5 Airports for the Most Scenic Landings in America

by  Yahoo! Travel | Apr 22, 2015

By Nick Aster for Yahoo! Travel

Who doesn’t love a picturesque landing? (Photo: Thinkstock)

If you’re a window seat fan, you’re probably especially fond of checking out the views upon landing. The slow descent provides a fabulous vantage point to check out your destination.

Some landings, especially at airports far out in suburbia are fairly banal — a few freeway interchanges, some strip malls, maybe a field or two. On the other hand, there are five airports in America that offer spectacular, even dramatic, landings that will take your breath away.

5. Los Angeles (LAX)

Make sure to nab a seat on the right side of the plane when flying into LAX. (Photo: Gunnar Kullenberg/RGB Ventures/SuperStock/Alamy)

Day or night, landing at LAX is impressive. Nearly 100 percent of the time, planes land from the east. This means a seat on the right side of the plane is your best bet to catch views of the San Gabriel mountains, the Los Angeles River, downtown L.A., the Hollywood sign, and Century City in the distance. On either side, however, you’ll be treated to views of seemingly endless sprawl before touching down among tall palm trees, neon lights, and at least one very large In-N-Out Burger. At night it’s especially incredible, as the freeways seem to flow like veins in a giant organism.

4. Chicago Midway

You get fairly up close and personal when landing at Midway in Chicago. (Photo: Pat Canova/Alamy)

Nothing pleases me more than nearly hitting buildings on my descent. At Midway you can almost high-five people having barbecues on their rooftops, depending on the runway. Midway is a small airport jammed into a fairly dense neighborhood, though it’s very hard to predict what direction you’ll be arriving from. Midway’s X-pattern runways mean there are lots of options. If you’re coming from the east, and you’re lucky, you should get a spectacular and very close-up view of the massive Chicago skyline on the right side of the plane. Either way, you’re in for a fast descent over the rooftops.

3. San Diego 

(Photo: Chad Ehlers/Alamy)

Speaking of nearly hitting buildings, San Diego International Airport’s approach is downright frightening to the uninitiated. Get a seat on the left side of the plane and you’ll literally be able to see people waving from the windows of skyscrapers at the very same altitude as you. On the right side you’ll come up-close and personal with a number of neighborhoods and hilltops. About 10 percent of the time, SAN reverses its landing pattern, and you’ll come in for a landing over Ocean Beach. Not quite as dramatic but a nice view nonetheless.

2. New York (LaGuardia)

Every view is pretty great when you fly into LaGuardia. (Photo: Snap Decision/Alamy)

This one’s a bit of a crapshoot because approaches are hard to predict, but pick a seat on the left side of the plane and you’ve got a decent chance of a long, slow descent right alongside Manhattan Island. Pick a seat on the right and you’ll probably get Manhattan views as well, but a bit more in the distance. Most likely, however, you’ll careen over Long Island and outer Queens, right over the Mets’ ballpark and the giant globe from the 1964 World’s Fair.

1. Washington National

Landing at National gives you a proper tour of Washington D.C. (Photo: Ken L Howard/Alamy)

About 50 percent of the time, Washington National treats you to what is certainly the finest landing in the U.S. The other 50 percent is still not too shabby. It’s worth the effort to always choose a seat on the left side of the plane, since odds are you’ll eventually get the view: a rapid descent that follows the Potomac River, banking left and right and making your ears pop much more than usual. Then, at what seems like the last second, the plane will take a hard left bank almost directly over the Lincoln Memorial, and the entire National Mall will fly in your face, with every major Washington landmark so close you can smell the granite. Keep your camera ready.

Nick Aster is a new media architect and founder of TriplePundit.com, one of the Web’s leading sources of news and ideas on how business can be used to make the world a better place. Nick has also worked for Mother Jones magazine, TreeHugger.com and Gawker Media. When not out traveling in search of solutions to the world’s problems, he can be found in San Francisco.

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