How to Kill Time in the Most Frustrating Place in DC: The Airport

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Your flight’s delayed, and dang it, now you’ve got way more time to kill than you planned on. Here’s how to spend it, whether you’re stuck for one, three, or six hours at BWI, DCA, or IAD.


1 Hour

Rack up some steps with a 20-minute walk around the Cardio Trail, a marked loop that goes through Concourses A and B. Then check your Fitbit over a local Heavy Seas beer from the Firkin & Flyer pub between B and C. You can sip it across the hallway in the pub’s lounge, amid power outlets galore and beneath the warm glow of a chandelier.

3 Hours

Head for the upstairs Observation Gallery in the main terminal, a long, curved room with a sweet display of plane parts, as well as floor-to-ceiling windows. The quiet setting with rocking chairs = a nice setup for a snooze. Kids in tow? There’s a small play area at one end of the Gallery. Child-free fliers: Pick the other end. The Sky Azure cocktail bar awaits.

6 Hours

You’re going for a bike ride on the 12.5-mile trail circling the airport. Grab a Zagster bike near the light-rail station. A $5 rental gets you 12 hours, via the Zagster app. The ride takes about 90 minutes if your pace falls between SoulCycle and leisurely Sunday jaunt, longer if you stop. What you can see: landings and takeoffs; a playground; a Victorian-era farmhouse, open for tours on weekends. Also, a horse farm!



1 Hour 

&Pizza in Terminal C has its conveyor-belt oven fired up early, with a breakfast menu that’s the only excuse you need to eat pizza in the am. Alternatively: power-shop. The Spanx in National Hall is one of only two standalone Spanx stores locally. The dress you packed fits perfectly fine, thank you? There’s also a Lacoste and a Vineyard Vines. (Only for TSA PreCheck fliers, because you’ll have to go through security again.)

3 Hours 

Take an art walk. Cesar Pelli incorporated the work of 30 artists into National Hall’s design, so it’s practically a mini-museum. The floor’s mosaics make an awesome #shoefie backdrop. Look up to see work by Vincent Longo and Edith Kuhnle. On one end of the building, a totally Zen trellis installation by Kent Bloomer fills windows with sweeping vines. Finally, check out the gallery between A and the other terminals.

6 Hours 

Walk to a place you’ve driven by a thousand times: the observation spot at Gravelly Point park. It’s a 20-minute stroll up the Mount Vernon Trail. Back at the airport later, head for the area between the Terminal B and C parking garages to see the remains of Abingdon Plantation, which was part of a 6,000-acre property where the airport now stands. Or veg out. On a nice day, there’s good shade outside ticketing.


1 Hour 

Hop a mobile lounge to Concourse D from either A or the main terminal. Because you can basically ride a mobile lounge nowhere else, ever. (See page 83.) At D, we like Bar Symon, a restaurant by The Chew cohost Michael Symon that turns out upscale twists on classics—pulled pork with coffee barbecue sauce or a burger topped with pastrami. It also does a mean breakfast.

3 Hours 

Shop like you’re at Tysons; Dulles added a slew of high-end retailers last year. Unwind like you’re in Paris; Be Relax, a chain that got its start there, has two spots at Dulles. We had a great classic manicure recently ($40), but next time we’re swinging for the full classic mani-pedi ($87). Run the kids around like you do at Air & Space—Concourse B has a play area with miniature planes. Or just drink wine at Vino Volo.

6 Hours

Self-medicate at Bracket Room in Concourse B with a local brew on draft from Old Ox. Or take the kids to B’s game station, where they can have screen time in six languages. You could always duck out entirely to see the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. It’s a ten-minute taxi ride away and has luggage lockers. An Imax movie or so later and what do you know, it’s almost time to board.

This article appears in the November 2016 issue of Washingtonian.

Associate Editor

Caroline Cunningham joined Washingtonian in 2014 after moving to the DC area from Cincinnati, where she interned and freelanced for Cincinnati Magazine and worked in content marketing. She currently resides in College Park.

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