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The (Airport) Nightmare Before Christmas

  1. Travel Delay
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    Travel Delay

    Don’t let an extended travel delay ruin your vacation. Avoid terminal hell and take in these nearby attractions.
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  2. New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International
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    New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International

    Kill time during a long delay by visiting Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. From the airport it’s about 10 miles to Liberty State Park (1 Audrey Zapp Dr., Jersey City). Ferrying to Ellis Island ($12) and taking in the sight of Lady Liberty can be done in an hour. The park also houses one of the area’s coolest museums, the Liberty Science Center ($15.75; 222 Jersey City Blvd.). Refuel at Tommy’s (900 Second Ave., Elizabeth) for true Jersey takeout: the Italian hotdog.

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  3. Dallas Fort Worth International
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    Dallas Fort Worth International

    Head 20 minutes south to Arlington, home of the new Cowboys Stadium (900 E. Randol Mill Rd.). Sign up for a VIP tour ($27.50) of the venue, which gives you a peek at the locker rooms, press boxes, and artwork from the art collection that decorates the $1.2 billion stadium’s walls. Arlington is also home to Potager Cafe (315 S. Mesquite St.). Slow Food apostle Cynthia Chippindale serves locally sourced, home-cooked food. Prices are suggested, but it’s up to patrons to determine the meal’s worth.
    Ronald Martinez
  4. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International
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    Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International

    Hop on the MARTA, Atlanta’s commuter railway, for a 16-minute ride to the Georgia Aquarium ($26; 225 Baker St. NW). With 8 million gallons of water and more than 100,000 species of marine life—including 77 live sharks—it’s the world’s largest aquarium. Close by, take a behind-the-scenes tour of another “world’s largest,” the CNN Center ($13; 1 CNN Center), which houses the network’s newsroom. Afterwards, grab a fried shrimp po’ boy ($13) at Glenn’s Kitchen (110 Marietta St.).
    Streeker Lecka
  5. Baltimore-Washington International
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    Baltimore-Washington International

    To know real crab cakes, you must eat them in Maryland. You can get great ones two miles from the airport at G&M Restaurant (804 Hammonds Ferry Rd., Linthicum Heights), but a better bet is going 20 minutes east of BWI to Faidley Seafood (203 North Paca St., Baltimore). This Lexington Market spot has the chunkiest crab cakes ($13) in town—or, some attest, in the world. Later, head to Baltimore’s touristy Inner Harbor, where the Maryland Science Center ($13; 601 Light St.) is located.
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  6. San Francisco International
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    San Francisco International

    Coyote Point Recreation Area (1701 Coyote Point Dr., San Mateo), a 670-acre complex with hiking trails, beaches, and a wildlife museum, is an eight-minute drive south from SFO. Take a jog on the beach, where you can watch windsurfers and kayakers set against views of San Francisco. On the way back to the airport, stop at In-N-Out Burger (11 Rollins Rd., Millbrae). Splurge on a $3.32 double-double—that’s a two-patty burger, you East Coast philistines. It beats anything at the SFO food court.
    Ezra Shaw
  7. Chicago’s Midway International
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    Chicago’s Midway International

    From Midway, it’s a 20-minute drive east to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie School-style Robie House ($15; 5757 South Woodlawn Ave., Chicago). From there, tour the Museum of Science and Industry ($20.95; 5700 South Lake Shore Dr.), home to objects such as the world’s largest pinball machine. Try nearby New Orleans-style restaurant the Big Easy (1660 East 55th St.). It serves a selection of microbrews that you won’t find at an airport watering hole.
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  8. Miami International
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    Miami International

    Delayed travelers may not have time to play nine holes on one of the five championship golf courses at Doral Golf Resort and Spa (4400 N.W. 87th Ave., Miami). However, the complex—just a 12-minute taxi ride west from the airport—allows antsy travelers another relaxant: Doral’s driving range has an unlimited-balls policy. The resort also has a 52,000 square-foot spa, where you can book a 50-minute citrus-mango scrub ($130), and a new Latin-themed steakhouse, Mesazul.
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  9. Detroit Metro
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    Detroit Metro

    You can explore automobile history at the Henry Ford Museum in suburban Dearborn ($15; 20900 Oakwood Blvd.), just 16 minutes from the airport. The collection includes the Rosa Parks bus and President John F. Kennedy’s limo. Tour the Ford Rouge Factory, where the company has been making cars since 1917. Dearborn is also home to the Arab American National Museum (13624 Michigan Ave.)—and fantastic baba ghanoush at Al-Ameer (12710 West Warren Ave.).
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  10. Sky Mall Alternatives
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    Sky Mall Alternatives

    Don’t let a grounded flight affect holiday shopping. ­Purchase presents before pushback at these airport boutiques.

    1. SFMOMA MuseumStore, San Francisco International
    Located in the airport’s Main Hall, this shop has everything from stocking stuffers to a $242 beaded glass necklace. Proceeds benefit SFMOMA.

    2. Powell’s Books, Portland (ORE.) International
    This Portland-based chain is the world’s largest independent bookstore, with an impressive selection of new, used, and out-of-print titles.

    3. Muji To Go, New York City’s JFK International
    Japan’s utilitarian design company has a location in JFK’s International Terminal. Pick up a ­souvenir such as the $14 New York in a Bag.
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