Stuck on a Layover? Secrets to Beat Boredom in 19 Major Airports

Learning To Love Layovers


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Learning To Love Layovers

Learning to Love Layovers

On the spectrum of fun, airport layovers fall somewhere between visiting the dentist and doing your taxes. They're an occasionally necessary, but often dreadfully boring, part of the travel experience. Although it doesn't have to all be that bad — if you know a few layover secrets and tricks. Many airports are striving to be more passenger-friendly. Here are some lesser known things to do when stuck in the biggest airports across the U.S. — from yoga rooms to athletic clubs to activities that don't involve working up a sweat — which will make your next airport layover far more bearable.

Experience Canine Therapy In Denver

Experience Canine Therapy in Denver

Traveling can be stressful even under the best of circumstances. So to help ease travel-related tension on your next layover in Denver International Airport, track down one of the airport's therapy dogs and spend some quality time hugging, petting or even taking a selfie with man's best friend. Members of the Canine Airport Therapy Squad (aka CATS) can be seen strolling around the airport wearing "Pet Me" vests. Not a dog person? There is one, and only one, therapy cat named Xeli, so you'll need a keen eye to spot her. But do try, because she's kind of famous.

Portland International Airport Movie Theater

Take in a Movie at Portland International Airport

As part of its art program, the Portland International Airport opened a 17-seat movie theater in early 2017 to show short films that tell stories specific to the Pacific Northwest. Located on Concourse C, the Hollywood Theater is free and allows travelers to drop in and watch a film while waiting for a flight. The films are all family-friendly and play repeatedly on a one-hour loop.

Massage Bar Nashville Airport
Tricia W./Yelp

Get a Massage in Nashville

After being squeezed like sardines in an airplane, work out some of the kinks with a massage at Nashville International Airport. The Massage Bar has two kiosk locations — one in Terminal C near the food court, and the other in Terminal B. Seated and foot massages are offered at both locations. Prices start at $18.

Chicago O'Hare International Airport
Chicago O'Hare International Airport by Mx. Granger (CC BY)

Learn About Aeroponic Gardening at Chicago O'Hare

Chicago O'Hare has the distinction of being home to the first aeroponic garden at any airport in the world. Located in the mezzanine level of the O'Hare Rotunda Building in Terminal 3, visitors can stroll through the garden and learn more about this unique and earth-friendly way of farming. The garden features plant roots suspended in 26 towers that provide more than 1,100 planting spots.

Be, Relax, Spas at San Diego
Be Relax Spa/Yelp

Pamper Yourself at the Spa in San Diego

One can never have too many massages. And San Diego International Airport offers another opportunity to be pampered in between flights. There are two Be Relax Spas at the airport, both in Terminal 2, near gates 26 and 36. The spas take relaxation seriously, offering a full docket of services, including back, foot, chair, and table massages, as well as manicures, pedicures, and facials. 

SFO Museum

Take in the Art Exhibits at SFO

Indulging in art is yet another way to unplug from the hassle of travel. And at San Francisco International Airport they take their art displays very seriously. Terminals 1, 2 and 3, as well as the International Terminal, feature a variety of impressive rotating exhibitions, from landscape photography to nature exhibits to animation. Each exhibit is labeled pre- or post-security to help airport visitors know which exhibits they'll be able to access. 

Phoenix Sky Harbor Fitness Trail
Mike C./Yelp

Walk the Phoenix Sky Harbor Fitness Trail

Located inside Terminal 4, and a little more than one-mile-long, the Sky Harbor Fitness Trail is part of FitPHX, a city of Phoenix program designed to keep travelers active in between flights. The trail runs from gate A30 to gate D8, and gives users a chance to exercise, while also providing views of a variety of landmarks including the downtown Phoenix skyline, Camelback Mountain, and more. Trail maps are available on the airport website.

Hyatt Regency Hotel in Orlando International Airport
Hyatt Regency Orlando Int’l Airport/Yelp

Retreat to the Day Use Rooms in Orlando

If you have several hours to kill while passing through Orlando International Airport, consider booking a day use room at the Hyatt Regency hotel located inside the airport's main terminal. The hotel offers a large outdoor pool and sundeck, and a 24-hour fitness center, as well as the quiet of your own hotel room, all of which can make a layover much more bearable.

Howard W. Cannon Aviation Museum at McCarran International Airport
Joanna V./Yelp

Explore an Aviation Museum in Nevada

The exhibits of the Howard W. Cannon Aviation Museum, inside Las Vegas' McCarran International Airport, detail southern Nevada's fascinating aviation history. The largest part of the museum's collection can be found in Terminal 1, above baggage claim. Covering about 3,000 square feet, the exhibit showcases aviation history from 1920 through the introduction of jets.

Hilton Athletic Club at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport

Squeeze in a Work out at Chicago O'Hare

Located just across the street from Terminals 1, 2, and 3 at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, the Hilton Athletic Club offers day memberships. For $20, visitors get access to a full fitness center, pool, sauna, and Jacuzzi. If relaxing, rather than exercising, is what you have in mind, the hotel also offers day use rooms for $89 on Saturdays and Sundays and $119 Monday through Friday.

Minute Suite at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport
Garrison S./Yelp

Check Into a Minute Suite in Dallas-Fort Worth

Escape the airport noise and crowds by checking into a Minute Suite when passing through Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. Located in Terminal D and Terminal A, Minute Suites offer 17 private suites, and at the Terminal D location there's also showers. Each suite includes a daybed sofa, a sound-masking system, and a computer equipped with a 32-inch screen and DirectTV. Suites cost $42 per hour.

Annimated Water Fountain at DTW
Annimated Water Fountain at DTW by Scott Beale (CC BY-NC)

Watch the Animated Water Fountain in Detroit

The 39-foot wide, elliptical shaped water fountain at the center of Detroit International Airport's McNamara Terminal in Concourse A is both mesmerizing and relaxing for travelers. Inspired by the lines of a flight map, the fountain is made up of 45 leapfrog devices that shoot streams of water. Making this space even more inviting, the fountain is surrounded by a peaceful lounge that offers floor-to-ceiling views of the aircraft outside.

Xpress Spas

Treat Yourself to a Facial in Atlanta

Xpress Spas are popping up at airports across the country and at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta there are three locations — in terminals A, C, and D. The spas offer everything from manicures and pedicures to massages and facials. Some even have showers.

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Sea-Tac)
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Sea-Tac)/

Enjoy Live Music at Seattle-Tacoma Airport

Seattle-Tacoma Airport offers live concerts seven days a week. Introduced in 2012, the program is part of an effort to showcase the diverse music of the Northwest while also enhancing the experience of travelers. The concerts take place throughout the airport.

Boston Logan International Airport
Boston Logan International Airport/

Kidport Play Areas in Boston

Those traveling through Boston with young children will find a small slice of peace visiting the Kidport play areas located in Logan International Airport terminals A, B, and C. The play spaces include climbing structures, slides, replicas of the airport's control tower, and replicas of vintage planes. Parents can unwind while kids play in a safe space.

Sculpture Garden at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport

Relax in the Sculpture Garden in Dallas-Fort Worth

Another popular pastime at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport is perusing the $8 million art collection. The airport regularly displays works on loan from the Nasher Sculpture Center. To see some of this stunning art, visit the sculpture garden located outside Terminal D, between the terminal and the parking structure.

San Francisco International Airport Aviation Museum
Stan L./Yelp

Explore the Library and Aviation Museum at SFO

San Francisco International Airport gets rave reviews from parents traveling with children, and the Commission Aviation Library and Louis A. Turpen Aviation Museum are a large part of the reason why. Located in the International Terminal, the library and museum offer exhibitions and educational programs free of charge. The exhibits are focused on the history of commercial air transport and the airline industry.

BWI Trail

Walk the BWI Hiker-Biker Trail

If you have enough time to spare, stretch your legs on the 12.5-mile hiking and biking trail at Baltimore-Washington International Airport. Many sections of the trail are said to be surprisingly peaceful despite being so close to airport runways. The trail wraps around the entire airport and includes a children's playground. If you're feeling even more ambitious, bikes are available for rent just outside the international terminal.

Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport
Juergen Sack/istockphoto

Let the Kids Fly a Plane at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport

Featuring mock airplanes, air traffic control towers, and slides, the children's play areas at Minneapolis St. Paul Airport offer a welcome break for both children and their parents. The play spaces, which are free, are located in both Terminal 1 and Terminal 2. An added bonus, the play space in Terminal 1 features a life size statue of Snoopy, whose creator was a Minnesota native.

Yoga Room at at San Francisco International Airport
Olivia G./Yelp

Calm Your Mind and Spirit at SFO's Yoga Room

Practice your downward dog in between flights at one of San Francisco International Airport's yoga rooms. The rooms, devoted to relaxation and self reflection, are located in both Terminal 1 and Terminal 2. There is no charge to use the yoga rooms.

Massage Chair at George Bush Intercontinental Airport

Relax in a Massage Chair in Houston

Spend a few blissful moments relaxing in a massage chair at George Bush Intercontinental Airport. Located throughout terminals A through E, the chairs provide five-minute, deep tissue massages.

Yoga Studio at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport
Cecy r./Yelp

Yoga Studio at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport

San Francisco isn't the only airport in the country that understands the benefits of yoga between flights. Dallas-Fort Worth is home to two free yoga studios. Located in Terminal B and Terminal E, the studios include practice mats, exercise balls, stretch bands, and a 20-minute instructional yoga video.

Philadelphia International Airport
Eric B./Yelp

Children's Play Area in Philadelphia

Another airport that hasn't forgotten that kids also need to unwind while traveling, the Philadelphia International Airport has play space in Terminal A-East. The educational space includes a jumbo jet, control tower, and more. There are even radios in the jet and tower, allowing them to transmit to each other.

Cultural Gardens at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport
Darren Y./Yelp

Wander the Cultural Gardens in Honolulu

One of the best ways to pass time at Honolulu's Daniel K. Inouye International Airport is to explore the various sculptured gardens. Designed to display the influence of the Hawaiian, Chinese, and Japanese heritage upon island living, the gardens surround the airport's main terminal lobby and Y Concourse. Connected by pathways, bridges, and stepping stones, there are also waterways flowing among the gardens. Some also include sculptures.

Founders Plaza in Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport
Joel W./Yelp

Unwind in Founders Plaza in Dallas-Fort Worth

If neither yoga nor sculpture interests you, Dallas-Fort Worth offers yet another option for weary travelers — Founders Plaza. The outdoor space has become a favorite of families, aviation fans, and airport employees. There's an observation area that offers views of the aircraft as they take off and land, picnic tables, telescopes, and historic information.