Holiday Travel

Half a Million Travelers Are Expected to Move Through PDX Thanksgiving Week

Arriving early at Portland International Airport has its perks with plenty of options to keep yourself occupied preflight: grab a local beer, check out the Larry Yes art exhibit, or settle in for some short films

By Sam Stites November 17, 2022

If you breeze through security and find yourself with a couple hours to spare at Portland International Airport, don't dismay. There are plenty of ways to keep busy before your flight. 

Ongoing construction and increasing passenger volumes could create bottlenecks at Portland International Airport for holiday travelers over Thanksgiving week. 

The Port of Portland estimates that about half a million bodies will move through PDX between the Friday before the holiday, November 18, and the Monday after, November 28. 

That's a marked increase from the past couple of years, which saw a significantly reduced number of travelers at the state’s largest airport, even during holiday periods. The Oregonian reported this week that PDX has seen a 30 percent uptick in passenger volume through the first nine months of this year, and national media are predicting a particularly bustling travel season. 

While it seems like glaringly simple advice, arriving early with plenty of time to board your flight has never been a more important tip. If you’re heading to PDX over the holiday, here are some tips to keep yourself occupied after making it through security so swiftly that you find yourself with time to spare:

We suggest checking out Bambuza in Concourse C. The pot stickers and crispy spring rolls are the perfect preflight finger food. The wonton soup with handmade pork dumplings, fresh egg noodles, and veggies is also a great dish to get you nice and relaxed for a plane nap. You’ll find yourself drowsy and arriving at your destination in no time. 

Just don’t doze off before you get on the flight—that can be a worry in the dark comfort of the Hollywood Theatre’s satellite location inside the airport. Locally made short films play on a 1-hour loop and include a quick trailer previewing the construction of the airport’s new wooden roof, expected to be finished by spring 2024. 

There are more than 200 pieces of art scattered throughout PDX for your viewing pleasure, from colorful bathroom tile mosaics and to black and white photography. Most recently the airport gained a new installation titled “Everyone on This Planet Is Family” from Portland-based artist and musician Larry Yes. There is also a rotating list of 20 musicians who volunteer their time to perform all throughout the airport on various days. 

You can also geta jump on Christmas shopping: Pendleton Woolen Mills, Columbia Sportswear, Rip City Clothing Co., and Tender Loving Empire all highlight the impressive smattering of retailers. Pick up a new City Edition Portland Trail Blazers jersey for the basketball (and airport carpet) lover in your life. They’ll be sure to appreciate their new duds being purchased from the place that inspired the new jersey’s theme. 

For a quick buzz, head over to Henry’s Tavern in Concourse C for a wide selection of beer, wine, and mixed drinks. Hopworks Urban Brewery in E and Deschutes Brewing in D are also great choices if you’re looking to sip a few sweet nectars and gobble down on some classic pub fare before takeoff. Bonus: according to the OLCC, an airport bar can sell an alcoholic beverage to “a ticketed airline passenger with a valid same-day boarding pass” as early as 5 a.m., in case you were hoping to raise a glass during some of the week’s pre-dawn World Cup games. (Outside the airport, the earliest you can get a drink is 7 a.m.) Just make sure not to have one too many because flight staff can refuse to let you on the plane if you’re visibly intoxicated, which can be a major buzzkill and piss off your relative waiting to pick you up on the other end.