April 14th 2011 was a red-letter day in the history of San Francisco international airport (SFO). It saw the opening of the Californian airport’s former international terminal as a shiny new $383 million, 14-gate domestic hub for Virgin America. Able to handle up to 5.5 million passengers a year, Terminal 2 (T2) will boast nearly 31,000 square metres of shops and restaurants, as well a hip wine bar and the obligatory beauty spa.
Impressive stuff undoubtedly, but wait, there is more. Terminal 2 is no ordinary airport terminal. We are after all in San Francisco, arguably the greenest of US city of them all, so Terminal 2 has been designed as the most environmentally friendly airport terminal in the country. Not only will it have a low-energy air-conditioning and heating, it will also boast “hydration stations” where passengers can fill up their water bottles for free.
The terminal’s restaurants will have to use local, organic ingredients wherever possible, and its retailers have been urged to buy products locally and recycle as much of their waste as possible. At the time of writing, the exact line up of the nine shops and 12 restaurants in T2 have yet to be disclosed, but expect there to be relatively few of the retail names usually seen at other airports. SFO wants its array of shops and eateries to reflect the local San Francisco bay area.
SFO International Terminal Duty Free
DFS Group, a retailer better known for its airport shops and downtown Gallerias in Asia, has had the duty-free concession at SFO for many years. Its flagship store at Gate A2 stocks a wide range of luxury fashion, accessories, jewellery, watches and beauty lines likely to catch the eye of the many Asian travellers who fly from the airport. Gucci, Burberry, Prada, Calvin Klein, Versace and Dunhill are some of the designer labels stocked, alongside some very pricey Scotch whiskies and XO Cognacs. (See http://www.dfsgalleria.com/en/north-america
for a full run-down of what is on offer).
Another definite shopping highlight in this part of the airport has to be the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) shop in the terminal’s pre-security main hall. Established in 1935, SFMOMA was the first museum on the US West Coast to be devoted to modern art, and it is still famous worldwide for the quality of the 26,000 artworks, photos and design objects it has on display. Open from 09.00 to 18.00 hours, the SFMOMA shop at SFO stocks a superb range of books, jewellery, furniture, stationery, accessories with many products linked to current exhibitions.
Back airside there are several standalone boutiques in the international terminal dedicated to just one brand. Leathergoods brand Coach, for instance, can be found at Gates G92 and A1, while top-end luggage manufacturer Tumi has a store at G91. Burberry, that quintessentially British fashion brand so loved by the Japanese, also has a store near Gate G91, while a Gucci outlet selling handbags, eyewear and accessories is located at G92.
California’s Sonoma and Napa Valleys are of course rightly famous for the quality of their wines. The international terminal boasts two Californian wine stores: DFS Wine & Cigar at Gate G91 and San Francisco Wine Gourmet at Gate A5.
SFO Terminal 1 Duty Free Shopping
Unfortunately, the choice of stores in this predominantly domestic terminal is pretty limited. Pre-security you will find magazines and newspapers at Aviator News Books (entrance to Gates 20-36) and a decent local food and gift shop, which is called Simply Gourmet (entrance to Gates 40-48).
After security the range of shops improves. There is a DFS duty-free outlet, for instance, located at Gate 21, and a store selling fashion accessories, watches, sunglasses and fragrances called Gallerie SFO at Gate 41. SFO has a deserved reputation for delays and congestion due to its often foggy weather so if you are in need of reading material to while away the hours, news, books and magazines can be bought at Discover/Hudson News (Gate 40) and San Francisco Bay Reader (Gate 25).
Soundbalance (Gate 46) claims to be an airport electronics and entertainment store with a difference. It sells a wide range of mobile business and entertainment accessories, many which are claimed to be environmentally sustainable. Green-focused gadgets on sale include solar-powered mobile phone chargers and mobile phone cases made from recycled materials. Intrigued? Log on to www.soundbalance.com
for more details.
SFO Terminal 3 Tax & Duty Free Shopping
Anyone wanting to buy sweet treat and a memento from their trip to the West Coast could do worse than head for the See’s Candies outlet at Gate 82. With other 200 stores in the region, this old time San Francisco-based company produces all manner of high quality confectionery• best sellers include cinnamon lollypops, strawberry truffles, hot hearts, peanut brittle and molasses chips. To whet your appetite further, log on to www.sees.com
Also new Gate 82 is the recently opened Destination Green outlet, which is a shop very much in keeping with the pervading eco-friendly ethos in the San Francisco area. Quirky products on sale here include clocks made from recycled bicycle parts, vegan soaps and pencils made from recycled newspapers.
More familiar airport retail names to be found in this large terminal include PGA Tour Shop (Gate 83), Sunglass Hut (Gate 72), CNBC News (Gate 74) and The Body Shop (82). Spanish mass-market fashion label Mango has a shop at the entrance to Gates 80-90, while Marilla (Gate 68) is a long-established, independent store selling a good range of San Francisco-themed gifts and confectionery.
After all that shopping, we recommend you relax with a glass of Californian wine from the small Wine Wisdom store at Gate 85 (open 07.30-21.30 hours. Many frequent travellers at SFO rate the wines sold here much more highly than those offered in the terminal’s many bars and restaurants. Cheers!
For information on US Customs rules please see our quick guide:
United States Customs Allowance and Exemptions
San Francisco airport official shopping and dining site