Extended Layovers while still Seeing the Tourist Spots in North America
Have an extended layover coming up in the US Canada or Mexico? Still wanting to explore some tourist spots in North America? This post shows that you can still see tourist places in North America even within a short period of time, which makes the layover a great luxury travel hack.
Dominated by the best airports for layovers in the US you will notice countries like Canada, Mexico & Guatemala get a mention in this article too. So, on your next few North America vacations consider adding a longer layover to the itinerary to explore more of this beautiful continent.
Table of Contents
So, why are long layovers a Luxury Travel Hack? Check out my article on:
CANADA – Toronto
By The Crowded Planet
Written by Margherita @ The Crowded Planet
Have more than an 8 hour layover and considering Niagara Fall? Check out this travel guide to Niagara Falls.
CANADA – Vancouver
By Explore With Lora
Vancouver is one of Canada’s most beautiful cities and makes a great place for a short layover due to the cities easy accessibility from the airport and variety of things to do either in the city or in the nearby surrounding area.
The easiest way to get into the city from the airport is to take the Canada Line Skytrain which you can catch directly from the airport terminal. The ride into downtown Vancouver takes about half an hour.
Once in town, a great option to get around is to rent a bike from one of the bike share stations found in downtown Vancouver. The city is very bike friendly with some beautiful trails to take you around. One of the best places to take a bike ride or just walk around is Stanley park, just a quick bike ride over from the downtown core. During the summer a great option to spend a day in Vancouver is to head to one of the cities local beaches to soak up the sun, and swim in the ocean if you’re feeling brave!
There are a number of vibrant neighborhoods to explore in Vancouver as well. Check out Yaletown, which used to be the warehouse district. Now, the warehouses have been converted into restaurants with stunning patios that fill with people during the summertime. Gastown is another great neighborhood to explore, where the streets are full of excellent dining options.
An alternative option is to rent a car at the airport and explore the incredible natural surroundings of Vancouver. Just a 45-minute drive from the airport is North Vancouver, where you can walk across the Capilano Suspension bridge park or hike up Grouse mountain for amazing views of the city. If you have the entire day, take a two-hour trip out north to the Sea to Sky highway, a beautiful drive that leads to the skiing town of Whistler past the amazing Porteau Cove, which is worth a stop in iteself. There you can hike, ski/snowboard in the winter, admire the lakes, or check out the Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish. However you choose to spend the day in Vancouver, it won’t disappoint.
Written by Lora @ Explore with Lora
Staying in Vancouver longer? Check out this 4-Day Itinerary
GUATEMALA – Guatemala City
By A Taste For Travel
Written by Michele @ A Taste For Travel
MEXICO – Mexico City
By Sol Salute
I’ve flown from South America to the US twice with Aeromexico, both times opting for the itinerary that includes a twelve-hour stopover in Mexico City. It makes for the perfect layover because most flights from South America to the north are nocturnal, landing in Mexico City at 8 am. This sets you up for a perfect full day to spend in Mexico’s capital city. Getting into the city from the airport and back again is incredibly easy with Uber. My ride back to the airport from the historic city center cost only $7.
And there are countless ways to spend one day in Mexico City. I spent my first layover exploring the historic city center. I was able to see the Zocalo, Diego Rivera Murals in a couple of different museums and I shopped til I dropped in the La Ciudadela Market. I also ate all the tacos my body could hold and topped them off with freshly made churros from El Moro. If you’re a foodie, a layover in Mexico City is a must!
For a more relaxed setting, we spent our second layover here by exploring the quiet neighborhood of Coyoacan. Coyoacan feels much more like a small village than part of a huge metropolis. Frida Kahlo’s house is here as well as two great markets and some of the most colorful streets I’ve ever seen. No matter how you choose to spend your Mexico City layover, you won’t be disappointed!
Written by Erin @ Sol Salute
PUERTO RICO (USA) – San Juan
By The Swedish Nomad
San Juan is one of the most unique layovers in the US due to its heritage and tropical vibes. I did a layover in San Juan from Mexico to Sweden, and it was fantastic. The Old San Juan is home to some stunning colonial architecture, it’s very colorful and is one area on San Juan that can be seen in 1 day.
There are plenty of rum bars or charming cafes to enjoy, and when it comes to sightseeing, much of the city’s highlights can be explored in just 1 day, however if you are staying longer check out the best things to do in Puerto Rico. The most convenient way to get into the city from the airport is by taking an Uber or regular Taxi. They are cheap and will get you into the old town in no time.
In the short amount of time you will have in San Juan, I suggest to visit the following places: El Morro, San Juan Cemetery, The Cathedral, and then just go for a stroll in the old parts of San Juan.
You can do this within 12 hours, and still have time to go back and forth from the airport. That’s one of the reasons why I like San Juan as well. Most of the interesting sites in the old town are within walking distance, and there are lots of restaurants and cute cafes to stop by when you get hungry or just want to people watch.
Written by Alex @ The Swedish Nomad
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA – Atlanta
By This Girl Travels
When you have a few extra hours in Atlanta and the required visas, don’t hang around Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Instead, make your way to the main terminal and catch a ride on the MARTA train for a nominal fare. MARTA will take you straight into downtown Atlanta, where you’ll find a wealth of attractions to entertain you making Atlanta one of the ideal cities for a long layover.
Go to the Five Points station, and switch to the Blue Line going west. Hop off at the Dome/GWCC/Philips/CNN stop, which is the first stop. Trust me, it sounds more complicated than it actually is. Once you leave the train and exit the MARTA station, you will find yourself outside, surrounded by many of Atlanta’s most popular attractions.
In the centre is Centennial Olympic Park, which is surrounded by the World of Coca-Cola, the Center of Civil and Human Rights, the Georgia Aquarium, the College Football Hall of Fame, and the Skyview Ferris wheel. You most likely won’t have time to experience them all, so choose your favourite and get started sightseeing.
When it’s time to head back to the airport, just retrace your steps. Return to the Dome/GWCC/Philips/CNN MARTA station, and get on the Blue Line going east. At the Five Points station (first stop), switch to the Red/Orange Line headed south. You won’t miss your stop, given the airport is the end of the line. Of course, you will have to go through security again to reach your gate, so return early enough to accommodate wait times.
Written by Karon @ This Girl Travels
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA – Charlotte
By The Common Traveler
Frequent flyers traveling on American Airlines often experience a layover in Charlotte, North Carolina, at the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport (CLT). While the airlines try to make your layover as short as possible, if you have a longer stay, or ask for a longer stay, Charlotte is a city worth exploring.
In less than 30 minutes, the green Sprinter bus #5 connects the airport to City Center in Uptown (our downtown area). Buses depart every 20-30 minutes throughout the day and cost $2.20 (exact change) per way. From City Center, you can access either the light rail system or other bus lines. Other great options include taxi, Uber or Lyft, which can be ordered upon landing.
Art fans should take the bus into City Center to a stop within walking distance of several museums located within the Levine Center for the Arts: the Mint Museum Uptown, the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, and the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture. Be inspired by the exhibits or even attend one of their concerts. Take a short ride in an Uber or Lyft from City Center and visit Soul Gastrolounge, self-described as a hip gastropub. Enjoy an eclectic mix of tapas courses or sushi but don’t miss the Asian Glazed Pork Belly Tacos with a watermelon salsa!
Spending an evening in town? The NoDa district, the art and entertainment district, houses galleries and music venues. During nice weather, you will find people wandering around the neighborhood, enjoying local breweries and music shows.
Feeling adventurous and have a longer layover? Visit the U.S. National Whitewater Center. The U.S. Olympic team practice here. In addition to whitewater rafting, experience a climbing wall, mountain bike ride, a ropes course, zipline and more! You’ll end up completely exhausted but in a good way after a day here. And if you’re lucky enough to visit during a special event, your day may end with a concert and fireworks!
Charlotte has something for everyone!
Written by Annick @ The Common Traveler
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA – Chicago
By Have Seat Will Travel
If you have a short day or maybe even just half a day during flights with layovers in Chicago, it is a great city to check out! From both major airports (O’Hare and Midway), you can take the train directly into downtown. In just 20-30 minutes you’ll be in the heart of downtown Chicago, steps away from The Bean, Buckingham Fountain, Navy Pier, Lincoln Zoo and the infamous Chicago Theater. All of these great sights are within walking distance so forget worrying about a rental car! If your feet get tired they have a variety of city bikes you can rent or there’s always Uber.
The Bean (also known as Cloud Gate) is located inside Millenium Park. When we visited in August it was the perfect time of year to wander the park and enjoy everything it had to offer. Just beyond the Bean was a free concert taking place at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion. If you enjoy architecture, this amphitheatre is a must see! The gorgeous waterways are not far and if you walk from Millenium Park to Navy Pier you’ll encounter some great views along the way. Whether you have a day or only an afternoon, take the time and check it out. You won’t be disappointed!
Written by Samantha @ Have Seat Will Travel
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA – Dallas
By Outside Suburbia
Alternatively you can head to Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge for some of the best views of the Dallas skyline. Nearby Trinity Groves has some of the best eats and Instagrammy walls, after which you can go to the Reunion Tower. A classic Dallas postcard spot, Reunion Tower is home to the giant green sphere that defines the Dallas skyline. Take the elevator to the top of the tower for a 360-degree view of the city on the observation deck.
Or you could take a Uber to Kyde Warren Park or visit the Dallas Museum of Arts where general admission is free. The stop at Joule Hotel for some coffee is a must to take a peek at The Eye. Located in downtown Dallas by the boutique Joule Hotel and Café Strada, The Eye at The Joule is a 30-foot eyeball sculpture by Tony Tasset. It’s like the Eye that watches over Dallas and probably has appeared in more selfies than you can imagine.
Written by Priya @ Outside Surburbia
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA – Honolulu
By Always On The Way
One of the perks of having a long layover in Honolulu is that you get the opportunity to explore many people’s dream vacation destination, Hawaii. The airport has public transport on the ground level where you can take the bus #19 and #20 to Waikiki and the hotels. On the flip side, Roberts Hawaii Airport Shuttle takes you directly in front of the hotel within 30 minutes. Once you arrived in Waikiki, you are surrounded by Oahu’s beautiful beaches, shopping areas, delicious international cuisine, and street activities.
To explore more of Oahu, take the #52 bus from Ala Moana to North Shore to discover amazing beaches in Waimea Bay, Sunset Beach, and Turtle Bay, buy lunch at Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck, try the Matsumoto Shave Ice, and watch the sunset at the Sunset Beach. If you want more tranquillity and flexibility, opt for a self-drive around the island, or head to Lanikai Beach and Waimanalo Bay for jaw-dropping gorgeous seascapes and then end your day at the top of Tantalus for the best view of the island. For those interested in hiking, Diamond Head and Koko Head are popular places among visitors and locals.
Please note that Hawaii is the 50th state of the United States. Canadian, USA and EU passport holders will not have any issues travelling to Honolulu. A tourist visa may be required for citizens of other countries. Be sure to check out the official page of the USA immigration and make sure you have the proper entry documents ready before your visit.
Written by Julie @ Always On The Way
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA – Las Vegas
By Nomad By Trade
Las Vegas may be the perfect city to visit on a layover. Unlike most cities, whose airports are typically located way on the outskirts, its main airport – McCarran International – is right on the strip. And I really mean right there. Its perimeter fences are right across the street from the Mandalay Bay and Luxor hotels. The only downside is that free transportation options are limited. There are plenty of taxis around, but the casinos don’t have shuttles, unfortunately. I found that the cheapest way to get from the airport to the Strip was to take a shuttle that made several stops according to passenger requests.
Once you’re on the Strip, you’re free to explore the sights and sounds of Las Vegas. I started at the north end and walked the whole thing. The best part is that there is tons of free stuff to do so you don’t have to spend a fortune if you don’t want to. You can grab a meal at one of the restaurants and then spend your time just walking and taking photos of the casinos and their over-the-top décor. I particularly liked the fountain shows outside of the Bellagio, the replicas of Paris’ famous landmarks at the Paris Hotel and Casino, and the over-the-top New York City scenes at the New York, New York. Once you’re done exploring, the airport is just a short taxi ride away, though it takes deceptively long even from casinos right across from its runways so be sure to leave plenty of time to get back through security.
Written by Kris @ Nomad By Trade
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA – Los Angeles
By Empty Nesters Hit The Road
It would be a shame to have a long layover in Los Angeles and not pop into the city. But it’s a large, sprawling city, so it’s important to know where to go so you’ll be sure to get back to the airport on time. Downtown Los Angeles is optimal for a layover so visitors can see the most in a minimal amount of time.
It’s important to know that public transportation in the City of Angels is still evolving, so for expediency a ride sharing service like Uber or Lyft is the best bet. For about $30 and less than 45 minutes a ride-sharing service can deliver visitors to Downtown Los Angeles.
Consider starting at Olvera Street, the birthplace of LA and home to some great Mexican food. If you’re here on a weekend it will be crowded, but also lively. This pedestrian only street is really scenic and offers great shopping.
If you enjoy street art then the next stop should be the Downtown LA Arts District. After strolling the area to appreciate the murals, head over to the gallery Hauser & Wirth to enjoy some museum quality exhibits–for free. Throughout this area are some of LA’s best restaurants including The Factory Kitchen (Italian), Church and State Bistro (French) and Guerilla Tacos (Mexican). This area has also become well-known for artisan distilleries, so if this interests you, consider visiting Greenbar, Lost Spirits, or The Spirit Guild.
LA is famous–or infamous–for its traffic so allow plenty of time for your return trip to the airport! Hopefully this short layover will inspire a future trip to the City of Angels.
Written by Wendy @ Empty Nesters Hit The Road
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA – Minneapolis
By Chasing Departures
Minneapolis is one of the best cities to have a layover in. One of my favorite things to do when I have an extended period of time in the MSP airport is to hop on the light rail tram to the Mall of America (MoA). Tickets on the light rail are very reasonably priced.
While I will be the first one to admit that I hate shopping and going to a mall seems a little silly for someone that hates to shop, but there are so much more to do at MoA than shop.
One of my favorites is checking out the rides at Nickelodeon Universe. You don’t have to be a kid to have fun at the indoor theme park. The best ride that has remained unchanged since I was a youngster is the Paul Bunyan Log Ride.
The Mall of America also has a variety of unique and quirky stores that are fun to wander through. Another place you can go on a longer layover in Minneapolis is Minnehaha Falls. The waterfall is a quick Uber ride from the airport.
Depending on the amount of time you have for a layover, the Twin Cities has something for everyone!
Written by Niki @ Chasing Departures
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA – New York
By My Tickle Feet
What makes New York City one of the ideal cities for a long layover for travellers is the fact that it has two major airports within the city limits – John F Kennedy and LaGuardia. NYC has great flight connectivity to the rest of the world so chances are you will find cheap flights in and out of the US with a layover in NYC. The top attractions in the Big Apple, as it is fondly called, can easily be seen in a layover here. Since these international airports are in Queens which is a borough of New York across the East river let’s start from Brooklyn which is closest to Queens.
From JFK airport you can take a train to Brooklyn or from LaGuardia it would be easier to just hail a cab. In a short duration, you must not miss the following points of interest:
- Brooklyn: The Brooklyn Bridge, DUMBO area.
- Downtown Manhattan: Freedom Tower, 911 Tribute Center, Charging Bull, Trinity Church, Battery Park to get a glimpse of Statue of Liberty
- Midtown Manhattan: Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center (choose between these two buildings to go on top for an aerial panoramic view), Times Square, Central Park
- Or countless museums – some of which have free entry with a museum pass.
You can even rent a Citibike to explore Central Park. The best way to see everything in NYC is by walking. However since Downtown is quite some distance away from Midtown, I would suggest taking a cab to Empire State and then walk all the spots there on foot. While you are near Times Square don’t forget to eat NYC’s famous chicken over rice at Halal Guy’s food truck.
Written by Richa @ My Tickle Feet
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA – San Francisco
By Practical Wanderlust
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This week, the San Francisco Bay Area has been hit by a series of particularly vicious wildfires. As the fires destroy entire cities in North Bay, we feel its affects all over the Bay Area. The air in our apartment is thick with smoke. As we travel to work, we cough and hack all the way into San Francisco. A literal haze of smoky gloom sits over this beautiful city, and are all in mourning together as the fires continue to rage through communities and homes. . 2017, enough already. Just stop. . We'll be doing what we can to help from here - donating much needed supplies to those who have lost their homes. If you're looking for a way to help, please drop a comment and I'll help you find some resources! . #alwayssf #igerssf #sfliving #howsfseessf #sfblogger #mysanfrancisco #sanfrancisco #sfguide #dothebay #bayarea #baylove #sanfranciscobay #nowrongwaysf #onlyinsf #visitcalifornia #loves_cityscapes #great_captures_city #igsccities #be_one_city #igworldclub #IamATraveler #beautifuldestinations #TravelDiary #LovetoTravel #travelstagram #TripGram #WheretoFindMe #MyTinyAtlas #femaletravelbloggers #PassionPassport
San Francisco is a fantastic place to explore on a layover! .The city geographically tiny: it’s only 7 miles by 7 miles. You can, actually, walk from one end to the other in a day – or see a ton of San Francisco‘s uniquely distinct neighbourhoods on foot. Just be sure to bring a jacket or some layers – each neighbourhood in San Francisco has its own micro-climate. Just one of San Francisco‘s many weird quirks.
Whether you’re flying into Oakland International or San Francisco International Airport, the city is easily accessible. Both airports connect directly with the BART transit system: just look for the signs directing you to the BART station and hop on the next train towards San Francisco. You’ll be in the city in about half an hour.
We recommend hopping off and exploring at Embarcadero Station to explore the beautiful waterfront and some of the best San Francisco attractions. When you disembark at Embarcadero, stop by the Ferry Building for some delicious fancy food & snobby coffee. Here, you can begin a 3 hour self-guided San Francisco walking tour. Or, if you’re short on time and heavy on luggage, take the F-Train up to Fisherman’s Wharf, wave at Alcatraz, walk up to Ghiradelli Square, and catch a trolley down one of San Francisco‘s famously steep hills! Get back on the BART at Powell Station by Union Square to head back to the airport.
Written by Lia @ Practical Wanderlust
Heading into San Fran on a layover at night? Check out this locals view on the best things to do at night.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA – Washington DC
By Kelsey Social
Washington D.C. is a great city for a layover. The iconic monuments never fail to be impressive and the Smithsonian museums are some of the best in the world. If you have a layover at Ronald Reagan National Airport (DCA), leaving the airport is an option by metro or taxi. Be sure you’re layover is at DCA and not Dulles (IAD) or Baltimore (BWI). IAD and BWI airports are about an hour from downtown and will require much more time. DCA is only 3 miles from downtown which makes it very accessible and gives Washington DC the status of one of the ideal cities for a long layover.
Written by Kelsey @ Kelsey Social
So there you have it – no excuses when it comes to exploring North America now! From the best US airports for layovers to San Juan in Puerto Rico you really can tick other tourist spots in North America off your bucket list with a simple extended layover.