour after my start, I'm driving into Hilo, the island's biggest town, at about 50,000 residents, and one of America's wettest, with nearly 200 inches of rain per year. The onetime sugarcane center feels a bit like a Wild West boomtown or some tropical Twin Peaks.

"The landscape drains of color and turns to black as we fly over miles of hardened lava."

I stop at the 110-year-old Suisan Fish Market for poke, the local dish of raw marinated fish that's having a moment on the mainland, and order a heaping mixed plate—marlin, salmon, ahi, and hamachi—topped with umami-rich furikake. I make sure to save room for a shave ice at Wilson's by the Bay. The friendly woman behind the counter packs vanilla ice cream into a paper cone and tops it with a softball-size mound of ice, fresh-shaved by a vintage contraption, plus coconut, lilikoi (passion fruit), and li hing mui (salty dried plum) syrups. Outside, an old man solemnly wishes me good luck, but I still end up licking syrup off my forearm.

Next, I'll be exploring the island from a different perspective, with Blue Hawaiian Helicopters. I check in at Hilo's pint-size airport, where I'm asked to step onto a scale like a piece of luggage (maybe I didn't need that shave ice) to ensure inflight weight distribution. On the chopper, to a soundtrack of Enya and the Jurassic Park theme, we dart around like a dragonfly, buzzing up the Hamakua Coast, past waterfalls carving troughs through fertile valleys, and then south, over neat grids of macadamia trees.

Poke at Suisan Fish MarketPoke at Suisan Fish Market

The landscape drains of color and turns to black as we fly over miles of hardened lava. We keep our eyes peeled for new breakouts, like kids on a road trip playing the license plate game. Lava is slow, but it's no laughing matter: This flow swallowed up the village of Kalapana less than three decades ago, incinerating everything in its path and forming acres of new land. The grand finale is the Kamokuna ocean entry, where red-hot lava pours into the sea, kicking up great plumes of steam. Some visitors choose to approach the area on boats, or even by foot or bike, but I'm happy to keep a healthy distance. After all, on New Year's Eve 2016, about 17 football fields' worth of newly formed land came crashing down into the Pacific.

Back in Hilo, I stop into Sig Zane Designs to browse the collection of upscale aloha shirts while entertaining thoughts of growing a Magnum, P.I. mustache. I'm also thinking about dinner, which is at Moon and Turtle, the passion project of Hilo-born chef Mark Pomaski, who worked as a sushi chef at New York's Nobu Fifty Seven, and his wife, Soni.

The King's Pond at the Four Seasons Resort HualalaiThe King's Pond at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai

“I love the combo of high and low," Pomaski says. “I want to elevate the humble soul food dish and bring the avant-garde back down to earth." I order seared beef tataki dressed with a tapenade made from mushrooms grown up the coast, plus a meaty collar of local hapu'upu'u sea bass, flash-fried and served with a savory ponzu garlic butter. The highlight is raw kanpachi (yellowtail), dressed with extra virgin olive oil, chili pepper water, and soy sauce that's been smoked with kiawe (Hawaiian mesquite). “Chili pepper water and soy sauce are like salt and pepper here," Pomaski says. “This is like my childhood and my adulthood on a plate."

I finish up with a custardy slice of lilikoi pie from the nearby Papa'a Palaoa Bakery, and begin the hourlong drive back to Kipuka. The roads are dark, with nothing but the distant glow of lava to guide me home.

Poke, Please—And Hold The Accent Mark

Centuries before Western contact, Hawaiians were dressing chopped reef fish with sea salt, limu (edible algae), and roasted kukui nuts—local flavorings still found in markets across the island. By the late 1800s, ahi had emerged as a tastier go-to base, and poke (Hawaiian for “to cut crosswise into pieces") became a symbol of the changing face of Hawaii: Westerners added onions and chili peppers, Asian workers brought soy sauce and sesame oil, and 21st-century Americans added the unnecessary accent mark you see on the mainland.

The Roast With The Most

Thanks to near-perfect growing conditions, Kona coffee is one of the most prized and expensive varieties on the planet. At the UCC Kona Coffee Estate, which is owned by one of Japan's largest coffee companies, you can tour a working plantation and roast your own beans. Bonus: They'll even print your proud face right on the label.

Day 2

My body is still on mainland time, which comes in handy as many of Hawaii's most memorable experiences happen before sunrise. A case in point is Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, located an hour's drive west of Kipuka, where I awake to a chorus of invasive coqui frogs outside my window.

It's still dark when I arrive at the park, which takes its plural name from Mauna Loa, the planet's largest shield volcano, and Kilauea, one of its most active. In the pitch-black visitor center parking lot, I meet Tours by Locals guide Scott Wiggers. He ushers me to a point overlooking the Halema'uma'u Crater, where a lava lake flickers red and spits up mini molten geysers. There are only five or six other visitors, so it's silent except for the rumbling and hissing of roiling lava. “This is my favorite time to visit the park," Wiggers whispers. “We practically have it all to ourselves."

As the sun rises, we climb into a truck and head off to see the park's greatest hits, including the Thurston Lava Tube, a subway tunnel–size cave through which lava once flowed, and the Kilauea Iki Overlook, which offers views of a crater that produced 1,900-foot molten fountains during an eruption in 1959. That's about 100 feet higher than One World Trade Center.

We pull over and walk to a series of steam vents, formed when rainwater gets trapped in the porous rock and superheated, and warm our hands in a plume of fog (it's surprisingly chilly out here). “It smells just like boiling pasta," Wiggers says with a laugh. He bends down and rummages around for a few seconds, and then picks up a strand of glass. Lava from the crater gets caught in the wind, stretched, and spun like cotton candy, landing all throughout the park. “This is called Pele's hair," Wiggers says as he drops the glass back onto the ground. If you've ever seen the Brady Bunch Hawaiian vacation episode, you know it'd be bad luck to pocket anything from the park. (Plus, it's a federal offense.)

A lava lake at Halema'uma'u Crater in Hawaii Volcanoes National ParkA lava lake at Halema'uma'u Crater in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

We continue along Chain of Craters Road, which is flanked on either side by endless expanses of hardened lava. “You'll notice two types," says Wiggers as we trek over a crunchy lava field. “Pahoehoe, the hotter lava, is flat and easy to walk on." To me, it looks like a pan of overcooked brownies. “A'a is chunky and impossible to walk on." More like a bulldozed pile of Oreo chunks.

As we drive, mongooses and pheasants dart across the road, but I'm on the lookout for the state bird, the nene. In the early 1950s, this cousin of the Canada goose was close to extinction, with only about 30 birds left (it didn't help that the old Volcano House hotel used to have them on the menu), but a captive breeding program has returned their numbers to about 2,500. I'm happy to check them off my bird-nerd bucket list after I spot a pair foraging by the side of the road.

I say goodbye to Wiggers and head to Volcano Village for lunch at Ohelo Café, where I order pan-seared ono—the Hawaiian name, meaning “good to eat," for the game fish wahoo. Southwest of here, the landscape changes, opening up into the Ka'u Desert, which is deprived of vegetation by Mauna Loa's rain shadow, the only precipitation being acid rain caused by volcanic gases. I skirt the coast, pulling over to dip my toes at Punalu'u black-sand beach, where green sea turtles bob in the surf, munching algae from the rocks.

Lifeguards at Punalu'u black-sand beachLifeguards at Punalu'u black-sand beach

Fifteen minutes down the road, I reach Punalu'u Bake Shop, America's southernmost bakery (in these parts, everything is America's southernmost something) for pillowy taro sweetbread and fried malasadas, doughnuts brought to the island by 19th-century Portuguese sugar workers. I drive past the U.S.'s southernmost point (it's all ocean from here to Antarctica) and start to head up the coast, past hillside coffee farms.

Soon, I'm emerging on the island's resort-rich Kona side and pulling into the Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa at Keauhou Bay, which is known for its manta ray–related activities. The wildlife viewing started as a happy accident: A spotlight shining from the hotel's seafront restaurant attracted light-loving plankton, which in turn caused hungry mantas to turn up in droves. Now adventurous types meet at sunset on a nearby dock for a Fair Wind Cruises night snorkel with these balletic behemoths. They're harmless (no teeth, no barbs), but they are intimidatingly large, with wingspans of up to 14 feet.

"My body is still on mainland time, which comes in handy as many of Hawaii's most memorable experiences happen before sunrise."

Our boat, the Hula Kai, putters out a few hundred yards as our guide rattles off the rays we might encounter—Sugar Ray, Darth Ray-der, Big Bertha—each identified by its unique markings. Snorkels and fins on, we plunk into the water and line up along a floating platform, our feet buoyed by foam floaties, which makes us look like rows of Supermen in flight. Lights on the bottom of the platform draw a cosmos of phytoplankton, which in turn attract zooplankton—a catch-all term for minuscule, sea monkey–like creatures—and the mantas turn all of the above into a buffet.

A manta ray in the dark water off the Kona-Kohala coastA manta ray in the dark water off the Kona-Kohala coast

We wait five minutes, 10 minutes, lulled into a meditative state by passing fish. Suddenly, the peace is broken by a chorus of snorkel-muffled screams, whimpers, oohs, and aahs. People, it seems, have varying responses to Volkswagen-size sea creatures. Below me, an immense manta is gliding upward. It flips onto its back, skimming inches from my mask, scooping up plankton with its gaping mouth. For the next half hour, we watch rays loop in and out of the light, snacking on bucketfuls of microscopic critters.

Staying afloat in bobbing waves is a surprisingly effective core workout, and it leaves me tuckered out. Back on dry land, I grab a quick dinner of kalua pork potstickers, hearts of palm salad, and a much-needed mai tai at the Sheraton's Rays on the Bay, then head straight to bed, drifting off as waves crash on the lava rocks outside my window. Tomorrow will be a big day.

Trail Guide: Tips from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park public affairs specialist Jessica Ferracane

  • “Get to Jaggar Museum before sunrise. When no one is around, you can sometimes hear the rumbling of rocks exploding as the lava lake rises and falls."'
  • “Remember to dress in layers—it's much colder at 4,000 feet than you think, despite the proximity to molten rock!"
  • “The Kilauea Iki Trail blows my mind. My favorite section is where molten rock drained back into the vent and piled up like clumps of black satin bedsheets."

Day 3

Hawaii vacations conjure images of sunbathing and tiki drinks, but mine is shaping up differently. I know this because it's 1:45 a.m. and I'm getting dressed in the dark. I'm about to be picked up by the tour company Hawaii Forest & Trail to witness sunrise on the summit of Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano that's so tall it's been known to see snow in the middle of summer. At 13,796 feet, Mauna Kea is the highest point in the state; measured from the ocean floor, it tops out at about 32,000 feet, making it the tallest mountain in the world. (Everest rises 29,029 feet above sea level but rests atop a plateau—which many Hawaiians think is a bit like measuring a basketball player's height while he sits on his teammate's shoulders.)

Accompanied by our cheerful guide, Kim Nichols, we exit the van at 9,200 feet to adjust to the altitude before making the final ascent—a doozy for the human body even if you're not hiking. Far from the city lights, the stars are shockingly bright. We zip into our parkas and look up to see Orion and the Pleiades, the hazy swath of the Milky Way, the reddish pinpoint of Mars. Satellites whiz by, along with the occasional meteor. Just as Venus—the morning star—peers over the horizon, we squeeze back into the van and head to the summit.

A green sea turtle crawls onto shoreA green sea turtle crawls onto shore

A short, bumpy nap later, I awake on the mountaintop, surrounded on all sides by massive telescopes. We jump out to catch the first rays of sun gilding the horizon. We're above the cloudline, so the sun seems to emerge out of the ether, like a scoop of orange sherbet melting in reverse.

Nichols reminds us to take it easy. Oxygen levels are low up here; anything faster than a slow crawl will leave you gasping.“Your body is redirecting resources to vital organs," she says, meaning motor skills, eyesight, and speech will take a back seat. “We call it 'the two-mai-tai effect.'" I mumble a garbled question, and she responds, “See!" I can't be sure if my incoherence is due to a lack of oxygen or a lack of caffeine. The return-trip nap, as the van bounces downwards, is possibly the best I've ever had.

“I wander along a path that skirts the beach, watching Pacific golden plovers dart in and out of the surf."

Back in Kailua-Kona, I drive a rental up the sunny Kona-Kohala coast, then drop off my bags at the luxe Four Seasons Resort Hualalai. Still a bit groggy, I head north for breakfast/lunch/last-night's-dinner in the village of Waimea. This is cowboy country, the land of the paniolos, who came from California and Mexico in the 1800s to tend cattle. (The name might be derived from the Spanish for handkerchief, pañuelo, or it could be a version of español.) At Village Burger, an unassuming strip mall spot, I order my hamburger rare, served with Swiss cheese, tomato marmalade, and 60-minute onions. Perfect.

I drive farther up the Kohala Mountain Road, a picturesque route that zigzags through cattle pastures. A few miles past a towering roadside statue of Kamehameha the Great, the founder of the Kingdom of Hawaii, I pull into a lot overlooking Pololu Valley. A guy selling freshly cracked coconuts is telling tourists he has the best corner office in America. I can't argue. His patch looks down on palm-smothered valleys and cliffs, which billow out toward the horizon like a green curtain. I hear that the real treasure is on the valley floor, so I grab a coconut and brave a series of slippery switchbacks to a secluded black-sand beach, where I lie back and take in the oddly relaxing sound of waves battering the shore.

More relaxation is in store for me back at the Four Seasons, in its extravagant pools: sipping cocktails from the swim-up bar at the Palm Grove Pool; wading in the Ocean Pool, which is protected from the waves by a lava-rock breakwater; and snorkeling with a spotted eagle ray and 4,000 tropical fish in King's Pond, a 1.8-million-gallon aquarium.

Later, at the hotel's chic 'Ulu Ocean Grill + Sushi Lounge, I sit at the sushi counter next to executive chef Thomas Bellec, who was born and raised in Brittany. Despite the distance, Bellec sees a kinship between Hawaii and coastal France. “I didn't even know how to walk yet, and I knew how to eat oysters," he says. “Everything here is related to the ocean. I feel like I'm back home."

Sunset at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai

They take the locally sourced thing seriously here. “We're raising our own oysters," Bellec says, “in a pond on the 15th hole of our golf course." We start our meal with buttery Molokai sweet potato bread and hummus made from 'ulu, or breadfruit, one of the staple “canoe plants" brought to Hawaii by Polynesian wayfinders. Next up is a flurry of fresh seafood, in the form of delicately dressed sashimis and sushis. Kanpachi is served seared with a slick of truffled ponzu. Local abalone is poached in dashi with a miso-mustard aioli and served on the half shell (a play on oysters Rockefeller). One standout is a twist on the classic loco moco, a hearty staple traditionally consisting of white rice topped with a hamburger patty, brown gravy, and a fried egg. Here, tuna tartare sits atop sushi rice and is paired with a quail egg, a squid ink tuille, and sweet kabayaki gravy. The sake pairings—and the fact that I've been awake for what feels like a week—have me ready to try out those crisp white sheets in my room.

I wander back along a path that skirts the beach, watching koleas, or Pacific golden plovers, dart in and out of the surf. These little waders don't look like much, but they're partly responsible for the discovery of the Hawaiian islands. Nearly a millennium ago, Polynesians watched these migratory birds come and go, charting their courses and mapping the entire Pacific before setting out on outrigger canoes and using the constellations to land on these shores. I may not be as coordinated as these birds (who travel 3,000 miles to their arctic breeding grounds every year) or those ancient voyagers, but the lesson is clear: Hawaii has a gravitational pull, and I'm sure I'll be brought back into its orbit soon.

Where To Stay

Kipuka

Kapoho, on the island's secluded eastern tip, is a haven for off-the-grid types. Here, set among more than 5,000 rare and exotic palms, Mark Frost built four sustainable bamboo guesthouses. If you can tear yourself away from the hammocks and the saltwater pool, the property is minutes from teeming tidepools and geothermally heated pond.

Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa at Keauhou Bay

Perched on jagged lava cliffs, this 508-room hotel features all the perks—hula lessons, waterslides—you'd expect from a big Kona resort. What sets it apart are thoughtful design touches by the king of the aloha shirt, Sig Zane, who created staff uniforms, textiles, and art for the property.

Four Seasons Resort Hualalai

Sure, you know about the seven pools, the Jack Nicklaus–designed golf course, and the outdoor lava-rock showers. But the greatest amenity here is the Ka'upulehu Cultural Center, run by “Uncle" Earl Kamakaonaona Regidor, where you can take ukulele lessons, learn how to make leis, or brush up on Hawaiian phrases.

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Best aviation-inspired museums to visit

By Benét J. Wilson

With National Aviation Day right around the corner (August 19), a great way to celebrate is by visiting an aviation-themed museum. Many of the museums have hands-on, interactive exhibits —and some even have retired airplanes you can visit. Below are seven museums to visit this Aviation Day and beyond.

The Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington

Seattle, Washington

The Museum of Flight in Seattle bills itself as the largest independent, nonprofit air and space museum in the world. The museum's 20 acres is home to more than 160 significant aircraft and spacecraft, including the world's first fighter plane, the first jet Air Force One and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. It's also one of a handful of museums in the world that has a Concorde supersonic jet on display —located in its British Airways livery. The campus also includes the original Boeing factory, the NASA Space Shuttle Trainer and the only exhibit to house the original rocket engines used to launch Apollo astronauts to the moon. Additional activities include flight simulators that make you feel as if you're flying an airplane, a 3D movie theater and an aircraft exhibit that includes the world's only presentation of the first Boeing 727, 737 and 747 jets.

Tucson, Arizona

The Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson boasts 2,600 acres and is one of the largest non-government funded aviation and space museums in the world. It features more than 350 historical aircraft, from a Wright Flyer to a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Visitors can take an hour-long tram tour narrated by experienced docents who share stories about the planes' significance and personal stories of service. There are bus tours of its aircraft boneyard, home to more than 4,000 military and federal government aircraft. If decide you want to participate in the tour while visiting the museum, it's recommended that you make a reservation 10 business days ahead of time.

A P-51 Mustang takes off from Oshkosh, Wisconsin, during EAA Airventure.

Oshkosh, Wisconsin

Each year, Oshkosh attracts nearly 500,000 spectators to what is considered the largest airshow in the world — EAA AirVenture. But if you can't make this annual event in July, you can still visit the EAA AirVenture Museum year-round. While there, check out the museum's display of more than 200 historic aircraft — aircraft like the 1918 Curtiss JN-4D 'Jenny', a 1945 Chance-Vought F4U-4 Corsair and a 1930 Cessna CG-2 Glider. For attractions, visit the Eagle Hangar, a tribute to World War II aviation. And lastly, make sure to take a ride in a vintage 1929 Travel Air E-4000 open-cockpit biplane located at Pioneer Airport.

Palm Springs, California

Named by CNN as one of the best aviation museums, the Palm Springs Air Museum is one of the few that actually allow visitors to go inside aircraft to explore the exhibits. It features 59 aircraft from World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Aircraft include a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, an F-14A Tomcat and even a Russian MiG-21+. Take a ride in aircraft like the P-51 Mustang, the iconic plane flown by the Tuskegee Airmen in World War II. The museum is also home to permanent and temporary exhibits, artifacts, artwork and a library.

The inside of the closed Smithsonian Air and Space Museum is seen in Washington

Washington, D.C.

The National Smithsonian Air & Space Museum has two outposts — the original building in downtown D.C. and the more than 100-acre Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center facility near Washington Dulles International Airport. The downtown location has aircraft like the Bell X-1 flown by Chuck Yeager when he first broke the sound barrier, an Airbus A320 flight deck simulator and the forward fuselage of a Boeing 747 jumbo jet, along with the popular “How Things Fly" exhibit.

The Udvar-Hazy center has thousands of aviation and space artifacts on display, including a Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, an Air France Concorde, the Space Shuttle Discovery and the Boeing 367-80 — the prototype for the Boeing 707 and America's first commercial jet airliner. There's also the Airbus IMAX® Theater and the Donald D. Engen Observation Tower, which gives you a 360-degree bird's-eye view of Washington Dulles International Airport and the surrounding area.

Denver, Colorado

The Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum is located on a portion of land that used to be Lowry Air Force Base, a technical training center until it closed in 1994. The museum is home to aircraft including a Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, a Cessna O-2 Skymaster and even a Star Wars X-Wing Starfighter. The brand-new Boeing Blue Sky Aviation Gallery at Centennial Airport is phase one of the museum's second location that will focus on the present and future of aerospace. It offers interactive exhibits, the latest in general aviation technology and the chance to fly realistic Red Bird simulators as well as tours of the airfield.

Planes At Intrepid Sea Air And Space Museum

New York, New York

The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum complex in New York is located on a World War II aircraft carrier. Among its many exhibits are Enterprise, the prototype of NASA's Space Shuttle and a Harrier fighter jet. It also includes the British Airways Concorde that made the world's speed record for passenger airliners in 1996 when it flew from New York to London in 2 hours, 52 minutes and 59 seconds. Before leaving, make sure to check out the 4D aircraft simulator, something you won't want to miss.

Getting there

United flies to most of the destinations above, including Denver, New York, Palm Springs, Seattle, Tucson and Washington, D.C. You can fly into neighboring Appleton, Wisconsin, to visit Oshkosh. Visit united.com or use the United app to plan your aviation-themed museum trip.

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Weekend inspiration: Savannah

By Kelsey + Courtney Montague

The key to visiting Savannah in the summer? Planning outdoor and indoor activities, so you can enjoy all of the treasures this charming Southern city has to offer. If you only have a few days to spend here, it is even more important to plan your time and itinerary carefully. Luckily, we've gathered the best of the best to visit in historic Savannah with carefully planned air-conditioned stops along the way. Put on your walking shoes, grab some sunscreen and get ready to explore.

Day 1

Before your trip, make sure to make reservations for dinner at The Olde Pink House restaurant in advance. Adjacent to the Planters Inn, this popular spot has been serving Southern food at it's finest at one of Savannah's oldest mansions. While there, make sure you order the fried chicken — voted one of the best in Savannah and it does not disappoint. The braised pork shank is also a must-try. From there walk over to Leopold's Ice Cream. Choose a fancy pre-made ice cream or create your own treat. A Savannah tradition, this shop has been serving the best ice cream in Savannah since 1919.

Abe's on Lincoln | Photo credit: Kelsey + Courtney Montague

If you're looking for a dive bar instead of ice cream, drop in to Abe's on Lincoln. Create your own artistic rendition of Abraham Lincoln on your napkin, and your creation might end up on the ceiling where other patrons' artwork is displayed.

Day 2

The next morning get started before the crowds and visit the Waving Girl Statue. This statue commemorates Florence Martus who (from 1887-1931) became the unofficial 'greeter' of Savannah and waved at every ship that came into port. From there head down River Street to Huey's on the river for beignets and their potato casserole. Don't worry about the calories, you will walk them off.

The potato salad at Hueys on the river

Photo credit: Kelsey + Courtney Montague

The Georgia Queen on River Street

Photo credit: Kelsey + Courtney Montague

After Huey's, stop by the Savannah Bee Company and sign up for a mead tasting. For just a few dollars you will get to taste all sorts of variations and flavors from all over the country. Interestingly mead, created from fermenting honey, is one of the oldest alcohols in human history. Evidence of mead in clay pots dates back to 7000 BC. After you've had a few sips of mead and tasted the honeycomb, head out for a bit of shopping. We recommend Broughton Street, especially 24e and the Paris Market.

Artillery - Savannah The Artillery restaurant | Photo credit: Kelsey + Courtney Montague

Stop by Juliet Gordon Lowe's birthplace (Girl Scout's founder) to see when the next tour is and make a reservation. Go to Husk for lunch while you wait. Husk, founded by James Beard award-winning chef Sean Brock, uses local ingredients in his ever-changing, scrumptious menu. After your tour of Ms. Lowe's home, put on your finest and head over to Artillery for a fancy cocktail and then on to The Collins Quarter Restaurant.

The Collins Quarter - Savannah Collins Quarter restaurant | Photo credit: Kelsey + Courtney Montague

The Collins Quarter restaurant is an Australian take on Southern food and is exquisite. Get the hot chicken — it's delicious. Wander over to Chippewa Square after dinner where the movie Forrest Gump was filmed. The exact bench he sat on for the movie is no longer there, but everything else in the park is the same. Nearby on Bull street is another boutique, Red Clover, you should stop at if you're in the market for a gorgeous new frock. End the evening with dessert at Chocolate by Adam Turoni. Adam's shop feels like you stepped into wonderland, complete with a grass floor and bookshelves full of delicious treats.

All that's left is to head home full of southern food and southern hospitality.

P.S. If you have a few extra hours rent a car and go see the Wormsloe Plantation. The entrance will take your breath away. Also check out the Bonaventure Cemetery where poets, revolutionaries and the founders of Savannah have ornate gravestones in a picturesque, photo-worthy setting.

How to prepare for your child's first flight

By Benét J. Wilson

Traveling can be stressful at times, even when you're flying solo. But imagine what a child must feel, especially as they prepare to take their first flight. The key to any successful first flight is to take a cue from the Girl Scouts motto: be prepared. I'm a mother who started traveling the world with her child since she was 10 days old. So if you're planning your child's first flight soon, read on for my helpful tips to make your child's first flight a success.

Before the flight

Make sure to choose your seats as soon as you book your flight. Since restrooms are usually located at the back of the plane — and also near the front of the cabin, depending on the aircraft — you may want to choose seats near those areas so you won't have to go far if you and your child need the restroom or you need to change your baby's diaper. Additionally, children oftentimes enjoy looking out the window during a flight, so you may want to opt for a window seat so they can see other planes, a busy tarmac or clouds once you're up in the air.

Most airlines, including United, allow a child under the age of two to sit on a parent's lap. But if it fits within your budget, you could consider buying them their own seat and, depending on the child's age, bringing a government-approved child seat for them to use in the purchased seat. This allows you and your child to travel more safely and comfortably, and can help create a better sense of security for your child if they're used to the child seat you bring along.

Make sure to prepare your kids prior to the flight. Although airplanes can be exciting, they can also be scary for kids at first. Take time to explain what to expect during your journey, from the time they arrive at the airport until the plane lands at your destination. You can tell them about the kinds of people they will meet, such as gate agents, flight attendants and pilots, and the different events that occur, like boarding, the flight attendants' safety message and the sound of the aircraft engine during takeoff. This way they can enjoy identifying the people and events that make up their first flight.

two kids playing on a tablet at the airport

At the airport

To avoid any unnecessary stress, print your boarding passes or download them to your mobile device before arriving at the airport. Also plan to check your baggage as soon as you get to the airport so you don't have to worry about carrying along extra gear.

You can check with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) if you're unsure about what's allowed past security checkpoints, but baby formula, breast milk, food and medications aren't subject to the 3.4 ounce liquid restriction, so you're able to bring larger amounts of those items with you. Just make sure to let TSA officers know right away that you're carrying those items so you're not slowed down during the screening process.

After you've made it through security and are waiting at the gate, make sure your children have entertainment to keep them occupied while you wait. While most flights offer entertainment, there may be times when the inflight entertainment is not available, so bring toys, games, a tablet, coloring books or whatever it takes to keep them occupied and happy during a flight. If you're traveling with babies or toddlers, be sure to double check your diaper bag and make sure it has clothing, baby wipes, lotion, toys and extra bottles. Also, pack a favorite blanket and pillow for inflight naps.

You'll also want to carry various snacks, such as sandwiches, fruit, nuts, crackers or popcorn, and account for possible delays because food options may be limited. It's also a good idea to pack empty sippy cups or water bottles to fill up with inflight beverages.

On board the flight

When it's time to board your flight, you can take advantage of United's policy that allows families with children two and younger to pre-board. This will give you that much-needed time to stow your items and get you and your children in your seats so you're comfortable and ready for your flight.

By request, strollers can be checked at the gate at no additional cost. Before boarding starts, simply ask the gate agent to put a baggage tag on the stroller and you can leave it at the bottom of the jet bridge as you board the plane. When you get to your destination, your stroller will be waiting for you on the jet bridge after you exit the plane.

Once you're on board and settled, it helps to have a bottle on hand during takeoff and landing because it can help alleviate ear pressure for babies and toddlers. For older children, tell them what's about to happen and encourage them to look out the window to see what's going on before take-off. While in the air, create easy access to all the things you need to keep your children entertained and happy, and before you know it, you'll be on the ground again in no time. With just a little preparation, flying for the first time can be an exciting experience for both you and your child.

United heroes: Saving the life of a newborn

By Gladys Roman , August 13, 2018

Pediatrician Elizabeth Triche was so touched by how our employees went above and beyond to transport her critical ill newborn patient from Saipan to Guam then Honolulu to San Francisco and from there to their final destination of San Diego, that on July 27, she wrote the heartfelt note below to CEO Oscar Munoz and President Scott Kirby.

"Mr. Munoz and Mr. Kirby,

I am writing to give you my greatest gratitude for running a company that just did everything possible, every step of the way, to allow us to get our critically ill newborn with a fatal heart defect to life-saving emergency specialty care in San Diego.

Geoff Larson [Customer Service De-escalation Senior Manager] had given me his cellphone number one month ago and said to call if we ever needed any help getting patients to critical care. When I did call 3 days ago, he burst into action. We exchanged at least 10 emails and phone calls over the next 36 hours as he opened seats on fully booked flights, got us cleared to use oxygen (a process that usually delays our exit by 48-72 hours), and called on colleagues to make sure that all of our "special handling needs" in the airports were met. He emailed me as our first (of 4) flights arrived, letting me know that he was available to help with any glitches.

In Honolulu they held everyone on the plane so that we could get TSA and customs clearance first, gate side, avoiding our having to carry a sick baby in a car seat through an entire airport to customs. Helpers met us at each destination as gate agents from our departing cities warned the gate agents at our next arrival destination that we would need a wheelchair and help with bags.

Finally, as we were 30 minutes from our final destination, the pilot of United Flight 284 on 7/26/2018 from SFO to SAN called me up to the front of the plane to chat, as [there was] fog in San Diego. He wanted to know if the baby would be adversely affected if he [diverted] the flight to LA to refuel. We truly appreciated his taking our patient into account.

Ultimately, we arrived in San Diego without any major mishaps, and our newborn is currently undergoing definitive treatment for his condition.

Mr. Larson and his colleagues at United helped to save a life yesterday, as this baby may not have survived to make the flights had we had to wait for an open seat. Now that he has gotten to care, he will likely have a great chance at a normal life.

I just wanted everyone know that there are truly compassionate, dedicated people working for your organization."

We fly Australian firefighters to wildfires

By Gladys Roman , August 10, 2018

As parts of Oregon and California continue to battle blazing wildfires that have already consumed thousands of acres of land, we stepped up to help and flew a group of Australian firefighters to Boise, Idaho, over the weekend.

We created an extra section to fly a group of firefighters from all over Australia to Los Angeles International Airport, where they departed on a flight to Boise, Idaho on August 4.

Australia/New Zealand Contingent Field Liaison Officer Barry James explained that firefighters were selected to come help based on their qualifications, and they're all proud to support their fellow firefighters in the United States.

"We're flying to Boise for a couple of days of training and then we'll be splitting up. Some of us are going to Northern California and the rest are going to Oregon for a six-week deployment," explained Officer James, who flew United for the first time, but said it won't be his last. "It was an awesome, awesome experience; it was really hospitable," he added.

Our Los Angeles based employees and crews made sure the firefighters felt their appreciation by giving them a special welcoming message in the gate area, where they thanked them for their hard work.

"It was such an incredible honor for us at LAX to meet and fly these men and women, who are sacrificing their time and putting their lives on the line to help us battle the wildfire devastation in this part of the country," said LAX Station Operations Control Manager Maggie Ronan. "The crew in general was just outstanding. They were all so honored to fly this group and felt it was amazing that United built the extra section for their journey. There was a very special energy felt on the flight as we closed up to send them off to BOI."

We're teaming up with leading disaster relief organizations to provide aid to those impacted by the California wildfires. We will match up to $50,000 in total donations made to our charitable partners, Airlink, American Red Cross, Americares, North Coast Opportunities and Shasta Regional Community Foundation. For more information and to make a donation California Wildfire relief efforts, visit our CrowdRise fundraising campaign.

Lots of sweat, lots of on-time departures: Summer on the ramp

By Ryan Hood , August 10, 2018

It's 10:30 in the morning and the temperature gauge already reads 89 degrees. The Texan summer sun beams down from above. Heat waves emanate from the ground. Sweat glistens atop Ron Davis's shiny, bald head.

This isn't bad at all, Davis says. "I played high school football. Two-a-day practices? Those were hot. Some of the really hot days out here? Those feel more like three-a-day practices. We got it easy today."

A few gates down, employees revel in the "relief" that this weather feels like compared to the prior week.

"This is nothing," quips Tom Saavedra.

"A few clouds up there and a bit of a breeze – it's our lucky day," Leroy Taylor chimes in, a wide smile on his face.

Air temperature nearing 90 degrees. Tarmac temperature eclipsing 100 degrees most everywhere you step. 10:30 in the morning. And this is "easy". Welcome to life as a United ramp service employee at Houston's George Bush International Airport (IAH) in the summer.

United isoperating more than 500 flights out of Houston each day this summer, and thanks in part to the hard work of our ramp service employees, more flights have left Houston on time this summer than any prior summer.

How? Hydration and nutrition have played huge roles.

United ramp employee hydrating on the job

Posters with hydration reminders adorn the walls of ramp break rooms and hallways. It's the first topic of every meeting. Regular reminders are sent out over the group's radio system.

Employees have a flight schedule to keep, but as leaders, we have to provide them with the tools to do their job, says Gary Snead, a United supervisor based at IAH. "That includes keeping them fit to work in the summer heat."

And provide they do. Here are the resources deployed in an average summer month on the ramp in Houston:

  1. Over 10,000 bags of ice, totaling more than 100,000 pounds of ice.
  2. 313, 5-gallon water coolers refilled at least four times per day.
  3. An athletic trainer on site.
  4. One day a month, the IAH ramp holds a fruit & hydration day, where supervisors distribute over 1,000 pieces of fruit to our sun-soaked employees.
  5. 1,000+ cooling towels distributed.
  6. 10 misting tents

The increased focus on hydration has helped increase productivity, and it's also resulted in a record-low number of heat-related illnesses among employees.

You take care of the employees, Snead says, "and the employees will take care of your operation."

That's proved true around the world, as we have flown more customers this summer than ever before, all while topping our competition in on-time departures in recent months. Our 13,000+ ramp service employees have played a huge role in that.

Summer heat? It's been beat.

Top 7 things to experience when visiting Las Vegas

By Matt Chernov

When picturing Las Vegas, you probably see shimmering lights, felt-covered poker tables and the ecstatic sound of slot machines. But the truth is that the city offers visitors far more to experience than just gambling and excess. Located on the edge of the vast Mojave Desert, this uniquely American destination is constantly reinventing itself with every passing day, which makes it an ideal vacation spot for virtually every type of traveler. To help you get the most from your next trip to Vegas, here are seven attractions in and around the city that you won't want to miss.

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The Neon Museum

Since 1996, this magical outdoor art gallery has collected hundreds of old and discarded neon signs from the Las Vegas strip and displayed them for visitors on a 2-acre plot of land. With so much colorful history available to see, it's no wonder that the Neon Museum is one of the city's top Instagram spots. Though new signs are constantly being acquired and refurbished, many date back to the glory days of the 1950s, when Vegas icons like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. were the entertainment headlines at the casinos.

Red Rock Canyon, Las Vegas

Red Rock Canyon

This stunning nature preserve is just a 15-mile drive west of Las Vegas, and is the perfect place to experience all the scenic beauty that Nevada has to offer. Red Rock Canyon features 26 clearly marked hiking trails, indoor and outdoor conservation exhibits and a plethora of majestic wildlife and desert flora to view. There's even a picturesque waterfall, so bring your camera along with your sunscreen and bottled water. A variety of educational programs are held each month, including a popular “Bats in Our Belfry" presentation in which rangers take visitors on a bat sightseeing tour of the canyon.

The Mob Museum

Because the birth of Las Vegas is intricately connected with organized crime, this fascinating museum is a must-visit for anyone who wants to understand how a dry Nevada desert became a worldwide symbol of glitz and glamour. Filled with amazing artifacts, vintage photos and life-size recreations of some of the city's most infamous residents, the Mob Museum focuses on both the gangsters who built Las Vegas and the law enforcement heroes who pursued them. A rotating collection of exhibits brings the town's colorful history to life in a way that no movie or book could ever hope to duplicate.

The Hoover Dam in Nevada

The Hoover Dam

A monument to man's industrial spirit and a marvel of American engineering, the spectacular Hoover Dam is located less than an hour's drive from Las Vegas — and it's truly an unforgettable sight to behold. Tours of the 726-foot-tall dam are highly encouraged and will fascinate young and old alike. While you're in the area, why not spend some time cruising the beautiful waters of nearby Lake Mead, which was created by the dam itself. Boat tours are available all week long from several locations around the lake, so advanced reservations are not needed.

Dig This Last Vegas

Are you visiting Las Vegas with children? If so, then this one-of-a-kind experience should definitely be on your travel itinerary. Dig This Last Vegas lets you and your kids drive and safely operate heavy duty construction equipment like bulldozers and excavators on a massive outdoor playground in the heart of the city. Anyone who grew up with toy tractors and plastic earth-moving machines can now climb behind the wheel and try them for real. With the help of trained instructors, kids as young as 8 years old can make their dreams of operating a genuine Caterpillar D5 bulldozer come true at this hands-on attraction site.

Spring Mountain Ranch State Park

Spring Mountain Ranch

This Nevada state park is a relatively short drive from downtown Las Vegas and will instantly transport you back to the region's historic past. The perfectly preserved old west-style ranch is an excellent place for an afternoon picnic when you need a break from the hustle and bustle of the casinos. Thanks to the lush green surroundings and man-made lake, the temperature at Spring Mountain is noticeably cooler than you might expect of the hot Nevada climate. Explore further as gentle hiking trails allow you to stretch your legs in comfort while you navigate some of the loveliest scenery in the entire state.

Lotus of Siam

Widely considered to be one of the best Thai restaurants in the United States, Lotus of Siam earned its prestigious James Beard Award the hard way; by serving incredibly delicious Northern Thai dishes every day for the past 19 years. Owner and head chef Saipin Chutima recently opened a second location in Las Vegas, which means you'll have no trouble making reservations while you're in town. Considering that top foodie magazines like Gourmet, Saveur and Bon Appétit have praised this restaurant's incredible dishes for almost two decades, you'd be wise to book a table in advance. Try their crispy rice salad with house-made pork sausage for a flavor that will make your taste buds sing.

Getting there

When you're ready to experience the fun and excitement of Las Vegas, book your flight at united.com or by using the convenient United app, and share your story on social media with the #UnitedJourney hashtag.

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The 8 most underrated American road trips

By The Hub team

You've gotten your kicks on Route 66. You've wound through Highway 1. So how do you take another quintessential American summer vacation without repeating yourself? Good thing this country is not lacking in incredible vistas and varied landscapes—trust us: there is so much more than purple mountains majesty and amber waves of grain (although, those aren't so bad themselves). From badlands to waterfalls, here are eight American road trips to consider.

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RELATED: 10 Waterparks Worth Traveling for

View of the Rockies in Colorado RondaKimbrow/Getty Images

Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway, Colorado

This western road trip through and around the Rocky Mountains has three separate routes that converge in Leadville, Colorado (the highest incorporated town in the country at 10,152 feet above sea level). There's no rule against traversing all three, especially since each is pretty short (82 miles total). First, take in the five enormous mountains surrounding Leadville, two of which are the tallest in the state. Head up through Tennessee Pass and cross the Continental Divide to reach the majestic town of Minturn for incredible fields of wildflowers. The route through Independence Pass toward Aspen has unbelievable views of the Rockies and Twin Lakes. Driving along the Arkansas River through Fremont Pass to Copper Mountain is ideal for spotting ranches, old mines and—fingers crossed—some Colorado wildlife.

Overseas Highway in FloridaFilippoBacci/Getty Images

Overseas Highway, Florida

You do not need a boat to enjoy the Florida Keys, and we can prove it. The Overseas Highway is one of the most unique roads in the country, as it basically island hops along Florida's hottest vacay spots like Islamorada (home of the Florida Brewing Company) and Marathon (home of Long Key State Park). The Seven-Mile Bridge is a highlight nestled into the 113-mile trip, so make sure to cross during the day for sprawling views of turquoise water and boaters galore. Other fun pit stops: Swim with dolphins at the Dolphin Research Center in Grassy Key, snorkel with sea critters at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park and pose for a selfie at Southernmost Point Buoy, the farthest south you can get on the continental U.S.

Columbia River Highway, OregonJason W Lacey/Getty Images

Columbia River Highway, Oregon

This stretch of highway was the first of its kind to be officially declared a National Historic Landmark, and it's easy to see why. Set out from Troutdale, Oregon, and immediately you'll see the gorgeous Columbia River Gorge. Get ready for a roller-coaster decent as you roll into Crown Point—the 600-foot drop toward the Columbia River is designed specifically for road trippers as it curves and winds through lush green forests. There are at least six notable waterfalls you'll pass along the way; step out at Multnomah Falls for a pic of its stunning bridge. Once you hit the town of Mosier, consider trekking through a tunnel of lava rock on the Mark O. Hatfield Trailhead. The road officially ends after roughly 70 miles at The Dalles, conveniently close to the Sunshine Mill Winery. Treat yourself to a glass of the wildly popular Nirvana, a white blend with touches of honey and melon.

Hana Coast Highway, HawaiiBobbushphoto /Getty Images

Hana Coast Highway, Hawaii

While Hawaii's island of Maui is a hot destination for tropical romance, the Hana Coast Highway is not for the faint of heart. The road is affectionately called the “Divorce Highway" in honor of its precarious turns and proximity to the edges of tall cliffs. That said, the frequent waterfalls, black sand beaches and eucalyptus trees along the country's lengthiest rainforest highway make the trip totally worth the adrenaline rush. Though it's only 52 miles, the 25-miles-per-hour speed limit (with blind spots and one-lane bridges galore; this is a very good thing) makes it a two- to three-hour trip. But we have a feeling you'll happily take your time—the views from Kahului to Hana are beyond breathtaking.

Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway, New MexicoScott_Walton/Getty Images

Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway, New Mexico

If you're in the mood for dry heat and history up close, the Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway is calling. West of Albuquerque is Chaco Canyon, an important ceremonial site for the Pueblo peoples between 850 and 1250 A.D. After taking in the incredible expanse of the canyon, drive south through the towns of Crownpoint and Grants toward the El Morro National Monument. Ogle the 2,000 or so signatures weary travelers have carved into the sandstone over centuries. Continue east through the Zuni Reservation to Zuni Pueblo, an arts community still practicing ancestral traditions and ways of life. Cap off this winding 360-mile desert tour in Farmington, where you can see Aztec Ruins National Monument and Salmon Ruins, both of which date back to the 1050s.

The Black Hills and Badlands, South DakotaAndrewKrav/Getty Images

The Black Hills and Badlands, South Dakota

Together, the Black Hills and Badlands National Park in South Dakota offer 5 million acres of grassland, forest and rock formations. Might we recommend not hitting it all in one day? Instead, start out on the Badlands Loop State Scenic Byway near the town of Interior. Check out the millions-year-old (literally) jagged geographic deposits before heading north to Spearfish Canyon, home of sky-high pink limestone and gorgeous waterfalls. Meander down through Black Hills National Forest to check out Crazy Horse Memorial, Custer State Park and (drumroll, please) Mount Rushmore. Set aside a few days for the entire 232-mile journey because you'll probably find yourself either driving slowly to take it all in or stopping the car every few miles to hike or swim.

View of one of Minnesota's many lakes from North Scenic DriveNickJKelly/Getty Images

North Shore Scenic Drive, Minnesota

For a truly otherworldly experience, drive along the coast of the biggest freshwater lake in the world: Lake Superior. The northern Minnesota gem means ample opportunity to really get away from civilization. (Heading off the beaten path into the Boundary Waters just north of the coastline leaves you with no cell service, almost complete solitude and a chance to catch the northern lights!) Start your drive in Duluth and head north, scoping out the many lighthouses dotting the rocky coastline on your right and the distant Sawtooth Mountains on your left. Everywhere else is covered in pine and birch trees—and crawling with wildlife. Beaches pop up along the 142-mile ride, although Lake Superior is notoriously chilly, reaching 65 degrees Fahrenheit max during the hottest months of the year. But, in the height of summer, this might be exactly the cool-down you need.

Holcy/Getty Images

Rangeley Lakes National Scenic Byway, Maine

For the ultimate, rugged New England road trip, you must drive the Rangeley Lakes National Scenic Byway. On the western side of the state, near New Hampshire, the lake is flanked by Rangeley Lake State Park and rolling hills of trees, flowers and wildlife. Start at Smalls Falls, and let the Appalachian Mountain ridgeline be your guide on this 36-mile tour. The route is straightforward but provides sights of everything from lakes and rivers to valleys and farmland. Swift River and Mooselookmeguntic Lake (who named this lake?) are outstanding photo ops. Summer is always a good time to visit when it comes to temps, but come autumn, the bright colors pop along this route, and might just be worth a second trip.

RELATED: The Most Serene Spot in Every Single State


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