Make Your Next Trip Extraordinary

Best Ways to Spend Delays in 17 U.S. Airports

by Wendy Perrin | November 23, 2015

For many of us, Thanksgiving and Christmas mean too much time spent in airports: The holiday crowds require you to get there early, messy weather can mean delays, and planes are so packed that, if your flight is cancelled, it can be untold hours before you get a seat on another flight. But some airports are far more tolerable than others. In some cases they’re even enjoyable. You already know the best way to spend a layover in 10 of the biggest U.S. hubs. Here, a selection of savvy globe trotters—from travel experts to my Facebook followers—share the best U.S. airports to get stuck in, and their favorite way to pass the time there.

Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport (ATL)
“ATL – One Flew South – sushi.”
—Willis McKee, VP Marketing,  MedjetAssist

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS)
“If I had to choose one airport, it would be Austin, Texas, for the great local restaurants, including several that often have live bands.”
Scott Mayerowitz, Associated Press airlines reporter

Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT)
“Relax in the charming white rocking chairs scattered throughout the airport. Makes me think ‘Southern Hospitality’.”
—Kathy Belden, More Than Gourmet

Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD)
“Okay, shoot me, but I grew up in Park Ridge roughly five miles from ORD. When I was a kid, on Saturdays I used to walk over to the Marriott, hop on their courtesy bus to the airport, and spend HOURS watching the planes. Now, when I layover there, sometimes I take a cab into Park Ridge for an hour or two and walk the sidewalks of downtown and reminisce a bit.”
Robert Youngquist

Centurion Lounge in Miami International Airport

The Centurion Lounge

Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)
“I’ve been stuck for days at DFW, and it was just fine—I looked into declaring residency in the American Express Centurion lounge. The DFW airport grounds are bigger than the island of Manhattan, and the airport offers myriad amenities, including the American Express lounge and an almost-too-nice Grand Hyatt attached to the terminal with a pool deck overlooking the runways. What more could you need?”
—Gary Leff, founder, View From The Wing

Denver International Airport (DEN)
“Food, not too much shopping, lots of open-space feeling from the high ceilings and huge windows— and views of the mountains.”
Carolyn Trabuco

Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW)
“Detroit is the best airport in the USA at the moment. Great local restaurants. Beautiful and clean.”
—David Rosati, Keytours Vacations

honolulu airport chinese garden

Believe it or not, this is an airport. HNL’s Chinese, Japanese, and Hawaiian gardens at were designed in 1962 when the airport was built. Photo: Courtesy HNL

Honolulu International Airport (HNL)
“I love the gardens in the middle of the airport.”
Perri Collins

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
“My favorite domestic airport to get stuck in is Los Angeles International (LAX)! They’ve brought in a bunch of local restaurants and shops which have made all the difference in the world. A lot of travelers don’t realize that your same-day boarding pass allows you to go into any terminal no matter which airline you’re flying! So if you like a restaurant in one of the other terminals, go ahead and check it out.”
—Johnny Jet,

Minneapolis–St. Paul International Airport (MSP)
“Lots of good shopping and restaurants, and if it’s a long enough layover, in less than 15 minutes you can take the train to the Mall of America for a ride on the carousel.”
—Lori Bruns, Carrousel Travel

New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK): Terminal 5
“I love the JetBlue terminal (Terminal 5) at JFK. They have that great store MUJI to GO, an Ex Officio shop, great restaurants, and spas.”
—Paula Froelich, founder of A Broad Abroad

New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK): Terminal 4
“I love the Delta lounge in Terminal 4. (You can buy a one-day pass.) It’s so big that I can always find a quiet corner. The space is subdivided into a lot of different rooms, so it’s easy to have a different experience each time. Every seat has outlets and USB ports, which is key for last-minute charging. And there’s an outdoor lounge, which is just fun because I’ll take any oxygen I can before being locked in a tin can.”
—Pavia Rosati, founder/CEO, Fathom

Palm Beach International Airport (PBI)
“It’s low-key and truly Floridian, with a relaxing vibe. And if you forgot a souvenir, there are always those kitschy coconut candy treats.”
—Sharon Pomerantz Strelzer, Pomerantz PR

Philadelphia airport bike

Philadelphia airport’s three-seater bike in the B/C Food Court. Photo: PHL/Instagram

Philadelphia International Airport (PHL)
“I love that Philadelphia has stationary bikes for exercising between flights.”
Elizabeth Drewry Beck

Portland International Airport (PDX)
“PDX has the best store: CC McKenzie has awesome clothes, shoes, and accessories. They also have the Dragontree holistic day spa, and Powell’s Books!”
Brandy Audette

San Francisco International Airport yoga room

SFO’s Yoga Room, the first ever in an airport, lets you get in a good stretch before you board your flight. Photo: Courtesy San Francisco International Airport

San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
“It has a spa for massages and a yoga room.”
Deb Arora

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)
“I like SeaTac. I get a quick manicure at its Butter London nail salon.”
—Arnette, founder, Round The World Girl

Washington, D.C.’s Reagan National Airport (DCA)
“I love taking a walk into the historic lobby in what’s now Terminal A. It’s usually pretty empty there, but if you stop for a moment, you can just feel the presence of all of the historic figures that have graced those halls since the terminal opened during World War II.”
—Brett Snyder, president and Chief Airline Dork, The Cranky Flier

What’s your ideal airport to get stuck in? Weigh in below!


Be a smarter traveler: Follow Wendy Perrin on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

Ask Wendy

How to Choose the Right Boat for Halong Bay, Vietnam

by Billie Cohen | October 7, 2014

Meaningful Travel

The Akola Project’s Handmade Jewelry from Uganda

by Billie Cohen | July 28, 2014


The Easiest Way to See Europe: A River Cruise

by Timothy Baker | January 28, 2015


  1. Mike Critchley

    Not to change the subject but I would like to add international airports to the mix and Changi in Singapore has to be the all time best. Free tours of Singapore City/State, amazing shopping, on site GST refund processing, internet that really works (what a concept), outstanding food and genuine nice smiling people every where. A great place to be stuck but as efficient as Singapore Airlines is you won’t be stuck for long enough.

    1. Wendy Perrin Post author

      Mike, I love Changi too, especially the butterfly garden and the 40-foot-tall slide. We’ll be asking readers about their favorite foreign airports on Facebook soon and compiling the recommendations for another article, on best foreign airports for layovers. Please follow us there so you can weigh in:

  2. Ilene

    Portland (PDX) has live piano music in the south C concourse. It is extremely relaxing. They often have other musicians in other area with guitar or strings. It is one of many things that makes us localslove our airport.

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>