The essential travel guide to New York City
No other metropolis in the world gives off as much energy and excitement as New York City. Whether you are visiting for the very first time or you are a frequent traveller, the streets and boroughs of NYC offer countless wonders to experience. But with so many incredible sights, sounds and tastes available to enjoy, deciding what to see and do can be a daunting task. To help you get the most out of your next trip to the Big Apple, here is a handy guide to some of the city's best and brightest attractions.
Grassy area in Central Park in the summer
The great outdoors
When the sun is out, there is nothing better than exploring New York City's gorgeous natural outdoor spaces on foot. Start with a trip to lovely Central Park, and don't forget to bring your picnic basket. If you are searching for the perfect spot to enjoy a relaxing afternoon lunch on the grass, try the park's Cherry Hill area, which features a peaceful atmosphere and a terrific view of the lake.
When your muscles need some stretching, an outdoor yoga class in Midtown Manhattan's picturesque Bryant Park is the perfect solution. Classes are typically held on Tuesday mornings and Thursday evenings, depending on the weather. Other popular outdoor activities in NYC include a boat trip on the historic Staten Island Ferry, an energising jog across the Brooklyn Bridge and a leisurely stroll through the beautiful Brooklyn Botanic Garden.
Art and design
Thanks to its size and ethnic diversity, New York City is widely considered to be one of the world's foremost centres for art and visual design. To indulge your love of creative expression, a visit to The Metropolitan Museum of Art is an absolute must. The largest art museum in the United States, the Met, is an essential attraction that every art lover needs to see for themselves.
For something equally colourful but a bit more abstract, the Guggenheim Museum on 5th Avenue is hosting a stunning exhibition devoted to the work of pioneering Swedish artist and mystic Hilma af Klint later this year. If guerrilla art is more your style, then a guided walking tour of the vibrant street murals in Brooklyn's Bushwick Collective will be just what you are looking for.
New York style cheese pizza
Food and drink
No matter what type of cuisine you are hungry for, you are guaranteed to find several delicious options everywhere you go. Be sure to make a reservation at the award-winning Gramercy Tavern in the Flatiron District if you are in the mood for a posh spot that serves incredible seasonal dishes like lamb loin and ravioli, and squash salad with lobster and farro.
For a classic slice of New York pizza that Anthony Bourdain called 'the best of the best', look no further than the beloved Di Fara Pizza in Brooklyn. And fans of HBO's 'Sex and the City' will definitely want to order a mini cupcake and a cappuccino at Magnolia Bakery on Bleecker Street where Carrie and Miranda ordered their snacks in season 3 of the series. When you are ready for a perfectly prepared New York cocktail, the expert mixologists at Pegu Club have you covered. Their unique spin on the classic Pisco Punch, made with pineapple-infused brandy, grapefruit and lime syrup, is just the drink you will need to help kick off a night on the town.
Whether you prefer cosy boutiques or glamorous department stores, shopping in New York City is a full-time activity. Considering how many world-famous authors hail from the city, it is no surprise that local bookshops continue to attract thousands of shoppers each day. Founded in 1927, the historic Strand Bookstore in the East Village is perhaps the most popular one of all. Featuring three and a half floors of books, both new and used, it is a must-visit destination for readers of all ages.
Treasure-hunters looking to find one-of-a-kind gifts should make plans to explore the open-air Chelsea Flea Market on West 25th Street. One of the city's most beloved places to buy unique antiques, collectibles and vintage clothes, it is also a great spot for people watching.
If money is no object, a day spent shopping in luxury at the impeccable Tiffany & Co. on 5th Avenue is the ultimate way to experience the city. On the other hand, bargain-minded consumers can stretch their travel money by searching the exquisite sale racks at Neiman Marcus Last Call in Brooklyn.
Times Square at night
Though Los Angeles is correctly referred to as the film capital of the world, New York City is the leader when it comes to virtually all other types of entertainment. Just for laughs, reserve a seat at the Gotham Comedy Club in the Chelsea neighbourhood and prepare to witness some of the funniest stand-up acts you have ever seen. Brilliant comics like John Witherspoon, Janeane Garofalo and Carlos Mencia take the stage during the week, while major headliners like Jerry Seinfeld and Dave Chappelle have been known to stop by unannounced to try out new material.
In a city with dozens of top-notch live music venues, the Beacon Theater on Manhattan's Upper West Side is easily one of the best. What trip to New York is complete without a Broadway play? If you have not planned ahead to get tickets to a theatrical show, don't worry. A quick stop at TKTS Times Square is a great way to find some last-minute Broadway theatre tickets at discounted prices.
If you go
Eric Rubens (@erubes1) is a MileagePlus member based in Southern California. He is a photographer/videographer who loves meeting new people and traveling the world.
When planning a vacation, one of the first steps is picking a theme. If you're in search of mountains, many look to the Rockies, Swiss Alps, or Dolomites. If a tropical vacation is desired, Hawaii, Mexico, or the Caribbean may be calling your name. There are so many beautiful destinations in this world, but is it possible for one of them to be blessed with incredible mountains, picturesque beaches, and some of the best wildlife viewing in the world?
Cape Town is one of the few places I've found that seems to have it all. With the iconic Table Mountain and Lion's Head rising out of the city, there are hikes leading up to majestic views down the African coastline. The beaches of Clifton and Camps Bay are some of the most incredible beaches on this planet. If wildlife peaks your interest, there's Boulder's Beach, home to one of the only land-based penguin colonies in the world. Did I mention the safari is a short trip away? Add in an exchange rate that is very favorable and you have all the makings of a trip you'll never forget.
Camps Bay Beach
Planning a trip to Africa for the first time can be both intimidating and a bit challenging. I found very few of my friends or family had been, which made my voyage to South Africa even more exciting. Cape Town is home to a hip urban scene, a vibrant melting pot of culture, and jaw dropping landscapes that'll make you wonder why you didn't visit sooner. There's no city quite like it, and this list of top things to do will make sure you maximize your time in the Mother City. Several theories exist regarding the origin of Cape Town's nickname as "The Mother City." Some say it can be traced back to the beginning of the city's history as a trading hub in the 17th century, or its status as South Africa's first metropolis. But many locals have their own theories – one running joke is that it takes nine months to get anything done in the very laid back city.
View from the top of Table Mountain
#1: Take a hike or tram up to the top of Table Mountain
This iconic mountain rising from the city is arguably home to Cape Town's best views. The 2 to 3-hour hike to the top makes for a fun activity if you're up for it. Otherwise, take in the view from the aerial cableway, complete with 360-degree rotating floor and running every 5 minutes from the base. Once up top, there's plenty of walking trails, souvenir shopping, and food and drinks. Table Mountain is known for the blanket of fog that rolls over the peak, so weather at the top can change quickly. Make sure to check the weather before heading up and bring a jacket, since the wind can be intense!
Penguins at Boulder Beach
#2: Visit the penguin colony at Boulder's Beach
Even though it's an hour or so drive from the city, visiting Boulder's Beach and its nearly 2,000 penguins is an unforgettable experience. Watching the penguins lounge on the beach and come in and out of the waves makes for some incredible pictures and a unique encounter. You can also swim in the nearby waters and will often come face to face with members of the colony.
#3: Wake up for a sunrise hike up Lion's Head
One of the most bucket list-worthy activities on a visit to Cape Town is catching sunrise atop Lion's Head. It's a challenging hike and not for those with a fear of heights, but you won't soon forget the view from the summit. If you're willing to scramble and make your way up the final ladders, 360-degree views of the city await, and the sunrise over the city is one for the ages.
#4: Explore the Cape Winelands and the beauty of Constantia
South Africa has some of the best vineyards in the world. Even though the towns of Franschooek and Stellenbosch get the majority of the press, nearby Constantia is home to the oldest wine estate in the country, Groot Constantia. Its proximity (just 15 minutes from the city center) makes it perfect for a day trip. The city sightseeing "Hop-On Hop-Off" bus tour has a purple line that connects through this region, so getting here is easy! If wine tasting isn't your thing, the Alphen Trail is a beautiful trek through the countryside and sure to put you in a relaxing mood.
Chapman's Peak Drive
#5: Take a road trip down Chapman's Peak Drive
One of the most beautiful drives awaits just south of Cape Town. Carved into the cliffs and winding along the ocean, this road between Hout Bay and Noordhoek offers majestic views of the coastline. Just make sure to keep your eyes on the road since the sheer beauty can be distracting!
#6: View the diversity of flora throughout Kirstenbosch Gardens
The flora and fauna of South Africa is some of the most diverse in the world, and no place showcases it better than Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. Tucked along the slopes of Table Mountain and widely recognized as one of the most impressive gardens in the world, Kirstenbosch is home to over 7,000 species of plants. The newly completed Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway allows you to walk above the tree line. If you visit in summer, try to make one of the Sunday concerts in the gardens, which are a hit with locals and visitors.
V & A Waterfront
#7: Shop your heart out along the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront
Known as one of the biggest tourism hubs of the city, the always bustling V&A Waterfront is home to many of Cape Town's finest restaurants, shopping, and the launching point of many tours. There are countless ways to spend your time here, but make sure to stop by the V&A food market, where over 40 vendors sell gourmet street food from around the world.
#8: Make your way to the Southern tip of Africa
If you're up for an adventure, take a trip to The Cape of Good Hope. You'll most likely encounter penguins, baboons, and who knows what else along the 1.5-hour drive. The weather can be very unpredictable, so make sure to check it before making the trip south. While there, visit the lighthouse and if you're hungry grab a bite at the appropriately named Two Oceans Restaurant.
#9 Take a tour of historical Robben Island
Even though the prison has been shut down since 1996, a visit to this UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of Cape Town's most popular tours. Tours take around 4 hours including a ferry ride to the island famous for housing Nelson Mandela for 18 of the 27 years he was imprisoned.
-Use the "hop on hop off" bus for an easy guided tour of the city. The route takes you to many of the best spots throughout Cape Town and allows you to explore at your own pace. Buy tickets ahead of time to save on fare!
-Cape Town has some incredible boutique hotels and bed & breakfasts. My favorites are: Tintswalo Atlantic, 52 De Wet Luxury Boutique Hotel, and Derwent House Boutique Hotel.
-Make sure you don't carry too many valuables on you if you're walking around at night. Although beautiful and mostly safe, there is still a good amount of opportunistic crime throughout the city. Always pay attention to your surroundings.
Opinions expressed by the author are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of United.
Planning a Caribbean vacation around hurricane season isn't necessary if you head to Dutch-affiliated Curaçao. The southernmost of all Caribbean islands — just off Venezuela's coast — is rarely even grazed by hurricanes. It also has an ideal tropical climate with average winter highs in the 80s (and water temperatures to match) and only about one inch of rain a month.
Curaçao will be more accessible beginning December 7, 2019, when weekly nonstops begin from New York/Newark on United Airlines. The new seasonal service on 737-700 aircraft makes Curaçao the 21st Caribbean island destination for United, which already flies to the other two nearby "ABC islands" — Aruba and Bonaire. Why choose Curaçao? Because like the island's famous blue liqueur, it's colorful, exotic and appealing.
Jet lag won't be an issue for Americans flying to Curaçao because it's in the same time zone as New York. Nor is it a long flight — about five hours nonstop from New York/Newark. Upon arrival you can take a taxi, rental car or hotel shuttle from Curaçao International Airport to your accommodations — a resort (reserve early), boutique inn, vacation house or B&B. Most are in Willemstad, a coastal city only five miles from the airport.
Forts above the port
Straat Curaçao Getty Images/iStockphoto
The historic city center and harbor areas of Curaçao's only city of Willemstad are designated as a UNESCO Heritage Site, mostly for the 17th to 19th century Dutch colonial architecture of the houses and forts. The houses are painted a rainbow of bright colors in the Caribbean tradition, and the city is packed with forts — Fort Amsterdam (built in 1636), Fort Beekenburg (1703), Fort Nassau (1797) and Fort Waakzaamheid (1803). All four offer stellar views and are free to visitors.
On the waterfront
Curacao colorful houses Getty Images/iStockphoto
Along with forts, the harbor area is home to the oldest continuously operating synagogue (and museum) in the Western Hemisphere, an African art museum that tells the story of the slave trade through West African art and artifacts, and a maritime museum. These visits can be followed by a tour and tasting at the Curaçao Distillery, where you'll see how the peels of the native Laraha bitter oranges are turned into curaçao liqueur.
Snorkel from the sand
Two people snorkeling off coast of tropical island Getty Images
The chief allure of this 38-mile-long island is, of course, the ocean. Besides sunbathing at any of the dozens of powder-sand cove beaches, you can wade right in and snorkel in the turquoise, bathlike sea, usually around 80 degrees. Visibility is up to 100 feet, a snorkeler's dream. More adventurous types can snorkel or dive from day boats that head to prime diving sites like the Mushroom Forest (mushroom-shaped coral), Blue Cave and several shipwreck spots. There's also a nice aquarium on the shoreline where marine life is seen up close in their natural habitat —from land or aboard a minisub that dives 1,000 feet.
Curaçao is a convenient tropical destination for Americans because U.S. dollars and credit cards are commonly accepted, English is widely spoken and no visa is required. But the local culture and cuisine are still exotic enough to be intriguing with local specialties like stewed iguana and cactus soup served in restaurants and from food carts in Willemstad.
If you go
One of our most treasured events of the year is here – Fantasy Flights! Our Fantasy Flights bring holiday cheer to children in need by taking them on a special trip to the "North Pole." Each station creates a North Pole with care, in preparation for all the children who will soon be there…
Our participating stations this year are HNL (Honolulu), FRA (Frankfurt), CLE (Cleveland), DEN (Denver), IAD (Washington Dulles), LAX (Los Angeles), SFO (San Francisco), MCO (Orlando), ORD (Chicago O'Hare), GUM (Guam), EWR (New York/New Jersey), NRT (Tokyo-Narita), PHX (Phoenix), IAH (Houston), MCI (Kansas City) and SAT (San Antonio).
Please stay tuned for stories, photos and more from these magical events. #UAFantasyFlights