Why is it that when it comes to time spent at an airport, there is no happy medium? You’re either desperately sprinting for a plane set to take off at any moment, or you’re stranded for six hours and left thumbing through overpriced copies of last year’s bestsellers in a claustrophobic gift shop. Travel would be so much better if airports could be just as much fun as the actual destination.
Luckily, many airports, both international and regional, are starting to wise up to the idea that passengers want travel to be fun from beginning to end — and are willing to pay for it. Fine dining establishments have popped up in airports from New York to Madrid. And i't’s not just the airport restaurants that are turning up the fun; airport bars are getting in on it as well. While those miniscule bottles of booze on airplanes might be a necessity to slog through a tedious in-flight movie, some airports are building beer gardens and Champagne bars that more closely resemble places passengers might hang out on a Saturday night than traditional airport bars, which typically have more in common with a hospital waiting room than a rollicking hot spot.
We compiled our list of top airport bars with fun in mind. The bars that rank highest are the ones that make passengers forget about late connections or the weather delays across the country; instead, these airport bars help passengers slip into a vacation state of mind. We also took into account drink selection. On this list, you’ll find everything from celebrated seasonal wine lists to world-famous rum punches with nary a mini-bottle of bottom-shelf chardonnay in sight. We looked at snacks, too. Some of these bars offer serious eats likely to make you forget about that sad gift shop sandwich you had on your last layover. Lastly, we aimed to include airport bars that have received rave public reviews as well as those that have been included on other notable lists of the best airport bars.
Click through our slideshow to see some airport bars that are destinations in and of themselves!
#12. The Red Lion, Gatwick Airport, England
If you’re looking for craft beer on your London layover, look no further. The Red Lion serves Six Point, Goose Island, and even Brew Dog draughts. Couple that with their tasty traditional pub snacks, and you may just miss your connecting flight.
#11. Cru Wine Bar, Denver International Airport
Not many airport bars, or bars in general, have a four-and-a-half star Yelp rating, but Cru has the feel of an intimate, cozy wine bar right smack in the center of a busy airport. The bar offers a rotating list of wines that are sold by the bottle or glass, or in convenient tasting flights. Top off your wine with an elegant cheese plate and extend your vacation just a little longer.
Emily Alford is a special contributor to The Daily Meal.