Layovers could be a very monotonous experience, but if you find yourself at the loggerheads of the same, and you’re stuck at the San Francisco Airport, there are plenty of things to do here. From exploring nearby attractions to indulging in retail therapy or local cuisine, SFO keeps you on your toes and entertained.
In this article, we will enlighten you to make the most of your time while highlighting the top 10 things to do during layover in San Francisco Airport. Here’s the San Francisco Airport layover Guide for you!
Love skygazing and planes? Then, check out Sky Terrace!
If you have a long layover in San Francisco and enjoy plane watching, be sure to visit the Sky Terrace – the outdoor observation deck at Terminal 2. Here you can experience the breathtaking panoramic vistas of the airfield and beyond. This vantage offers a fantastic view of the bustling activity and all 4 runways at SFO.
One of the top things to do in SFO where you can relax in the state-of-art seating areas that offer a great view of the landscape. While you’re there, don’t miss the opportunity to explore the SFO Museum’s exhibition. Partake into the ongoing “The 1954 San Francisco International Airport Terminal,”installed at the Sky Terrace lobby. This interactive exhibition showcases the history and architecture of the previous facility, which was the functional SFO terminal in the 1940s, that occupied the same spot where SkyTerrace now stands.
Located at Terminal 2 near pre-security, the SkyTerrace is accessible to the general public between 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Entry is free. It is open for the general public from Friday to Monday every week. You can bring your own food and beverages while enjoying your long layover in San Francisco airport. Please note that smoking is not allowed here.
Browse the Public Art at SFO
Explore your artistic side to make the most of your layover in San Francisco. SFO takes a hearty pride in its extraordinary public art program that showcases a remarkable collection of paintings, sculptures, and artifacts that reflects the vibrant and diverse culture of the city.
There are more than 165 captivating pieces in a range of styles and mediums. One such is Janet Echelman’s breathtaking ceiling installation, “Every Beating Second,” which grabs the attention of the passing visitors with its mesmerizing beauty. More than that, there are over 30 commissioned and purchased artworks at Harvey Milk Terminal 1. These installations further enhance the airport’s vibrant culture, thus immersing travelers in a world where creativity and imagination intertwine.
Popular Art Installations & Exhibitions at SFO Airport
One of the artistic things to do in SFO Airport is to check-out the following installation. We have curated a terminal-wise list of ongoing artistic exhibitions and installations –
|Four Corners||Unfolding Space (in Gold) 2020||Departure Level 2|
|Voyage||Connector – Level 2|
|Flight Patterns||Boarding Area C – Level 2|
|Split||Departures – Level 2|
|Four Corners||Departures – Level 2|
|Orion||Departures – Level 2|
|Terminal 2||Flourish||Terminal 2 entrance|
|Long Arc of Day||Departures – Level 2|
|Cilindro Costruito||Departures – Level 2|
|Welcome North, Welcome South, Welcome East, Welcome West||Baggage Claim – Level 1|
|San Francisco Bay Area Bird Encounters||Children’s Play Area – Level 2|
|Air Over Under||Exterior – Level 2|
|Terminal 3||Behind Ted McMann’s Garage||Boarding Area E – Level 2|
|The Hesperides||Boarding Area E – Level 2|
|Billboard Series||Boarding Area F – Level 2|
|Two Wings for Wall and Person||Elevator Lobby – Level 1|
|Sky||Boarding Area E – Level 2|
|Outside Terminal||Pohina||Long-Term Parking|
|Coding (Sky stained glass installation)||Long-Term Parking|
|This Infinite Gateway of Time and Circumstance||Grand Hyatt, Level 4|
|Circadian Transit||Grand Hyatt, Level 4|
Discover Nearby Attractions
A lengthy layover can unexpectedly turn into a chance to explore the attractions that San Francisco has to offer. Fortunately, SFO provides convenient access to the city’s popular financial district, which is approximately a 30-minute ride. There are several transportation options available that let you accomplish your ‘Things to do near San Francisco airport’ goals. You can have access to taxis, rental cars, ridesharing services, and the BART public transit system.
If you’re in for SFO overnight layover you can conveniently store your luggage at the Airport Travel Agency located at the Main Hall of international terminal.
What are the popular attractions near SFO Airport?
San Francisco has plenty of attractions to explore. Some of the popular things to do near SFO airport includes-
- Explore the vibrant Fisherman’s Wharf – Take a BART train to Market Street, followed by a delightful ride on the Powell/Hyde cable car route. At Fisherman’s Wharf House,observe the sunbathing sea lions on the wooden docks or simply indulge in sampling the local cuisine. This is where you get the awe-inspiring vistas of the Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge.
- Visit the Lombard Street – This is where you can leisurely stroll and indulge into the panoramic views of the cityscape. Thanks to its mesmerizing and winding streets which are renowned for their steep inclines.
- Ride the cable car – San Francisco owes much of its charm to the iconic cable car system, which has played a significant role in shaping the city’s identity. Hop aboard one of these historic vehicles and embark on a journey through the streets of San Francisco, exploring various routes that showcase the city’s unique character.
Sample Local Cuisine
There are plenty of things to do at SFO Airport, one such is the vibrant food scene at the airport. The airport offers a taste of the city’s culinary delights.From gourmet sandwiches to international cuisine, there’s something to satisfy every palate.
Some of the major outlets include –
|Napa Farms||Terminal 2|
|Burger Joint||Terminal 2|
|Café X||Terminal 3|
|Sidewalk Juice||Terminal 3|
|Joe & The Juice||International Terminal G|
|Dolores Park Cafe||Terminal 2|
|Proper Food||Harvey Milk Terminal 1|
|Proposition Chicken||Terminal 3|
|Koi Palace Express||Terminal 3|
|Bacon Bacon||Terminal 3|
|Dogpatch Bakehouse & Caffè||Terminal 3|
|Gott’s Roadside||International Terminal A|
|Peet’s Coffee||Terminal 2|
|Roasting Plant Coffee||Ed Lee International Main Hall|
|Potrero Grill||Ed Lee International Main Hall|
|Bistrot Bay Area||Harvey Milk Terminal 1|
|San Francisco Giants ClubHouse||Terminal 3|
|Koi Palace Express||Ed Lee International Main Hall|
Go Shopping at SFO Airport
When it comes to satisfying your desire for retail therapy, SFO offers an impressive selection of shops that accomplish your ‘SFO airport things to do’ list. Whether you’re in search of luxury brands or prefer browsing through local boutiques, the airport has something for everyone.
Discover the enticing duty-free stores, where you can find tax-free deals on designer goods. You can also peruse the charming collection of souvenirs and gifts thus allowing you to bring a piece of San Francisco home with you.
Which shopping stores are available at SFO Airport?
|Gucci||International Terminal A|
|Brookstone||Ed Lee International Main Hall|
|DFS Watches, Jewelry & Accessories (WJA)||International Terminal G|
|Coach||International Terminal A|
|See’s Candies||Terminal 3|
|DFS Sunglasses and Watches||International Terminal A|
|The Chocolate Market||Terminal 3|
|Jo Malone/Tom Ford||Terminal 3|
|DFS Duty Free||International Terminal A|
NOTE: This is not the exhaustive list. To know more outlets, visit the SFO airport’s website.
Relax at the Lounges
One of the most relaxing things to do in San Francisco airport is finding solace and comfort in its lounges. Indulge in a quiet atmosphere, away from the crowds, as you catch up on some work or simply indulge in complimentary meals and beverages. For instance, there’s Jetblue Airways San Francisco Airport Terminal which is the home to numerous lounges.
List of lounges at SFO Airport with their locations-
|Lounge||Location||Hours Of Operation|
|Air France – KLM Lounge – Temporary||International Terminal A, near Gate A1, Level 4||Sunday – Saturday: 11:30 am-3:00 pm|
|Alaska Airlines||Terminal 2, Retail Street, Level 2||Sunday – Saturday: 5:00 am-11:00 pm|
|American Airlines Admirals Club||Harvey Milk Terminal 1, Near Gate B13, Level 2||Sunday – Saturday: 4:30 am-11:30 pm|
|The Centurion Lounge||Terminal 3, near Gate F2, Level 2||Sunday – Saturday: 5:00 am-9:00 pm|
|British Airways Lounge||International Terminal A, between Gates A5 and A9||Sunday – Saturday: 5:00 am-11:30 am, 1:30 pm-6:45 pm|
|China Airlines Lounge||International Terminal A, near Gate A1, Level 4||Sunday – Saturday: 8:00 pm-12:30 am|
|Delta Sky Club||Terminal 2, near Gate C3, Level 2||Sunday – Monday: 4:30 am-10:30 pm|
|Emirates Lounge||International Terminal A, between Gates A2 and A6||Sunday – Saturday: 12:45 pm-4:45 pm|
|Japan Airlines Sakura Lounge||International Terminal A, near Gate A1, Level 4||Sunday – Saturday: 10:20 am-2:50 pm|
|United Club||Terminal 3, Rotunda of the F Gates, Level 2||Sunday – Saturday: 5:00 am-12:00 am|
|United Club||Terminal 3, near Gate E2, Level 3||Sunday – Saturday: 5:45 am-10:30 pm|
|United Global First Lounge||International Terminal G, between Gates G6 and G9||Sunday – Saturday: 7:00 am-10:30 pm|
|United Polaris Lounge||International Terminal G, near Gate G1||Sunday – Saturday: 6:30 am-10:30 pm|
|Virgin Atlantic ClubHouse Lounge||International Terminal A, near Gate A1, Level 5||Sunday – Saturday: 1:00 pm-9:30 pm|
Some Other Places to Relax
San Francisco International Airport offers a variety of art installations, exhibits, and amenities to keep you engaged and entertained during your layover.
Visit the Yoga Room, available in Terminal 3 and Terminal 2. One of the top things to do in SFO airport, these dedicated spaces offer tranquil vibes that let you stretch, meditate, and rejuvenate. If you’re a fan of aircraft, make sure to explore the Aviation Museum & Library in the Ed Lee International Main Hall.
Lastly, do not miss out on SFO Museum Exhibits located in Terminal 2 and Terminal 3-
|Kids’ Spot||Harvey Milk Terminal 1|
|Yoga Room||Terminal 3|
|SFO Museum Exhibits||Terminal 2|
|Christian Science Reading Room||Terminal 2|
|SFO Museum Exhibits||Terminal 3|
|Yoga Room||Terminal 2|
|Shower Facilities & Nap Rooms||Ed Lee International Main Hall|
|Kids’ Spot||Terminal 3|
|Kids’ Spot||Terminal 2|
|Kids’ Spot||Terminal 3|
|Outdoor Terrace||International Terminal G|
|SFO Museum Exhibits||Harvey Milk Terminal 1|
|Aviation Museum & Library||Ed Lee International Main Hall|
|Video Arts||Ed Lee International Main Hall|
|SFO Museum Exhibits||Ed Lee International Main Hall|
Visit the Unknown Museum
One of the best things to do in San Francisco Airport is to experience the Unknown Museum. Here you can have a glimpse into America’s history and culture. You can reimagine your experience here like that captivating movie “Fantastic Voyage,” where scientists ventured inside a human body. Similarly, a visit to this unique museum is a complete immersion in contemporary art and American southern culture to the core..
Prepare to get mesmerized by a vast display of daily-life objects and souvenirs which are collected from the late 18 th century to the 1940s. As you explore this serene space, the museum invites you to reflect on the past, triggering the nostalgic recollections, and encouraging you to form your own interpretation of the past artifacts.
Here you will discover one-of-a-kind installations that captivate the imagination. These include Colonel Sanders statues, captivating dioramas nestled within aquariums, hollowed-out TV sets, and vintage mannequins adorned in fashionable attire from the mid-century era. The Unknown Museum currently operates as a private museum and a lending archive at Departures Level 2, Gallery 2A.
Enjoy Luxurious Stay at the Airport with Stunning Views of the Bay
If you are looking for something away from the bustling and peak crowds at SFO, you can book your stay at the luxurious on-Airport hotel offering unparalleled views of the bay. Situated conveniently at the entrance of SFO, this prestigious hotel is easily accessible from all terminals.
This is one of the perfect things to do in SFO airport if you want to alleviate stress, jetlagged and simply want to rejuvenate before your upcoming flight. There are over 350 elegant rooms, including 22 suites at your disposal. There’s also a Business & Conference Centre which is perfect for gatherings of any scale. There’s also a state-of-the-art 1,500-square-foot fitness center, complete with a dedicated yoga center.
Partake in Day Trips from SFO
For travelers with a layover in San Francisco of 4 hours or more, there are plenty of day trips available. Provided it is one of the perfect things to do around SFO airport.
There are day trips available for San Mateo County where you can take BART to the Millbrae Station and transfer to the Caltrain rail service. The ride typically takes around 12 minutes.
|Destination||BART Station||Travel time from SFO|
|The Mission District||16th Street, 24th Street||25 minutes|
|Civic Center||Civic Center||28 minutes|
|Union Square||Powell Street||29 minutes|
|Chinatown & North Beach||Montgomery Street||30 minutes|
|South of Market & Yerba Buena||Embarcadero, Montgomery Street||30 minutes|
|Embarcadero & Financial District||Embarcadero||33 minutes|
|San Mateo County|
|Palo Alto||Palo Alto||45 minutes|
|Redwood City||Redwood City||40 minutes|
|San Mateo||San Mateo||20 minutes|
Indulge into the extraordinary things on your layover at San Francisco Airport. Here you can embark on the larger-than-life experience that will leave you awe-inspiring and leave behind the everlasting cherished memories.
Who are we?
Travellers can access all the assistance and services they require through ContactForSupport. Instead of sitting on hold for a long time, passengers can just call our customer service representatives and expect a quick response. For instance, call us right away if you need assistance finding or reserving any services at the SFO airport to experience a hassle-free journey.
Frequently Asked Questions
Discover iconic attractions such as the mesmerizing Golden Gate Bridge, lively Fisherman’s Wharf, and historic Alcatraz Island.
Explore captivating art installations, gaze planes’ take-off and landing at SFO airport, immerse yourself in a world of shopping and gastronomic delights.
Yes, SFO features nap rooms that come with shower facilities, toiletries, and ironing facilities.
SFO provides designated sleeping areas where you can rest and recharge during your layover.
Explore the airport’s art exhibits, dine at local restaurants for a taste of San Francisco cuisine, and relax at an airport lounge or outdoor terrace to make the most of your 4-hour layover at SFO.
SFO offers various hangout spots, including the Sky Terrace, and the dining & shopping areas.
With 8 hours to spare, you can indulge in exploring the airport, including dining and shopping to your heart’s content. You can also explore the city to visit the nearby attractions.
Yes. However, be mindful of the time required for immigration and transportation to and from the city.
You have several options to make the most of your time. There are plenty of dining and shopping establishments or you can simply head to one of its many lounges.
On a 10 hour layover, consider visiting iconic attractions such as the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, or Fisherman’s Wharf. There are also plenty of Day Trip tours available for San Francisco and San Mateo County.