Airports I Love
When you travel for work as much as I do, you start to think of airports as part of the trip. Some are the worst part of the trip, but some can be the most fun part. The best airports these days are destinations in themselves, with great food, shopping, and even entertainment.
I tell everyone that I live in a place that “you can’t get to from there.” More often than not, you have to fly through somewhere else to get to your ultimate destination. So it’s important to pick your stop-over airport wisely.
Mostly I pick based on weather. If it’s winter, it’s Atlanta. If it’s summer, it’s Detroit. But even with planning, these days wherever and whenever you travel you will often encounter a delay due to weather or something else. In fact, I’m always amazed when my flights are on time.
On the other hand, if I’m going to be delayed, it gives me a chance to explore the airport and all it has to offer.
Favorites to be stranded in (I mean delayed) include Las Vegas, where you can gamble and have a great massage before you leave — that's key after the stress of losing money gambling at the airport.
Love Field Airport in Dallas is great because it has concerts going all the time. I also love the Jet Blue terminal at JFK (nowhere else at JFK — just JetBlue) because the food choices are awesome. It’s great whether you are coming from, or going to, a vacation.
Then there’s my favorite wine bar at Newark Airport. Newark was recently named one of the worst airports in the world, but I say it's the best in the world if you're sitting at the Vino Volo in Terminal B.
LAX is a cool airport in theory, with the iconic architecture and the possible celebrity sightings. But in actuality, not so much. My only good memory I have of it is getting my first Shake Shack experience before boarding a red eye; it was worth the sleepless ride back.
Of course, if you encounter a truly epic delay that requires a visit to the closest airport hotel, I would always choose Chicago. There's no other emergency hotel like that Hilton built right smack in the middle of the airport. If you’ve never been, just go see the lobby. It’s massive. The entire purpose of the hotel is to accommodate either business travelers who gather purposefully for a meeting there or really frustrated travelers who would rather be anywhere else. Makes for a lively bar — trust me, I’ve been there for both reasons.
But all my friends know that any airport experiences I have are always made better by my favorite dinner: chardonnay and fries. It doesn’t have to be good chardonnay, but the fries had better be salty and crunchy. Otherwise, what’s the point?
Jackie Belasco Stone travels 90% of her time as vice president of sales, consulting for Varsity. She loves Detroit because, she says, “I can drown my sorrows at the Pandora store in the airport.”
She says she could list more airports that she hates than loves, including Charlotte where you have to run a marathon to get to every gate; Dulles where she has spent many a sleepless night; and LaGuardia where you have to take a shuttle to get to the shuttle to get to the rental car.
But no matter how much I travel, my favorite airport is the Rochester airport. The recent renovations are great, but it’s also the accessibility to home. Mostly I love that it’s like the bar in Cheers, where everyone knows your name and landing there means I’m back where I belong: home.
As first published in the Democrat + Chronicle and on the USA Today Network