Top 5 Airports to Reroute Your Layover

Layovers and delays don’t have to be miserable. RelayRides blogger Amanda L. Grossman shares her favorite airports to while away a layover or delay. 

Have you ever included an airport on your Bucket List?

If you had asked me that question just a month ago, then I would have looked at you with funny eyes. That’s because up until my trip to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, I had only endured delays and layovers with acceptance and a mild dose of irritation. Then I got to experience The Salt Lick restaurant, an infamous barbecue joint here in Texas whose parent shop was featured on The Food Network and Top Chef: Texas. The food was just amazing. Like belt-adjusting, lip-smacking, good. Having an iconic Texan barbecue meal made this particular airport completely worth a layover…and possibly even worth a trip itself.

A select few airports have wizened up to the fact that passengers dealing with cascading delays and long layovers can truly benefit from a bit of culture, cuisine, and even yoga. These extra perks are generally not free, of course. However, since there is a cost-saving way to skirt the normal car rental agency counters, you can now afford a bit of indulgence en route to your destination.

San Francisco International Airport (SFO)

Worth Your Layover: Accredited art museum (25 sites throughout airport), Steinhart Aquarium (Terminal 1), and yoga studio (Terminal 2)

I love going to art museums when I’m not trying to pass two hours of time at an airport, so I can only imagine how neat it would be to peruse the 20 temporary exhibits and 65 permanent artworks at the SFO Museum. Current exhibits include things like a collection of Japanese toys, Airship Odyssey, Philippine Basketry, and John Sexton’s Reflection on Nature in Black and White. In Terminal 1, pre-security, you can enjoy a branch of the city’s Steinhart Aquarium. Or perhaps you need to just relax and re-center yourself with a free-to-use yoga room (mat included).

Suggested Car Rental: Sarah’s Toyota Sienna Mini-Van 2006 at $38 per day, with airport pick-up and drop-off available.

Boston Logan International Airport (BOS)

Worth Your Layover: Legal Sea Foods (Terminals A, B, and C), Celebrity Chef Todd English’s Bonfire Restaurant (Terminal B)

Perhaps you don’t have time to experience Boston’s seafood cuisine. The good news is, you can enjoy steamed lobster, crab cakes, clam chowder or Portuguese fisherman’s stew and many other noteworthy dishes at the Legal Sea Foods restaurant. They will even pack a live lobster for you to take home and prepare! Boston-based celebrity chef Todd English also has his restaurant Bonfire with a menu infused with Argentinian, European, and American Steakhouse influence.

Suggested Car Rental: Qasim’s Honda Accord 2009 at $36 per day, with airport pick-up available and convenient location from a bus stop.

Las Vegas McCarran Airport (LAS)

Worth Your Layover: Free Cannon Aviation Museum (Terminal 1), Slot Machines (throughout), The Liquor Library alcohol tastings (Terminal 1 Baggage Claim), The O2 Bar & Spa (Terminal 1)

I’ve read about oxygen bars in a Japanese tourist book, but did not know there would be an opportunity to try some “oxygen aromatherapy” at an airport (The O2 Bar & Spa). On top of this unique offering, you can also peruse the Cannon Aviation Museum, gamble without going to The Vegas Strip, and enjoy the daily alcohol tastings at The Liquor Library. Kind of sounds like an interesting day trip, right?

Suggested Car Rental: Keith’s Honda Accord 2008, at $34 per day located on The Vegas Strip.

Miami International Airport (MIA)

Worth Your Layover: Lorena Garcia’s Cocina (Concourse D), La Carreta Miami’s Original Cuban Kitchen (Concourse D)

For those of us who may never experience Latin America, we can partake of some of its flare and cuisine on a layover at MIA. Venezuelan native chef Lorena Garcia, who has been featured on Top Chef Masters and Top Chef All-Stars, serves shrimp ceviche and Caribbean jerk chicken in her restaurant Cocina. Enjoy Cuban flavors at La Carreta.

Suggested Car Rental: Mario’s Chevrolet Equinox 2011 at $54 per day, located at a secured private airport parking lot open 24hrs for your convenience.

Chicago O’Hare Airport (ORD)

Worth Your Layover: Chef Rick Bayless’ Tortas Frontera (Terminal 1), Farmer’s Market kiosk (Terminal 3) with honey from the airport’s apiary and herbs grown in the airport’s Aeroponic Garden

How neat to be able to purchase extremely locally made honey (as in, from the airport’s own 28-beehive apiary), as well as fresh herbs grown through the airport’s Aeroponic Garden. For traditional Mexican cuisine, check out the Tortas Frontera in Terminal 1 where many of the foods are sourced locally from Illinois (including fresh herbs and vegetables from the airport’s Aeroponic Garden).

Suggested Car Rental: Richard’s Infiniti I35 2003 at $35 per day, with lockbox/code for pickup.

If you have any say over your next business trip itinerary, or there is leeway in which airport you travel through, then be sure to reroute through one of the five airports above for an experience that will become part of your travel lore.