Bigger isn’t always better when it comes to the most beloved airports in America. See which spots T+L readers voted the best.
Travelers are increasingly gravitating toward destinations and experiences with a strong sense of place. Historically, domestic airports have filled terminals with national chains that appeal to the masses, rather than spotlighting homegrown operations. But that has finally changed in recent years, as many of the hubs our readers love most eschew big brands in favor of regional purveyors and hyper-local cult favorites.
The trend is especially noticeable when it comes to food options. These days, fliers can sample everything from gourmet doughnuts (Angel Food Bakery at No. 3 Minneapolis-St. Paul) and handcrafted ice cream (Amy’s at No. 6 Austin-Bergstrom International) to craft beer (Southbound Taphouse at No. 7 Savannah/Hilton Head International).
Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, Travel + Leisure asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Since 2013, we’ve asked readers to cast their votes for their favorite hubs across the world, rating airports on access, check-in/security, restaurants/bars, shopping, and design.
Related: The 2018 World's Best Awards
Standout cultural and entertainment offerings also distinguished several airports. Among the most notable: the eight-hole putting green at Palm Beach International (No. 9) and the public art program at Tampa International (No. 4) and Dallas Love Field (No. 10).
Beyond applauding hubs that celebrate regional artisans and culture, readers called out the importance of such practical components as cleanliness, safety, and accessibility. One hub that ticked all those boxes: Indianapolis International. “New, bright, beautiful,” described one reader. “Parking is easy. I never feel unsafe or feel that my children are unsafe.” Multiple fans also commented that the building’s high ceilings give it an airy sensibility, so it “never feels crowded.”
The category winner excelled in all these areas, bringing together a seamless curb-to-plane experience, standout local vendors, and a community-minded sensibility that impressed travelers — not just the ones who call it their home hub. Read on for more on the No. 1 airport, and see how the rest stacked up.