Where to expand your horizons and shrink your waistline at PHX
1 of 9Courtesy of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
The best of the terminals
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX for short), is a bit of an odd desert duck. Built in the determinedly intimidating style that was Brutalism, it’s no beauty. It is also missing Terminal 1—numbers 2, 3, and 4 are in place but #1? Stuck in a security line maybe. But no matter—you’ll find your flight easily enough. (It probably leaves from Terminal 4, the Barry M. Goldwater Terminal. 80% of flights do.) Once you’re inside the airport, you won’t see the ugly concrete exterior. You’ll see ample eating options, beautiful art, and even an exercise course specially designed for stressed travelers.
2 of 9Courtesy of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
If you don’t have much time for noshing, no worries. Some of the area’s best restaurants have airport satellite locations that serve fast eats. In Terminal 2, Barrio Avion (pictured) can fill you up in a hurry. This spot is the creation of Phoenix culinary hero Silvana Salcido Esparza and offers the kinds of spicy, flavorful Mexican and Southwestern plates she grew up eating. If you’re in Terminal 4 and require a sandwich, solve your problem the way locals have been doing for over 20 years now: Grab a Hawaii 5-Oh! (ham and pineapple) from Dilly’s Deli. If you’re really in the mood for meat, Modern Burger serves gourmet hamburgers. Try yours with a fried egg on top. (They have salads, too.)
3 of 9Courtesy of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
If you’re lucky enough to have a comfortable amount of time before your flight in Terminal 2, sit yourself down at the Copper Plate Grill. Hearty American favorites like Reuben sandwiches, burgers, and shakes will fill your time and your belly. In Terminal 4, pedigreed Barrio Café is a top pick. It’s a sister restaurant to quick-service Barrio Avion, and is also part of local hero Silvana Salcido Esparza’s restaurant empire. The plates are far more sophisticated than at your average Mexican place and more ambitious most airport eats. Another good option in that terminal is Cowboy Ciao (pictured). The establishment offers upscale Southwestern flair with a European accent in dishes like "ris-OtT-o": over-the-top risotto containing grilled corn and bacon.
4 of 9Courtesy of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
Beer, wine, & cocktails
Options in Terminals 2 and 3 are not the strongest. If you’re there, find the time to Sky Train it over to Terminal 4, which has a number of drinking establishments where you can dull the pain of flight delays and CNN overload. Blanco Tacos & Tequila (pictured) offers exactly what’s advertised. There’s a full bar but the emphasis is on agave, with more than 30 tequilas on the menu. For something a little less hard-hitting, find a stool at the Four Peaks Brewery. This airport outpost of a Tempe, AZ company is a fine place to try a desert micro-brew; sample anything from a white ale to molasses-black oatmeal stout.
5 of 9Courtesy of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
Travel is tiring and stressful, and sometimes a little indulgence is what it takes to get through the day. Go ahead and give in between flights. Terminal 2 has an outpost of Scottsdale-based Paradise Bakery & Café. Forget Cinnabon—the cinnamon rolls here are excellent. Terminal 4 is where the wealth of options are. It has it’s own Paradise Bakery & Café, for starters. Grab a cookie, roll, or red velvet cupcake at Tammy Coe Cakes. Or, if your vices are more dairy-oriented, visit the counter serving local favorite Sweet Republic’s handcrafted artisan ice cream (pictured).
6 of 9Courtesy of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
There is only one real option in Terminal 2, but it’s tried-and-true: Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. Terminal 3 is light on good java options, too. Go ahead and patronize Starbucks here. Terminal 4 has quite a few options, including two Peet’s stands and a brace of Starbucks. But we recommend Cartel Coffee Lab (pictured). The name may sound forbidding, but the brew is delicious and roasted right here in the Paradise Valley.
7 of 9Courtesy of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
Most airports are set up to help you pack on the pounds rather than get fit. But not Phoenix Sky Harbor. Here you can get some exercise while you wait for your flight. The Sky Harbor Fitness Trail is a marked route between Terminal 4’s furthest-flung gates (A30 to D8) that extends just over a mile. Hoof it with your carry-on and you’re getting some serious cardio. Bonus: While the airport itself is not beautiful, the surrounding area is and you’ll catch a glimpse of a lot of Paradise Valley landmarks on your hike, from Camelback Mountain to South Mountain Park. Look for blue signs at eye level marking the route; maps are available at paging kiosks. Bonus: There are water-bottle filling stations along the route. Stash an empty water bottle in your carry-on and refill it as you get parched.
8 of 9Courtesy of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
When shopping for souvenirs, skip the shot glasses and playing cards and go straight for the things you can’t buy in other parts of the country. Native American art fits that bill perfectly, and Indigenous is a great place to shop. (There are locations in Terminals 2 and 4.) Browse authentic baskets, pottery, and jewelry by contemporary artists. In Terminal 3’s Incredibly Arizona, you can outfit sports fans back home with T-shirts sporting logos of Arizona teams both professional and collegiate. In Terminal 4, Earth Spirit (pictured) is not unlike Indigenous. The sculptures, glass, and ornaments are a little more on the whimsical side, and about 10% of the stock is by non-Native American artists. For fun gifts that could only come from Arizona, shop AmAZing (Terminal 4). Surely someone back home wants Southwestern hot sauce, or a living desert cactus?
9 of 9Courtesy of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
Lots of airports have art displays, but Sky Harbor’s is more ambitious than most. The Phoenix Airport Museum’s permanent collection includes more than 600 pieces, and the airport borrows additional artwork all the time from local museums and galleries. Exhibits, spread across every terminal, change roughly every six months or so, so we can’t tell you exactly what you’ll see. Past installations have included an exhibition on how Navajo textiles evolved after European contact, contemporary textile displays, and one that shows artists exploring the boundaries of what’s considered drawing.