Stretch out, take a walk or have a drink like a local: how to make the best out of your (unexpected) time on the SF Peninsula.
We all know the feeling: that sinking knot in the pit of your stomach as you inch closer to the departures board only to see that your flight has been delayed. Even an extra hour in the airport can feel like a lifetime as your long-awaited vacation gets bumped back or the comfort of home remains still out of reach. Instead, you’re now left to navigate $17 pre-made sandwiches in an ever-shifting sea of strangers (or, perhaps worse— your own family).
So whether you’d like to know where to find a peaceful place in the airport (aka, not your gate) to simply have a quiet thought or you just want to make the most out of your…let’s say…newfound bonus hours on the Peninsula, we’ve got your SFO layover mapped out for you.
SFO Aviation Museum & Library Reading Room. SFO Museum has put on some outstanding exhibits, and it’s a great place to escape airport hustle. The Aviation Museum has a reading room that’s available for drop-in use. (The library is available by appointment only, so if you know you’ll be in SFO and would like to do some research, call ahead.) If you’ve been dealt a surprise layover, check the reading room out: it’s a quiet space to charge your phone and pass the time somewhere more comfortable than a chair at your gate. If you’re unable to access the room itself, have a stroll through the aviation museum instead; you won’t be disappointed.
International Terminal, SFO
SFO’s Yoga Rooms. Somehow we weren’t surprised to discover that SFO’s list of amenities includes two places to practice yoga. Though it’s not exactly a secret — there are signs pointing passersby to the rooms— their presence is a little understated, which is pretty much on brand for their function, too.
The rooms work as very compact yoga studios, complete with hardwood floors and mirrored wall. Admission is free, as is use of the complimentary mats and pillows inside (in case, you know, you’re not someone who travels with a yoga mat in hand at all times). It’s a reprieve from the unavoidably fluorescent, hurried nature of airports.
Terminal 2, Boarding Area D, Post-Security
Terminal 3, Boarding Area E near Gate 69, Post-Security
Other ways to pass time without leaving the airport: visit SFO’s Video Arts Program on the departures level of the International Terminal, which is currently showcasing a range of (family-friendly) short films under 15 minutes. Or try the recently opened Observation Deck, just off of Terminal 3, which has 180-degree views of the airfield.
Don’t go to the airport bar.
We’ll admit that our gut instinct is to find the nearest place that serves booze when we’re slapped with a long layover. But hear us out: you don’t need to make this any more depressing than it already is by sipping a $16 glass of red during gate change announcements.
Why not have a drink with the locals while you’re in the area? Burlingame’s historic 7 mile house (12-min drive from SFO) is the Bay Area’s last original “mile house” — where travelers in the 19th century would stop to rest. One of the Peninsula’s oldest spots to have a drink, it’s also one of our favorites. They host live music almost every night, have an extensive booze and food menu (plus a kid’s menu) and celebrate Michelada Mondays.
We’re big fans of our many Peninsula dive bars, and we certainly love Dog House (11-min drive). Need to drown your layover-induced sorrows? This down-to-earth gem is open from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m., serves strong drinks and is under the same ownership as the fish ’n’ chips joint next store. Talk about drinking like a Peninsula local.
If you’re looking for something more high end to liberate your mind from airport-universe, Barrelhouse (11-min drive) features an excellent anddiverse cocktail menu in an upbeat atmosphere, plus empanadas served until 2 a.m. to match.
Also notable and nearby: 47 Hills Brewing Company (11-min drive), 16 Mile House (8-min drive), New England Lobster Market & Eatery (4-min drive — these guys serve Maine lobster alongside a great beer and wine menu).
If you’re looking for an easy distraction that won’t mean adding up a tab, you might enjoy a visit to the Burlingame Museum of Pez Memorabilia. We’ll sum it up quick for you: 15 minutes from SFO, $3 entry for kids and $5 for adults, endlessly fascinating for all ages. This place is actually three museums in one — Pez Memorabilia, the Classic Toy Museum and the Banned Toy Museum. Yes, it’s exactly as wacky as it sounds, which is why we highly recommend stopping in if you’ve got the time (which, if you’re reading this, you probably do). On top of that, the museum is next to a cornucopia of fast-casual dining spots including Lemonade (healthy-ish comfort food), Bare Bowls (acaï bowls) and Nachoria (build your own nachos).
It all adds up to a dose of wonderful Bay Area weirdness with meals to match.
Burlingame Museum of Pez Memorabilia, 214 California Drive, Burlingame, CA 94010, (650) 347–2301
Gama Ride Arcade & Cafe has all the classic arcade games you could ever wish for — plus the 3-D and 4-D motion simulators you’d expect from a Silicon Valley arcade. Game prices range from 50 cents to $6 for the higher-tech end of the spectrum. Lest we forget the ‘cafe’ part — Gama Ride’s snack bar menu includes every kind of food your inner child could ever dream of (we’re talking mini pizzas, mozzarella sticks and chicken nuggets). It’s also a six minute drive from SFO and right in the middle of an entire square of shops and a movie theater multiplex, so have at it.
Gama Ride, 300 Tanforan Way, San Bruno, CA 94066, (650) 837–9404
If airport-invoked frustration has you raring to make impulse decisions, there’s no better place to put it to work than Artichoke Joe’s Casino. Joe’s has a real place in Peninsula history dating back to 1916.
So go ahead and wager the worth of that travel voucher you’ve just (hopefully?) been given — whatever it takes to pass the time. And anytime you feel like it, too, since the casino is open 24/7.
Artichoke Joe’s Casino, 659 Huntington Ave., San Bruno, CA 94066, (650) 589–8812
Take a walk on the San Francisco Bay Trail. The SF Bay Trail — all 500 miles of it — quite literally surrounds the entire bay. Near SFO it gets scenic around Coyote Point, which is 10 minutes away from SFO by car. Pull up your preferred ride sharing app and take a quick drive…to take a quick walk. This is your chance to enjoy some fresh air before being surrounded by the recycled kind.
Bay Trail at Coyote Point, 1701 Coyote Point Drive, San Mateo, CA 94401, (650) 573–2592
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More local guides from The Six Fifty:
- Fruit Loop donuts and Double Doubles: Our gluttonous guide to late night eats on the Peninsula.
- The 650’s eight favorite dive bars on the Peninsula
- The 10 best date ideas ever invented on the SF Peninsula
- The 650’s 3-minute guide to the Peninsula’s best ramen
- Plant-based Peninsula!! The Six Fifty’s guide to vegan & vegetarian eats around Silicon Valley
- Cure your hangover and crush your hunger with our 15 favorite brunches on the Peninsula – 2018