Airport side-trips: 10 cheap, educational, and car-free excursions

Airline route cuts and drastic schedule cutbacks mean you're probably going to be spending a lot more time waiting around the airport for a flight. You could use that down time to grab a meal or get some work done, but you could also do a little sightseeing or shopping in town.

No need to rent a car. Here are ten airports where buses and trains will get you to nearby museums and attractions for less than the cost of a grab 'n' go sandwich.

Washington, D.C.

While Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) is 26 miles from downtown Washington, D.C., the airport is a short bus ride from the National Air and Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center. This Smithsonian Institution "annex" displays about 150 aircraft and as many space-related artifacts too large to fit inside the main museum on the National Mall. Best of all, admission is free.

How to get there:Virginia Regional Transit provides bus service between Dulles Airport and the museum. Here's a link to a schedule and more information.

Fare:50 cents each way.

New York

New York's LaGuardia Airport is eight miles and at least a $30 cab ride from midtown Manhattan, but the Louis Armstrong Museum, in Queens, is right nearby. Visitors can tour the modest home Armstrong lived in with his wife, Lucille, and see the gold record the entertainer received for Hello, Dolly as well as other Armstrong artifacts. Admission: $8

How to get there:Take the Q48 bus to 34th Ave. The museum is at 34-56 107th Street. (Note: the Q48 also stops at Shea Stadium.) Here's a link to MTA buses that serve the airport.

Fare:$2.00 each way.

San Francisco

BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) travels the 13 miles from San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to downtown in about 25 minutes. Once there, you can visit many top notch arts and cultural attractions, including the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts and Mission Delores, the city's oldest building. Admission varies depending on your chosen attraction.

How to get there:Take the free SFO AirTrain to the airport BART station.

Fare:Varies by destination, but generally less than $5.50.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is about 15 miles and at least a 30-minute cab or express bus ride from downtown Los Angeles. However, travelers can take a municipal bus to a nearby beach or to the restaurants and shops in close-by Westchester and El Segundo. The Flight Path Learning Center, an aviation history museum, is also nearby. Museum admission is free.

How to get there:Take the free LAX Shuttle "C" to Parking Lot C. Exit the gate to reach the LAX City Transit Center on 96th Street. ExperienceLA.com has put together a helpful and extensive public transit/cultural attraction guide.

Fare:Varies by destination, but generally less than $5.

Seattle

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) is 14 miles and a $25 -$30 cab ride to downtown Seattle but the Museum of Flight, at nearby Boeing Field, is a short bus ride away. Museum holdings include a Concorde, the first presidential jet, and a "Great Gallery" with 39 full-size historic aircraft. Admission: $14

How to get there:Take Metro bus #174 from the airport. The bus stops in front of the museum.

Fare:$1.50 — $1.75.

Atlanta

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