The 8 Best Airports to Get Stuck In This Summer

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On Monday, food website Food Republic ran its list of the six best airports when it comes to edible attractions. On the surface, this seems a little silly: after all, who goes to an airport to eat? Then again, between the already-long airport waits and the ongoing effects of sequestration, interminable delays in the terminal have become the norm. Regardless of where you're planning on heading for your vacation, chances are that you'll be spending a chunk of it waiting for a flight.

But that doesn't have to be a bad thing! While cooling your heels in an airport may sound like a real drag, the truth is, many airports have really stepped up to the plate, food and entertainment-wise. And, while there's no way that Atlanta's Hartsfield Jackson International Airport will ever be mistaken for Disney World, there are far worse places to spend a day. Who knows? If you can pick a good airport for your connections, it could be like getting a little bonus vacation en route to your real destination.

And so, without further ado, here's our list of the eight best destination airports in the U.S. If we've missed one of your favorites -- or if you disagree with our choices -- let us know in the comments!

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The 8 Best Airports to Get Stuck In This Summer

As one might expect from Texas' artsy enclave, the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport offers numerous choices for great food, music and art. The Music in the Air program is especially entertaining, with six separate venues offering live music throughout the day. As for food, Amy's Ice Creams and The Salt Lick have been repeatedly lauded by food critics.

Photo: Bibi, Flickr.com

Sure, Memphis International Airport has two small galleries: an outpost of the Belz Museum of Asian and Judaic Art, and a local student art exhibit area. But as any Memphis traveler might expect, its real excitement comes from its restaurants. While several are good, the barbecue joints -- Corky's and Jimmy Neely's Interstate Barbecue -- have garnered particular praise. If you luck into a 6-hour layover, maybe you can try both.

Photo: Colleen, Flickr.com

Although it is rarely featured in lists of Atlanta-area attractions, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport gets consistent raves from food and travel critics alike. The nap spaces offered by Minute Suites make traveling a little less harried, and the fact that Peachtree Park and the Georgia Aquarium are less than 20 minutes away means that long layovers could be a great excuse for a side trip. But the big draw is the food. The airport has dozens of food choices, but Ecco Restaurant, One Flew South, and Paschal's have all received kudos from reviewers.

As one might expect in sunny Miami, one of the best things to do in the airport is escape it: Miami-Dade International Airport is less than 15 minutes from Doral Golf Resort and Spa. But even if you aren't up for golf or a massage, the airport offers a lot to see and do. There are three separate galleries, a few murals, and assorted art installations. And when it comes to food, two choices in particular -- Lorena Garcia Cocina and La Carreta -- are worthy of serious consideration.

Photo: La Carreta

Table massages, facials, and art installations -- Denver International Airport has enough attractions to keep you busy for a few hours. When it comes to food, Chef Jimmy's Bistro and New Belgium Hub have both drawn rave reviews, and when it comes to smoking, the airport's Smokin' Bear Lodge Smoking Lounge hearkens back to an earlier era when one could still light up in most terminals. Of course, it costs $5 to get in.
For years, O'Hare airport's Berghoff Cafe has been one of the better options available to weary, hungry travelers. Recently, however, it has been joined by a host of other options, including Hub 51, Wow Bao, and the much-lauded Rick Bayless' Tortas Fronteras. Oprah fans might want to visit Garrett's Popcorn, while art lovers might want to check out the airports numerous installations. In terms of music, however, O'Hare hasn't quite caught up with the times: While its grim-sounding "Terminal Tunes" program features local music, it's all pre-recorded and piped through the airport's P.A. system.
Forget Alcatraz, Haight-Ashbury and the Golden Gate: When it comes to visiting San Francisco, the airport should top your list. First off, there are the impressive food choices, including Cat Cora's Kitchen, Ebisu, Anchor Brewing Company and Perry's. But if that isn't enough for you, there's also a yoga room, a museum, a live music program, and an aquarium. And, if you must leave, is only a quick drive from the airport to the hiking, beach and wildlife museum at Coyote Point.

In a city of inconvenient airports, New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport is in a class of its own: Even the easiest way to reach it requires a long subway ride, followed by a short, very expensive tram ride. But, if you get stuck at JFK, take heart -- there's enough stuff to keep you busy for a few hours. In terms of food, there are almost too many options: In addition to the inevitable Shake Shack, there's Danny Meyer's Blue Smoke Barbecue, Marcus Samuelsson's Uptown Brasserie, Deep Blue Sushi, Aeronuova, Brasserie La Vie, Piquillo, and Andrew Carmellini's Croque Madame. And, in addition to food, there's a live concert series, as well as the elegant TWA terminal, designed by Eero Saarinen, which is only occasionally open.

Photo: Doug Letterman, Flickr.com

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Bruce Watson is DailyFinance's Savings editor. You can reach him by e-mail at bruce.watson@teamaol.com, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.
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