14 U.S. Cities Where You Should Schedule a Long Layover on Purpose

Make the most of those extra hours between flights to see a new city, try some great food, and make some friends.
Updated May 8, 2024
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woman sitting with phone on the aircraft seat

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A direct flight is the shortest and most ideal situation when traveling long distances, but adding a layover to your itinerary can keep more money in your wallet.

Some layovers last less than an hour — just enough time to eat, run to the restroom, and find your next gate — but others last a few hours are more. 

In these cases, why not get out and enjoy them? With some planning, you can take a mini-vacation before you even reach your destination.

We looked into the best cities for a long layover. Whether they have great activities in the airport or nearby, you might not mind being "stuck" in these cities.

Las Vegas, Nevada

somchaij/Adobe Fabulous Las Vegas neon sign

Let’s be honest — even the airport in Las Vegas has plenty of opportunities to do something, whether you want to place a few bets or get some great food.

The airport is also just a few minutes from the Strip itself, which means getting a rental car and heading out to see the city is easy to do, even when you have just a few hours.

San Francisco, California

Larry D Crain/Adobe Golden Gate Bridge

You may spend some extra time at San Francisco International if you’re traveling overseas, but there’s plenty to do nearby.

For example, you can take the Yellow BART line from the airport to the Mission District in downtown San Francisco. Once you get there, check out the pier, the views of the Golden Gate Bridge, and great food.

Boston, Massachusetts

SeanPavonePhoto/Adobe Boston

Do you have several hours at Boston Logan International Airport? There are a few things to do.

You can take the No. 66 shuttle from the terminal to the water taxis and check out the waterfront. Or take the Silver Line bus to the Seaport District to shop, eat, drink, and relax on the harbor promenade.

If you have a bit longer, check out the downtown area, which is just 30 minutes away.

Los Angeles, California

John/Adobe Los Angeles skyline

There’s no doubt that LAX is one of the largest and most overwhelming airports out there, but there’s lots to do here too.

The airport itself has several lounges, restaurants, and shops. If you have a bit more time, take an Uber to the beach since it’s only a short drive.

If you have five or more hours to waste, you can also check out Hollywood.

Chicago, Illinois

PhotoSpirit/Adobe Cloud Gate Chicago bean landmark

If you’re feeling trapped at Chicago Midway for a long layover, head to the CTA Orange Line and take it to Loop. There you can have some fun exploring landmarks in the downtown area, including Union Station, Soldier Field, and McKinley Park.

For those stuck at O’Hare International Airport, take the CTA Blue Line to head downtown. There you can check out Lurie Garden and the Chicago Riverwalk.

New York City, New York

UTBP/Adobe New York cityscape

There’s little doubt NYC is one of the most diverse and interesting cities you’ll find. If you’re stuck at JFK for several hours, get out to see the city.

You can take the Long Island Rail Road to get to Penn Station. Once you arrive, you’re in the heart of the city. Check out Central Park and just people-watch. That’s hours of entertainment all on its own.

Atlanta, Georgia

SeanPavonePhoto/Adobe Atlanta Georgia USA

If you’re traveling through Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, you’ll find lots to do within about a 20-minute drive.

You can take the MARTA downtown and then spend an hour checking out the Georgia Aquarium or the World of Coca-Cola. You can even explore Centennial Olympic Park.

Seattle, Washington

Tommy/Adobe Seattle Skyline at sunset with Space needle

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is massive but easy to navigate.

If you have a few hours to explore, take Sound Transit (the Seattle light rail service) and check out some area attractions, like the Space Needle. You can also stop by Pike Place Market and the waterfront.

Just be sure to check the wait times for some of the tourism-heavy locations.

Cleveland, Ohio

SeanPavonePhoto/Adobe Cleveland Ohio USA downtown

Cleveland Hopkins International Airport is about a 20-minute drive from downtown Cleveland, and you can take the Rapid straight there.

While there, you can walk around the lakefront, spend some time checking out Tower City Center, an indoor mall, or walk through Playhouse Square with its extravagant chandelier.

You can also take in one of the dozens of restaurants and breweries that have helped the city grow its food scene.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

andreykr/Adobe Philadelphia skyline at night

Are you a history buff or an avid shopper? If you’re stuck in Philadelphia for a few hours, get out to explore. The SEPTA trains come right to the airport terminal and will take you downtown.

Do some shopping in the Midtown Village area, enjoy a meal, and then tour an art gallery before heading back for your flight.

Miami, Florida

SeanPavonePhoto/Adobe Miami Beach Florida

It’s very tempting to leave the airport when you land in Miami to explore the city. If you have a few hours, take the Metrorail Orange Line from the airport to the downtown area.

There are some art museums here, but you may also want to check out the beach. It’s worth it just for the view.

Minneapolis, Minnesota

stevengaertner/Adobe minneapolis skyline

If you have some time with a layover at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, check out the Metro Blue Line. For a few dollars, you can travel toward Target Field.

This also puts you right on the route to Mall of America, which offers plenty of shopping, eating, and people-watching. Finally, consider a tour of the Warehouse District for some great food.

Portland, Oregon

Josemaria Toscano/Adobe Vista of Portland Oregon

Portland International Airport is an easy-to-navigate option. You can also take the MAX Red Line to check out the city (it’s about a 40-minute drive downtown).

Once there, walk around Pioneer Courthouse Square and check out the Rose Quarter for some food and shopping.

Washington, D.C.

f11photo/Adobe capitol building in Washington DC

No one will say navigating Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport is simple, but there’s a lot to see within a 15-minute ride.

Take one of the trains into the downtown area. There, you can tour the Smithsonian or walk along the National Mall.

Depending on how much time you have, you could do a tour of any of the notable museums here.

Bottom line

Vladimir Borovic/Adobe woman waiting for her airplane and using mobile phone

With a quick Uber ride, you can explore any city’s best amenities and attractions during a long layover. Nothing is keeping you in the airport.

If you’re unsure where to go, research attractions near your layover destination the night before. Then take a road trip to see the city. To fund future travel, consider using a credit card that earns travel rewards on purchases.

That makes that layover less of an inconvenience and more of a pre-destination vacation.

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Annual Fee



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Author Details

Sandy Baker Sandy Baker is a has over 17 years of experience in the financial sector. Her experience includes website content, blogs, and social media. She’s worked with companies such as Realtor.com, Bankrate, TransUnion, Equifax, and Consumer Affairs.

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