BWI Survival Guide

Tips to help holiday travelers navigate the airport

  • The gallery has its roots in BWI's predecessor, Friendship Airport, where visitors could step onto an outdoor observation deck to watch the activity on the runway. "Its a nice feature for the airport and connects travelers to aviation," says airport spokesman Jonathan Dean.
The gallery has its roots in BWI's predecessor, Friendship… (Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun )
November 18, 2010|By Michelle Deal-Zimmerman, The Baltimore Sun

If you haven't ventured inside BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport since last Thanksgiving, you'll be happy to hear the bathrooms are in the same place. So are the runways. That is to say, not a lot has changed physically.

But the airport has had a banner year otherwise, breaking passenger records in July and August, being among the airports with the lowest fares in the nation and receiving an award for providing just about the best food and drink of any airport in North America.

Now comes a real test: Thousands of travelers headed to Grandma's house will descend on the airport this week, stuffed carry-ons in tow.

"We do expect a busy holiday season," says Jonathan Dean, spokesman for BWI. "We've had record passenger traffic during the summer and we expect for it to continue."

That's good news for the airport and bad news for passengers facing the holiday crush. But if you know how to navigate BWI, your trip doesn't have to be a turkey. To help those who may not be frequent visitors to the airport, we asked some local travel experts to point us in the right direction for places to eat, park, shop — and escape the crowds. Of course, if all else fails, you can hide in the bathroom.

Best place to get a meal to-go

Silver Diner

This "retro" diner is all about the food, made to order in the shake of a tail feather. Silver Diner offers a grab-n-go case, five-minute takeout express and a full carryout menu. You could even take a hot turkey dinner on your trip. "The restaurant is one of the largest of its kind on airport property in the country and continues to be a passenger favorite," says Carol Fearns, vice president of Airmall Maryland, the company that manages the airport's concessions and retailers.

Location: Concourse B

Runners-up: Au Bon Pain and Subway.

Best place to dine


"Being a Marylander, I have to say Phillips or Obrycki's," says Rich Gilbert, a sales manager in the Maryland Office of Tourism. Indeed. With a menu that includes crab cakes, crab soup, crab salad wraps — OK, crab everything — this hometown favorite doesn't disappoint. You can even pick up a container of Obrycki's Seafood Seasoning as a last-minute gift.

Location: Concourse B

Runner-up: Silver Diner. Yes, it has great takeout, but if you can set a spell, it's even better.

Best place for beer or wine

Vino Volo

"Few can top Vino Volo, which combines a cozy wine lounge, tasting bar and restaurant into a sophisticated retreat" for travelers, says Fearns. Vino Volo (derived from "wine flight" in Italian) offers wines by the glass or by the bottle for customers who want to take it home or have it shipped.

Location: Concourse A

Runner-up: DuClaw Brewing Co., home of craft beers and ales, opened earlier this year at BWI. On the plus side, it's located in the terminal before the security checkpoint, so you can have a drink with friends or family before you take off.

Best place for coffee


"But only if you're flying Southwest," says Gilbert, who travels for business. "I enjoy filling my to-go cup for the plane; however, if you fly another carrier, the Starbucks is located prior to security."

Location: Concourse B and also in the terminal

Runner-up: Chesapeake Bay Roasting Co. "With a portion of the proceeds donated to preserving the Chesapeake Bay's ecosystem, travelers can feel good about their pre-flight purchases," says Fearns, who likes the small-batch coffees and smoothies at this shop in Concourse D.

Best place to shop

Bijoux Terner

"Everything is $10! I've shopped at this store on cruise ships and at the airports in Florida and Vegas so was thrilled that one recently opened at BWI," says Ragina C. Averella, public and government affairs manager for AAA Mid-Atlantic. "I have found a few nice scarves and costume jewelry there."

Travel writer Donna Owens, who lives in Baltimore, is another fan. "They have pretty pashminas in rainbow colors, earrings, watches and purses, among other items," she says. "The merchandise is cheap but doesn't necessarily look that way."

Location: Concourse B

Runner-up: Borders — it's a great place to stock up on in-flight reading materials. Also, Brooks Brothers, which has been open less than a month at BWI, will likely become a fast favorite.

Best place to buy gifts

Fire & Ice

"My favorite place to shop, especially for gifts, is Fire & Ice," says Averella. The shop specializes in handcrafted gold and silver jewelry, but also offers specialty items like art glass and holiday ornaments.

Location: Concourse A

Runner-up: Brookstone. The gift-giving options are endless at this go-go gadget store in Concourse D.

Best place to amuse the kids

The Observation Gallery

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