Head north, away from downtown traffic, to Old Town Spring. It's a turn-of-the-century railroad town revitalized by enterprising merchants, now offering antiques, gifts, clothing, and accessories. If browsing isn't your thing, you'll find almost as many eateries as stores (befitting the touristy ambience, one joint sells funnel cakes). Most of the shops are open 10 a.m. to five p.m. Monday through Saturday, and noon to five p.m. on Sunday. Caution: Not for those allergic to cute. (281) 353-9310, www.oldtownspring.com
Distance from airport: 15 miles. Best transportation option: taxi.
Metrolink, the city's light-rail system, whisks passengers from the airport terminal right into downtown in 20 minutes, leaving plenty of time for a quick trip to Laclede's Landing, an entertainment district with cobblestone streets, museums, and shops on the riverfront (the Museum of Westward Expansion is a must for history buffs). The fare is $3.25; what you spend after that is up to you.
Distance from airport: 14 miles. Best transportation option: train.

LAMBERT - ST. LOUIS INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
Just a 15-minute cab ride away is Southall, known as Little India - though it would be better called Little Punjab for its Northern Indian flavor. For a great meal, try Roxy's (114-8 The Green, 011-44-208-574-2597) or Gifto's Lahore Karahi (162-164 The Broadway, 011-44-208-813-8669). Save room for dessert at one of the nearby sweet shops, and save some cash for the Bollywood music and DVDs at A.B.C. Music (7 The Broadway, 011-44-208-574-1319).
Distance from airport: six miles. Best transportation option: taxi.

LONDON HEATHROW AIRPORT
Take a 20-minute cab ride to Venice Beach and watch the beautiful people grunt and lift weights. Or, take a free shuttle to the Hilton Los Angeles Airport and lift weights yourself at the 24-hour fitness center. Pool and four whirlpools, too. $10. (310) 410-4000.