Skip to content

9 Best Airports in America That Are Worth a Layover

You won't dread the time between flights here, where you can find spa treatments and delicious meals.

Most travelers see airports as the beginning and end points of their journey, usually only passing through on their way to their gate or to collect their bags at their destinations. But if you're facing a delay or stuck on a long layover, you might have more time to spend in the terminal than you might like. Fortunately, major revamps at many hubs have changed what downtime between flights can feel like, thanks to the addition of top-tier dining, wellness amenities, and other nice perks. Read on for the best airports in America that are worth a layover, according to travel experts.

RELATED: Flight Attendant Shares Why You Should Never Sleep Through Takeoff in New Video.

Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport (MSP)

Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport
Jacob Boomsma/Shutterstock

As it's a Delta hub for the Midwest, you may have already spent some time connecting at Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport (MSP). If so, you know there's plenty to do.

"I recently had a layover at Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport (MSP) while traveling to South Dakota," says Pamela Holt, travel expert and host of Me, Myself, and the World. "MSP is so delightful, I'd consider spending a weekend just exploring all it has to offer!" She also points out that it was recently awarded the title of Best Airport in North America.

Given the area's rich music history and thriving culture, it's unsurprising that there are plenty of performances for travelers to enjoy. "What hooked me initially was the live music I encountered while walking through the main terminal," Holt tells Best Life. "I saw a pianist and a harpist within a few minutes of each other. There was also a store dedicated entirely to [Minneapolis native] Prince—which, as a huge fan of his music, I loved."

Holt also appreciates the "amazing and eclectic" food and drink options, which do an excellent job of capturing the local vibe. "Those looking for shopping options also likely won't be disappointed, and they have a range of different art installations that reflect the Twin Cities' reputation as a hub for the arts," she adds.

However, she says the best part of the airport might be its animal ambassador program. "They have 96 dogs, and one cat, whose name I learned was Stitches! I met an adorable dog there, which made my visit even more memorable," the expert explains.

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)

Seattle tacoma airport

Whether you're passing through the Pacific Northwest on your way someplace else or spending some time in Seattle, you'll enjoy your stay at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA).

"It has a unique Pacific Northwest vibe with its impressive art installations, local food options, and even a mini-museum showcasing the history of aviation in the region," says Peter Hamdy, a travel expert and managing director of Auckland & Beyond Tours. "The airport also has a rooftop deck where you can enjoy stunning views of Mount Rainier while waiting for your next flight."

He also appreciates that the airport offers plenty of amenities and activities to entertain travelers during a layover. "It is a mini getaway within an airport," he says. "Plus, the airport is conveniently located just 20 minutes from downtown Seattle, making exploring the city during a longer layover easy."

San Francisco International Airport (SFO)

San Francisco International Airport from outside

Plenty of tourists make their way into and out of San Francisco every year. But even as a busy transit hub, it doesn't lack amenities and small touches that help improve the overall travel experience.

"The new SFO Harvey Milk international terminal is a serene space, officially dubbed a 'quiet terminal' with no jarring departure announcements to interrupt your zen," says travel writer Kate Loweth. "Immediately after proceeding through TSA, you'll find my favorite feature: The high-tech, touch-less water bottle filling station with your choice of room temperature or chilled water. And best of all, the gates are spread out with plenty of varied seating options from bar-height workstations to spinning armchairs."

It's also an ideal layover destination for any artsy or health-conscious travelers. "The airport boasts a yoga room for some mid-trip zen, an Aviation Museum for a touch of history, and rotating art exhibits that bring a bit of culture to your journey," says luxury travel advisor Elizabeth Kaczka. "If you're traveling with kids, the interactive displays and aquariums will keep them entertained for hours."

She also appreciates the care put into food options, including local favorites like Napa Farms Market. "And if you are looking for a premium experience while waiting for your next flight, the American Express Centurion Lounge features a wine-tasting area that includes wine flights," she suggests.

RELATED: 7 Clothing Items to Never Wear Through Airport Security, Experts Say.

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS)

Austin–Bergstrom International Airport sign
University of College/Shutterstock

Austin's reputation for a vibrant local culture has made it a must-visit destination for travelers from all over the world. Experts say those flying in will begin to experience that as soon as they walk off their flight.

"I generally don't like the busy airport vibe, which is why I appreciate Austin-Bergstrom International Airport," says Sam Browne, frequent flyer and founder of Findaband. "Embracing the city's moniker of the Live Music Capital of the World, you can catch live music acts right in the airport. It's fantastic! There was a time—several times, actually—when my band jammed with some people there, and it was really just a nice experience."

He also says the food options highlight the best local restaurants and provide a real taste of Austin's buzzy culinary scene. "It's a fun, lively place to have a layover and really captures the city's spirit," he says.

Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport (BZN)

A view out the windows from Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport in Montana

Even though major metropolises have bigger budgets and heavier traveler counts to warrant a lavishly constructed airport, they're not the only places you can enjoy yourself between flights.

"Unfortunately, small, regional airports hardly get any recognition at all," says Dan Bubb, PhD, aviation history expert and professor at the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV). "Honestly, I must say that I've been to small airports that I have found to be better and more enjoyable than virtually any large airport."

Specifically, he says recent trips through Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport (BZN) in Montana have stood out. "The terminals were very clean and uncluttered. The restaurants served delicious food reflecting local cuisine. And the windows were very large, giving one the true sense of being in 'big sky country.'"

New York LaGuardia Airport (LGA)

A water feature in Terminal B at LaGuardia International Airport in New York City

It wasn't long ago that the second-busiest airport in the largest city in the U.S. offered a less-than-glamorous introduction to arriving visitors. Fortunately, those flying through lately may be shocked to see how much has changed.

"Once the punchline of many a travel joke, LaGuardia (LGA) has undergone a miraculous transformation, emerging as a world-class airport worthy of New York City's prestige," says Kaczka. "The new terminals are a marvel of modern design, with sleek architecture, ample natural light, and cutting-edge technology."

She points out the new Terminal B, which features a stunning water feature and a light-filled central hall that feels more like a luxury mall than an airport. And a recently revamped Terminal C has allowed even more travelers to grab food from beloved local restaurants or relax in airy, spacious gates before their flights.

"With high-end retail shops, top-notch dining options like Shake Shack and local favorites, and plenty of charging stations, LGA is now a place where you might actually want your flight to get delayed," she says.

RELATED: Delta Flight Attendant Reveals Sneaky Way Airlines Trick You Into Missing Your Flight.

Miami International Airport (MIA)

Exterior of Miami International Airport at dusk

Miami stands out as a cultural gem on the American landscape. But even if you're just flying through, you'll still be able to get a feel for some of the best local cuisine has to offer.

"You don't need to leave the airport to find a taste of Cuban influence on Miami," Katy Nastro, travel expert and spokesperson for Going, tells Best Life. "Cafe Versaille, a Miami staple for Cuban cuisine, has outposts dotted across terminals so you can get a strong cafecito and pastelito wherever your connection departs from. La Carreta also serves up cubanos and croquetas throughout the airport."

She says these two options alone make a layover all the more enjoyable. "I always make it a point to stop at either and indulge between flights," she says.

New York John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK)

Terminal 4 at JFK Airport

There's no denying there's a bustling ambiance at the larger of New York City's airports, with millions of travelers passing through every year. However, there are also some decent opportunities to enjoy yourself on a layover if you know where to look—especially at the TWA Hotel.

"This retro wonderland is a tribute to the golden age of air travel, complete with mid-century modern design that's straight out of a Mad Men episode," says Kaczka. "The hotel is housed in the iconic TWA Flight Center, designed by architect Eero Saarinen, and features a rooftop infinity pool with runway views, a 1958 Lockheed Constellation turned cocktail bar, and a swanky Sunken Lounge."

She says that the unique transit hotspot is a great way to kill time between flights, whether you're looking to relax in style, sip a classic cocktail, or simply soak up the nostalgia. But of course, there are other options in the airport.

"If you don't have enough time to exit security to reach the hotel, check out the 15,000-square-foot American Express Centurion Lounge in Terminal 4," She suggests. "It has The 1850 Speakeasy, which offers craft cocktails in a stylish setting."

Denver International Airport (DEN)

Exterior of Denver International Airport

Anyone who's flown through Denver knows its airport is one of the more unique in the U.S., from its tented exterior that mirrors the surrounding landscape to the cryptic artwork decisions that have sparked conspiracy theories about the hub. It's also a bustling place by the numbers, ranking as the sixth busiest airport worldwide as of 2023, according to Airports Council International. But despite the high passenger volume, it can still be a memorable and relaxing place to spend time.

"Denver International Airport (DEN) is a perfect fit for someone like me," says Pierce Hogan, owner of travel guide and resource Varied Lands. "The stunning views of the Rocky Mountains in the distance are truly breathtaking and make layovers much more enjoyable."

Kaczka also points out the "conversation-sparking" art installations, as well as other unique offerings.

"For the active traveler, there's an outdoor plaza with live entertainment and even a winter ice skating rink," she says. "The airport's layout is spacious and airy, with plenty of spots to relax and take in the mountain views, and depending on which terminal you find yourself in, you may be privy to plane spotting from year-round skydecks, including fire pits and lounge seating."

It's also special if you have the right credit card on hand. "Denver is also home to one of the few Capital One Lounges, with 11,200 square feet, allowing a place to shower, work, and eat in style," she points out.

Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
Filed Under