Vacations are always a welcome break from our day-to-day lives, but air travel rarely ranks among the more enjoyable parts of a trip. While little can be done about the limited legroom or a snoring seat mate, the hours leading up to your journey can be made a whole lot more fun.
Airports around America are making major changes to create a more fun, relaxing, and altogether peaceful journey for their customers. Before you book your next trip, try to buy yourself some time in one of the best airports in America. And if you want to save money and expedite your time in the airport, dive deep into the 30 Airport Secrets Only Insiders Know.
Portland International Airport; Portland, OR
Home to an Instagram-friendly carpet and plenty of diversions, traveling through Portland International Airport is an actually enjoyable, not just bearable, experience. Not only is this airport typically less crowded than other Pacific travel hubs, it’s also home to a mini movie theater, plenty of great places to eat, and has free WiFi, too. Before you get on another plane, make sure you know these 20 Secrets Your Flight Attendant Won’t Tell You.
John F. Kennedy International Airport; New York, NY
While New York City airports tend to be on the busy side, JFK is a pretty pleasant place to depart from or land. While you’re waiting for your flight, you can grab a manicure or massage at JFK’s XpresSpa, enjoy a burger from Shake Shack, or pick up some last-minute gifts at stores like Bulgari and Ferragamo. Plus, Terminal 5 has a sweet rooftop garden. Also, JFK is home to one of the 15 Most Sumptuous Airport Lounges in the World.
Salt Lake City International Airport; Salt Lake City, UT
Clean, pleasant, and lacking the crowds of many international hubs, Salt Lake City’s airport is one of the more pleasant stateside destinations to travel to or from. While you wait for your flight, you can grab snacks at Cat Cora’s Gourmet Market or French Meadow Bakery or pamper yourself with products from Kiehl’s.
O’Hare International Airport; Chicago, IL
This Midwest travel hub feels surprisingly manageable, despite its massive size. While you’re at O’Hare, you can enjoy amenities like a yoga room, nursing room, aeroponic garden, and even a Hilton gym, all right inside the building.
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport; Atlanta, GA
Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport has plenty to keep you busy while you wait for your plane. Grab a drink at the 40/40 Bar, give your phone a boost at one of the airport’s charging stations, or grab some new digs at luxe stores like Bulgari and Brooks Brothers. And if you’re frequenting the latter, try to pick up any of the 10 Cool Items From Brooks Brothers You Need Right Now.
George Bush Intercontinental Airport; Houston, TX
Give yourself a break while you wait at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston. This airport makes fun a priority for those who pass through, offering everything from a Dylan’s Candy Bar to a Benefit Cosmetics Automated Kiosk to help weary travelers bide their time.
Los Angeles International Airport; Los Angeles, CA
In addition to the Instagram opportunities provided by the iconic LAX sign, this airport is packed with plenty to do, too. Along with the choice of both Starbucks and Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, travelers can enjoy art installations throughout the airport, and parents have a choice of eight different on-site nursing rooms.
T.F. Green Airport; Warwick, RI
While most Northeast airports see plenty of traffic, T.F. Green Airport in Warwick, Rhode Island, provides respite from the crowds. Located just outside of Providence, this little airport is loaded with amenities, including a game room, shoe shine service, a reflection room for quiet contemplation, a massage parlor, and, for the enlisted, a military lounge.
Long Beach Airport; Long Beach, CA
If you don’t mind traveling a bit to get to your destination, the Long Beach Airport is a low-key alternative to LAX. In addition to hosting a wealth of domestic flights, Long Beach Airport is home to cuisine from around the world, ranging from Greek food to tacos.
Seattle Tacoma International Airport; Seattle, WA
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport—also known as Sea-Tac—is one of the most entertaining airports you’ll find anywhere in the United States. In addition to regular live music performances, Sea-Tac has its own Art Walk, a meditation room, and even provides charging spaces for electric cars in its garage.
Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport; Hennepin County, MN
The Twin Cities are home to one of the best airports you’ll find anywhere in the country. While manageable in size, the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport packs a food hall featuring cuisine from around the world, a children’s play area, and two spas.
Indianapolis International Airport; Indianapolis, IN
This bright, beautiful airport is home to plenty of diversions to take your mind off the wait that precedes your flight. Grab a last-minute gift at any of Indianapolis International Airport’s shopping destinations, like Vera Bradley and Brookstone, enjoy spa services at EnRoute Spa, or get a haircut at the in-airport barber shop.
Tampa International Airport; Tampa, FL
The Sunshine State more than delivers when it comes to transit hubs. Tampa International Airport is home to a wealth of fast-casual restaurants and shopping, as well as a massage parlor to help you get rid of any pre- or post-flight tension. The airport even hosts an annual 5K for fitness-focused travelers.
Logan International Airport; Boston, MA
Techie travelers will find plenty to love at Boston’s Logan International Airport, thanks to free WiFi and charging stations. You can also unwind at the Be Relax Spa or give your kids an opportunity to get their energy out at Kidport.
Baltimore-Washington International Airport; Baltimore, MD
Maryland’s Baltimore-Washington International Airport makes air travel a lot more enjoyable. In addition to the usual shopping and dining, this airport packs two cardio paths, a 12.5-mile trail stretching around the airport, and the historic Benson Hammond House right on the property.
John Wayne Airport; Orange County, CA
This Orange County airport eschews the hustle and bustle you’ll find at California’s larger transit hubs. Browse an art exhibit, courtesy of the Airport Arts Commission, check out the John Wayne statue, or enjoy an intimate dinner at one of the airport’s charming outdoor restaurants.
Midway International Airport; Chicago, IL
If you tire of traveling through O’Hare, Chicago has an equally attractive option in Midway International Airport. Not only can you get a meal or some shopping in while you wait, you can also take a break in the yoga room, pump in the nursing room, or check out some of the art displayed throughout the airport.
Savannah-Hilton Head International; Savannah, GA
This charming gateway to the South is not only less crowded than many other local airports, it’s regularly awarded for its charm, earning accolades from Travel + Leisure and Condé Nast Traveler. While it’s not as loaded with entertainment options as some other airports, it’s a must-visit if avoiding crowds is on your to-do list. And if you’re looking for romance on your next trip, make sure you’re headed to one of the 10 Cities Where Women Make the First Move.
Miami International Airport; Miami, FL
Miami International Airport welcomes travelers with a wealth of shopping options that don’t exist elsewhere. This airport has a unique mix of high-end shopping, like Coach and Calvin Klein, as well as shops that highlight the local style, like Cuban Crafters MIA, Little Havana, and Mercado Miami.
Daniel K. Inouye International Airport; Honolulu, HI
Hawaii is an undeniably beautiful state, right down to its airport. The Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu packs dining, shopping, art exhibits, a mosaic mural commemorating Hawaii’s statehood, the PATA Gallery of Legends, celebrating the history of Pacific Asians, and even a replica of the PN-9 Navy aircraft that took the very first Trans-Pacific flight.
Austin-Bergstrom International; Austin, TX
Austin’s famed art and music scene even extends into its airport, Austin-Bergstrom International. In the Barbara Jordan Terminal, passengers can enjoy both regular live music performances and art installations.
Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport; Hebron, KY
Give yourself a break from the hectic travel conditions at most international airports with a trip to or from Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport instead. With six bars, four Starbucks locations, and plenty of places to grab a quick gift, this airport makes air travel a virtually painless (and wholly entertaining) endeavor.
Dallas Love Field; Dallas, TX
This small airport packs a major artistic punch. The Love Field Art Program promotes arts throughout the airport, with a combination of permanent collections, new exhibits, and performing arts in collaboration with the Texas Music Project.
Philadelphia International Airport; Philadelphia, PA
Philadelphia International Airport is unique for its commitment to the well-being of both human and animal passengers alike. In addition to dining, shopping, and art, the airport has multiple Pet Ports where four-legged friends can relieve themselves.
Las Vegas McCarran International Airport; Las Vegas, NV
If you don’t want your vacation to end, Las Vegas McCarran International Airport is happy to oblige. Not only can you shop and dine, McCarran is home to nursing rooms, a play area for kids, an Aviation Museum, Airport Art exhibits, and, of course, opportunities to gamble. If McCarran is your final destination, be sure to brush up on The Single Best Way to Double Your Money In Vegas.
Sacramento International Airport; Sacramento, CA
Set your sights on Sacramento International Airport if you’re eager to enjoy a relaxing trip. This airport is home to a wide variety of high- and low-end dining options, a modern lobby, and an abundance of art, from in interactive exhibit by Louise Bertelsen and Po Shu Wang to Lawrence Argent’s fantastical “Leap,” which depicts a bus-sized aluminum rabbit hopping into a suitcase.
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport; Phoenix, AZ
Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix is nearly as impressive a destination as the city itself. In addition to dining and shopping, you can relax with a trip to the airport’s art museum, home to fascinating exhibits spanning disciplines from photography to installation art.
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport; Fort Lauderdale, FL
If you’re looking for a low-stress travel experience, look no further than Fort-Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. Bright, clean, modern, and virtually never crowded, this airport is welcome respite from the jam-packed terminals of larger travel hubs.
Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport; Washington D.C.
Regardless of your feelings about is namesake, it’s hard to deny the appeal of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. This minute airport has a surprising number of places you’ll actually want to eat and shop, from Legal Sea Foods and Smashburger to Tumi and Brooks Brothers.
San Diego International Airport; San Diego, CA
Southern California’s reputation for having amazing airports extends to San Diego, too. San Diego International Airport is home to two spas, four lounges, and prides itself on environmentalism, offering a number of Green Concession vendors that skip the plastic bags, Styrofoam containers, and plastic cutlery.
Pittsburgh International Airport; Pittsburgh, PA
The city that birthed Andy Warhol has one of the most artistic airports you’ll find anywhere in the world. Pittsburgh International Airport hosts Fraley’s Robot Repair Shop, an interactive art exhibit made up of robots created from recycled components, as well as an exhibit on the Tuskegee Airmen. In addition, you’ll find amenities like a nursing lounge, children’s playroom, pet relief areas, and multiple spas.
Bellingham International Airport; Bellingham, WA
Small airports often provide the kind of peace you won’t find at larger transit hubs. Such is the case at Bellingham International Airport in Washington, where they’ve actually implemented measures to keep airplane noise to a minimum, preserving the sanity of the airport’s passengers and locals alike.
Palm Beach International; Palm Beach, FL
Those seeking a relaxing travel experience would be wise to seek flights to and from Palm Beach International Airport. This Florida destination is one of the nation’s more elegantly-designed airports, from the restaurants offering simulated al fresco dining in its corridors to the art on its walls. Better yet, Palm Beach International is home to plenty of shopping and dining, and is rarely as crowded as other airports, with only 160 flights leaving each day.
Detroit Metropolitan Airport; Detroit, MI
While the Motor City has had its ups and downs over the years, traveling through Detroit Metropolitan Airport is always terrific. In addition to the WiFi hotspots throughout the airport, DTW also offers a wide selection of dining destinations, as well as plenty of designer shopping, from Hugo Boss to Desigual. If you don’t know where your vacation will take you, make sure to make a pit stop at the Ugliest Statue in Every U.S. State.
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