The Ten Best American Airports for a Layover

Who says an airport stopover has to be terrible?

Hopper Editors - Oct. 26, 2017

The dreaded airport layover; the bane of flying travelers the world over; a time for thumb twiddling, page folding and whistling, spent entirely at the mercy of departure lounges, schedule updates, bad fast food and stuffy interior seating halls.

Not so, say we at Hopper. Amidst the web of interconnecting airports right across the United States, there exists a select few where layovers are not the arduous time sink most feel them to be, but instead an exciting and exhilarating experience that’s to be savored. These are places where it’s possible to sample your layover destination’s local delicacies before moving on, where sprawling shopping centers promise to keep you busy while the clock counts down, where luxurious lounges rub shoulders with spas and stylish cocktail bars, and where thought-provoking artworks decorate the concourses to boot.

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10. Enjoy all-day amenities at the Indianapolis International Airport

Indianapolis’ sleepless international airport plays host to some of the best stopover amenities in the United States. Visitors enjoy 24-hour services in many of the on-site bars and eateries, along with a real myriad of retail outlets in the adjacent Civic Plaza shopping center, not to mention the pick of some great all-American grill restaurants, like 96th Street Steakburgers, or the Indianapolis themed Indy 500 Grill. The airport’s Concourse A now also houses one of the state’s only business lounges, where premium paying customers can kick back and relax with a cocktail between flights.

9. Enjoy a taste of Rhode Island at the T.F. Green Airport

Photo by thisisbossi/Flickr.

The stopover folks at T.F. Green can be spotted all day long; sipping coffees, slurping cocktails and clawing their way into super-fresh Rhode Island oysters. Others can be found roaming the on-site shopping center, where newsagents, clothes stores and even an array of home-grown Providence souvenir boutiques are waiting to be discovered. The airport also boasts all the amenities one would expect of a list-topping stopover destination, from free WiFi to prayer rooms and shoeshine services.

8. Unwind on your stopover at the Tampa International Airport

Photo by Drew Coffman/Flickr.

Shopping malls and food courts converge in grand style at Florida’s largest airport. Here, travelers can spend the morning searching the Marriott Shopping Arcade for best-buys, lingering between the serene aisles of the Monocle Bookstore or sampling the travel games at Nathan’s Accessories. Then, they can unwind in the afternoon with a spot of massage at Rick's Touch Bodywork Spa, or go for a drink at Tampa Airport’s dedicated wine bar or the seriously stylish Skyye Lounge cocktail spot.

7. The music starts at the Austin–Bergstrom International Airport

Photo by Silly Jilly/Flickr.

Flying into America’s live music capital means just one thing, music from the get go. Stopover travelers here can expect the spine-tingling sounds of guitar, harmonica and harp to hit them right from the plane, while there are even regular performances from top-rated Austin locals that pull in crowds of spectators from the nearby town. Art lovers should not miss the bronze-carved Barbara Jordan statue, and should also be sure to tour the kaleidoscope of sculpted guitars and mosaics that grace the terminal entrance buildings.

6. Haircuts and retail therapy to boot at Portland International Airport

Photo by pfly/Flickr.

"Shop. Dine. Fly": The terse motto of this airport’s customer service department sums up its fantastic amenities in one fell swoop. And don’t be tempted to underestimate its retail worth just because it’s an airport either! Here, shoppers will find sportswear stores, bookshops, travel agents and even a fully-fledged barbers, not to mention a cascade of worldly cuisines: Asian noodles, to all-American burgers. So, kick-back, relax, have a meal and maybe even a haircut while you enjoy the free WiFi and comfortable setting of Portland International.

5. Intriguing exhibitions and plenty of places to eat at the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport

Photo by StuSeeger/Flickr.

Crowned by the great 320-foot control tower (one of the largest on the continent), Arizona’s busiest airport now serves in excess of 40 million passengers a year. It also continues to be hailed as one of the most interesting places to wallow away time before a flight, treating visitors to an array of temporary museum exhibitions throughout the year, such as the current "Birds, Blooms and Bugs" photography selection of terminal two. What’s more, the airport boasts an array of eateries, bars and coffee shops, with a number of vegan and vegetarian options available.

4. Grand infrastructure at the Orlando International Airport

Originally built as a World War II military airbase on the east coast, Florida’s second largest airport now serves the great swathes of tourists that flock to the state for its theme parks and family fun. This has helped it to develop into one of the most stopover-friendly air hubs in the country, boasting high-ceiling atriums and quality hotels like the Hyatt Regency, not to mention a range of quick connections to nearby Port Canaveral (perfect for those arriving from a cruise) and Walt Disney World.

See 5 tips, like when to book your ticket, from the Hopper research team that can save travelers hundreds on their flights to Orlando.

3. Experience the city on a stopover at the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport

Photo by brewbooks/Flickr.

Situated a mere 10 miles from the heart of downtown Minneapolis and coming complete with a direct rail connection into town, this airport boasts one of the best city-to-terminal infrastructures in all of America. This brings great benefits for the would-be stopover traveler, allowing them to slip in and out of the pristine districts on the banks of the Mississippi River, or even find their way to nearby Bloomington, where the futuristic and sprawling Mall of America awaits.

2. Demon horses and artistic brilliance at the Denver International Airport

Photo by sirqitous/Flickr.

Some have noted how the undulating peaks of the Jeppesen Terminal exterior mimic the historical tepees of the Great Plains Indians, while others have likened them to the soaring mountain peaks of Colorado itself. But whatever the dramatic architectural appearance of Denver Airport’s outside might say, the real treats lay inside, where an array of curious artworks dot the departure halls and check-in rooms. Don’t miss the famous Mustang sculpture by Luis Jiménez, a grand, grotesque blue monolith that’s famed for its pseudo-demonic connotations.

1. Light displays and luxury lounges at the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport

Photo by KWDesigns/Flickr.

Michigan’s biggest airport has undergone massive changes in recent years, multiplying its capacity greatly and adding a real array of stylish little touches that make it the top-rated spot in America to spend a layover. Wallow away your hours wandering through the modern lounges and soothing light tunnels of the McNamara Terminal, connecting the various concourses with walls of purple, blue and turquoise hues, all synchronised to the surreal compositions of Victor Alexeeff. What’s more, Detroit Metropolitan has won no less than two first place awards for customer satisfaction, making it something of a worthy shopping experience in itself.

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