Recently I was traveling from Miami back home to Phoenix. It was rainy and cold. I didn’t bother to check my flight status prior to leaving for the airport as I figured, while Florida may be “The Sunshine State,” they definitely get their share of big storms. So what’s a little rain? I checked in online and, upon arrival at the airport, I headed straight through security. On the other side I took a peak at a monitor and realized my flight had been delayed. What to do? I headed over to a bar near my gate, of course. What a great idea this turned out to be.
It seems that most flights were delayed on this evening and I met the most interesting group of travelers. From Kayla, who was headed to Ecuador for an adventure after a relationship break-up and losing her job, to Benjamin, a British Writer who currently lives in Columbia. Many more came and mingled and left to catch flights. My flight finally departed three hours late but I had no complaints, for it was time well spent.
So, what else might one do in an airport during a long layover – scheduled or not? Oh so much. Following is a list of some airports and unique experiences to enjoy during your time there.
• Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport – Yes, let’s begin right here at home. Did you bring Fido as your traveling companion only to arrive and discover your flight is delayed? You and your pooch can step outside Terminal 3 and have a run around the “Grassy Paw Pad.” Flying out of the busier Terminal 4? Go play in the larger “Bone Yard” play area. At this airport, you may have to pay for parking, but there’s no extra charge for a barking.
• St. Maarten, N.A.- Princess Juliana International Airport – head out the front door and turn left. Walk about 15 minutes down the two lane road (you can also take a taxi) and you’ll see a van decorated in what could be described as an island motif (FYI – I did this with my rolling carry-on and it is quite easy as long as you look at it as an adventure). This is your destination. It is a beach bar/restaurant. The van is the kitchen and the bar/dining area is next to it in an open air trailer. Hop into the port-o-potty and change from you traveling clothes into your bathing suit (which, no doubt, you packed in you carry-on bag) and you’re set. Place your order (I had a nice Roti) and take a dip in the the Caribbean Sea while your waiting for your food. Don’t forget to try the homemade Banana Rum made daily. If they tell you the recipe, please let me know as I couldn’t get it out of them.
• Chicago O’Hare – Hop on the Blue Line train right at the airport and you can get off and explore Greek Town or Little Italy without changing trains or getting on a bus. You can also check out the Art Institute of Chicago or Millennium Park. If you don’t wish to stray too far, walk on over to the O’Hare Hilton Hotel through the connected walkway and, for a $15 fee you can use their fitness center which includes a variety of fitness equipment, dry sauna, steam room, Jacuzzi and locker rooms with showers. For less than the cost of two drinks at the airport you’ll be recharged and ready to tackle that next flight.
• Las Vegas – McCarran International Airport – Sure you can gamble. With nearly 1,300 slot machines you can park yourself in front of a machine and try to win the money to pay for your next trip. If you’ve had enough of the one armed bandits, there are other interesting options. Check out Xpresspa offering massage, reflexology, manicures, pedicures, facials, and waxing. You can find Xpresspa in 13 other airports around the world. And for the more energetic traveler, there is a fitness center right in the airport. For only $9.95 Fitness Beast offers approximately 13,000 square feet of workout equipment, sauna and locker rooms with showers. Even better, they have over-sized lockers to store your carry-on bags. And if you’re not in the mood for a work-out, you can pay the day use fee and just use the locker to store your bags. Hop in a taxi and in 15 minutes you’ll be strolling the world famous Las Vegas strip.
• Nashville International Airport – The music begins at the airport of the city known as “Music City.” This airport has an ongoing schedule of singers and musicians to entertain you during your layover. Performance stages are located in Concourse A/B and in Concourse C. You can also spend your time getting your nails done, enjoying a chair massage or a full service spa. And, if your shoes are looking a bit dingy, you might want to head on over to Rhythm Shoeshine. Long known to frequent travelers as one of the best airport shoe shines in America, they’ll have you staring at your feet saying, “I can see myself!”
Coney Island and Chili Fries
• Detroit Metropolitan Airport – First things first, if you are from Michigan or have only visited, you will no doubt have heard of Coney Island Restaurants. Nether rain, nor sleet, nor TSA can come between a Michigander and their Coney Island. This is why you’ll find the locally famous National Coney Island Restaurants in both the North Terminal and the McNamara Terminal. You can also pick-up a frozen package of chili to take with you. Sander’s Milk Chocolate, also a Michigan staple can be purchased after the security checkpoint (it is a liquid) at the Michigania Gift Shop. If you’re just in the mood for a great glass of wine, stop by Vino Volo Wine Room for a nice merlot and some tapas.
Finally, if you just want to lie your head down and dream of relaxing places, take a look at the website Sleeping in Airports. There you’ll find first-hand reviews of out of the way locations to take a snooze in airports around the world.
These are some of my favorite things to do, eat and experience while on an extended layover. Please share your great airport layover find.
Carole has spent 19 years working in a variety of positions in the Travel Industry including cruise ships, hotels, adventure tour guiding, international tour management and corporate meeting mgmt. She has the inside scoop on the business of travel and the best information on business and leisure travel.