If youre traveling over the holidays, chances are youre not looking forward to spending time in a crowded, stressful airport. Faced with the prospect of long waits, deafening public-address systems, and indigestion, you may quickly lose that festive feeling.
Still, airports are not all bad. In fact, based on research Health has done to find Americas healthiest airports, some are actually working hard to make your traveling experience healthier by offering nutritious food, special relaxation zones, walking paths, the latest safety technology, and a whole lot more.
We scored the nations major airports (see how we ranked 'em), and then asked a panel of expert judges to help us choose the top 10. Congratulations to the winners. And to those airports that failed to make our list: Please shape up!
Next Page: No. 1: Phoenix Sky Harbor International [ pagebreak ]
No. 1: Phoenix Sky Harbor International
42 million passengers per year
Our top scorer won rave reviews for its commitment to a comfortable, low-stress experience for fliers. Sky Harbors healthful dining options scored well on the annual Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) airport-food scale, which measures the percentage of eateries with healthy offerings at major airports. Tempting low-fat choices include Yoshis Asian Grills avocado cucumber sushi and edamame, Roadhouse 66 Bars veggie burgers, and Oaxacas vegetable burrito. “Burrito spots are great in airports because they often have several options that are healthy and fast,” says judge Amy Lanou, PhD, a senior nutrition scientist for PCRM.
Also elevating the Phoenix experience is a video paging system that lists and announces names, making it accessible amid the usual din. There are even two pet parks where traveling canines can work off energy before or after a flight. And the airport is always open to change: After a family with a disabled son suggested upgrades, the airport recently added adult changing stations to its family bathrooms. Plus, the airports bathrooms are widely known as some of the nations cleanest.
Next Page: No. 2: Baltimore/Washington International [ pagebreak ]No. 2: Baltimore/Washington International
21 million passengers per year
Baltimore/Washington International now features soft music and comfortable lighting at one of its key security checkpoints, instead of the usual crowding and confusion. The changes are part of the Transportation Security Administrations (TSA) new Checkpoint Evolution program designed to reduce stress and hike safety. “High-stress areas are the perfect camouflage for bad guys,” says TSA spokesperson Christopher White.
To take stress down another notch, walk the BWI Trail, a 12.5-mile hiking-and-biking path that circles the airport and goes through wetlands and forest areas; its accessible from public areas of the terminal. Still stressed? Get a seated massage at the Destination Relaxation spa.
Next Page: No. 3: OHare International (Chicago) [ pagebreak ]No. 3: OHare International (Chicago)
76 million passengers per year
Big airports usually have a great selection of healthy food, Lanou says. Thats one reason why OHare International, the second-busiest airport in the world, is in PCRMs top 10. More than 90% of its 100 restaurants offer low-fat, fiber-rich, veggie-heavy meals. CIBO Express, for instance, has grilled veggie salads and kosher crackers and chips.
OHare also wins points for its super-fun childrens play areas and the fitness facility in its on-site Hilton Hotel, which offers workout equipment plus massages, a sauna, a lap pool, showers, and a Jacuzzi. Day passes are $15.
Next Page: No. 4: Detroit Metropolitan [ pagebreak ]No. 4: Detroit Metropolitan
36 million passengers per year
A white Christmas is wonderfulexcept when it ruins your travel plans or makes them unsafe. Detroit Metro is working hard to limit the risks. The National Weather Service recently recognized the airport as the nations first “StormReady airport system.” Airport police officers, firefighters, and field-maintenance and security personnel are being trained as weather spotters; if theyre aware of approaching storms, they alert airline employees (who consider boarding delays), disseminate information to keep ticket-holders from being stuck at gates without knowing why, and develop evacuation and sheltering plans.
And should the weather delay you in Detroit (always a possibility during the winter), finding a healthy meal is easy. The airport partners with local health organizations to flag heart-healthy dishes on restaurant menus. Sushi, anyone?
Next Page: No. 5: Denver International [ pagebreak ]No. 5: Denver International
50 million passengers per year
The largest airport in the United States can also boast about its energy efficiency. Acres of solar panels provide enough electricity to run half the airports train system. The green electricity dramatically reduces carbon emissionsequal to the impact of 255,000 gallons of gasoline (enough to power 500 cars for a year).
The airport also has a recycling system built into the runways and taxiways to collect 70% of the glycol used to de-ice aircraft. “Youve got to tip your hat to Denver International for establishing themselves as a model,” says judge Steve Howards, executive director of the Clean Airport Partnership, a nonprofit group devoted to improving environmental quality and energy efficiency at airports.
Denver also receives high marks for its close-to-75% on-time arrival and departure rates, the second-largest public art collection in Colorado, free Wi-Fi, and healthy restaurant choices.
Next Page: No. 6: Washington National [ pagebreak ]
No. 6: Washington National
19 million passengers per year
Anything that helps you take your mind off the fact that youre in an airport waiting to be crammed into a tiny airplane seat is a good thing. The museum-quality artwork at Ronald Reagan Washington National is the perfect diversion. Architect Cesar Pelli integrated 30 worksstained glass, marble and glass mosaics, terrazzo, cast bronze, hammered aluminum and copper, and traditional paint on board and canvasinto terminals B and C.
If your flights got a major delay, you can even get some fresh (fume-free) air at this airport: Try the walking-and-biking trail that goes through the airport grounds; fliers can access it by exiting terminal C. Our judge Tom Parsons, CEO and founder of BestFares.com, also gives Washington National props for being one of the easiest airports to get around in because of its one big terminal.
Next Page: No. 7: Dallas/Fort Worth International [ pagebreak ]No. 7: Dallas/Fort Worth International
60 million passengers per year
Theres no better place for a family layover than Dallas/Fort Worth International (DFW), which has two 600-square-foot play areas featuring padded airplanes, taxis, and luggage for climbing, plus a TV showing kids cartoons.
DFW also scores high for its green fleet. Of the airports 580 vehicles, from lawnmowers to buses, 540 are hybrids or run on compressed natural gas. And thanks to restaurants like Tequilerias, which serves nutritious options such as jicama and mango salads, the airport stands tall in PCRMs food rankings.
Next Page: No. 8: Logan International (Boston) [ pagebreak ]
No. 8: Logan International (Boston)
28 million passengers per year
If youre a green fanatic, youll love this: Logans terminal A, its biggest, is the worlds first airport terminal certified by the U.S. Green Building Council for using the highest green-construction standards. It features roofing that reflects heat, special storm-water filtration devices, low-flow faucets, waterless urinals, self-dimming lights, recycled construction materials, and more.
And Logans compressed-natural-gas shuttle buses prevent 7 tons of pollution emissions from reaching the atmosphere and causing smog every year, the equivalent of taking nearly 800 cars off the road. You care more about comfort than the environment? Logan pampers all weary travelers with 50 wooden rocking chairs, 16 decorated by local artists.
Next Page: No. 9: Portland International (Oregon) [ pagebreak ]No. 9: Portland International (Oregon)
15 million passengers per year
Youd expect an airport in the crunchy Northwest to go all-out for the environment. Portland doesnt disappoint with a paved bicycle-and-walking path that links local hotels, businesses, and regional hiking and biking trails to the airport. The airport offers free covered bicycle parking adjacent to the terminal too.
Our judges also laud Portlands recycling of cooking oil into biodiesel fuel, the abundance of live trees in the terminals, and the musiciansmostly localstationed throughout the airport to lower the stress level. “Loudspeaker noise on top of ambient noise is really hard on your senses,” Lanou says. “The whole traveling experience is a lot easier when you know you dont have to listen to just PA–system announcements.”
Not surprisingly, Portlands Laurelwood brew pub offers certified-organic beers. And the airport gets high marks for on-time departures: 80-plus percent in the latest Transportation Department annual reporting period.
Next Page: No. 10: Philadelphia International [ pagebreak ]No. 10: Philadelphia International
32 million passengers per year
If you get sick at the airport, what do you do? In Philadelphia you can head straight to the new AeroClinic, where nurse practitioners and physician assistants can diagnose and treat minor conditions like colds, allergies, and flu. The facility also offers well-care checks for people who have high blood pressure, cholesterol, thyroid problems, and diabetes.
If youre feeling fine, get a dose of heart-healthy wine at Vino Volo, the airports new wine-tasting bar. And if youre traveling on a Saturday or Sunday, bring your laptop because Philly International features free Wi-Fi weekends to help you keep your mind off the stresses to come.