How to (Almost) Enjoy a SeaTac Layover

I’ve spent my fair share of time in airports over the years, ranging from London’s Heathrow to the little King Salmon airport in western Alaska.  Honestly, I don’t really mind spending a bit of time in airports, likely because I don’t like tight connections where I’m forced to run, say from one end of Chicago’s O’Hare to the other.  I prefer a more relaxed pace (and maybe a stop at Garrett’s Popcorn in said O’Hare).  I fill my layovers with walking, poking in shops, grabbing a bite, or just some quiet reading.  Knowing I have a little cushion for the inevitable issues that arise makes it easier to go with the flow and enjoy the journey.

Recently, hubby gave me a brief synopsis of an article on how to spend a layover in Seattle-Tacoma airport, better known as SeaTac.  I was surprised the number one takeaway was “don’t miss Ivar’s”.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Ivar’s chowder and we usually share a cup when we riding the Washington State Ferry but there is so much more to SeaTac.

Seattle-Tacoma is a hub for Alaska Airlines – the only airline who flies to my hometown of Juneau.  People flying out of Southeast Alaska must pass through either Anchorage International or SeaTac and like me, most head through Seattle as it has the most options for onward travel.  Many times, Seattle and its surrounding area are not just a stop but the destination for work or a little R&R.  Suffice to say Southeast folks are familiar with SeaTac.  We have a saying…”You know you’re at the right gate when you recognize your fellow Alaskans.”

So just how do I fill my time at SeaTac?  The answer largely depends on how much time I have.  The last time we came through, we allowed plenty of time to get our bags checked and through security.  We were leaving on a Monday morning which is typically very busy and near spring break so it felt like we might have a bit of double jeopardy.  I’d checked us in online the night before and printed our bag tags at the hotel business center.  When we got to the airport, we were directed by an Alaska Airlines agent to a line that had – wait for it – no other people in it!  A few minutes later, we were headed to the security checkpoint where our TSA PreCheck status sped us through the process and dumped us out at the Pacific Marketplace.  This beautiful hall with its soaring ceiling and floor to roof windows is an excellent place to start your layover.

We had almost two hours to fill so we headed to our favorite eatery, Anthony’s, a Pacific Northwest chain specializing in seafood.  No matter where you find them, the food is consistent, fresh and yummy.  Now I’ve got three favorites at Anthony’s in SeaTac, depending on the time of day.  Need a quick bite? They offer all kinds of appetizers but I usually grab some oysters on the half shell and a glass of champagne.  Lunch or supper time?  They have some amazing fish dishes but I’m partial to the Anthony’s Cobb Salad with all the usual trimmings plus bay shrimp and an unexpected but delicious bit of mango.  But on this trip, given it was morning, we decided to share a Northwest Scramble with smoked salmon, green onions and cream cheese.  Served with a lovely piece of blueberry coffee cake with cinnamon butter and the bloody mary and mimosa we ordered, it was the wonderful way to start our trip home.  A couple of tips about Anthony’s – they can get busy but when the wait seems long, see if there is bar seating.  And if you have a choice, grab a table in the back next to those big windows. You’ll be rewarded with a little bit more quiet and a view of the comings and goings of the airline formerly known as Horizon, the regional arm of Alaska Airlines.

Need to walk off that meal?  Take a stroll around the hall and check out the options for your next layover.  There are several options in the food court, including Ivar’s, where you can grab a quick bite, a cup of coffee (because you are in Seattle after all) or a magazine. And what’s that catching your eye with all manner of items in their window display?  That would be Fireworks, a store chock full of things you won’t find anywhere else.  Ok – so this is where hubby takes a seat outside, not so patiently waiting for me, while I check out the earrings, scarves, kid toys, and many other items before making a purchase for a friend back home.  Word to the wise – Fireworks has a new store over at the N gates and it is much less crowded but still full of wonderful treasures. In fact, their selection was a little different and I made yet another purchase of our grandkids-by-proxy over there.

And very near Fireworks is another favorite stop of mine, Vino Volo.  If I’m not hungry or don’t want the full on restaurant experience, I’ll head here for a bit of quiet time.  It’s a small wine bar with a great selection of wines and available flights for those who want to sample, like me.  They also have a small food menu if you want a little nosh with your glass.  What I love about Vino Volo is the comfortable seating and relaxed atmosphere.  You could almost forget you are at an airport.  And if you like, they’ll help you pick out a bottle of wine to stuff in your carryon for your next destination, a last minute hostess gift perhaps?  My best Vino Volo tip is download their app and join the loyalty program for some coupons and specials and to find them at other airports.

There are so many other places to spend your layover – get a manicure at Butter on the C concourse before stopping into Beecher’s for some Seattle cheesy goodness or grabbing something for the plane at Uwajimaya.  Got some serious time to spend?  Consider a day pass at Alaska Airlines’ Board Room, currently still on the D concourse but their new one is now open over at the N gates.  $45 will get you a quiet, comfy place to recharge yourself and your electronics, complimentary snacks and beverages, a sparkling clean restroom, and concierge service that will help you keep tabs on your stuff and your next flight.

So next time your plans take you through SeaTac, plan a little extra time to check out the many options there.  And when you get to the gate filled with a sea of down parkas and hooded sweatshirts being worn by people squinting at the sunshine, look for me – that’s the flight to Juneau.