PHL Airport layover guide: 15 surprisingly entertaining ways to spend your time

Philadelphia International has seriously stepped up its game.

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Mónica Marie Zorrilla/Billy Penn
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Updated Aug. 12

Having a flight delayed can be a major bummer, but if you’re at Philadelphia International Airport, it could be worse.

PHL Airport has undergone a series of major renovations over the past few years. The in-progress $900 million overhaul has already added several true dining and shopping destinations, plus lots of ways to entertain yourself and your family with art, play or learning. There’s also a few places you can actually relax.

So if your layover is long or weather has left you in the lurch, don’t worry. In the roughly two hours it takes to walk nonstop from one end of PHL to the other (with a shuttle transfer in between), you can find a myriad of things to do.

Here’s a guide to save your vacation from falling apart before it’s even begun.

Terminal A-West

Take a selfie at the coolest Liberty Bell in the city

This Liberty Bell is said to be made out of 1,776 LEGOs.

It’s a formally designated “selfie spot” (yes, like it or not, that is a thing at the airport). You can let people know you looked cute for your flight with the hashtag #PHLAirport.

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Philadelphia International Airport

Drink a Crabby Mary with a side of Crabfries®

We’ve written about Crabfries, but have remained mum about Crabby Marys. Probably because they’re kind of foul, but have enough kick in them to water your eyes and get rid of any lingering hangover or a migraine in a single sip.

Per the Chickie & Pete’s online menu, Crabby Marys consist of ABSOLUT® Peppar Vodka, Chickie’s own Crabby Mary mix with a celery stalk, olive, grape tomato, fresh lime and a cocktail shrimp served in a glass rimmed with the famous Crabfries seasoning.

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Shops or dining of note: There’s a completely random Furla — a designer boutique that specializes in Italian leather goods — sandwiched between the MAC Cosmetics and the Vino Volo. If you want to burn some cash while waiting to board, Furla’s the optimal place to do that.

Terminal A-East

Give a book, take a book, read a book

An already awesome book exchange program concept can only be elevated by a delightfully charming reading area, and thankfully, the airport provides both.

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Mónica Marie Zorrilla/Billy Penn

Shops or dining of note: If you want to dine semi-local, you have Piattino Oven Fired Pizza (a New Jersey bistro) or Saladworks (a Conshohocken-headquartered chain). If not, there’s always Currito Burrito. Ready for some untaxed alcohol or over-the-top chocolate gift baskets? Get it them at the Duty-Free — at an especially ideal for the folks who’ve just arrived at Philadelphia from Dublin via Aer Lingus.

Terminal B

Terminal B is the crown jewel of Philadelphia International Airport — one could even say it is the place to B (hah).

Step inside of Terminal B, and you feel like you’ve been warped into a futuristic time period, far removed from the dreariness of baggage claims and currency exchange stations. The $30-million redesign by OTG Management transformed the terminal into a luxe playground with 1,000 iPads and seven restaurants from local “celebrity” chefs, including Kevin Sbraga, Nicholas Elmi, Erin O’Shea, Hiroyuki Tanaka, Anne Coll and Stalin Bedon.

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Mónica Marie Zorrilla/Billy Penn

Terminal C

There’s not much to do in Terminal C, but there are loads of restaurants to choose from — including Sky Asian Bistro, which lets you watch your sushi rolls being prepared by chefs amidst low-lights and neon cherry blossoms. It’s a good place to go if you want to hide from the airport’s overall harsh fluorescent lights.

Terminal D

Let your pooch tinkle like the pampered baby they are

This is a private bathroom for dogs, and its existence is both precious and disgusting. Take a peek inside — trust us, its worth it just for a glance. And if you’ve got a dog, you’ve got a better excuse for being kind of a weirdo.

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Mónica Marie Zorrilla/Billy Penn

Eat a burger at an Iron Chef’s restaurant

Reviews on Google for Bar Symon claim that the restaurant takes its time to prepare food, so a flight delay gives you a prime, indefinite time slot to order and chow down a Fat Doug or a Gobbler.

Terminal E

Let your kids play Wii, gape at magic tricks, get their face painted, watch jugglers or sing-along to family-friendly karaoke

A PHL spokesperson confided to us that this entertainment program — which is only offered at Terminal E throughout the summer — is placed here because most flights to Orlando leave from this terminal. Kids antsy to get to the Happiest Place on Earth need an outlet for their excess energy.

But all kids — and maybe the young at heart — could benefit from a soothing round of Wii golf while plane cabins prepare for departure.

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Mónica Marie Zorrilla/Billy Penn

Guzzle down some much-needed coffee

La Colombe’s potent, caffeinated fixings can cure your headache and can keep you wide-eyed for any updates on your flight. Cross your fingers (but don’t do so without at least some cold brew in you).

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Mónica Marie Zorrilla/Billy Penn

Shops or dining of note: Dallas chain Cantina Laredo for some hearty Tex-Mex, Gachi House of Noodles for the Eagles roll and the Benefit Cosmetics vending machine (which, FYI, gives out contour palettes and eyeshadow brushes — not food).

Terminal F

Not exactly a fun to-do, but important to mention: there’s a Mamava here

Finding a nursing-friendly place to breastfeed or pump can be tough, and if you’re already stressed out about your travels, the last thing you want to think about is how you’re going to feed your baby. Here’s your solution.

(However, it is currently the only lactation pod at the PHL airport).

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Mónica Marie Zorrilla/Billy Penn

Shops or dining of note: Stop by Kiehl’s for high-end skincare products and neighboring Philly Pretzel Factory for a Pretzel Bagel Sandwich. Or order cocktails and catch a Philly sports game at Re:Vive’s swanky countertop bar. You can also grab something to eat at the Terminal F food court, which has enough cuisines to satisfy whatever jet-lag fueled craving you may have. Select from Le Bus Bakery, Far East Asian Fire, Smashburger, Red Mango, Tony Luke’s or Chipotle.

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Mónica Marie Zorrilla/Billy Penn

Shuttle Bus to Terminal A from Terminal F

Time to hop on! The shuttle bus from F to A can be picked up at Gate F-14, and the ride takes about ten minutes. For more information on shuttle buses (and other ways you can get around the airport), click here.

A-B Link

Forget to hit snooze in a Minute Suite

Oh, c’mon. Don’t lie: You’ve been tempted to purchase some time to Zzz comfortably in a Minute Suite. We got a peek inside, and honestly? They’re like compact hotel rooms — with a mini bar and everything! If you dread what will happen to your back and your neck after trying to curl up at the chairs in your assigned gate, maybe shelling out some cash for a nap is the better alternative for you.

You can also pay for a shower (up to 30 minutes!) at Minute Suites. Breastfeeding and pumping mamas get 30 minutes inside of a suite, free of charge.

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Mónica Marie Zorrilla/Billy Penn

B-C Link

Window shop at the Philadelphia Marketplace corridor

The airport may be lacking a gym, but it abounds in shopping options that aren’t rinky-dink souvenir shops and newsstands. The B-C Link corridor has some of the best, and covers a variety of price points and niches. There’s GAP, Johnston & Murphy, Spanx, The Body Shop, PGA Tour Shop, Brooks Brothers and Victoria’s Secret.

It’s no King of Prussia, but it’ll have to do.

The B-C Link is also home to Starbucks, Geno’s Steaks, Chick-fil-A, another Gachi, Pinkberry, another Smashburger and Legal Sea Foods.

Prepare for a line at the airport Geno’s (which can sometimes end up being as long as the line at the South Philly original).

C-D Link

Get a sneak peek of Isaiah Zagar’s Magic Gardens

Think you know the story behind Zagar’s embellished mosaic labyrinth? Think again. This art exhibit is a favorite of tourists, locals and employees alike, a PHL airport spokesperson shared. The exhibit goes in-depth on Zagar’s life and work, starting with the “prototype” for Magic Gardens, Eyes Gallery.

D-E Link

Meditate, pray or even practice some yoga in the Quiet Room

Oooooommmmmmm. The brand new Quiet Room is a source of comfort and solace during a delay — when all you may want to do is scream, very loudly, at everyone and everything. Breathe in, breathe out: whatever you need to do to feel centered, you can do that all here. But please, silence your cellphones and don’t fall asleep.

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Mónica Marie Zorrilla/Billy Penn

Grab a brief tale and read it — alone or aloud — from the Free Library’s short story dispenser

Do you have a minute to spare? Or three? Or five? You likely have several hours to kill, so there’s no reason to not read multiple stories in this cozy nook. Stories are meant to be “all ages” appropriate.

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Mónica Marie Zorrilla/Billy Penn

Shops or dining of note: The Life is Good® store by the short story dispenser, known for their inspirational, soft t-shirts that are perfect for a stuffy plane ride (or to make you feel better about the fact that your plane was delayed by several hours).

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Mónica Marie Zorrilla/Billy Penn

E-F Link

Enjoy all of the art at the PHL Airport — but don’t miss this ‘Jawn’ mural series

In 2013, USA Today voted PHL as one of the Top 3 Best Airport Art Programs in the country. Arbitrary as those lists often can be, USA Today was onto something there. There are currently 19 art exhibits on display at the airport, with the intention to not only beautify its surroundings but also to promote local artists from Philadelphia and surrounding areas.

If you’re into the arts, you could do a DIY museum tour of the whole airport and have plenty of mediums and representations to analyze and absorb.

The vibrant, psychedelic, five-panel/five-artist mural series ‘Jawn: It’s A Philly Thing’ really caught Billy Penn’s attention during our visit.

If you’re from here, they’ll make you happy to claim your city. If you’re visiting, they’ll only make you want to visit again.

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Mónica Marie Zorrilla/Billy Penn
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Mónica Marie Zorrilla/Billy Penn

Walking workout

The route Billy Penn took was from the D-E link to Terminal F, where this reporter then hopped on a shuttle bus and continued the trek from Terminal A (East and West) to Terminal D. In total, roughly 7,700 steps were walked (which is almost three miles worth of pacing). Don’t mind garnering a couple of stares from other travelers? There are a bunch of trainer-approved moves you can do without lifting a single dumbbell.

Places

PHL Airport