Best Things to Eat, See, Drink at 10 Major Airports

November 1, 2018 0 0

For some people, airports are more of a home-away-from-home than brief encounters. With over 2.5 million people flying every day, venues across the country now offer just about everything you need and more. Restaurants, pampering stations and even yoga rooms are common, if not definite, mainstays in all airports. Most major hubs even offer permanent and rotating art exhibits, showcasing local and national artists. Below is a list of the country’s biggest airports by passenger-traffic with some of the best things to eat, see and do during your next long layover: Have a good look, and you might even find yourself excited to get to the airport early for your next flight.

Name Description
ATL Not only is ATL the country’s busiest airport, serving over 100 million passengers in 2017 alone, it’s also the busiest airport in the world. With seven concourses — 152 domestic and 40 international gates — there’s plenty to do and eat to help kill some time. (Don’t worry, there’s a Plane Train that connects all the concourses.) The airport is also filled with permanent and rotating art exhibits like A Walk Through Atlanta History (between Concourses B and C) and Courage Under Fire (Domestic Atrium), and a photography exhibit of the Freedom Riders during the Civil Rights Movement. If you’re looking to do some shopping, there are plenty of options. Shops range from high-end stores like Michael Kors, Coach and Salvatore Ferragamo to duty-free shopping in the international terminal. For those who need some shut-eye, in Concourse B there are 24/7 pods called Minute Suites where you can sleep by paying per minute. In case you need some rejuvenation post-pod nap, there are XpresSpa’s in Concourses A, C and D. As for grub, you can find just about any type of cuisine, but some fan favorites are One Flew South (Concourse E), Paschal’s Southern Cuisine (Concourse B), and, of course, Georgia’s own Chick-fil-A (Concourses A and C).
LAX With nine passenger terminals spanning 128 gates, LAX offers more fun things to do than just celebrity-spotting. Before hopping in line for security, check out the space age structure called the Theme Building just outside of the main terminals. It’s closed today, but the structure stands out as an iconic part of LAX. Unfortunately, this is one of the only things that all LAX passengers get to see — for the most part, you have to exit security to switch terminals. Food ranges depending on the terminal, with some domestic gates that only have to-go selections, and others like the international terminals offering menus backed by internationally acclaimed chefs. Terminal 2 stands out as one of the better dining options, with a seafood restaurant, Ciabatta Bar, a custom burger joint, and a wine bar. Throughout all the terminals, there’s art everywhere. From public art exhibits to live shows, LAX makes sure you’re entertained the second you touch down in LA. And, of course, if time permits, there’s always the option to escape to the beach (and In-N-Out Burger), for just a minute or two.
ORD Chicago is home to the country’s third largest airport. Each of O’Hare’s four terminals offers plenty of dining options as well as self-care options. The three domestic terminals have access to O’Hare’s Hilton Health Club, where non-hotel guests can pay $20 for access to the fitness center. Terminal 1 has a wine bar, an Italian restaurant and a sandwich shop. There’s also a Spa and an art gallery within Terminal 1. Terminal 2 has a ton of restaurants to choose from. If you’re traveling with kids, there’s a child play area. Terminal 3 has several chain restaurants like Macaroni Grill as well as a wine bar and other restaurants. For those trying to find their Zen, there’s a yoga room and an aeroponic garden. The international terminal, Terminal 5, has dining options ranging from salad to sushi. It also has an art gallery that sells international art and an XpresSpa. It also allows passengers access to the O’Hare green roof.
DFW At DFW, the Skylink connects all five terminals so passengers have access to all the restaurants and amenities. The airport promotes physical activities with its LiveWell walking path and yoga studio, and is also an advocate for the arts, with numerous installations throughout the airport. There are 16 terrazzo floors throughout the terminals depicting different artistic scenes. There’s also an outdoor sculpture garden. As for food, Dallas-based chef Kent Rathbun has two restaurants in Terminal D: Whitetail Bistro and Abacus, both of which serve up local fare. Terminal A offers a Dallas Cowboys Club (of course), as well as a sushi place, Mexican restaurant and ample fast food options. Chef Kent Rathbun makes another appearance in Terminal B, this time at his barbeque joint, Hickory. Terminal C has Texas classics like Pappadeaux’s Seafood and Pappasito’s Cantina as well as numerous fast food options.
DEN Denver International Airport is big — 53 square miles to be exact. In fact, it’s the largest airport in the U.S. by total area. Luckily, there’s a train to move passengers between terminals. You can find a ton of local food and drink in every terminal of the airport. There’s a Boulder Beer Tap House, a Red Rocks Bar & BBQ, and a Vertical Mile Market. DEN doesn’t skimp on the art; there are nearly 40 site-specific works including sculptures, murals and other installations. The newest art exhibition in the Jeppesen Terminal is Bike & Climb Colorado, which curates the local passion for the outdoors. There’s also an exhibit dedicated to Colorado’s scenic highways and byways and an exhibit dedicated to protecting Denver’s animals.
JFK JFK is one of the busiest airports in the world for international travel. There are six terminals at the airport, and you can take the AirTrain between the terminals if you’re making a connection or just looking to explore NYC’s largest airport. Each of the terminals offers a large amount of food and retail options including charging stations, pet relief stations and welcome centers. All terminals also have free WiFi access. Terminals 4 and 5 serve as the airport’s international terminals and they both have plenty of food options as well as ample duty-free shopping locations. As for food, some terminals (Terminals 1, 2 and 7) are better for quick pick-me-ups than full-course meals. Throughout most terminals, you can find shopping that ranges from high-end to Hudson News. There are also XpresSpa’s and other pampering stations throughout the terminals.
SFO With so many things to do in all four terminals of SFO, it’d be hard to get bored. The airport features several central areas — three of which are domestic — and each is loaded with activities other than shopping and eating. In the main hall of the international terminal, there’s the Aviation Museum and Library. There’s also a reflection room for quiet reflection and meditation at the international terminal. Terminals 2 and 3 have play areas for the kids, as well as self-guided tours of art and SFO history. Every terminal has access to the SFO museum exhibits, which houses cultural, art, historical and scientific topics. If you’re looking for some pampering or personal time, there’s access to both an XpresSpa and yoga rooms at most terminals. There are endless options for food at SFO, but some standouts are Napa Farms Market (Terminal 2), Koi Palace (pre-security), Bun Mee (Terminal 3), and the SF Giants Clubhouse (Terminal 3).
LAS McCarran Airport in Las Vegas is one of two airports in the country that allow gambling. So, there’s always that if you’re looking to win/lose a few extra bucks before/after takeoff. There are only two terminals at LAS (Terminals 1 and 3), a domestic and international one. The airport also offers a lot of free activities like the Howard W. Cannon Aviation Museum, which can be found in Terminal 1. There’s also a ton of public art that can be found in every nook and cranny of the airport. Standout installations include Airplanes by local school children, Blaze of Beauty (Terminal 3), Desert Sunrise (Terminal 3), and the Ghost Gem Garden, which can be found outside Terminal 1. There are places you can pamper yourself, like multiple XpresSpa’s and even manicure/pedicure stations. The dining options definitely favor the quick bites, but some standouts include Metro Pizza (Terminal 1), La Tapenade Mediterranean Café (Terminal 3), and The Village Pub (Terminal 3).
SEA Seattle’s airport is sprawling with one (huge) central terminal and two satellite terminals. The majority of flights land and takeoff from the central terminal, so there’s plenty to do here. The building itself is a site to see with an open layout, huge windows and even live music performances. There’s also a ton of contemporary art scattered throughout the airport. The art is represented in glass, sculpture, photography, painting and even sounds. There’s a mobile app called STQRY that you can download so you can easily discover and explore all of the airport’s public arts. If you’re looking for a little relaxation, there are massage chairs stationed throughout the airport. There are also massage bars at the other terminals. If you just want some private, alone time, there’s free WiFi throughout the airport. As for food, standouts include the tomato soup and grilled cheese from Beecher’s (Central Terminal), the crab sandwich at Ivar’s (Central Terminal), and the broccoli salad at Dish D’Lish (Central Terminal).
CLT Charlotte’s airport is rather compact compared to some of the above. It has only one terminal with five concourses, and you can walk between each concourse. Concourse A just opened after its $200 million expansion and now passengers walk through a state of the art building with artwork, food and amenities galore. There’s a sculpture in the new addition called “Interconnected,” which is digital artwork that hangs on the wall and measures over 2,100 feet in length. Be sure to catch this and become a part of the art. There are also a ton of other sculptures and installations throughout all of the concourses. The dining options vary from local North Carolina BBQ to quick hits like sushi and fast food. Some of the best options include Carolina Pit BBQ (Concourse A), 1897 Market (Concourse A), and Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar (Concourse C). You’ll find free WiFi throughout the airport, as well as a few XpresSpa’s and Minute Suites.

Tags: Food and Drink, Top 10 Guides, Travel Categories: Food + Drink, Top 10 Guides, Travel
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Jeffrey Preis

Jeffrey is an NYC-based writer who recently completed his MFA program in Creative Writing at The New School. He has written for many publications, focusing mostly on lifestyle, travel, and food.

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