How to Do a Layover at McCarran International Airport

Things to Do During a Layover at McCarran International Airport

Every year, more than 40 million visitors pass through McCarran International Airport's gates. Even though it's sunny most of the year in Las Vegas, there are still occasions when layovers occur, such as a a presidential visit or weather issues in other cities. There's no need to park yourself in a chair and wait for hours on end: use it as an opportunity to explore what McCarran has to offer. 

Gambler at slots in McCarran Airport, Las Vegas

Explore Vegas' National Pastime: Gambling

McCarran is one of only two airports in the United States that allows gambling—the other, fittingly, is in Reno, Nevada. It's hard to ignore the call of "Wheel. Of. Fortune." as the machines seemingly beckon you to play them. Just keep in mind that the pay scales are tighter at the airport, so it may take you longer to win. But if your focus is purely on entertainment value, you'll find a fun variety of one-armed bandits to play. You'll find them conveniently outside of your gate, with larger groupings near the food courts.

A cocktail in the foreground with a cityscape in the background

Toss Back a Few Cocktails 

If gambling is at the top of Vegas pastimes, drinking isn't far behind. After all, there's a reason it's nicknamed "Sin City." Jose Cuervo fans can sample an impressive variety of premium spirits at the Tequilera (Terminal 1, C Gates); shaken, not stirred cocktails are served at Crafted (Terminal 1, C Gates). The Las Vegas Chophouse & Brewery (Terminal 3, E Gates) not only offers craft beer, wine and classic cocktails, but delicious "breakfast cocktails" as well. And Sammy's Beach Bar & Grill (Terminal 1, C Gates) features a the Red Rocker's "Cocktail Hall of Fame"—selections made with Sammy's Beach Bar Rum. 

Howard W. Cannon Aviation Museum plane at McCarran Airport

Visit McCarran's Aviation Museum for Free

Las Vegas loves its free attractions, and one of the first places you can experience them is at McCarran. Learn about the history of aircraft in Las Vegas at the Howard W. Cannon Aviation Museum, named for the U.S. senator who served four terms in Nevada and introduced the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, which led to a doubling of commercial traffic at McCarran between 1978 and 1980 and helped air traffic blossom not only in Las Vegas, but throughout the country. The museum covers more than 3,000 square feet in Terminal 1, the majority of it on level 2 above baggage claim. 

Horned toad sculpture

Tour the Airport's Public Art

And keeping with Vegas' trend towards art in public areas, you'll discover many great pieces in McCarran. Terminal 1 would be incomplete without the "Desert Wildlife" sculptures located inside the D Gates; these larger-than-life sculptures of Southern Nevada's native wildlife are made of cracked concrete and pay tribute to the horned toad, desert tortoise, desert hare and desert rattlesnake. Also in Terminal 1, Tony Milici's "Glass Sculpture" (esplanade, level 2) is a layered-glass composite of Saguaro cacti and desert plants that gives a 3-D appearance. Milici's work can also be seen at near gates D-5 and D-36, where the "Skylight Cones," two compositions of hanging steel and glass frames, catch and refract light in the food courts.

Artwork at McCarren International Airport Terminal 3

When Terminal 3 opened in 2012, it was with a dedicated focus on bringing artwork to the traveler. In addition to numerous portraits by landscape photographer Peter Lik, you'll find pieces such as the iridescent "Cloud 9," in which multiple pieces of dichroic glass come together to form a cloudscape more than 90 feet wide; "Blue Arroyo," a fluid sculpture that winds through the east end of baggage claim, about visitors' heads; and "Waterfall," in which nine curtains of beads spill down the window wall from level 2 to level zero baggage claim.

Get Fit: Where to Workout at McCarran

Perhaps this seems like a strange one for Vegas, but McCarran is encouraging airport fitness with walking programs endorsed by the American College of Sports Medicine. Paths range from half a mile to 1.5 miles in length and are available for both terminals.

Note: There are no lockers in which to stow carry-on bags at McCarran, so if you have one, you'll have to take it with you; just consider it as adding on weights.  

Candles lit during a spa treatment

Pamper Yourself

After a jaunt throughout the airport, show your tootsies some love with a pedicure, soothe tired muscles with a massage or get a new glow with a facial: you can find the tranquil XPresSpa in Terminal 1 at both the C and D Gates, and in Terminal 3 at the E Gates. You'll melt into relaxation and won't even think about your delay!