10 Airports Where Shopping Is (Almost) as Good as Flying
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Airport shopping used to be simple: snacks, bottled water, a few magazines or a trashy novel (unless you were on an international flight, and had access to duty-free shops). That was before air travel became commonplace, and prior to the explosion of travel retail as a category. Most major airports today contain between 50 and 100 stores, the same number as the average American shopping mall.
While many tourists wouldn’t refresh their wardrobe or do their Christmas shopping at an airport, the true road warrior is in a different position. If you travel two or three weeks each month for business or pleasure, a long layover or delayed flight is an incentive to catch up on shopping. An opportunity to browse airport shops reduces the need to seek out a mall in your leisure time.
You might assume that the best selection would be found in well-trafficked hubs, but larger airports tend to focus more on national brands. It’s easy to find apparel stores such as Michael Kors, Hugo Boss or Brooks Brothers; for tech, most major airports have InMotion or Brookstone. The surprises tend to be in less-frequented destinations, where you can shop for clothes or gifts that reflect the flavor of that region. Here are some of the places that have North America’s most interesting shopping:
Dallas-Forth Worth (DFW)
Like everything else in Texas, DFW is big: It’s the largest domestic hub for American and the fourth-busiest airport in the States. The annual traffic of 65 million passengers is reflected in the diversity of the retail outlets.
Best For: Distinctive gifts with a local slant.
Don’t Miss: Lone Star Attitude (cowboy hats, stylish boots and handcrafted belt buckles that capture the essence of Texas).
Apparel and Accessories: Kate Spade (handbags and exuberant prints for women); Marshall-Ruosso (casual, comfortable and chic styles, with designer labels such as Joseph Ribkoff); Ertekin Fashions (European labels); Soybu (yoga and workout clothes for women, men and girls).
Jewelry: Talie (unique gifts and contemporary, artist-driven sterling silver designs).
Local Flavor: Dallas Cowboys Pro Shop; Stockyards Marketplace; Texas Territories; The Range (gifts, souvenirs and apparel for “the true Texan or the urban cowboy”).
Denver International (DEN)
DEN is the major hub for Frontier Airlines, and the fourth-largest hub for United. While large (twice the size of Manhattan), the airport is known for being environmentally conscious, and many of the shops reflect a distinct sense of place.
Best For: Mountain-themed products and original stores off the beaten track.
Don’t Miss: Mangelsen Images of Nature (award-winning photography from marine biologist Thomas D. Mangelsen).
Apparel: Misura (high-end, branded clothing for men); No Boundaries (outdoor gear, rain gear and backpacks); Radio Road/Fly Babies (creative clothing for both women and children); Tuleh Ruche (women’s apparel from classy to bohemian).
Beauty: Hormeta kiosk (skin care products from Switzerland).
Gifts: Amore Fiori Flowers (fresh-cut flowers, candy, fragrances and accessories).
Jewelry: Bearfruit (a kiosk owned by a family company specializing in original, high-quality designs).
Kids: Kazoo and Company Toy Store.
Local Flavor: Greetings From Colorado (books, jewelry, souvenirs, apparel); Time2Toast (original Colorado beverages); Way Out West (Western and Southwestern crafts and products).
McCarran International (LAS)
Served by a combination of legacy and low-cost airlines, LAS ranks in the top ten of America’s most heavily-trafficked airports. If you can ignore the sound of the slot machines, there are some tempting shops to be found.
Best For: Locally themed novelties and gifts.
Don’t Miss: Aviation Museum, tracing the history of plane travel into LAS since 1920.
Accessories: Alex and Ani (costume jewelry in colorful, original designs); Mr. Boxer Inc. (boxers, loungewear and other intimate men’s apparel).
Beverage: Liquor Library (America’s first non-duty-free airport liquor store).
Flowers: 24-Hour Flowers (beautiful, fresh flowers from a vending machine? Yes!).
Local Flavor: Poker Face (custom poker chips and specialty gaming products); Rebel Sports Vegas (apparel and accessories from college and professional sports teams); The Blvd (products that combine both small-town and modern Vegas); Welcome to Las Vegas (gaming souvenirs and memorabilia).
Miami International (MIA)
Serving 45 million passengers each year, MIA is American’s gateway to South America. The retail outlets reflect the melting pot of South Florida with a Latin flair.
Best For: Tropical apparel, sportswear and gifts.
Don’t Miss: Britto (souvenirs and artwork from Brazilian sensation, Romero Britto).
Beverage: The Johnny Walker Store.
Jewelry: Starfire Design (handcrafted jewelry from sterling silver, 18K gold and precious and semi-precious stones).
Local Flavor: Cuban Crafters (premium, handmade cigars); Little Havana To Go (Miami-themed souvenirs and gifts).
Store-in-Store: The Shoppes at Ocean Drive (10,000 square feet of South Beach style, mixing local and national brands).
Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP)
Although smaller than some of the airports listed here, MSP is the second-largest hub for Delta and its Delta Connection partners. The shops have a rugged, Midwestern feel, with emphasis on practical items.
Best For: Outer wear; accessories.
Don’t Miss: Inspired Life + Art (a gallery-style store featuring regional artisan products in pottery, glass, metal and wood).
Accessories: Baggallini (purses and bags designed by flight attendants); Flirt Boutique (lingerie, hosiery, bubble bath); Frivolous (kitchenware, home decor, novelty items).
Apparel: Adventure North (clothing for outdoor enthusiasts); Hammer Made (specialty men’s shop).
Local Flavor: Minnesota State of Nice (mementos from local artisans); Uptown Minnesota (state-inspired merchandise designed, crafted and manufactured in the Midwest).
Refresh: Chiroport (chiropractic services to-go).
Phoenix Sky Harbor (PHX)
Covering 3,400 acres, PHX is Arizona’s largest airport and one of the busiest in the United States. Local crafts are well represented in a range of airport shops, making it easy to pick up gifts you forgot to purchase during your visit.
Best For: Southwestern-themed merchandise and memorabilia.
Don’t Miss: Pueblo Spirit (Talavera pottery, Day of the Dead art and other unique Mexican pieces).
Apparel: Southwest Pizzazz (hand-picked clothing and gifts with a constantly changing inventory); Desert Breeze (clothing for the active woman).
Crafts: Earth Spirit (metalwork, pottery, prints and folk art); Desert Images (souvenirs and accessories).
Last-Minute Gifts: Valley of the Sun; Explore Arizona.
Toys: A to Z Kids (toys and games with an Arizona flavor); Caved Inn (local toys and souvenirs).
Pittsburgh International (PIT)
Once a hub for US Airways, PIT trails behind Philadelphia International (PHL) in passenger volume, but the airport has major plans for expansion. The shops tend to be distinctive and worthy of attention.
Best For: Offbeat apparel and accessories.
Don’t Miss: Spirit of the Red Horse (gifts, women’s purses and fashion, and unique jewelry including sterling silver creations from Native American and Western artisans).
Accessories: Ecco (men’s and women’s footwear); Furla (women’s purses and incidentals).
Apparel: Desigual (clothing for women and children); Creative Kidstuff (children’s toys and clothing); Knickers (men’s and women’s undergarments).
Confection: Gaby et Jules (French specialties such as macarons and confiture).
Jewelry: Pandora (create your own bracelet); Erwin Pearl (high-quality jewelry for men and women).
Local Flavor: Black and Gold (branded apparel from the Steelers, Pirates and Penguins).
San Francisco International (SFO)
SFO serves as a major Asian gateway for United and other carriers, and is the base of operations for Alaska Airlines.
Best For: A mix of sophisticated, urbane merchandise and local favorites.
Don’t Miss: Mosaic Gallery (unique high-end art).
Apparel: Burberry; Hermes; M. Fredric (for women’s apparel).
Beauty: 100% Pure; Aveda; Jo Malone; Tom Ford; Kiehl’s.
Confection: Embarcadero Treats (local candy and foods from around the country); Ghirardelli; Indulge Candy; Sweet Travels.
Jewelry: Boucle (handcrafted jewelry and timepieces by local artisans).
Local Flavor: California Lifestyle (gourmet food, wine and gifts); San Francisco Bay Traders; SF MOMA museum store.
Renew: Freshen Up! (showers, nap rooms, ironing facilities).
Seattle-Tacoma International (SEA)
SEA is the major airport in the Pacific Northwest, a hub for Alaska Airlines and its regional subsidiary, Horizon Air, and an important European and Asian gateway for Delta.
Best For: Regional crafts, art and food products.
Don’t Miss: Fireworks (featuring the work of dozens of local artists).
Apparel: ExOfficio (“performance-driven apparel” and “cleverly discreet travel essentials”).
Local Flavor: Made in Washington (specialty foods, art and crafts, and kitchen equipment produced by local craftsmen); SupPop (celebrating the record label’s role in Pacific Northwest music); glassybaby (handblown glass votives made in Seattle); Show Pony (jewelry, accessories, gifts and handbags created in the Pacific Northwest); Discover Puget Sound (local gifts and artwork, located in Hudson News, N Gates).
Toronto Pearson (YYZ)
With nearly 45 million passengers passing through each year, YYZ is Canada’s largest airport, the second-busiest on the continent, and is the major hub for Air Canada. The elegant and upscale shops are a notch above most other airports in North America.
Best For: Luxury apparel and high-end watches.
Don’t Miss: Hudson’s Bay Company Trading Post (Canada’s largest department store, with a 342-year history. The Bay offers distinctive designers and brands, including its signature Hudson Bay Company Collection).
Accessories: Coach; Longines; Rado; Swarovski; Tissot.
Apparel: Bally; Burberry; Bvlgari; Gucci; Salvatore Ferragamo.
Local Flavor: Discover Canada (souvenirs and durable travel essentials).
Refresh: Be Relax (chair and table massages, nail services, waxing and facials; 10 Minute Manicure (manicures and pedicures, hair services, massage and teeth whitening).
Featured photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
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