Best Things to Do at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport: Eat, Shop, Rest at DFW

All you need to know about dallas-Fort Worth International airport, like where to get three margs deep before onboarding begins.

By Nataly Keomoungkhoun, and Kevin GrayPublished on May 22, 2024 at 2:02 PMStatue of a cowboy running cattle in the DFW airport. | Lost_in_the_Midwest/Shutterstock

You can learn a lot about a place from its airport. Sure, most airports come with the same vending machines, news stands, and bathroom lines, but there are always some parts worth staying around for, if you know where to find them. This guide looks beyond the stores, restaurant chains, and bars you'll see in every major transit center to focus on the locally-owned hidden gems and small businesses serving up city-specific cuisines in each terminal.

Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport is one of the busiest airports in the world, with upwards of 81.8 million passengers trotting through in 2023. If you’re traveling this summer, the odds of finding yourself in the American Airlines hub are pretty dang good. And much like the state of Texas, DFW Airport is simply huge—everything’s bigger, as they say.

Whereas most guides will talk about the airport lounges and the like, we’re here to tell you that you can game in Terminal D—now that’s one legit way to kill time on a layover—and that you need to grab Whataburger before you leave the Lone Star state.

With so many travelers on airport grounds, it’s no surprise that DFW is seasoned in ways to kill time before your flight. After you’ve beaten long TSA lines and need to pass the time, or are simply whizzing through, DFW Airport is at your leisure. Here are some of the best things to do, places to eat, and hidden gems at the airport.

Obviously, you can drive or get a ride share, but catching the train is the romantic, I’m-the-main-character route to getting to DFW Airport. Hop on the DART’s Orange Line, which will swoop you to Terminal A (about a 50-minute ride with 12 stops).

 If you only have time for one thing: take an art walk

Find it in: Terminal D
The best terminal to pass the time—whether it’s walking, shopping, eating, or drinking—is Terminal D, the international terminal. If you’re not already there, hop on the Skylink, the airport’s light rail train that keeps you inside the airport. It’s safe, fast, and the easiest way to get between terminals.

DFW Airport is massive—it’s larger than the island of Manhattan, believe it or not. Our recommendation is to walk your heart out, because in between flights, you’ll certainly want to stretch those legs. And what’s a walk without taking in the sights? In this case, world-class art from more than 30 local, regional, and international artists.

DFW has partnered with Dallas’ famed Nasher Sculpture Center to create an outdoor sculpture garden—great to ease pre-flight anxiety. Iconic sculptures include “Wish” by Terry Allen, the giant wishbone outside of the D30 security checkpoint, and the “Circling” by Christopher Janney, which consists of a labyrinth of glass walls at gate D10.

Inside, find art right under your toes. The Medallion series bears work right on the floor from people like Ted Kinkaid, a well-known and lauded Texas artist. Stare deeply into his concentric medallion, ‘Untitled’ and get lost—just don’t miss your flight.

If you want to burn money between flights: hit the luxury shops

Find it in: Terminal D
At Terminal D, there are plenty of places to shop (Dallas loves to shop, and you can peruse low to high-end luxury stores such as Chanel, L’Occitane, Diptyque, and more), then eat and lounge. Grab a sandwich from Eatzi’s, a local European-style gourmet bakery and market, or sit down at Cantina Laredo for some Tex-Mex cuisine.

If you’re traveling with status: American Airlines Flagship Lounge

Find it in: Terminal D, Gate D21
The best lounge in American’s fleet, the Flagship Lounge, has a cocktail bar, shower suites, and solid food options. But keep walking into the Flagship First Dining Room to find a full-service restaurant with waitstaff and menu items from Roots Southern Table chef and James Beard Award nominee, Tiffany Derry. The restaurant is only accessible to travelers flying Flagship First or Flagship Business Plus on select flights.

When you need to escape into a virtual reality for a bit: Gameway

Find it in: Terminal E, Gate 16
Head to Gameway, a gaming lounge that offers unlimited gaming for $45. There are nine gaming stations with a PlayStation or Xbox, and eight desktop gaming PCs. Grab a drink and snacks and pass the time here.

If you want to avoid logging screen time hours and stare outside: Founders’ Plaza

Find it at: the North End of DFW Airport
If you’ve got a little extra time—and don’t mind a quick venture from inside of the airport, head to Founders’ Plaza, a viewing area on airport grounds to watch planes land and take off. Getting there will require an Uber ride, but it’s worth it if you’re an aviation enthusiast. The plaza has telescopes, picnic tables, and plenty of space to spread out. Keep in mind that there aren’t any restrooms at the viewing area, so make a pit stop before you head over.

Best restaurants and bars at DFW Airport for trying Texan-approved dishes:

For a daytime beer or a nighttime coffee: Brewed

Find it in: GateD25
What is time in an airport, really? This popular Fort Worth spot bills itself as the “locals living room.” And while you can’t exactly ignore the fact that you’re in an airport, the inviting living room vibes still apply nonetheless. They open at 5 am for coffee and breakfast (eggs, biscuits, granola with yogurt) and move toward burgers, salads, and chicken pot pie later in the day. As the name implies, they do brewed items right here, starting with coffee and ending with beer.

Find it in: GateD20
If you’re more into beer than wine, Flying Saucer has 200 of them. This two-level bar is a visual anchor in Terminal D, offering prime views of your gate while you make your way through the global beer list. The brews are the main draw, but a lineup of nachos, soft pretzels, and burgers is also on hand if hunger strikes.

Find it in: Gate D22
This barbecue joint from Dallas chef Kent Rathbun smokes brisket, ribs, and pork shoulder on-site. Start the day with a breakfast burrito, or load up on a plate of meat and a couple reliable sides (coleslaw, baked potato salad) before boarding.

Find it in: Gate A16
Salt Lick Bar-B-Que, a Texas Hill Country staple, gives travelers a taste of its famous ‘cue right in the airport. Meat platters feature favorites like brisket, pork ribs, and sausage, while nearly everything is available in sandwich form. Need a quick gift for family or friends? Score a couple bottles of The Salt Lick dry rub and barbecue sauce on your way out and thank us later.

When a burger might save your life: Whataburger

Find it in: Gate D12
You can’t leave Texas without Whataburger. The Breakfast Burger is iconic: a bacon, egg, and cheese with a junior burger patty and three hash browns. The Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit is another good morning go-to. You can stick to the classic burger construction, or double the meat—or triple the meat! Who knows when is the next time you’ll get a filling meal…

Find it in: Gate C37
This Fort Worth coffee shop unfortunately doesn’t turn into a night club at night like it’s sibling spots in the city. But it can still fuel you through your travel day. Just add house music in your noise-cancelling headphones and call it good.

Photo courtesy Plaza Premium Lounge

Airport lounges and nearby hotels if you're willing to pay to rest:

Find it in: Gate D22
This lounge can be accessed by certain Capital One credit cardholders, and day passes are available for $65. Inside, there’s a full-service bar with all the requisite drinks, while food stations include an assortment of snacks and heartier fare. There’s also a cycling and yoga room, so ambitious travelers can work up a sweat before hitting the on-site showers.

Find it in: Gate D12
Step into a Centurion Lounge, and you may forget you’re at the airport, at least for a while. The food menu comes fromFearing’schef Dean Fearing, while the drinks are supplied by famed barkeep Jim Meehan. Exhale Spa provides treatments, shower suites let you refresh during long layovers, and private workspaces are available if you must get some work done. Gain access with select American Express credit cards.

Find it in: Gate D27
This is where all the Priority Pass holders congregate, plus anyone who wants to spring for the $50 day pass. The space is small, but there’s a balcony looking out over the terminal, the food spread is decent, and the full bar will fortify you with beers and Bloody Marys until boarding begins.

Find it in: Gate E10
Delta’s lone DFW airport lounge resides in terminal E, where Delta Sky Club members and premium cabin passengers, as well as those with elite status and certain credit cards, can access the lounge with a same-day boarding pass. Relax with gratis drinks and snacks, or take advantage of the Wi-Fi before your flight.

Find it in: Gate E31
The first Plaza Premium Lounge in the US serves fresh food from the on-site kitchen, plus a good-looking bar with a Texas-shaped tile backsplash that’s pouring local beers, wines, and spirits. DragonPass and HSBC EveryMile Card members gain automattic access, while select airlines, including Emirates, and select credit cardholders share privileges. Otherwise, you can purchase a walk-in pass at $25 for one hour or $45 for three hours.

Find it in: Gate A38
Traveling is tiring. Minute Suites knows this, so it offers private rooms for getting some sleep during a long layover, plus workstations with everything you need to stay connected.

Find it in: Terminal D
With nearly 300 rooms, this onsite hotel can be accessed from any terminal via the Skylink train or by shuttle bus. This is the most luxe hotel offering with sky-high runway views.

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Nataly Keomoungkhoun is a Thrillist contributor.

Kevin Gray contributed to this article.


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