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Terminal Tours: San Francisco International Airport Terminal 1B

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The San Francisco International Airport (SFO) is almost a tourist destination in and of itself. You may want to arrive early so you can take advantage of the aviation museum, restaurants, art exhibits, play areas, and other attractions. Or if you find yourself with a long layover to Hawaii or somewhere else, you’re guaranteed to find something to pass the time. 

 

“First make sure that you are using the best airport for your location. I have found SFO to be great for hopping off, taking the BART downtown and visiting a walkable hotel. Beware of the topography though, it may appear to be a few blocks but some of the hills are steep enough they have cut stairs into the sidewalks - not ideal with luggage. Consider an Uber or Lyft even for gung-ho public transit buffs if you have a lot of luggage.

 

"One time, we took the BART downtown and then used a Zipcar to visit areas north of the  city, and returning to the city without needing to pay for parking of a rental car.” @DancingDavidE, Southwest Rapid Rewards Member

 

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Navigating Southwest’s San Francisco Airport Terminal

The terminal for Southwest Airlines at SFO is the Harvey Milk Terminal 1B. Phase 1 of the newly redesigned Terminal reopened in the summer of 2019 following a major renovation. The Terminal features new San Francisco-based restaurants, hundreds of power outlets, new artwork, lots of natural daylight, and high ceilings to diffuse noise. A new gate numbering system also debuted to make it easier to find your way through the airport.

 

If you find yourself traveling solo with kids, or just needing extra assistance, you may want to look into the services of Airport Butler. This concierge service can help you with baggage, lounge service, ground transportation, and more. Ultimately, it can help take a load off so you can enjoy your travel day.

 

Southwest Terminal at Oakland Airport Food/Restaurants

In addition to a new look, the Harvey Milk Terminal also has new restaurants. Many of the restaurants are locally based and feature cuisine that is synonymous with San Francisco. If you have extra time, you can explore the food options in the other SFO terminals, but there are plenty of food options in terminal 1:

 

Southwest SFO Terminal 1B Dining Options

  • Amy’s Drive-Thru: Sustainably focused café offering veggie, vegan, and gluten-free burgers, burritos, and pizzas. They also have a special kid's menu. 
  • Bourbon Pub: Chef Michael Mina’s take on pub fare including burgers, wings, fish and chips, tacos, and bourbon.
  • Bun Mee: Counter service Vietnamese fare specializing in banh mi, with modern decor.
  • Illy Coffee: Specialty Coffee, baked goods, paninis, salads, and desserts.
  • The Little Chihuahua: The menu features organic egg-based tacos, burritos and chilaquiles for breakfast; vegetarian offerings that include the restaurant’s well-known fried plantain and black bean tacos and burritos; plus beer, wine, and cocktails.
  • Starbird: Sandwiches, wraps, and salads with craft soda and house-made lemonades.

 

Retail Therapy

Forgot your phone charger? Need something to read on the plane? Have a hankering for a quick snack? The retail stores in the Harvey Milk Terminal have got you covered.

 

  • iStore: Stop by this authorized Apple reseller for technology and mobile electronics and accessories.
  • Mills Cargo: Grab some last-minute books, magazines, snacks, beverages, sundries, and souvenirs for your travel day.
  • Skyline News + Gifts: Another place to get magazines, books, snacks, souvenirs, and toiletries.
  • Shoeshine: Sit back and relax while an expert gives your shoes the pampering they deserve.

 

Family Bathrooms at the Terminal for Southwest Airlines

There is a family restroom located at the beginning of the terminal, close to the restaurants and shops. If you’d like to access a private nursing room, or “nursery” as the San Francisco Airport refers to them, there is one near Gate 43, and another one across from Gate 23. These rooms are locked and reserved for families with children. To gain access to one, you simply use a white airport courtesy phone to ask for the code.

 

There are also several women’s restrooms located in the terminal. One is pre-security, one is positioned by the family bathroom after security but before the gates, and the other is in the middle of the terminal. You can also find men's restrooms pre-security and past security and by the gates.

 

Traveling with Pets

Traveling with a pet is easy at the terminal for Southwest flights. The pet relief area is located in the Southwest San Francisco Airport Terminal 1B. This indoor area is located just before you reach all of the B Gates. It includes an area with a sink, paper towels, and bags to help your pet take care of business. Best of all, the animal relief area is accessible for the disabled.

 

Connectivity

The San Francisco International Airport now offers free WiFi in all of its terminals. To access the network, simply select the WiFi network #SFO FREE WIFI or #SFO FREE 5GHZ WIFI. From there, you simply launch your web browser of choice, click the button to accept the terms and conditions, and that’s it. Each session lasts four hours. If you need more time, just accept the terms and conditions again to extend by another four hours. You can do this as many times as you need to.

 

Wander Around 

And, now for the good stuff. If you’ve got a little (or a lot of) extra time, read on for some of the best things to see and do while you wait.

 

If you need to freshen up, you can head to the SFO International Terminal Lounges, or take advantage of the Freshen Up rental shower facilities in that same Terminal. Freshen Up is located by boarding area G and allows travelers the opportunity to rent a shower. You can also purchase soap and shampoo if needed.

 

Members of the U.S. military and their families have free access to the USO airport lounge located in the Terminal 1 Mezzanine. This lounge is open 24/7 and features TV, unlimited free Internet service, books, magazines, drinks, food, overnight facilities, and a nursery.

 

If you have little travelers who need to burn off some energy, take them near Gate 22 in boarding area B. There you’ll find a newly created play area where kids can take some time jump, run, roll, and get the wiggles out before strapping in for a flight. This area is open 24/7, which means it’s always open, even if it is past bedtime. There are also additional play areas in Terminal 2 and Terminal 3.

 

San Francisco airport terminal play area.jpgKid’s Spot Play Area. Image credit: SFO Airport

Harvey Milk Terminal 1 features five new, site-specific artwork pieces, and 25 two-dimensional works. You can peruse them all, but make sure you don’t miss the SFO Museum two large-scale mosaic murals by local Bay Area artists Jason Jågel and Robert Minervini.

 

Aviation enthusiasts and novices alike will enjoy a trip to the free Aviation Museum and Library, located in the International Terminal. This unique exhibit features an overview of the evolution of commercial aviation through the years. The space itself is designed to mimic the SFO’s lobby from the 1930s.

 

If you’re pre-security in the International Terminal, be sure to see SFO Museum’s Video Arts gallery. The gallery showcases short-form documentaries, short films, narratives, and even animation. It’s a fun way to learn about some of the latest filmmakers and see their works.

 

sfo international terminal lounges.jpgImage credit: SFO Museum

Rental Cars

It’s easy to travel between the terminals and the rental car agencies at SFO. The following agencies are located in the SFO Rental Car Center, which is accessed by taking the AirTrain Blue Line from any terminal:

  • Alamo*
  • Avis*
  • Budget*
  • Dollar*
  • Enterprise
  • Fox
  • Hertz*
  • National*
  • Thrifty*

 

For the following off-airport rental car agencies, you can request a free shuttle to pick you up from the south curb of the SFO Rental Car Center:

  • Advantage
  • Airport Van Rental
  • EZ Rent a Car
  • Payless Car Rental*
  • NU Car Rentals
  • Silvercar
  • Sixt
  • Travelcar

 * Denotes Rapid Rewards Partners 

 

Does your heart belong to San Francisco? Then tell us your best tip for visiting SFO in the comments below. 

 

Do you have any travel questions? Wondering about visiting a certain city or looking for tips about booking your trip? Our community is full of travelers that are ready to offer advice and share their travel experiences. Check it out! 

 

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