Time flies when you’re having fun; not while watching airplanes take off in an uncomfortable chair. Layovers are as inevitable a part of air travel as crying babies and slow Wifi; the trick is to make the layover work for you, not against you. Whether you have a few hours to kill or a full day, spare yourself the torture of gnawing on dull fast food and killing your phone battery by leaving the airport and treating yourself to a mini vacation.
If you’re in town for business or simply need to hang around the airport for the duration of your trip, you can find plenty of attractions, entertainment, and dining usually within a 30-minute drive of the airport.
Don’t Settle Unless You Have To
The next time you have to face a connecting flight, consider stopping off in some of the best layover cities in North America:
Chicago O’Hare International Airport is one of the busiest in the country, so it’s not uncommon to end up here if you’re a frequent flier. But consider yourself lucky if you get stuck in the “Windy City”. Within 25 minutes of the hub, you can make your way through downtown and enjoy Chicago-style deep-dish pizza, Do-Rite Donuts, and window shop along the Magnificent Mile. After feasting on the local cuisine, take yourself next door to Millennium Park, and visit the famous silver “Bean” sculpture. If you have any time to spare, finish your personal tour with a ride on the Ferris wheel at Navy Pier, offering unparalleled views of Lake Michigan and Chicago’s skyline.
Toronto is Canada’s largest city, and the Toronto Pearson Airport isn’t far from the action. The hub is only 16 miles from the city center and offers a speedy, direct rail link to connect visitors to the bustling downtown. Toronto offers something for everyone and is perfect for killing time the right way. Before heading over to the Hockey Hall of Fame, make your way through the second largest Chinatown in North America and pick up some unique souvenirs. Or, if you’re feeling fancy for a thrill, climb your way to the top of CN Tower and visit the ‘EdgeWalk’ attraction. Here, brave souls walk along the edge of the tower and view Toronto from 1,168 feet in the air. When it comes to dining, there is a very diverse, multicultural variety to accompany every appetite.
Travelers stuck at Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport have it pretty good as well. In just 12 minutes, an airport light rail can whisk passengers to the world-famous, Mall of America. If one were to spend 10 minutes in every store at this mall, it would take 86 hours to shop. So make a game plan and keep a watch close by if you decide to make your way over. If shopping isn’t your style, the massive facility also includes Nickelodeon Universe, which features a wide range of amusement rides. If you prefer a more relaxed experience, Minneapolis has a range of museums, like the Institute of Art, which is free of charge. The Chain of Lakes is a great spot for visitors to enjoy the scenery or get active, and still be in the midst of the city.
When traveling abroad, take every chance you can to explore the local cultures and attractions. But before leaving the airport, be realistic about how much time you really have.
London Heathrow Airport is among the busiest airports in the world so chances are at some point you will be stuck here for a decent amount of time, or longer. Any direction you take outside of the airport will take you somewhere well worth a visit. Within easy travel distance is the village life in Denham and Stoke Poges, a picturesque area with a relaxing locale. The historic Windsor Castle is a bus ride away from LHR and a must see if you’re any kind of history or tourist buff. If not, Legoland UK is also only 12 miles from the airport and a great way to wear your kids out to sleep on the plane.
Amsterdam is a common layover point between the United States and many different European cities. Although the airport can be considered a vacation in itself, it is absolutely worth it to get out and explore Amsterdam’s wide array of attractions if you have the time. Being only 5.6 miles from the heart, it makes it easy to get to and from the airport in a reasonable amount of time. There are several transportation options, including the local train station. Venturing out in to the city, you can find a variety of museums, like the Anne Frank House and Van Gogh Museum. Engage in the culture and take a bike ride along the streets and admire the beauty that is Amsterdam.
Don’t Lose Track of Time
After gorging yourself with tasteful meals and unique attractions, don’t forget to make your way back to the airport in a reasonable time to re-check in for your next flight. It can be easy to get caught up in a mini vacation and lose track of time, but the same rules of flying apply even during a layover or long stay. Get to the airport reasonably early and be ready to board on time, otherwise you’ll miss your flight and be on the Ferris wheel for round two.