Highlights: United Airlines hub, Vending Machines, Hershey’s, Trip Advisor store, Space Corner, Duty Free Chanel, CNBC smartshop, Natalie’s Candy Bar, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, Beer, Einstein Bros. Bagels.
IAH is very modern and hosts one of United Airlines hubs, it is efficient at connecting flights. You may need to check your gate upon arrival because it may change but if you’re booking a flight with a short layover I wouldn’t worry about making the connection, especially if you’re flying with the same airline. Houston’s IAH has a good mix of quick sit down restaurants and grab and go as well as some unique shops for grabbing souvenirs. It’s a very modern airport with lots of vending machines and mostly digital kiosk ordering services for food, it’s kind of like Japan.
Getting to Houston
There’s two main options for getting into downtown Houston from IAH; Taxi/Uber or bus. Taxi’s cost around $57 with uber a bit cheaper depending on the time of day. Both private cars and buses take about 20-30 minutes but the metro nonstop bus is a lot cheaper, at $15 one way. It is also very convenient and they will take care of your luggage. There are additional buses if you’re heading to Beaumont/Port Arthur, College Station and Galveston as well. There is also regular metro bus’s which cost around $1.25, you’ll need exact change though.
There’s tons of options here for both take away and dinning. IAH has a good mix of International and American foods. If you’re a beer lover, there are many options you have Doubler Beer & Whiskey Garden, Brewsters, Barcuterie, American Craft Tavern and Liquid Provisions or Yume for some Japanese beer or sake.
There are many locations to get a burger or a sandwich, I’d suggest the Chicago born Potbelly or Bam Bam for quick sandwich/po’boy. A Burger at Chef Antonio Ware’s H-Burger Bar is also a good choice. There’s even Neapolitan pizza at Forno Magico or by the slice Italian style at Tagliare. You can even get Cajun/Vietnamese food at Bam Bam, mentioned above, this is definitely something you won’t find at most places, so I would suggest giving it a shot. Other then that I would suggest getting Tex Mex at Caddilac Mexican Kitchen or El Premio. If you’re looking for a fast snack I’d suggest grabbing an Einstein bros bagel and trying something sweet at Nestle Toll House or Hersey’s. For coffee lover’s there is Peet’s Coffee, Nestle Toll House or one of nine Starbucks locations.
Along with most restaurant places having kiosk to order, there are dozens of vending machines from Benefit Cosmetics, Best Buy Express, CVS for your pharmacy needs, Skyroam portable wifi, Stance for statement socks, Uniqlo has their ultra light packable down and heat tech shirts in vending machines, you can even get PPE (personal protective equipment).
Aside from a cool variety of vending machines there’s a few notable shop you can browse. CNBC smartshop has some sports team merchandise but is mostly travel necessities. Trip Advisor has a shop there too, again, mainly travel items. You can grab confectionaries from Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, Natalie’s Candy Jar and Hersey’s. Space Corner has all your NASA and space exploration souvenirs.
Things to Do
IAH has lounges for Admiral’s, Air France, United, British Airways, KLM, American Express and Exectutive club for China, Emirates, Lufthansa and Qatar. Additional to that there are some of display of public littered around the airport and even a live music performance at Terminal A and D, Harmony in the Air (see link for schedule)
The TSA lines here range between 5-20 minutes, real fast for a big American Airport. I find in the states they have less random checks and just put everyone through the scans or pat downs. The cool addition for IAH is they have a website you can find screening times, below is an examples
On your way to the airport if you feel like you may need to go check out another place you can quickly find out what the wait times are to see if you really need to be there earlier (link).