The Airport Report- Terminal 3 of SFO

by - Friday, July 13, 2012

Airport Details: SFO is really large, and your experience there can be pretty different depending on who you are flying with, so I am splitting it up, starting with Terminal three, which primarily caters to the United crowd, and which I was at most recently. Very often we take red-eyes through this, so my perspective is mostly a late night perspective.

SFO is made up of 4 terminals and the international one is definitely the nicest (though parts of terminal 2 are pretty nice now too). Switching airline in the airport would be crazy, but leaving from the airport we usually just have to get where we are going and things are pretty simple. Parking here is ridiculous expensive, so we do long term parking way off site or super shuttles (which I hate with a burning passion), that adds to a general distaste for arriving back at the place, but otherwise it is a nice enough airport.

Terminal 3 is shaped like an upside-down "T" with a split ending. Usually, we fly out of gates 68-90, but most of the better restaurants are up front in the halls that go long ways.

Length of time in Security: Verry often, security goes long, but we have never been late for a flight because of it. The funniest thing about it is that United offers ahierarchized system and there is a "priority" security line. It is almost always longer and slower. I really hate United's ads that basically say "man, doesn't it suck to fly with us? get this card and it will be better!" Well, Nick got the card basically for the free luggage, and I can say for a fact that with the card it still sucks to fly with them. They are really doing their stuff wrong, and you can tell from start to finish. At the same time, they will open up security lines if the line gets too long, but I would definitely recommend giving yourself a little extra time here.

Best place to Eat:  Hidden Subway-There is a subway in this terminal way of in a corner. It's not the best place to eat in the world, but there aren't a lot of fast options in this terminal, so it is good to know it is there.
Just Desserts- Whenever we fly with United, the Boy looks forward to Just Desserts, which is exactly what it sounds like. He has tried a couple of cakes, but I am not sure he has ever loved any of them. I think the oreo-ish one is pretty good. I usually get ice cream, which is definitely good. Other than now in our pre-wedding starvation mode, we pretty much always get a treat in airports, because it takes the sting off of flying.
Gordon Biersch- I am not sure we have ever eaten at this one, but we have eaten at the one in Dulles (Terminal D) a couple of times, and I love me some crab cakes. Probably the best meal I have ever eaten in an airport that wasn't made of ice cream.

The biggest mystery to me- Yankee Pier- I have never eaten here, but the sign is exactly the same as Yankee candle. And the whole restaurant looks like a scented candle in airport restaurant form. And is always FILLED with old people. Like retirees fly just to eat in the Yankee Candle. Someday we will try it, and I will let you know how it goes.

Worst place:
 Firewood Cafe- their pizzas are truly disgusting. Good if you are the kind of person that doesn't actually want to eat. The dough is bad, the sauce is bad, etc. etc. Neither of us finished it.

Magazines and Candy: There is big book store up front that is almost always already closed by the time we get to the airport. The nice thing about it is that it has a really large and bizarre combination of magazines there too, so you can check that out if you fly more often than they switch your stuff out. We usually go to the magazine place in the circle foodcourt. Good magazines and lots of choices for bottled water (which shouldn't make a difference, but it does). Also, because it is San Francisco, there is a a lot of Ghiradelli chocolates to choose from.

Shopping: Eh, I don't think I have ever done any shopping here, but there is a Mango store. And like a kitschy bag store at the end of the moving walkway. Nothing too odd or fun, but at least you have an option in case you pour your coffee on yourself or something.

Coolest feature: I would like to read about SFO's curation team, because they must have a good one. The airport will have really legit art sort of parked in unexpected corners, but they also do really great/ bizarre exhibitions in long halls like the one in Terminal 3. Right now it is a show about showing mahcines and textiles. Before that I think it was an exhibition on old TV Guide covers? I love them, and totally look forward to them, because you can never predict what they are going to do. Some great Americanist is pulling the curatorial strings, I think, because the shows they pick are super lively and FUN.

Also, some of the moving walkways at SFO are bouncy (specifically the ones coming from the parking garage) like very subtle moving trampolines. I guess it doesn't sound that amazing, but they put us in a good mood everytime. You can be exhausted from a red-eye, but you still have to bounce on those marvels.

Ease of Layovers: SInce this is our other "home base" airport, I have never done a layover here, but as long as you are staying with the same airline, I think it would be a cinch, since splitting it into 4 smaller parts makes each part much more manageable.

General Cuteness: Eh, it's not thaat cute. One other really nice thing about it though is that landing you fly over the Bay, which is very beautiful both during the day and at night. That's a very sweet thing about it. Otherwise, it is pretty middle of the line in the less fancy terminals- not dated enough to be charming and not fancy enough to be impressive. It also feels pretty dark in some of the areas, because they don't take as much advantage of the light as they could.
Other comments: It's a nice place to fly into, and not too intimidating for the size of it. It's also not too far from the city, but it is at a nice place for people who live in the Bay. It has some cool style stuff and lots of options for food.

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