Spending a short layover lounging around the airport for several hours before the next flight often feels boring and tedious, but venturing outside is a gamble. Luckily, many of the major international transfer hubs, like New York’s JFK Airport, are within arm’s reach of interesting ways to pass time. While flyers with shorter turnarounds may have to forgo a quick pop into Manhattan – an hour one-way – there's plenty to do around the Long Island borough of Queens where the airport is located. Grab a map, hop a bus or the JFK AirTrain and see what Greater New York is all about.
At roughly 6 miles from the airport, Corona Park, the biggest park in Queens and home to the Mets, is the jack-of-all-trades when it comes to providing ways to pass time. Not only can you play some sports, explore a zoo and peruse an art and a science museum while on the grounds, you can also witness the world’s largest globe – the Unisphere – a souvenir of the 1964 World’s Fair. The Flushing Bay Promenade offers a view of the East River. Take a short ride on the Q20 or Q44 buses from the airport or the overground JFK AirTrain to fill an afternoon.
Queens Botanical Garden
An extension of Corona Park, the 39-acre gardens were a staple of the 1939 World’s Fair and provide passersby with a peaceful contrast against the steel cityscape of Manhattan. This spot is especially nice for flyers traveling with the whole family who are seeking fresh air. Make sure to check out the bee garden and sample some of the local honey.
Resorts World Casino
Flyers looking for a bit more of a thrill can head a few minutes down the road to the Resorts World Casino, less than 3 miles from the airport. Rather than frittering away time during short flight turnaround, try your hand at blackjack, craps and roulette. The casino also offers a full bar and food court in case airport fare isn’t cutting it.
Popular among the locals as a convenient beach spot in the summer, the Rockaway Peninsula offers people with JFK layovers a seaside escape from the crowded airport scene. The A train toward Howard Beach coming from the airport will take you to the Beach 90 stop, where you can either hit the sand with the local sunbathers in warm weather months or explore the boardwalk area in cooler temperatures.
Bird-Watching in Jamaica Bay
For those after a more remote, nature-filled experience, the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge protects more than 18,000 acres of the local terrain near the airport. Since buses and trains aren’t available to this area, a short 3-mile cab ride to the visitor center will be necessary, but those who take the trip will be able to observe birds from more than 300 species that flock to this area, including the bald eagle. Take a hike led by a guide or explore the area on bike or horseback.