Philadelphia Airport Guide

Sandwiched between New York and Washington, DC, Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) is one of the country’s busiest airports. Get our tips for making the most out of a layover in Philly.
Show: The Layover
Episode: Philadelphia

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Photo by: tiffany, flickr

tiffany, flickr

It’s a mall! It’s a museum! It’s ... Philadelphia International Airport!

Sandwiched as it is between New York (and its 3 major airports) and Washington, DC, (and its 3 major airports), you might think Philadelphia’s airport wouldn’t be that busy. Ah, but you’d be wrong.

A hub of US Airways, Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) sees some 31 million passengers a year, making it one of the country’s busiest.

Headed there yourself? See what’s in store.

Coming and Going
You couldn’t ask for a more accessible metropolitan airport than Philadelphia International, located just 7 miles from downtown.

If you like to travel like a local, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority operates a regional rail from the airport to several central locations, such as Amtrak’s 30th Street Station and University City (home to the University of Pennsylvania). SEPTA’s 1-way fare from the airport is about $7; additional fares apply if you’re transferring to another line ... and if you’re not sure exactly where you’re going, it’s SEPTA’s online trip planner to the rescue.

Otherwise, 2 SEPTA bus lines -- routes 37 (to/from South Philadelphia) and 108 (to/from 69th Street Transportation Center) -- serve the airport. Bus fare is roughly $2, but note that you’ll need exact change.

More comfortable taking a taxi? You’ll pay a flat rate -- roughly $28.50 -- from the airport to central Philly (otherwise, the meter applies, and the minimum fare from the airport is about $10), but at least you won’t have to worry about needing cash on hand; all taxis are credit card-enabled.

Finally, it’s probably not practical for anyone traveling with, er, luggage, but it’s a cool fact: Bicycle racks are actually available in several locations throughout the airport’s terminals.

Going Wireless
If you reach your gate well before boarding, you’re in luck: Internet access at the Philadelphia airport is not only free, it’s pretty fast, too. (How often do you get to say THAT?)

And should your mobile-device battery need a boost, electrical outlets are scattered throughout the gates, although your best bet may be to head to the Terminal B/C connector, where you can settle into a rocking chair next to a power-outlet-containing pillar.

Get Moving
If you want to stretch your legs, Philadelphia International Airport has options for you -- especially if you like to shop, browse art or even get a massage.

Shoppers will want to check out the mall-like Philadelphia Marketplace at the airport, located in the Terminal B/C connector. It boasts not only a large food court but retail shops such as Gap, Brooks Brothers, Johnston & Murphy and Sunglass Hut.

Art lovers, meanwhile, can bask in the airport’s visual arts initiative. Consisting of rotating exhibitions located throughout the terminals, the program features a wide variety of art forms -- everything from movie posters to ceramics -- that draw from local artists and art institutions.

Finally, those in need of some pampering can stop in on XpresSpa (located in terminals C and D) or d_parture spa (Terminal F) for a massage, waxing, facial or other personal services.

Food Finds
There are more than 70 -- 70! -- eateries spread throughout Philadelphia International Airport’s 7 terminals, with a main food court located in the Terminal B/C connector. Besides the usual grab-and-go (Au Bon Pain, Cibo Express, Jamba Juice), there are a number of sit-down restaurants if you’d like to savor your meal.

Nosh on the signature “crab fries” (specially spiced french fries served with a creamy white sauce) and Philly cheesesteak offered by local crab house and sports bar Chickie’s & Pete’s, or sample the gourmet sandwiches and small bites at wine bar Vino Volo. In the mood for a lobsta roll? No problem; the Massachusetts-based Legal Sea Foods can oblige.

Day Tripping
Honestly, it’s heartbreaking to wrap up Philly’s countless sights in a couple of paragraphs, but if you only have a few hours to kill because of an extra-long layover, and you’ve never been to Philadelphia before, there are several must-sees.

Philadelphia -- the temporary US capital while the District of Columbia was under construction -- is for history lovers. Don’t miss the opportunity to take in Independence Hall (where the Declaration of Independence and US Constitution were signed), Betsy Ross’s house, the Liberty Bell and the Christ Church Burial Ground (Benjamin Franklin’s final resting grounds) -- all conveniently close to one another.

Rocky fan or no, it’s still amazing to see the steps Sylvester Stallone made famous, so stopping by the Philadelphia Museum of Art is a given. After reliving Rocky’s triumphant jog-and-fist pump, you can either leave it at that or go inside one of the world’s largest and greatest art museums (just note: It’s closed Mondays).

Speaking of art and photo ops in the City of Brotherly Love, head over to the John F. Kennedy Plaza -- located in Fairmont Park, just 3 miles away -- to see the famous LOVE statue by Robert Indiana.

Hungry? Check out Reading Terminal Market in Center City. The historic farmers’ market offers everything from fresh produce and crafts to prepared-food stalls and restaurants.

The Overnighter
If you want to stay in a hotel that’s close by, you cannot beat the Philadelphia Airport Marriott for convenience; it’s actually connected via skyway to Terminal B, or if you prefer it, there’s complimentary shuttle service.

Located a bit farther away (which is to say that the hotels don’t have walkways to the airport) but still extremely convenient are the Hampton Inn (which also offers a complimentary hot breakfast) and the Hilton. Hopefully, you’ll only need that hotel because of an early flight and not because of an overnight delay. But if you do get delayed ... at least there’s excellent Wi-Fi, a mall and a number of spas to choose from, right? How often do you get that in an airport?

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