George Bush Intercontinental • where best to shop ....
From skyscrapers and multi-lane highways to ten-gallon cowboy hats and corn dogs, everything about Texas is big. The famous boast certainly seems to hold true of the US state’s airports • the massive George Bush Intercontinental is the eighth busiest passenger airport in the country, for instance, handling over 40 million passengers a year. Serving as the primary hub for United Airlines, the airport boasts no fewer than five terminals (A-E), where 20 scheduled airlines fly to 185 domestic and international destinations.
Enough of the facts and figures, it is time for a terminal-by-terminal tour of the airport’s many shops and boutiques.
Terminal A was one of the airport’s two original terminals opened back in the mists of time in 1969, but is now greatly expanded with 20 gates spread out over two concourses. If you are stuck for reading matter between flights, then you are spoilt for choice in this part of the airport: Bayjou City News (Gates A25-30) also stocks sweets and gifts, as does CNBC News (Ticketing Lobby) and Gulf Coast News (Gates A1-2).
As for local products and gifts, we have to mention the Texas Trail Boss Jerky Store. It may not to be to everybody’s taste, but this recently opened outlet gets credit for selling a food product that is quintessentially and unashamedly part of the Old West. This independently run outlet sells the traditional beef variety (that goes without saying), but also other more unusual varieties made from turkey, pork and bison, as well as a selection of flavoured lines such as spicy and garlic.
Head to Gate A9 to stock up on duty-free goodies. Expect to find the standard range of liquor, tobacco, fragrances and cosmetics, but unfortunately there is no opportunity for travellers to browse the range before they fly, as the retailer, in this case big international travel-retailer The Nuance Group, hasn’t bothered with a website.
The second of the airport’s original terminals now benefits from a well deserved renovation (Terminal B South Concourse 2013). It now serves almost exclusively as a hub for United Airlines. The choice of shops and concessions has been increased to include the istore, Relay Travel and the Body Shop and many of the same names (Nuance Tax & Duty Free, CNBC News and Gulf Coast News) that will be familiar to anyone who has travelled through Terminal A.
The best of the bunch is arguably the Fossil store, where you will find branded men’s and women’s watches, jewellery and small leather goods, which combine an eye fashion with everyday practicality. Elsewhere in Terminal B, rent a DVD for the flight at the handy self-service Red Box Kiosk (www.redbox.com) or buy a good novel at Simply Books (Gates B84-91)
Terminal C, which serves as a domestic hub for United, opened in the 80s and was refurbished as recently as 2008. Keen anglers and lovers of the outdoors might find the Bass Pro Shops outlet in East Wing C to their liking. A scaled down version of the retailer’s 50 domestic stores in the US and Canada, this lodge-themed outlet sells rugged outdoor fashion wear, as well as well as fishing and camping accessories, instructional books, DVDs and magazines (www.basspro.com).
For clothes of an altogether smarter nature, a dress shirt for an important meeting perhaps or a snazzy tie for a dinner date, then you are best off locating the Brooks Brothers shops near Gates C14-23 (www.brooksbrothers.com). Also at C14-23, Brookstone’s eclectic mix of office and travel accessories plus the latest gadgets and gizmos make for a great store for a bored traveller to while away the time in, while Kid Zoo stocks children’s clothing and accessories.
Opened in 1990, Terminal D is the place to catch all non-United flights and serves many international destinations. It is also notable for being the only airport terminal in the world to boast a branded Jack Daniel’s shop (near Gates D1-6). If you are a fan of this Tennessee whiskey (please don’t call it a bourbon, you might upset the sales staff), it is great place to buy all manner of branded merchandise from baseball caps and glasses to t-shirts and key-rings. As for the drink itself, you will find along with regular Jack Daniel’s some rarer and higher-priced offerings such as Jack Daniel’s Single Select.
A wide range of duty-free goods can be found at Liberty Duty Free, which has two locations in this terminal (Gates D7-8 and Gates D9-12). We also recommend paying a visit to the Stelzig Ranch store, which is one of Texas’ oldest makers and sellers of quality western boots, clothing, jewellery and accessories. Designers and brands featured include the legendary Stetson Hats, Lucchese Boots, maker of cool leather jackets Jose Luis, and Texan jewellery designer Paige Wallace.
This terminal, the largest in the airport, is dedicated to United flights. The selection of 20 different stores and restaurants here is managed by a large US airport concession developer called Westfield Concession Management. Unusually for a US airport, this operator even runs a website, www.shophoustonterminale.com
, which features a handy interactive map for passengers and a basic guide to the stores and restaurants on offer.
As you might expect, there are two duty-free stores in this terminal located near Gate 10 and 24, which are both operated by a big international travel-retailer, Dufry.
Local Texas-themed gifts can be found at Lone Star Gifts (Gate 10) and Treasures from Texas (Gate 15). The latter goes in more for casual fashion lines such as sweats, t-shirts and caps from local colleges and baseball/football teams, while the former carries a broader range of items that includes handcrafted jewellery, local confectionery and fashion accessories.
Other stores in this terminal you won’t find elsewhere at the airport include Borders books (Gates 10-11), BlackBerry from Wireless Giant (right of Security Checkpoint), a great confectionery store Coco Moka (Gates 17-20) carrying upscale brands such as Neuhaus and Godiva, ethical beauty brand L’Occitaine (Gates 12-14) and colourful footwear brand, Crocs (Gates 2, 3, 8 and 9).
Last but not least, Houston is famous for its NASA Space Center and Terminal E gets full marks for boasting an official NASA gift store. A great place to take the kids; check out the official website, www.spacetrader.com
, to get an idea of what the store offers.