The Ultimate Guide to Eating, Drinking, and Killing Time at Reagan National Airport

A gate-by-gate guide to restaurants, bars, and souvenirs at the Smithsonian Museum Store.

Reagan National Airport Restaurants, Bars, and Things to Do
Reagan Washington National Airport | Photo credit: Patrick Donovan, via Getty Images
Reagan Washington National Airport | Photo credit: Patrick Donovan, via Getty Images

If there’s a favorite airport in Washington, DC, it’s undoubtedly Reagan National—otherwise known as DCA. With its proximity to the city and relatively small, navigable layout, this airport makes traveling—even during the busy holiday season—less of a stressor than the majority of other airports in the region.

And it’s not just local DC and DMV residents who benefit from Reagan. In recent years, DCA has become a connecting hub among major US airlines (especially considering that the airport exclusively serves domestic flights). As such, on any given day, you can find plenty of passengers looking to entertain themselves as they wait for their flight or wait out a layover at DCA. And to help folks do just that, we’ve rounded up the best eats, drinks, and entertainment options to make your time at DCA fly by before your flight.

Reagan National Airport Restaurants, Bars, and Things to Do
Ben’s Chili Bowl | Photo Courtesy of Ben’s Chili Bowl

National Hall

Closest Gate: C23
If you’re leaving DC with no paraphernalia from our nation’s capital, have no fear: America! is here to help. The retailer offers a wide selection of historically-themed gifts, including flags, banners, and collectibles.

Closest Gate: C24
A proper DC institution, Ben’s has been open for over 60 years, and now boasts a location at DCA. Get the institution’s famous chili or half smokes before or after your flight for a true local experience.

Closest Gate: C24
For folks who realize that they’re in need of a quick business casual (or business formal) look upon arriving at the airport, Brooks Brothers is here to help. America’s oldest retailer now has a location at DCA to help travelers look their best no matter where they’re headed.

Closest Gate: C23
The classic family-owned seafood restaurant that has graced New England (and the rest of the world) with its simply prepared fish, mollusks, can be found at DCA, alongside a full bar and takeout options.

Closest Gate: C23
Whether you’re in search of a belt, some socks, or new luggage at the airport, get your shopping fix at Johnston & Murphy. And given that the brand claims to have outfitted every American President since Millard Fillmore, it seems fitting to shop here while in the nation’s capital.

Closest Gate: C24
Craving some Japanese before heading out from Washington, DC? For sushi rolls, teriyaki, tempura, and more, check out this full-service sushi bar, which also serves noodle dishes for folks looking for something more substantive. Refreshing cocktails and sake are also on the menu.

Closest Gate: C24
No trip to DC would be complete without a visit to a Smithsonian museum, and the Smithsonian Museum Store is here to ensure that you don’t leave empty handed. The retailer offers plenty of gifts for your friends, family, or yourself to take home souvenirs from one of the most major local cultural institutions.

A Gates

Closest Gate: A1
At Page, forgo trail mix with dishes from celebrity chef Carla Hall (of Top Chef Seasons 5 and 8 and The Chew). Whether you’re looking for pimento cheese dip, cured ham and biscuits, or a vegetarian quinoa burger, it’s definitely a more artisanal option of elevated airport food.

Closest Gate: A1
For a proper sit-down meal, check out Reservoir by Robert Wiedmaier. You may not think of locally sourced ingredients as a staple at most airport restaurants, but Reservoir is here to help you reconceptualize what airport food can be. Menu items are inspired by the Provence region of France, and the whole restaurant is meant to invoke a French bistro.

B Gates

Closest Gate: B15
If you’re looking for a burger, flatbread, or other familiar American fare, check out Grille District. Thanks to plenty of television screens, you can watch the game while waiting for your flight.

Closest Gate: B16
DC’s favorite fast-casual chain has a home at the B Gates in DCA, offering Mediterranean inspired salads, sandwiches, and grain bowls for folks in a hurry. Build your own combination of ingredients, or pick from one of Cava’s tried and true favorites.

Reagan National Airport Restaurants, Bars, and Things to Do
Kapnos Taverna | Photo courtesy of Kapnos Taverna

C Gates

Closest Gate: C30
El Centro comes from chef Richard Sandoval, whose DC-based empire of restaurants now expands to DCA. Check out El Centro for Latin American flavors in both food and drink options.

Closest Gate: C28
Get all the latest news, as well as traveling necessities like electronics, health and beauty accessories, souvenirs, and even luggage from this Forbes News store, one of the larger retail options within DCA.

Closest Gate: C27
For folks in search of a watering hole, U Street Pub is the perfect find. This bar—complete with plenty of television screens—is inspired by local DC joints, and is a great way to pass the time before boarding.

D Gates

Closest Gate: D38
As the name suggests, you’ll find plenty of beers on tap at this restaurant, which offers more of a sit-down experience than some of the fast casual eateries surrounding the restaurant. Also available are burgers, salads, and traditional bar bites.

Closest Gate: D37
With Greek-inspired dishes and wine lists, Kapnos is a great place to spend some time at DCA. Chef Mike Isabella, also of Top Chef fame, is the mastermind behind the concept, and brings his Mediterranean cooking style to the menu.

Closest Gate: D40
Quickly grab pre-packaged sandwiches, salads, soups, pastries, and more from this efficient market (which also serves beer, wine, and juice for folks in a hurry).

E Gates

Closest Gate: E46
If you’re looking for a DC gift before leaving the city, check out this retailer. As the name suggests, you’ll find trinkets from D.C. brands (as well as some national chains). Whether you’re in search of a keychain, a tea towel, or a ball cap, DC Originals has you covered.

Closest Gate: E46
For noise canceling headphones, speakers, tablets, fitness bands, and more electronic accessories, be sure to check out InMotion and load up on necessities before your long flight.

Closest Gate: E47
This popular Chinese-inspired restaurant is a great place to grab a takeout box before boarding your plane, or stop by for a multi-course meal after landing. The large bar area offers plenty of space to relax, especially during a stressful travel day.

Closest Gate: E59
Celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck has opened up a DCA outpost with what the team calls “approachable fine dining,” complete with a wide selection of cocktails, beer, wine, and of course, plenty of snacks for a pre- or post-flight treat.

Reagan National Airport Restaurants, Bars, and Things to Do
Lincoln Memorial | Photo by Scott Suchman for Thrillist

Other things to do near Reagan National Airport

Should you find yourself with too much time to kill at an airport—whether a long layover or, heaven forbid, a delay—the real beauty of DCA is its incredible proximity to some of the best that Washington, DC has to offer.

DCA is but a 10-minute drive (on a bad day) from the National Mall, where you can admire the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, and other great American landmarks.

And once you find yourself on the Mall, you might as well visit one of the many Smithsonian museums dotting the borders—check out the Museum of Natural History, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, or for a non-Smithsonian spot that's a must-see in DC, there’s the National Gallery of Art.

If you’re interested in catching a bite outside of the airport, you’re just across the river from the Southwest Wharf neighborhood, where you can find plenty of restaurants for either a casual drink (perhaps at Mi Vida) or a fancier meal (try Ilili DC). And with plenty of happy hour offerings during the weekdays (and even some of the weekends, including at Boardwalk), you won’t have to break the bank either.

Want more Thrillist? Follow us on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube.

Lulu Chang is a Thrillist contributor.