Let’s face it, no one truly enjoys a layover, regardless of its length or location. However, flight connections are a fact of life and for most travelers, an inevitability. If you have a long layover, you might have enough time to get out of the airport and see some of the top local attractions. But if leaving the airport isn’t a possibility, here is a look at five of the best airports for layovers in America.
Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)
Because Dallas/Fort Worth is one of the world’s busiest airports, you can expect to have a near endless supply of choices for dining and shopping. Second only to Denver as the largest airport in the country, DFW has five terminals, with bidirectional train services running every two minutes between terminals. Families on a layover with children may wish to visit one of the Aquafina Junior Flyers Clubs at Terminal A near Gate A13, Terminal B near Gate B12 and at Terminal C near Gate C14. An additional children’s play area can be found in Terminal D near Gate D33. But DFW is also highly regarded for its outstanding and diverse selection of food options, like Pizza Vino, Fuddruckers Hamburgers and the always popular Texas Stadium Skybox Bar and Grill. Suggested stores to browse for magazines, clothing and jewelry include Natalie’s Sweet Gourmet, DFW News and the Dallas Cowboys Pro Shop. Active military personnel and their families can also visit USO DFW, featuring computers with wireless access, a TV lounge with large screen TVs, a cafe and a sleeping room.
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Denver International Airport (DEN)
Voted the best airport in North America multiple times, Denver International Airport is also routinely mentioned among the best for a layover. Part of what helps makes Denver more tolerable than many other airports is its Art and Culture Program, featuring impressive works of art exhibitions and a permanent collection, voted the best airport for art in a recent readers poll. Denver airport also has more than 140 shops, restaurants and other services, in addition to free public Wi-Fi. Among the best restaurants and quick bites to try are Colorado Sports Bar, Elway’s, Root Down DIA and Einstein Brothers Bagels. If you still have time, take a walk around Jeppesen Terminal, where trips around the terminal is one mile. Lastly, but certainly not least, try to go outside to get a view of the multi-peaked roofs of Jeppesen Terminal, resembling the Colorado Rockies.
John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)
If you’re flying to Europe, there’s a good chance you’ll have a layover in New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. That’s because JFK is the busiest international air passenger gateway in the country. Fortunately, you have plenty of options for food, drinks and shopping in all six terminals. Popular food choices are New York favorites, such as Shake Shack and the Palm Bar and Grille. Trains connecting each terminal run frequently, with 24-hour service and the Jamaica Train connecting to subway and rail service to Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan. A glimpse of shopping choices in Terminal 1 may surprise first-time visitors with high-profile names like Cartier, Bulgari and Salvatore Ferragamo featuring retail stores in post-security areas. For conveniences like soft drinks, snacks and magazines, the familiar Hudson News stores can be found all over JFK.
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
If you’re stuck on a layover at California’s busiest airport but not long enough to leave the area, you can still find plenty of things to do at LAX. Although the Encounter Restaurant closed in 2013, you can still visit the iconic LAX Theme Building and its observation deck, with sweeping views of the downtown skyline. If you want to browse the internet, LAX has free Wi-Fi, although premium access comes with a fee for either hourly or 24 hours. As you would expect, there are many choices for dining, primarily in the Great Hall Food Court, along with duty free shops and stores like Bulgari, Coach and Emporio Armani all in the Great Hall. Lastly, even if you are just lounging around, there’s always a possibility you might spot a celebrity passing through the airport. All you would have do to is just look for a gaggle of photographers.
San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
With Hong Kong, Tokyo and other Asian cities among the top destinations, some visitors can expect to have a layover at SFO. Luckily, travelers can keep themselves busy using the airport’s free Wi-Fi, grab something to eat or even visit an attraction not found in most other major domestic airports. While public art is on display at many airports, SFO has a museum and and public art scattered across all five terminals. The Aviation Museum and Library is located pre-security at the International Terminal Main Hall and is open to the public with no admission fee. One interesting San Francisco-related exhibition on display through March is “When Art Rocked,” a collection of the psychedelic rock posters advertising upcoming music concerts at iconic venues such as the Fillmore West and Avalon Ballroom. SFO also has a yoga room in Terminal 2, along with a nice variety of dining, including local favorites Boudin Bakery, Buena Vista Café and Lori’s Diner, along with stores like Burberry, Coach and the SFMOMA Museum Store.
Randy Yagi is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he was awarded a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on Examiner.com Examiner.com.