Three Perfect Days: Newark
Story by Richard Morgan | Photography by Ricky Rhodes | Hemispheres, March 2019
America's third-oldest major city—it predates Philadelphia by nearly 20 years—is also its most unsung. Newark began, in 1666, as the last Puritan utopia in the New World, and 353 years later, it's full of the kind of minor miracles not taught in Sunday school. In the shadow of New York City, it has found its own light. Its arenas teeter between pro hockey and Korean pop. Presidents have been staying in its hotels since the days of Woodrow Wilson. There are swaths of town you need to understand Portuguese to navigate. Now, buoyed by renaissance and more than $2 billion in development, Newark isn't even Newark anymore. It's Nork—which is how the locals say it. If you're not even pronouncing its name correctly, what else don't you know about this city?
Diving into Newark's rich history
Beans at T.M Ward Coffee
In the beginning, there was coffee. Fragrant roasted beans, piled high in open burlap sacks, exude come-hither aromas at T. M. Ward Coffee. The variety is extraordinary: Lunch With Elvis tastes like peanut butter and banana; World Cup is a mix of Brazilian and French roasts; and the one simply called Wow lives up to the name. I go for a cup of the 1869 Blend, which has been served here on Broad Street since the shop was founded in the blend's namesake year. It's smoky and muscular. I picture Thomas Edison starting his mornings with the same brew, when he set up his first workshop in an empty factory here.
But a day of Newark's history should start even earlier, so I walk up Broad to Market—which was, in the 1920s, the busiest intersection in the country, even more bustling than Times Square—and duck into the Old First Church, where the city began in the mid-17th century. At the time, being a member of the church was synonymous with being a Newarker. Later, Aaron Burr's father was a pastor, and the college that became Princeton University held its first commencement there. And it's said that slaves on the Underground Railroad would listen to sermons by creaking open trapdoors in the nave, which is as old as the Constitution.
In that same worship space, alone, I kneel and pray. In the silence I hear a whisper become a shout: my growling stomach. Coffee alone is not a breakfast! So I take a cab to Caffe Espresso Italia, a decades-old mother-and-son Italian operation, to order its famous balsamic mozzarella dish, a bowl of peppers and mozzarella soaked in balsamic vinaigrette. God's will be done.
"What do you make?" owner Maria Pugliese asks me, as she fields a request for her sauce recipe from a fellow patron. "I'm a writer," I say. "So I guess I make words." She tosses me a look only mothers give. "Everyone makes words," she says. "Me? I make food. I make sauce. Not everyone can do this. What can you make?"
GlassRoots instructor Jason Minami
My make-or-break move is GlassRoots, where I join a small class—me and a father and son—as our instructor, Alix Davis, walks us through creating our own paperweights over the course of a few hours. First we sign waivers. Waivers? We're making paperweights!
The introductory lesson involves spooling 2000°F molten glass onto a white-hot metal rod. "That's it?" I ask Davis. "Oh, I got this. I used to spool cotton candy at a cart at the state fair." Two minutes in I realize I most definitely do not have this. "Oh no!" I shriek. "I got too much on the stick!"
Davis is a paragon of calm: "It's OK. Just pull it out of the furnace and we'll see what we can do." I rally. "OK, I'm taking it out now and … Oh no! I made it worse!" My molten globule hits the wall of the furnace hellmouth, sticks to it like gum on a shoe, and then stretches and splashes and lashes everywhere in molten ribbons and blobs and puddles (oh, hi waiver!). Imagine making a smoothie without the blender's lid—and the blender is full of radioactive lava taffy. After I somehow manage to sculpt my molten glob into a sphere, sparks shooting all the while ("Am I doing it? I can't tell because I'm blinded by fear!"), I turn to the son—a high school junior who is next up to make a paperweight—and put a swaggering hand on his shoulder. "Heads up," I tell him. "It's a lot harder than I made it look."
As we're wrapping up, Davis says something thrilling: The best way to recover from sweaty glassmaking is a salty meal, preferably something like… But I'm already out the door. I know the spot.
The No. 5 Sandwich at Hobby's Delicatessen & Restaurant
The corned beef sandwich at Hobby's Delicatessen & Restaurant is so good that Brendan Byrne, the former New Jersey governor, brought one with him to the White House in 1979 for the signing of a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. Every little bit helps.
The deli was founded about 100 years ago —long before Newark's game-changing 1967 riots—and is such a throwback that it has a small bar from the days of three-martini lunches. I ask Marc Brummer, one of two sons who run the family business, what's good. He pats his belly and says, "This is menu development and quality control." He sits me down for a No. 5—a half-pastrami, half–corned beef sandwich that is a sumptuous dive into a salty, juicy, blissful abyss. In between lip-licking bites, I ask what it's like to eat deli food every day for almost 60 years. He says he lost 40 pounds, and when I pause to stare him into honesty, he smiles: "I can put it on ya deliciously, and I can take it off ya deliciously." (Hobby's has had a vegetarian menu since 2014.)
The owners pf Dan's Hats & Caps, Daniel J. Phillips and Daniel J. Phillips II
I waddle out of Hobby's and into Dan's Hats & Caps, an old-school haberdashery selling dozens of varieties of newsboy caps, fedoras, and Panama hats. I continue on to Art & Artifacts of Newark, which is equal parts art gallery and renegade garage sale, showcasing and selling vintage typewriters, a massive dollhouse, a large model of the inner ear, a Chinese parasol, and a life-size plastic zebra. For starters. This hodgepodge belongs to Matthew Gosser, who scavenges from various abandoned or derelict sites across the city. Sometimes he gathers the bits and pieces into sculptures, like one of a massive robot in The Thinker's pose. I look at his trove, treasures untold, and wonder how many wonders can one storefront hold? Looking around here, I think—wait, haven't I heard this before? Sure, there's no silverware-studded candelabra, but in the jungly chaos of his collection's tribute to the city's giddy weirdness, Gosser is Newark's Little Mermaid, celebrating every whozit and whatzit galore.
"My Black Pepper Gibson comes in a tumbler, and after just one spicy sip I know it's going to tumble me."
But there comes a time to put away childish things and pick up an adult beverage, so I take a cab to an unassuming gray door in the side of a plain concrete warehouse near elevated railway tracks and press the buzzer. Shortly, I'm welcomed into the All Points West Distillery, which specializes in pot-still whiskey and has the most mixology-minded bar in Newark—a city that has had alcohol in its veins since at least 1951, when the first Anheuser-Busch plant outside of St. Louis debuted. At the bar, I order a Black Pepper Gibson, which comes in a tumbler, and after just one spicy sip I know it's going to tumble me.
Sure enough, after that drink the night gets hazy, except for a flash of biting into an incredible bacon cheeseburger at Krug's Tavern, a divey joint dating to 1932, and of me slapping the bar as I extol its virtues. As I crash onto my bed in a two-story room at Hotel Indigo, a converted 1912 bank tower, I think of Newark's molten past and how beautifully it has all cooled.
The cherry blossoms are in bloom at Branch Brook Park in Newark, New Jersey
As much as Washington, D.C., is celebrated for its annual cherry blossoms, Newark might out-flower the nation's capital, with 4,300 cherry trees, some of which were planted as far back as 1927. Bloomfest (April 14), a free, family-friendly event in the North Ward's Branch Brook Park, is the capstone to festivities that include bike rides, walk-run races, and Japanese cultural demonstrations. Can't make it? Don't sweat the timing. Last year, the festival started before the trees fully blossomed, and then the flowers returned in November, after an unseasonably warm first half of October.
Exploring Brick City's modern side
Black Swan Espresso
I grab an oat milk cold brew from Black Swan Espresso and stroll as I drink my breakfast. (I know, I never learn.) Up, up, and away to modern Newark! I dip into Fortress of Solitude, a legendary comic book shop, and browse the $1 comics up front and the shelf of comics by local artists—Newarky titles like Salvagers, The Were-Spider, and Nightwasp, "the man who is hardly ever afraid." I buy a copy, in hopes I can pick up a few pointers.
A Kool & the Gang display at the Grammy Museum Experience
Newark has the East Coast's only Grammy Museum Experience, and deservedly so. New Jersey is home to many music icons, from Jon Bon Jovi to Bruce Springsteen, but Newark in particular has been a bountiful garden of talent. Naughty by Nature hip-hop-hoorayed here. When Gloria Gaynor belts out "I will survive," she might as well be singing about her hometown. The museum, which opened in the fall of 2017 in the Prudential Center (also home to the New Jersey Devils hockey team), is broadly, brilliantly interactive: I play drums with Max Weinberg and rap with Wyclef Jean, but the highlight is sound-mixing Whitney Houston. I drop all the knobs to zero except one, vocals, and set that to maximum. I say a prayer with every heartbeat as I listen to what was first heralded in the nearby New Hope Baptist Church choir as simply The Voice.
Falling in love is so bittersweet/This love is strong, why do I feel weak?
Chef Vonda McPherson at Vonda's Kitchen
The next best thing to church with Whitney is lunch with Vonda. Chef Vonda McPherson's restaurant, Vonda's Kitchen, is a favorite of Newark native Shaquille O'Neal, who made peace with his biological father at a table here and who uses McPherson as his personal chef when he's in town. Cissy Houston, Whitney's mother, sits at the same table almost every Sunday. McPherson even catered the Super Bowl.
For her part, the chef aims to dispel the notion that all soul food is unhealthy, on behalf of all the souls who have given this cuisine its simultaneous heft and lift. "I wanted to live up to more—to local art, to local pride," she tells me in the art-filled, sunlit space. "Home cooking isn't just about the cooking; it's about the home."
Tucking a napkin into my collar, I let some of the long-buried North Carolina drawl of my childhood slip out as I am led along the righteous path of buffalo mac 'n' cheese, crispy fried chicken, and earthy collards. Some meals serve calories; some serve flavor. Vonda's serve love.
No cab or stroll this time—I just straight-up float on cloud nine back to the Indigo, where I meet Emily Manz, who runs a tour called Have You Met Newark. (Audible, which has its global headquarters here, includes the tour in its employee orientation. The audio entertainment company is fully committed to Newark's growth and even subsidizes employees living in the city and provides free tickets to concerts and games at NJPAC and the Prudential Center.) Manz, a wide-eyed young convert to Newark, leads me on a brisk downtown stroll, singing various praises about revival and renaissance. We enter a clothing store off Halsey Street called Off the Hanger—although there's no signage out front—and browse the goods, including shirts that read "Newark Vs. Everybody," while an on-site tailor stitches vibrant African patterns along the lapels and pockets of a stylish denim trench coat. We then visit the Newark Print Shop—I'm sorely tempted to try my glassblowing hand at silkscreening—and finish up at the cavernous Gallery Aferro, a modern art playground with a residency program upstairs.
"Home cooking isn't just about the cooking; it's about the home."
The Lucent Technologies Center for Arts Education, a school affiliated with the New Jersey Performing Arts Center
There's no better place to decompress from such a flurry of activity than the rear garden at 27 Mix, where I have a light dinner of salmon tartare with avocado, edamame, and matcha. I wash it all down with a refreshingly sweet-tart Ironbound Hard Cider, made on a farm in the New Jersey Highlands. Breezes and songbirds duet, accompanied by orange trumpet vine blossoms. The subtle symphony gives me an idea: Clement's Place, a kind of nightclub that's tucked into the Neoclassical former offices of an insurance company and is affiliated with Rutgers University's Institute of Jazz Studies, which is home to the world's largest jazz library. The shows are packed—free food and booze will do that—and the multiethnic audience of young and old and straight-laced and queer feels like an impromptu riff on the city's creative possibilities. Musical notes flutter across the room like kisses, and I go to sleep at my new hotel, the Tryp by Wyndham, with jazz's perfume on my pillow.
Discovering a diverse international influence
The lobby and restaurant at Tyrp by Wyndham
I wake up at the Tryp, a sleek cosmopolitan hideaway that opened last year in the heart of downtown Newark. As I leave the lobby, I pass one of those signs that tells me Paris is 3,631 miles away and Jerusalem is 5,699 miles away. But it also tells me the Ironbound is 0.1 miles away. "What's that?" I ask the front desk.
The answer—"It's basically Portugal"—is intriguing. I recall a Brazilian-American friend (a native Newarker, no less!) who raved about a sandwich here, and I make it my mission to find it. Ten bites and five napkins later, the verdict is in: The Cheese Tudo from Hamburgão is up there with the best sandwiches I've ever had. Two slices of potato bread somehow harness hamburger, ham, bacon, lettuce, tomato, corn, mayo, mozzarella, a fried egg, and crisp potato sticks. I chase it down with a Brazilian guaraná soda, which has twice as much caffeine as a cup of coffee.
I walk off breakfast in the neighborhood's parks, packed with families, and try my hand at bocce with some of the old-timers. It turns out I'm as good at bocce as I am at glassmaking. But afterward I still treat myself to some pineapple sorbet at Nasto's, an 80-year-old spot that's famous for its Old World desserts, like tartufos and reginettas.
Along Ferry Street, the Ironbound's main drag, the small, independent shops offer curiosities: dress shirts at Mel Gambert, tchotchkes at Portugalia, and cork accessories—handbags and wallets—at CS Cork. For the folks back home, I get a box of Brazilian brigadeiros (truffles made with condensed milk and cocoa powder) at Gio Docinhos, the most potent collection of sweets in the city.
Maybe it's the sense of farawayness I get from exploring Newark's international side—the African-print shirts and homemade shea-butter lotions at Ancient African Formula are otherworldly—but I find myself pulled toward Burger Walla and its absolutely perfect lamb burger with goat cheese, spicy tomato pickle, and caramelized onions. (It's great with curried cauliflower and chickpeas, pan-fried to order.) Farther east I go, to the world's largest Tibetan art collection, at the Newark Museum, which was visited by the Dalai Lama in 1990. The wisdom has clearly accrued over centuries of reincarnation, as the Tibetan display includes a playpen for children to exorcise their museum demons.
"Newark has the energy of emergence, which is the true energy of beauty."
As I leave the museum and cross Military Park, I pass a mariachi band in periwinkle outfits. "Where are you going?" I ask. "To a party," they reply. "Can I come?" "No," they say kindly. "But if you like this music, maybe try the flamenco at Mompou." Back to the Ironbound!
Mompou, it turns out, isn't Portuguese or Brazilian; it's Spanish, specifically Galician tapas (although the bottled water is from Rioja). It's a getaway within a getaway that reminds me of the tango show tune "Hernando's Hideaway." A glass of wine, a fast embrace!
Everything on stage—the guitar strings, the drums, the clapping hands, the lilting voice, the flurry of ruffled skirts—combines, pitter-patter-style, into the loudest lullaby you've ever heard. And the dancer! Such statuesque grace that the only sign she has exerted herself at the end of her incredible routine is the quiver of her clavicle as she holds her triumphant final pose. I nibble on 24-month-aged jamón ibérico until I realize I'm late for dinner.
Chef Marcus Samuelsson
If there's one man who will understand how taken I am with Newark's multi-cultural renaissance, it's Ethiopian-Swedish celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson, who I meet at Marcus B&P, the bistro he opened last year in the Hahne & Co. building, a mammoth former department store that was renovated after 30 years of dereliction.
"As an immigrant, you know how it is to feel neglected," he says, rapid-fire, as I munch on a salad grown at AeroFarms, a nearby converted steel mill that's now the world's largest indoor vertical farm. "There's a soulful sensibility that you can turn into a sense of place. A kitchen can be poetic justice. I've always been a fan of B-sides. Prince. Bob Marley. Grace Jones. David Bowie. They were my style teachers as well as my English teachers. Newark is a B-side city. It's where all the personal poetry is hidden. It has the energy of emergence, which is the true energy of beauty." He pauses to take a sip of water. "Don't come and ask me, 'Is Newark good now?' People want credible, predictable travel, and Newark is an incredible, unpredictable place. That's how you get Queen Latifah.
That's how you get Redman. Look, Rome is great. But who was the last global artist to come out of it?"
Rolling Cigars at Jimenez Tobacco
It's nighttime now, and I'm winding down my last evening at Jimenez Tobacco, an ornate, family-run Cuban cigar speakeasy where the only female master blender in the country oversees a boutique operation that refuses to sell other brands (the shop's own 23 varieties, aged 10 years, will suffice). It's the kind of upscale dive where the broke can feel baroque. Smoke curls playfully around me, as if it's about to pull a quarter out of my ear.
I'm a few daiquiris in and shooting the breeze with Peter, the manager-son, whose Cheshire Cat grin is infectious.
"Why are you Peter and not Pedro?" I ask.
He smiles and shrugs: "I came to this melting pot, and I melted." He roars with laughter. He's a true raconteur,
with a smidgen of racketeer to him; he makes his Cuban guayabera seem like an open tuxedo shirt, cuff links and all.
"Shhh!" I stage-whisper.
"Won't we wake up your mother?" He waves dismissively at the staircase that rises to her bedroom. "She raised three boys. She can sleep through anything."
As I saunter home, a flamenco lyric echoes in my mind: "El querer es cuesta arriba, y el olvidar cuesta abajo; quiero subir cuesta arriba aunque me cueste trabajo." Wanting is uphill, forgetting is downhill; I want to climb uphill despite the work.
Nork, the little utopia that could, is done with its downhill moments. It's unforgettable now.
The Portuguese enclave Ironbound
Where to stay
Tryp by Wyndham Newark Downtown
Opened last spring in a 1920s building with Art Deco flourishes, this 101-room hotel is brimming with hometown pride. Look for elevator-landing murals of Newark natives (such as Queen Latifah and Frankie Valli) and a giant acrylic lightbulb in the lobby, a nod to Thomas Edison, who first publicly demonstrated an electric lightbulb in Military Park—about 500 feet from the hotel's front door. From $145, wyndhamhotels.com
Hotel Indigo Newark Downtown
Occupying the 1912 former headquarters of the First National State Bank, this 108-room property welcomes guests with a lobby mosaic mural of Edison's ticker-tape writer, contributed by local glass studio GlassRoots. The bank's teller desks have been transformed into the check-in counter, while the original vault was incorporated into the design of the on-site restaurant, The Ainsworth. From $145, hotelindigo.com
From near paralyzation to 7-minute miles
Twelve years ago, Dylan Batz couldn't walk or talk. A seizure when he was in the eighth grade robbed him of those motor skills and hospitalized him for two months.
His mom, Denver-based United 737 Captain Suzanne Batz, didn't know if he'd ever walk again.
No one could've predicted what happened next.
Dylan got out of the hospital, eventually re-learning how to walk and talk. Through Special Olympics, he became an avid runner. He hasn't stopped since, having run three marathons and, this past weekend, completing the United Airlines NYC Half Marathon in 1:40. Watch his inspirational story above.
Discover Hilton Head Island
Voted America's favorite island for a reason, Hilton Head has everything you need for the ultimate escape from the real world. Enjoy easy days on one of the many beaches, at one of the world-class golf courses and tennis courts, learning about the rich history or simply adapting to the leisure-paced lifestyle of the locals. The Lowcountry region in South Carolina has something for everyone.
Welcome to Hilton Head.
The best time to visit and getting around the city
Thanks to its location, it's hard to choose a bad time to visit Hilton Head. Though if you visit in April-May or September-October, you'll notice fewer crowds and temperatures averaging in the mid-70s and 80s. In the spring, the water sport rentals will have just opened for the season, from parasailing to kayaking. If you visit in April, you may be able to catch the RBC Heritage PGA golf tournament. Hilton Head doesn't have your typical fall weather, making it a great time to visit. Summer weather lingers so you can still swim. Because the leaf colors don't change, you can enjoy instead an array of fall colors in the sunset each night.
The only drawback of visiting during the late summer and fall months is hurricane season. Hurricanes and tropical storms rarely hit the island, but they tend to be close enough that the island experiences some rain. If you're visiting around this time, be sure to pack a raincoat.
Getting around the city:
The island may be small, but it's still scattered enough that you'll want to bike or drive while exploring the town. There's little to no public transportation. Thanks to its renewed emphasis on environmental tourism, you're sure to notice plenty of bikers and the new bike paths that trace the island. You can rent a bike for around $30 a week. Another option is renting a car. Most attractions are spread out, so having your own car will offer you the most convenience.
The town's main attractions are the pristine beaches, golf, with 24 world-class golf courses, and the vibrant history — with the environment at the center of everything.
Twelve miles of beaches makes Hilton Head an ideal destination for anyone looking to relax in the sand. One of the most popular beaches is Coligny Beach Park, due to its location and the multiple beach bars that line the water. If you're looking for beaches that are a little less touristy and more secluded, make your way over to Adler Lane or Burkes Beach.
This island is a golfer's paradise, which is why many flock to here to tee off and test out their skills on one of the many championship courses. If golf isn't your sport, perfect your backhand at one of the 350 tennis courts on the island instead.
If you're looking to do a little more than relax on the beach or play a round of golf, spend the day in the charming Harbour Town. Visit the 90-foot red-and-white striped lighthouse that offers incredible views of the water and town from the top. And if you have the time, head over to the marina and embark on a dolphin viewing tour.
Learn more about the South Carolina's Lowcountry at the Coastal Discovery Museum. Here you'll gain an understanding of the region's history and interesting ecology. Wander through the butterfly enclosure, take a tour to learn about the marine life or visit the wild horses of the island left by Spaniards many centuries ago. Those who also love to explore and experience wildlife first hand should visit Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge, about a half mile from Hilton Head.
Food & drinks
Being on the water, it makes sense that seafood is a staple item for restaurants in this town. From high end dining to local favorites, you'll have plenty of restaurants to choose from. If you're looking to enjoy a nice dinner on the water at sunset, check out Old Oyster Factory, Hudson's Seafood House on the Docks and ELA's. With a contemporary feel, live music and a chic bar, this award-winning restaurant in Shelter Cove Harbour is perfect for a casual dinner or a romantic evening out. No table disappoints at Hudson's because they all offer incredible views of Port Royal Sound. By employing one of the only two remaining fishing fleets on Hilton Head, you're guaranteed fresh seafood truly brought from sea to table. Many of these restaurants on the water can book up quickly so be sure to make reservations in advance.
Don't forget to try some of the local favorite dining spots either. If you're looking for Lowcountry-inspired cuisine and incredible seafood, head over to Skull Creek Boathouse, an open air restaurant with an extensive wine and cocktail menu – perfect for a long, relaxing dinner. You'll enjoy an exquisite view and an even better dining experience. The Salty Dog Café is a must when it comes to the Hilton Head food scene. Here you'll have an authentic dining experience with fresh seafood and a family-friendly atmosphere.
Book a flight from multiple U.S. cities to Hilton Head Island Airport (HHH), which is right on the island and only approximately 5 miles from all of the Island resorts. To book your trip visit united.com or download the United app.
The latest updates for New York/New Jersey
Hard to believe spring is around the corner, and if you're like me that means starting to think about our family travel plans. Highlighted below are a few ways we are working hard to help make your journeys faster, easier and better in the months ahead.
Improving your experience at our airports
We're excited to move into the new Terminal B at LaGuardia later this year. This is a world-class state-of-the-art facility with fabulous local dining and shopping options such as District Market, Kingside, Shake Shack and FAO Schwarz. Our United Club℠ location will also now be located after security to help you comfortably settle in before your flight.
At Newark Airport, United and our partner, the Port Authority, are working together to improve your experience by adding more pods for nursing mothers; new, larger restrooms; and this summer, an expanded TSA checkpoint that shows expected wait times.
Growing our network and fleet
This summer, we are introducing new seasonal nonstop flights to Naples and Prague and offering the return of great destinations such as Nantucket, Massachusetts, and Rapid City, South Dakota, for an easy trip to the Badlands and Mt. Rushmore.
Additionally, through April, we'll continue to fly nonstop from Newark to Palm Springs. And on March 30, we'll begin flying our brand-new Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner to Dublin, Frankfurt and Tel Aviv, with Barcelona, Brussels and Paris routes to follow this summer.
Investing in our community
United has been serving the New York/New Jersey area for almost 100 years and giving back to our community continues to be a steadfast commitment from the United family. We are proud to announce new partnerships including the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in Manhattan, the Trevor Project, and the Aviation High School in Queens. This year we'll also continue cheer on runners as the official sponsor of the New York Half Marathon on Sunday, March 17, and are proud to have representatives from Special Olympics running alongside of United employees.
Newark is also featured as the Three Perfect Days destination in the latest issue of Hemispheres, so you can learn about great restaurants and cultural institutions that don't even require a flight to visit.
Thank you for choosing United
In Greater New York, we know you have many choices of carriers to fly, so from our family to yours — thank you. We appreciate your loyalty and welcome your feedback. Hearing from you is important to us, so please continue to send your thoughts and ideas to me at JillKaplan@united.com.
Arizona's outdoors in the spring
This may be the best time of year to visit Arizona — and not just for relaxing by the pool. Smart travelers flock to the state in May, June and July for hotel rates that are often lower than the peak-season rates paid by winter “snowbirds" from northern states. But resort bargains and swimming-pool temperatures aren't the only reasons to visit Arizona at this time. There are also plenty of outdoor opportunities to enjoy, as long as you choose the right activities, locations and time of day to get out.
Desert Dawn peak climbs
Residents of Phoenix and Tucson who like to get outdoors in late spring and early summer know they can best enjoy short hikes by rising early. The busiest time on the trails is before 8 a.m. The most popular hiking paths in Phoenix and Scottsdale climb iconic mid-city peaks, which span from the desert floor up to panoramic views at the top. The hikes up Camelback, Piestewa and Pinnacle Peaks are all wonderful, well-marked and popular — each taking less than two hours roundtrip. In Tucson, the best short hikes are in Sabino Canyon and Saguaro National Park on the outer rim of the city.
Hikes in the mountains
Phoenix and Tucson visitors who aren't early risers or who don't want to settle for short hikes can drive to spots where the temperatures and mountain vistas are similar to those in Colorado. Only a two-hour drive from Phoenix, you can head to Sedona, with an altitude of about 4,300 feet, or Flagstaff, with an altitude of about 6,900 feet, where the higher elevations mean much lower temperatures. Sedona has some of the world's most dramatic day hikes among its stunning red-rock formations, while Flagstaff offers mountain hikes that soar up to 12,600 feet, such as Humphries Peak Summit Trail. From Tucson, the usual triple-digit temps drop to the 60s during the twisting, 90-minute drive up 9,157-foot Mt. Lemmon. Trails through the sub-alpine forest await hikers at the summit.
Paddle the Verde River
Another good way to beat the Arizona heat is to get splashed by cool water — but not just in your resort pool. You can also take a dip in the Verde River in an inflatable kayak. Verde Adventures hosts guided trips down the river through the end of summer. You'll paddle through narrow limestone canyons and float past hardwood forests on the shallow river, which has plenty of tame rapids that are just adventurous enough to please both the thrill-seekers and the mild-adventurers. You can choose between a kid-friendly two-hour tubing trip or half-day inflatable kayak trip, or enjoy the Water to Wine Tour with an adult companion, which ends with a tasting at Alcantara Vineyards. You'll be driven the short distance to the river from Cottonwood or Clarkdale, both less than a two-hour drive from Phoenix.
Jump in a Jeep
Following along the dusty dirt roads that rim the edges of Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tucson and Sedona, the Jeep tour is a classic option for visitors to Arizona. The 4x4 Jeep probably won't be air-conditioned, but the wind and Arizona's rich red earth will be in your hair. Less adventurous options include tours in enclosed Hummers or vans. After bumping along scenic back roads for miles, many Jeep tours offer a “cowboy cookout" at a pretty spot in the desert or mountains before you return to civilization. From Phoenix, Scottsdale or Tucson, most Jeep tours venture into the Sonoran Desert, while Sedona Jeep tours bring you up close to its renowned red-rock formations.
Up, up & away
Arizona's dry air makes it one of America's prime locations for hot air balloon rides. Colorful balloons lift off in the cool temperatures and low winds of sunrise from all over greater Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tucson and Sedona, often providing a champagne breakfast afterward. Some also offer sunset flights; one Phoenix company serves hors d'oeuvres from a gourmet restaurant after evening landings. Prevailing winds dictate whether you'll fly up to a mile high or close enough to the ground to spot desert wildlife, but regardless, it's a memorable bucket-list thrill.
If you go
We follow the FAA's order to ground all Boeing 737 Max aircraft
Nothing is more important to us than the safety of our customers and employees. As we have said since Sunday, we have been in close contact with investigators as well as Boeing to share data and fully cooperate with regulatory authorities. We will comply with the FAA's order and will ground our 14 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. We will remain in close contact with authorities as their investigation continues.
Since Sunday, we have been working diligently on contingency plans to prepare our fleet to minimize the impact to customers. Our Boeing 737 MAX aircraft account for roughly 40 flights a day and through a combination of spare aircraft and rebooking customers, we do not anticipate a significant operational impact as a result of this order. We will continue to work with our customers to help minimize any disruption to their travel plans.
We extend lease agreement at iconic Willis Tower in Chicago
Today, we announced that we will keep our current headquarters at the iconic Willis Tower in our hometown of Chicago while making investments to transform our current workspace and experience. Our new agreement extends our existing lease by five additional years to March 31, 2033.
Remaining at Willis Tower will allow us to completely reimagine the workspace from the bottom up. Over the coming months and years, we will redesign our workspace to allow employees to better collaborate, use the latest technology and interact with each other — all with the end goal of providing unmatched service to our front-line employees and customers. And today's announcement is part of our overall effort to improve workspaces and facilities across the system.As we begin the work to reimagine Willis Tower for our employees, a majority of the funding to transform the building is being made by the building's owner, The Blackstone Group. In addition, they are investing more than $500 million in the building for all tenants, which will transform it from the inside out that will deliver exciting new dining, fitness and retail options.
"As one of the city's largest private employers and its hometown airline, we are excited to deepen our roots here in Chicago while making the investments needed to reimagine the headquarters for our employees," said United Chief Executive Officer Oscar Munoz. "The investments we are making will help our employees provide unparalleled service to their front-line colleagues and to our customers as we continue to improve and realize our airline's full potential."
And as one of the most ideally situated buildings in the city, with easy access to all Chicago Transit Authority train lines and Union and Ogilvie Stations, as well as nearby bus stops, Willis Tower already provides distinct advantages and will remain attractive to future job seekers throughout the metropolitan region.
Weekend inspiration: Palm Springs
After a combined 60-plus years of living in cities with snowstorms and cold weather, this winter we decided it was time to pack away the parkas in exchange for a month of sun in Palm Springs.
And it was heaven. 70-degree days filled with morning swims, long walks without a jacket and joyful dogs running around the backyard. Working on murals throughout the valley in perfect drawing conditions was paradise for us, considering we were typically working in freezing weather with pale skin, chapped lips and cracking knuckles. We found our new January normal.
Our month in paradise consisted of many highlights, so if you're in town for a few days, here are some of our favorite spots.
If you're looking to rent a place in Palm Springs, we recommend Relax Palm Spring on Airbnb. They have more than 60 rentals in the Coachella Valley area, and we loved the house we stayed in. Every single thing we needed was available on-site or just a phone call away with this professional vacation rental group.
If you're looking to go the hotel route, we highly recommend The Colony Palms Hotel. This Spanish Colonial-style hotel features high-end casitas and a sweet hotel pool with stunning mountain views. La Serena Villas has a similar small-town feel with a wonderful restaurant attached. Further outside of the downtown area, Parker Palm Springs is a stylish and creatively fulfilling place to stay and play.
No matter where you stay, we recommend Azúcar for dinner (at La Serena Hotel). Make sure you get the watermelon appetizer, refreshing with bursts of sweet balsamic beads trickled over the top. You'll feel like a kid at the pool in summer all over again.
Get up early and head to Palm Desert. Make your way over to Wilma & Frieda at The Gardens on El Paseo for one of the best breakfasts you'll find in the valley. The pastries are all excellent and homemade. The dishes are creative with items like "churro waffles" and "banana caramel French toast."
After breakfast, stop by Kelsey's giraffe mural at the Gardens on El Paseo (directions found here) to give her giraffe a kiss. Then drive up the highway to The Living Desert.
The Living Desert Zoo & Gardens is an incredibly well-designed zoo that takes advantage of the stunning desert scenery with every animal exhibit.
On your way back, stop for a sweet treat at the café at Shields Date Gardens for one of their legendary date shakes. Wander through the 1950's feeling diner and gift shop and into the 17-acre date garden. These shakes are a Palm Springs staple and worth every delicious calorie.
For lunch, wander around the hotel lobby at Parker Palm Springs to admire their excellent interior design decisions before heading into Norma's restaurant for an al fresco lunch.
If you have time, spend the afternoon at Joshua Tree National Park. The blend of Mojave and Colorado deserts results in a unique and stunning landscape. Begin your tour/hike at one of the visitor centers. From here, you can go on a relaxed half-day tour with a guide or head out on one of the 12 self-guiding nature trails.
Spend sunset here or head back downtown to enjoy the sunset at The Colony Palms Hotel's Restaurant, The Purple Palm, with a quality craft cocktail. After sunset, make your way to the popular Italian restaurant Birba for dinner. Birba boasts excellent pizzas with a wide variety of interesting toppings. Be sure to make reservations beforehand.
Spend the day exploring Palm Springs. Go to Cheeky's for breakfast, but make sure to get there early, as a line forms before the doors even open. Their world-famous bacon flight is a must – it's unique and so tasty.
Palm Springs boasts an unbelievable amount of art experiences. Experiential art, art museums and mid-century Modern Design galore. If you can, try to visit Palm Springs during their Modernism week in February. Be sure to get tickets to their house events and tour some of the most breathtakingly beautifully designed houses. And if you're lucky, Desert X might be around during the same time and hunting for art installations throughout the valley, which would be quite the sight.
If a large art fair isn't happening while you're in Palm Springs, we highly recommend heading to the City of Coachella. Their downtown boasts some incredible murals and Kelsey was honored to join the ranks recently. Kelsey completed a pair of "What Lifts You" wings that are colorful and an ode to the Hispanic roots of the community on the side of City Hall.
A trip to Palm Springs isn't complete without a picture with the Cabazon Dinosaurs. Made famous through their feature in movies like National Lampoon's Vacation and The Wizard – it's an Instagram-worthy stop.
For lunch, head back to downtown Palm Springs and enjoy a healthy meal at the charming restaurant Farm. Tucked into an interior courtyard, this restaurant feels like you've stepped into the French countryside. It's healthy, clean food even tastes like the South of France with their traditionally French dishes.
Walk off your lunch by exploring the boutiques in Downtown Palm Springs. These mid-century modern shops are not to be missed: A La Mod, Modernway, Vintage Oasis and The Frippery.
Complete your weekend with dinner at the chic Workshop Kitchen + Bar. Their wine cellar is massive and their waiters expertly trained. Trust them to find a new and different flavor for you – something you'll remember long after your weekend in Palm Springs.
Ode to a flight pioneer
With all she's seen and done over a century on this earth, some of Betty Stockard's fondest memories are of the years she spent slipping its surly bonds.
Seventy-seven birthdays have passed since she took to the skies for United as one of the first non-nurse flight attendants in our history, but you wouldn't know it talking with her today as she prepares to celebrate her 100th birthday. Betty's recollections of that time, when she was a 23-year-old searching for excitement and a life to call her own, are crystal clear, her stories conjuring a vivid, gorgeous image of the golden era of aviation.
Born near Kalispell, Montana, on May 16, 1919 as Elizabeth Jean Riley, becoming an aviation pioneer was the furthest thing from Betty's mind growing up. As she recalled, her only brushes with flight back then occurred when the occasional small airplane would appear in the sky above the family homestead. But following the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Betty, like most Americans, wanted to contribute to the war effort. She packed her bags, moved to Seattle and took an administrative job at the Boeing plant where thousands of bombers would soon roll off the assembly lines.
She had been there for about two months when she saw an item in the Seattle Times announcing United was looking for a new crop of flight attendants. For years, airlines had only hired nurses into those roles, but with more and more of them now needed in combat zones, that was no longer the case. Despite having never stepped foot on an airplane, Betty applied.
What followed was a whirlwind. After meeting with United personnel managers in Seattle, she took her first-ever flight for a second round of interviews in San Francisco. Two weeks later she received a telegram instructing her to report to Chicago, where she joined 24 other women from across the country for six weeks of intense training, heavy on first aid and safety.
"The instructors told us not to smile much because it was a serious job," remembered Betty. "They wanted us to maintain a professional attitude.
"But the stuff about not smiling didn't last long once I was on an airplane myself."
As Betty put it, being a stewardess in those days was nearly on par with being a movie star, and she often rubbed shoulders with celebrities and dignitaries, like First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and silver screen idol Clark Gable, on her trips up and down the West Coast. But it wasn't all glitz and glamour and grins.
Flight attendants in the mid-1940s were just as busy serving their country as they were serving their customers. United flew many military men during World War II, and flight crews were responsible for looking after them. And, at least in Betty's case, those wartime duties included a little intrigue as well.
In the summer of 1945, after checking in for a flight from San Francisco to Seattle, her dispatcher told her that two men from the U.S. Army were waiting for her in the next room. They handed Betty a small, brown package and instructed her to pin it inside her jacket until she arrived in Seattle, where another Army representative would meet her. In the meantime, they warned, she was not to open the parcel or tell anyone she had it.
The aircraft landed in Seattle just after 2 a.m. and taxied to a dark corner of the airfield. There, a military man came on board, took the package, and promptly departed, leaving Betty to wonder what she had just been part of.
Secret missions aside, Betty was smitten with life in the air. She'll still tell you it was the best job in the world. Soon, though, she found herself equally smitten with a handsome former fighter pilot by the name of Ray Stockard, whom she met during a flight in 1946.
Ray was traversing the country interviewing for jobs with commercial airlines, and the two hit it off immediately, beginning a courtship shortly after. Betty adored Ray, but it was a bittersweet romance, for she knew if she got married she'd be trading one love for another since, at that time, stewardesses had to be single.
Alas, the heart wants what it wants, and Betty and Ray, who by that time was flying for Pan American, set a wedding date. Originally, they were to wed in May of 1947, but that spring, United announced it would begin service to Honolulu that summer. Betty talked Ray into briefly postponing the nuptials so that she could enjoy her last months as a flight attendant on the Hawaiian route.
"I hated giving up flying, but I knew I was making the right move," she said. "I was looking forward to the next chapter."
Fortunately, marrying a pilot meant she didn't have to walk away from the industry altogether. In the years that followed, she, Ray and their four children – Joe, Denise, Ed and Dick – traveled the world together. And while they did most of that flying on Pan Am, Betty never lost her soft spot for United, the airline where it all started. She still flies United, in fact, and still enjoys meeting flight attendants on her journeys, though she rarely, if ever, tells them about her past, preferring instead to ask them questions about themselves.
When you are lucky enough to get her talking about herself, though, she doesn't disappoint. Betty's stories are riveting, and she's been known to dispense a kernel of wisdom or two if pressed. So, what's the best advice she gives after 100 years of a rich, full life? Value education and relationships above all else, travel as much as possible, and be fearless in your pursuits.
"It's been such a good life," she said. "I couldn't have asked for a more interesting career. I still carry with me the memories of the people I met on airplanes and the places I went. If there's a lesson there, it's that you should get out and do things and not be afraid to try. By doing that, I've had one of the best lives ever."
The feedback from customers and employees was clear: we needed to improve our boarding process. As part of our ongoing efforts to put customers at the center of everything we do, we identified boarding as an opportunity to improve the airport experience. We tested a variety of different boarding processes on thousands of flights across multiple airports. Best practices emerged from each test, and combined, they now form what we are calling "Better Boarding".
Better Boarding consists of three key improvements
Less time in line:
By reducing the number of boarding lanes, there is more space for customers to enjoy the gate areas, many of which have been completely remodeled with more comfortable seating and in some airports, the ability to have food and drinks from within the airport delivered directly to the gate area. Over the years, we have invested millions of dollars in our terminals, and now with less time spent standing in line, customers will have more time to dine, shop, relax, work or enjoy a United Club℠.
Simplified gate layout
Say goodbye to the five long lines we see today
Group 1 will board through the blue lane.
Group 2 will board through the green lane, followed by groups 3, 4, and 5.
Late arriving customers in Group 1 and 2 will use the blue lane.
Customers in groups 3, 4, and 5 always use the green lane.
We are providing customers with more information throughout the boarding process so that they feel more at ease, and more equipped with the latest information about their flight. Customers with the United app can receive a push notification once their flight starts boarding. Customers will only receive the notification if they've opted in for push notifications and have a mobile boarding pass in the app's wallet.
Be in the know about boarding
Customers will receive boarding notifications through the United app (if they've opted in for notifications).
Improved gate area digital signage to guide customers through boarding.
Balanced groups and better recognition:
United MileagePlus® Premier 1K® customers will now pre-board and United MileagePlus Premier Gold customers will be boarding in Group 1. For more information on our boarding groups, visit: https://www.united.com/web/en-us/content/travel/airport/boarding-process.aspx
Improved premier customer recognition
We're happy to make them happy
Improved premier recognition and better positioning of customers to create balanced boarding groups.
The new Better Boarding process is just one of the steps we are taking to improve the customer experience. We will continue to collect feedback from customers on ways we can further improve boarding and you may receive a post-travel survey to tell us more about your experience
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Neighbors, coworkers, parents, protectors, heroes. All of these labels and more encompass the men and women whose devotion to our country serves as the truest embodiment of the American spirit. We're talking about Veterans. Join host Phil Torres as he heads to our nation's capital to learn more about these heroes and to explore just how many United employees are veterans on this Big Metal Bird.