Convince me to visit you!
March 5, 2019 12:41 PM   Subscribe

You probably live a pretty short distance from a small airport. Give me a reason to fly to that airport!

I am hoping to do some more traveling and exploring this year, and I've found in the past that I'm a lot more likely to get off my duff and do something if there's a purpose or reward at the end. Flying magazines and blogs tend to focus on the flashy and aspirational, but I don't really care about that. I just want to find some interesting destinations in places I normally wouldn't think of going.

So, tell me about something you really like in your town near an airport! It could be anything, including:
-Cool food or restaurant
-Nifty local hotel/inn
-Easily accessible natural features ("here's a neat lake with a pier you can fish from" or something similar)
-Weird local monument
-Small museums, unique public art, historic building

The only real requirement is that it is "close" to a small airport (within a reasonable bike ride or easy enough to grab a taxi or take the crew car).

As an example: Rockland, Maine is just three miles from Knox County Airport and has a cool lighthouse. There's also a transportation museum at the airport!

If you know there's an airport nearby but don't know the details of it, that's ok - I can figure that out. I'm based outside of Boston but am willing to travel just about anywhere in the continental US and southern Canada.
posted by backseatpilot to Travel & Transportation (50 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
ABE: tour the Martin Guitar factory. NB, tours only on weekdays.
There's a quite decent Indian place near the airport, but I wouldn't fly in just for that.
posted by Dashy at 12:55 PM on March 5, 2019

Medford, OR (MFR) is about 20 minutes drive from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (they also do non-Shakespeare productions). While in Ashland, you can also drink the Lithia water and stay in one of a variety of historic or Shakespeare-themed hotels. There's a pretty nice network of hiking trails accessible from literally next door to the OSF campus.

The airport is also a reasonable bike ride to Upper Table Rock, which has vernal pools and great moss diversity in the spring. You could also bike from the airport to tour the Harry & David production facilities. The airport itself has art featuring agricultural workers by Betty LaDuke.

ETA: I lived close to this airport until about a month ago, I am no longer a local attraction.
posted by momus_window at 12:55 PM on March 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

How far of a bike ride do you think is reasonable? The Montague Book Mill is a funky old mill with a used bookstore, a restaurant, a café, a record store, and a small gallery. It's about a 4.5-mile ride from the Turners Falls airport.

Downtown Turners Falls is kind of cute, too.
posted by brianogilvie at 12:57 PM on March 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is less than 2 miles from the Ithaca airport.

(Lab of O previously.)
posted by zamboni at 12:58 PM on March 5, 2019 [6 favorites]

Scranton, PA has a small local airport - AVP. There are a few things that fit your requirements:

- Old Forge style pizza

- Hotel in an old train station

- Coal mine tour

- Everhart Museum (really cool collection of stuffed birds)

- Nay Aug falls

Also tours if you're a fan of the Office
posted by elvissa at 12:59 PM on March 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

If you like cycling, 3MY is directly adjacent to a rails-to-trails bike path that extends from the Peoria, IL riverfront to the Rock Island Trail
posted by hwyengr at 1:00 PM on March 5, 2019

Fly in to KEPM, the easternmost airport in the continental United States (beating out Lubec Municipal by a narrow margin), located in the easternmost city in the continental United States. While there, visit the Raye's Mustard Mill & Museum, which has been continually operating since 1900, grab a lobster roll at Quoddy Bay Lobster, and watch the largest tides in the country while sitting on the new breakwater. Maybe take a whale watching tour with Eastport Windjammers.
posted by tobascodagama at 1:03 PM on March 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

The National Electronics Museum is about a half a mile from BWI Airport (and also from an Amtrak station), in Maryland.
posted by AliceBlue at 1:05 PM on March 5, 2019

You of course already know about Nancy's Airfield Cafe at Minuteman, which is only like a ten minute flight from BED, so...

But I think I've thrown this offer on the table before so if you ever want to fly to Maniwaki Airport and do some bass fishing in July/August, hit me up.
posted by bondcliff at 1:10 PM on March 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Cherry Capital Airport in Traverse City, MI is the prettiest airport I've ever seen -- it's all Frank Lloyd Wright/arts and crafts style. Granted, I was a little punchy from extreme delays when we landed there, but all I could say is, "I want to live in this airport!"

If you're not a weirdo like me and need more motivation than "neat airport design", you could go for the National Cherry Festival in July.
posted by natabat at 1:18 PM on March 5, 2019

For meta-aviation, DAY can't be beat. You've got quick access to the Wright Brothers historical sites, the US Air Force Museum, and Wright-Patterson AFB. The latter is one of the largest air force bases in the US, was the site of the Dayton Peace Accords that ended the Bosnian War, and is reputedly where the USAF is keeping the alien bodies found at the Roswell site. DAY also hosts a pretty big air show in July. The airport is a short freeway drive from the Neil Armstrong Museum in Wapakoneta and, if you're interested in non-aviation stuff, some pretty good hiking in the Yellow Springs area.

If you're talking the actual airports themselves, MKE is my favorite. There's a fairly large used bookstore in the airport - far preferable to Hudson News! TVC is pretty cool too. Nice building, and if you like cherries, there are all sorts of cherry products for sale in the terminal. There's also a runway dog.

My current local is MHT, but if you're in Boston you either already know about it, or it doesn't make sense to know about it. But it's a nice little airport, with good parking.
posted by kevinbelt at 1:20 PM on March 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Florida is covered with funky little general aviation airports. St. Augustine Airport (which I believe is now called "Northeast Florida Regional Airport") is on the larger side of small but there's tons to do and see in town. Across the river is the little airport in Green Cove Springs, which is right next door to the Bayard Conservation Area, which features a great hiking loop with a spur that drops you right on the banks of the St. Johns River.

I did a touch and go with my dad at a little airstrip in Deleon Spring, FL many years ago. Deleon Springs Park itself is amazing; good swimming springs, great fishing right off the spring head, and the Old Spanish Sugar Mill make-your-own-pancakes restaurant is even better than it sounds.
posted by saladin at 1:26 PM on March 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

I live a 15 minute walk from a small airport.

What do you want to see? From the airport you can walk along the harbourfront (literally a two minute walk from airport). If you come in the summer there are arts festivals, kayaking/canoeing/paddleboarding, etc. . There are movies that you can boat into (i.e. watch from the lake).

Take the ferry to the Toronto islands (lighthouse, clothing optional beach, adorable residential neighbourhood, clothing non-optional beach, quadracycle rentals, parklands, and a small amusement park).

You can eat pretty much anything you want within a 10 minute cab ride.

A free shuttle from the airport gets you to what was once the tallest building in the world, now the tallest in North America, I believe. Also, right there, watch an MLB baseball game.

Sleep with the sharks or the dinosaurs.

Go the the shoe museum.

Visit the Arthur Conan Doyle room -- a library collection decorated to look like his apartment and filled with books by him, about him, and based on his characters.

Lots more to see.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 1:34 PM on March 5, 2019 [5 favorites]

This might be too small an airport, but fly to FRI from SEA. FRI is about 3 miles to the Whale Museum, the San Juan Historical Museum, Roche Harbor resort (you should be able to get a day pass at the pool), the San Juan Islands Sculpture park, Lime Kiln State Park (prime whale watching), Pelindaba Lavender Farm, False Bay, and Wescott Bay. Take the ferry to the other islands.

Two hours or so from BOS, BDA is close to everything especially Grotto Bay, St. David's, Fort St. Catherine, Tobacco Bay, St. George's (a UNESCO World Heritage site), and more. I personally would not ride a pedal bike there, but people do. (A lot of drivers flip their cars there.)
posted by jgirl at 1:48 PM on March 5, 2019

Paso Robles, CA, has a great little aviation museum just off the airport — my buddies and I discovered it while flying in for a $50 burger, and ended up catching a ride over with an airport employee to take a look. We ended up spending a bunch of time talking shop with the employees, one of whom took us by his hangar to show us the Stearman he is restoring, then gave us a ride back to the FBO. Good folks.

Also wine (though we did not partake, given the flying, I’ve had good wine from that region before).
posted by Alterscape at 2:01 PM on March 5, 2019

This might be too small an airport

I guess I wasn't totally clear, but I'll be traveling either in this or this. There are very few fields that I actually wouldn't be able to land at. Except for the fact that FRI looks like it's a military airbase with restricted access, it's a perfectly generous size for the kind of flying I do.
posted by backseatpilot at 2:01 PM on March 5, 2019

Pensacola FL is a small city with a small airport. In and out are much faster than your big city airports. This is an historical city, dating back to the 16th century. There are old brick buildings downtown, which is 20 minutes from the airport. The city has the slow feel of a place which is fading away, as the reason it exists is gradually becoming less compelling.

Surprisingly, for a city on the Gulf coast, there are hills and bay-side cliffs. Travel across the long bridge to the Gulf beaches, and enjoy white sand, tacky stores, nearly empty beaches (sometimes) and historic brick forts.

Enjoy seafood. Visit museums. See the parks.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 2:03 PM on March 5, 2019

You would need special clearance to land at one of the three closest GA airports to me (and forget about DCA!), but if you want to jump through those hoops, College Park (Maryland) is cool with Wright Brothers history, a museum, and a short walk to the DC metro, though oddly enough I have only visited via bicycle. So here are some other airports I like that meet your criteria:

Speaking of the Wright Brothers, you have probably heard of First Flight on the outer banks in North Carolina. Definitely worth a visit if you haven't been. Big memorial on the hill and a museum at the bottom. Longish walk to restaurants, longer walk to the beach (or bike).

Further down the outer banks, Ocracoke is a favorite of mine. A huge lovely beach a short walk from the airport and the town a longer walk or short bike ride. No national chain restaurants to be seen. Never very crowded as it is tough to get to by car from major population centers.

Burke Lakefront in Cleveland - easy walk to downtown, rock & roll hall of fame, dining and hotels. We spent a night there after deciding that same afternoon to visit while dodging weather and we were lucky enough to see our hometown Nationals baseball team play. The FBO gave us a ride to the hotel and were felt weird after seeing how close it was.

Sedona is drop-dead gorgeous to fly around. There is walk-able lodging at the top of the mesa where the airport is, but only one restaurant up there I think. The airport has a "rent a wreck" and we have always rented a car, though I think you would be OK without one for a night. Watch out for winds in general and the tricky "aircraft carrier" approach to landing with downdrafts at the approach end of the runway. And density altitude (considering leaning for takeoff).

Big Bear in California normally has cheap gas and has a nice restaurant on the field. High density altitude and high terrain around the airport makes it a little challenging - I have talked with SoCal locals who avoid it.

Santa Monica before the NIMBYs shut it down (nevermind the airport was there first). A short car ride to Venice beach.
posted by exogenous at 2:08 PM on March 5, 2019

No brainer here. And I got two guest rooms, y'all.
posted by vrakatar at 2:10 PM on March 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

If you fly into Morrisville-Stowe State Airport in Vermont you should be able to ride your bike from there to Moss Glen Falls or to popular local breweries like Lost Nation, Rock Art or The Alchemist.
posted by Redstart at 2:11 PM on March 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

Oh further to our discussion in the other thread, I was catching up on the Uncontrolled Airspace podcast and they mentioned this airport restaurant resource.
posted by exogenous at 2:14 PM on March 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

I guess I wasn't totally clear, but I'll be traveling either in this or this. There are very few fields that I actually wouldn't be able to land at. Except for the fact that FRI looks like it's a military airbase with restricted access, it's a perfectly generous size for the kind of flying I do.
posted by backseatpilot at 2:01 PM on March 5 [+] [!]

FRI is not military, it's Friday Harbor International Airport.

There's a GA airport at Roche Harbor, and it's across the road from the sculpture park and the resort and marina. Kayak and have dinner at McMilllin's Dining Room at the resort. Stay for the Colors ceremony on the dock.
posted by jgirl at 3:28 PM on March 5, 2019

I live near a cool airport, and there's lots to do around here.
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:31 PM on March 5, 2019

If college sports interest you, you could fly in for a football or basketball game. The Willard Airport (CMI) is semi-close to the University of Illinois campus. If you have another favorite team, I'd imagine that many other college towns have small airports.
posted by hydra77 at 3:32 PM on March 5, 2019

Roche Harbor:

Oneonta, NY has an airport and glorious natural resources. I think there's an airport in Cooperstown.
posted by jgirl at 3:34 PM on March 5, 2019

Fly into the Troutdale Airport east of Portland Oregon, and you'll be at the edge of the scenic Columbia River Gorge. Great for a bike ride or scenic drive along the historic Columbia River Highway. Beautiful vistas, tons of waterfalls, and great hikes.
posted by hydra77 at 3:37 PM on March 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Fly in to SLO or SBA. You can experience beach, mountains, wineries and more in the same day, all within miles of the airport (especially SLO, which is practically walking distance to . PM me if you’d like more targeted suggestions from a local (well, transplant) who is completely in love with this area :)
posted by sparringnarwhal at 3:37 PM on March 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Trenton Mercer Airport is not far from Princeton NJ and all of its Princeton-ness.
posted by OrangeVelour at 3:48 PM on March 5, 2019

Come to KCQF and experience this beautiful little town on the Gulf Coast.
posted by mccxxiii at 3:59 PM on March 5, 2019

Doylestown Airport (DYL) is two miles from Doylestown, a pretty little town that is the county seat for Bucks County PA and home of the eclectic Mercer Museum.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 4:39 PM on March 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Cafe Paprika is 2.3 miles from Norwood Memorial Airport (OWD) and is unquestionably the best Moroccan restaurant in New England.1, 2, 3 (You noted that you're based outside Boston, but still.)
posted by cribcage at 4:48 PM on March 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

If you visit CA (SF Bay Area) hit me up, have airplane will travel!

The Castle Museum is an easy walk from parking at KMER (amazingly huge ramp and long runway). Another airplane museum on KPRB. Princeton-by-the-Sea is a wooden footbridge from KHAF transient parking. Airport camping and a turf runway at Columbia (O22). Canyon access and camping at Georgetown (E36). Nevada City and Grass Valley are gold-rush towns walkable from KGOO. Skiing from KTRK (free shuttle). Glider rides at KMEV, KTRK, and C83. Mendocino Coast from KLLR (courtesy car was available last time I was there). Great mountain biking from Angwin-Parrett (2O3). Sonoma is a great town, bikable from 0Q9 (a great pilot-owned airport with lots of antiques). If I spent a little time I could probably remember a few more....

And of course lots of airport cafe recommendations for that $100 burger. Maybe $150 if you're flying a 182.
posted by phliar at 5:25 PM on March 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Cedar Key has a terrifyingly small airport.
posted by Don Pepino at 6:40 PM on March 5, 2019

I don't live in Oklahoma anymore, but all the private pilots in the state like to fly to Ponca City to eat Mexican food at the airport.
posted by fedward at 6:43 PM on March 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

I believe the Berlin VT airport is a few miles from the Wayside, a 100 year old "where the old people eat" diner which isn't super amazing in terms of the quality of the food, but it does have some local delicacies (salt pork! sometimes!) and very good pies, and I'd come meet you there and have lunch.
posted by jessamyn at 6:46 PM on March 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

YAZ - Tofino Long Beach. Check the photo - it's right by a massive beach right on the Pacific Rim. This is definitely an expedition, but air is the most practical way to travel.

You could have this as part of a multi-day excursion if you are coming from back east. Second Friday Harbor and the San Juans as an awesome destination. There are certainly other small airports and communities in BC that are worth exploring.
posted by crazycanuck at 7:39 PM on March 5, 2019

Fly into MMV in Oregon.

Across the street is the 8 engined Hughes H-4 Hercules, also known as the Spruce Goose.

Next to that is a totally fucking bonkers Air and Space themed Waterpark that has an actual 747 with waterslides launching out of it.

Also, the PNW, has lots of other cool little airports and scenes nearby. I regularly drive past Aurora State Airport, which always has a number of DC-3s flying around it. Not sure why there are so many DC-3s there.

Oh, and of course, then there's Boeing Field, part of the incomparable Museum of Flight, all of which is in central Seattle.
posted by weed donkey at 8:53 PM on March 5, 2019 [4 favorites]

Mclellan-Palomar airport and you are suddenly right in the heart of San Diego's north county.

If you want quirky, try the Green Dragon tavern and museum.

You are right in San Diego North county. Many people fly into SAN and then have to figure out how to get up here. You can grab a car and just go drive down Highway 101 to Encinitas , Del Mar and down to La Jolla and visit Scripps.

But you are in Carlsbad which is the heart of the San Diego micro-brewery scene. A huge fan of Karl Strauss.
posted by vacapinta at 1:37 AM on March 6, 2019

MMH (Mammoth Yosemite) gets you access to the resorts at Mammoth Lakes (10 min drive) and June Lake (30 min), an hour drive to Yosemite’s east entrance, or south to Bishop and some of the best bouldering & hot springs in the country. There are bunk beds in the loft and a warm old cat to keep you company if you make it out this far!
posted by Snacks at 2:28 AM on March 6, 2019

Since you're based near Boston, these suggestions might be a bit close, but:
  • Groton-New London Airport (KGON) is about 6 miles from Mystic Seaport, a living-history museum in the form of a reconstructed 19th-century whaling town (plus some additional galleries). It's a pretty unique place and totally worth a visit. The town of Mystic is also quite cute and fun to hang out in (if a bit touristy). Further afield, KGON is about 14 miles from the Mashantucket Pequot Museum, a large and excellent museum about Native American history.
  • Harriman and West Airport (KAQW) is 3 miles from the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, a fantastic contemporary art museum housed in a former electronics factory. It's large, so you'd need a full day to see it. It's also 3.5 miles (in the other direction) from the Clark Art Institute, a pretty great "traditional" art museum. The natural surroundings are gorgeous too, particularly in October; it's in a river valley on the north side of Mount Greylock, which has some great hiking trails.

posted by Johnny Assay at 4:40 AM on March 6, 2019

I don't live there any more, but the Sip-N-Dip in Great Falls, Montana, was named the #1 bar in the world worth flying for by GQ magazine in 2003. It beat out bars in Tokyo and Havana and Paris, if memory servies. It's a tiki bar in a "motor inn" with a lady named Piano Pat playing hits from the 60s-90s on an electric organ, mermaids (and sometimes mermen) swimming in the hotel pool that has a window into the bar, and over-the-top decor. Any time I've been there, I've met interesting characters; the one that sticks out was a Canadian cattle rancher who was midway through a drive to Las Vegas to drop off some cattle and also participate in an Elvis convention.

Abundant nature within short drives: a buffalo jump about 20 minutes outside of town; great floating on the Smith and Sun Rivers; a couple hours from the Rocky Mountain Front (the Bob Marshall Wilderness) and plenty of other mountains ranges to explore nearby; great powder at Showdown Ski Area; a few breweries; good steaks to be had at supper clubs; Howard's Pizza for really greasy almost St. Louis-style bar pizza that's my favorite in the world (but maybe because I grew up with it); 4 or 5 hours from Glacier and Yellowstone; abundant bird watching opporunities, if that's your thing; large deer, elk, and antelope populations within short drives; close to some great pow-wows and rez-ball games if that's your thing; cliff diving at Sluice Boxes State Park.

Plenty more to explore in Montana, of course. Missoula and Bozeman are 3 or 4 hours away; they've got everything you'd want from a college town (including river surfing in downtown Missoula) and they're just minutes away from world-class hiking, hunting, fishing, skiing. There's the National Bison Range close to Missoula, too, and that's a favorite place of mine to visit.

Having grown-up in Great Falls, I can't believe I'm recommending someone to fly there, but here we are....
posted by msbrauer at 6:06 AM on March 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Perhaps a bit close too home, but: Tweed, New Haven
Maybe you could fly to it on your way home from another tiny airport and take the train back to Boston.

Pizza: Modern, Pepe's, Sally's
Noodles: Mecha Noodle Bar
Best food truck location: Long Wharf Drive
Museums: Peabody Museum of Natural History, Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library (the walls are made from translucent marble--it *glows* in the sun)
Fun place to visit: Lighthouse Point --with historic lighthouse & a still operational carousel
posted by carrioncomfort at 6:19 AM on March 6, 2019

backseatpilot: "There are very few fields that I actually wouldn't be able to land at."

Challenge accepted!
The Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome. No idea if it is possible, as it's a grass field. BUT! If it is possible, they've got a cool museum with lots of old airplanes. Also, the town of Rhinebeck is 4.5 miles away, with lots of surprisingly good restaurants (though they are also surprisingly expensive, think NYC prices). There's also the Dutchess County Fairgrounds there, so if you time it right you can be there for any variety of events.
posted by Grither at 6:22 AM on March 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

No idea if it is possible, as it's a grass field.

Grass is fine! However, they don't like folks landing at Rhinebeck because it interferes with their airshows. When I've looked in the past, I believe they've recommended going to Kingston and getting a shuttle ride over (it looks like they removed that info from their website). But it's on the list!
posted by backseatpilot at 7:40 AM on March 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

This question brought back good memories of tooling around with my dad in his Cessna when I was a kid (he's alive and well and still has a [different] Cessna, but we don't get many chances to tool around anymore). Anyway...

You should definitely go to Tangier Island! It was one of the highlights of our adventures. You can only get there by boat or airplane, and as I recall there are very few cars--most get around by bike or golfcart. I think you can walk around the entire island pretty comfortably. We went to hear the distinct dialect, but it's just a fun place to visit--very small-town feeling with only a handful of shops, one grocery store, etc.

Have fun! Loved seeing the photos of your planes.
posted by CiaoMela at 8:10 AM on March 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Mclellan-Palomar airport and you are suddenly right in the heart of San Diego's north county.

... which has some absolutely stellar road riding. If you get serious about this, memail me and I'll plan you a route, but roughly speaking head towards Valley Center and back, don't miss Elfin Forest, hit Rice and Couser Canyons, and return via West Lilac where it crosses the 15. Camino del Rey is also beautiful. There's a bike path that will take you back to the coast, because you shouldn't miss that either.
posted by Dashy at 8:17 AM on March 6, 2019

I have only ever departed from the airports by taxi, but both MSO (Missoula, MT, mentioned above) and ITH (Ithaca, NY) are cozy airports that would be a short shuttle ride into town. Lots of natural beauty and college-town amenities in both places.
posted by serelliya at 7:10 PM on March 6, 2019

So late to answer this but I must put in a plug for my newly adopted hometown of Astoria, Oregon. There's an airport! And you would probably be landing around an unflappable herd of elk. You could easily bike from the airport to downtown Astoria, which is stunningly beautiful or to the beach, which is even more stunningly beautiful. And if you get bored with Astoria, there's a cheap 3 hour bus ride to Portland.
posted by mygothlaundry at 12:58 PM on March 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

RLD is just down the road from The Manhattan Project National Historic Site, you could sign up for the tour. Kind of a hop from Boston.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:36 PM on April 5, 2019

Well, we've kicked off these adventures by heading to Easport this past weekend! It's a very comfortable walk in to town, but a friendly stranger gave us a lift when we arrived. We stayed a couple nights at a very pleasant B&B and discovered that we arrived several weeks too early, since most of the town was closed up for the winter. We did go to the mustard mill and ate lobster while watching the tides, though.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:38 AM on May 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

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