We’re probably not telling you anything you don’t already know when we tell you that “going to the airport” isn’t exactly on everyone’s bucket list. But just like every destination is different, so is every airport. And just as navigating a new city is challenging in and of itself, so is navigating a new airport. How do I get from one terminal to the next? What are the best airport restaurants? Is there anything to do if I have a long layover?
If you’re anything like us, these are the types of questions you have that perhaps you don’t get push notifications for. But never fear, because we have answers to your airport questions with our series of guides to the world’s top airports. Today we bring you the TripIt airport guide to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX).
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is conveniently located just four miles east of downtown Phoenix, making for a quick 10- to 15-minute drive to and from the airport. Public transit is available via the Valley Metro bus Route 13 (stopping at Terminal 2) and Valley Metro Rail, which offers transportation into Phoenix, Tempe, and Mesa. Valley Metro Rail is accessible via the free PHX Sky Train to the 44th Street & Washington Station. Otherwise, if renting a car, there’s the off-site Rental Car Center, which is served by complimentary shuttles that stop at the baggage claim levels of each terminal.
Of the airport’s 116 gates, more than 80 of them are in Terminal 4. The largest and busiest terminal, Terminal 4 is served by Southwest, American and most of the airport’s international airlines. Additional domestic airlines serve the other two terminals, Terminal 2 and Terminal 3.
As PHX’s largest terminal, Terminal 4 also has the highest concentration of restaurants. This includes familiar places like Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Panera Bread. Travelers will also find many local and regional restaurants in Terminal 4, such as Los Taquitos and Blanco Tacos & Tequila for Mexican food, Olive & Ivy for Mediterranean, Wildflower Bread Company, Humble Pie, Matt’s Big Breakfast, La Grande Orange, and Zookz for sandwiches. Terminal 4 also has a number of restaurants pre-security, including Blue Mesa Tacos, Chelsea’s Kitchen, another Wildflower Bread Company location, Smashburger, Cheuvront Restaurant and Wine Bar, and Joe’s Real BBQ. For travelers with some time to spare, it’s hard to beat Terminal 4 for its food options.
While terminals 2 and 3 don’t have the amount of restaurants, they still boast some favorites, such as Shake Shack (Terminal 3), OHSO, The Habit Burger Grill (Terminal 3), and The Parlor (Terminal 3)—which was voted the best pizza in Arizona by Food Network. You can view a full list of restaurants on Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport’s website.
Not to be outdone by dining, PHX offers a variety of great Phoenix drinking establishments, as well. Several local craft breweries and distilleries have locations in the airport, including SanTan Brewing (Terminal 3), Four Peaks Brewing (Terminal 4), and OHSO (Terminal 2 & 4), which is part-brewery and part-distillery. Elsewhere, there’s The Refuge Coffee Food & Wine (Terminal 4) and Cheuvront Restaurant & Wine Bar (pre-security, Terminal 4) for wine drinkers, and Blanco Tacos & Tequila (Terminal 4) for margs and tequila. Additionally, many of the restaurants listed above also serve beer, wine, and cocktails.
One of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport’s biggest perks is its convenience to downtown Phoenix and the surrounding area. Within just 10-15 minutes, travelers with a layover or a few hours of downtime could be to Papago Park, which is home to the Phoenix Zoo, Desert Botanical Garden, golf courses, and hiking trails. Also nearby is the Heard Museum, Phoenix Art Museum, and Chase Field, where the Arizona Diamondbacks play.
The airport itself also has some unique amenities, such as the Phoenix Airport Museum, featuring art galleries, exhibits and historical collections throughout the terminals. Travelers, meanwhile, can decompress at XpresSpa in Terminal 4, or do a little retail therapy at any number of shops, including Tumi, Brookstone, Johnston & Murphy, and L’Occitane.
Travelers flying any of the major domestic airlines will find airline lounges throughout Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. The United Club is in Terminal 2, Delta Sky Club in Terminal 3, and several American Airlines Admirals Club locations in Terminal 4. For international travelers, the British Airways Lounge is in Terminal 4, too. An American Express Centurion Lounge is coming to PHX later this year.
Use TripIt’s interactive airport maps in the app to discover shop, restaurant, and bar locations. You’ll also have everything you need to navigate your way with estimated walk times and step-by-step directions.
Spencer is a seasoned food, drink, and travel writer who has written for publications from Outside Magazine to Travel + Leisure and Los Angeles Times. When he’s not traveling, he’s perfecting his favorite cocktails in his home bar. He chronicles his adventures (and cocktails) on his travel site, Whiskey Tango Globetrot.