When we think about catching a flight, most of us don’t focus much on how fun the airport can be. It’s just a waystation, a place to hang while waiting for the next departure, after all. But, believe it or not, some of our airports are pretty cool destinations in and of themselves. Now, you might not know this unless you’re stuck somewhere for a layover, but next time you are – maybe take a little walk and experience some of the interesting amenities and attractions in the airport itself!

Best All-around, Portland International Airport (PDX), Portland, Oregon

PDX gets high marks every year from customers due to its design, amenities, cleanliness, and accessibility. It’s on the smallish side so you don’t get overwhelmed, and it has a pleasant mix of amenities, shops and restaurants mostly highlighting local talent. Don’t forget that Oregon has no sales tax, so take advantage of that while you peruse local brand shops like Columbia, Nike and Powell’s Books.

You can also view a selection of free films from some of Oregon’s finest filmmakers at the Hollywood Theatre in PDX’s C Concourse. Finally, don’t forget to do a carpet shoe selfie – an activity that’s become iconic for many travelers passing through PDX.

 

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Most Zen Airport, San Francisco International Airport (SFO), California

You’ve got two 24/7 yoga rooms. You’ve got the SFO Wag Brigade to soothe your anxious nerves. The name summons Fido feels, but the Wag Brigade has a therapy pet for everyone. From bunnies to dogs to the world’s first airport therapy pig- if that doesn’t give you a moment of zen, we frankly question your commitment to the concept.

 

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The Yoga Room in Terminal 2 will reopen this spring. Check it out and get centered before your flight or on your layover. It’s completely free!

 

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If wandering through a museum or aquarium is more your speed, SFO offers these low-key excursions as well. There’s a 24-hour branch of the Steinhart Aquarium at SFO, located pre-security in Terminal 1, on the Departures/Ticketing Level near the entrance to Gates 40 through 48.

The SFO Museum is a first-of-its-kind airport museum that offers rotating exhibitions and a permanent collection focusing on commercial aviation and travel. Exhibitions are located all over the airport – and a current map can be found here. There’s even an outpost of the SFMOMA Museum Store, in case you need to grab a great gift for someone at home – located in the international terminal.

Best Place to Win Some Cash, McCarran International Airport (LAS), Las Vegas, Nevada

Whether you’re coming or going, few can resist the lure of the 24 hour slot machines all over LAS.

 

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And if you need to detox, you can go in a different direction and hit the gym! Zero Level Fitness and Wellness is located in Terminal 1. Frequent flyers can sign up for monthly or yearly memberships, or you can buy a one-day gym “flight pass” for $49 for the day.

Zero Level also has “Rest and Relaxation” rooms you can rent. Sleep room reservations include access to the fitness center, showers, and towels. -2-hour “naps” start at $35.

Wildest Light Show in an airport, Detroit Metro International Airport (DTW), Detroit, Michigan

Another fantastic opportunity for selfie seekers exists in the underground tunnel that connects Concourses B/C to Concourse A at DTW. The light show is stunning – a 700 ft. display features nearly 9,000 ft. of glass panels illuminated by LED lighting and set to an original musical score.

Though most people love it, some may find it makes them uncomfortable. If that’s you, suspend the program for a five-minute period by pressing the button at each end of the tunnel. The button is located to the right at the bottom of the escalators.

 

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Best Airport for Cyclists, Baltimore Washington International Airport, Maryland

If you have a long layover you can actually head out on a bucolic bike path that surrounds BWI. Take a twelve mile spin around the airport, and watch the planes take off while you do. BWI has 10 self-serve, reservable Zagster bikes outside the International Terminal, near the BWI Marshall Light Rail stop ($5 for 12 hours of use).

Airports are no longer just waystations between destinations. They’re destinations themselves. You can also read about other great airport amenities in these CheapAir.com posts:

And as always, happy travels!

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