From ice skating to Christmas markets, how airports are making holiday travel fun
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It’s the most wonderful time of the year … to be at an airport. No, seriously. Hear us out.
Holiday travel may be challenging for a lot of reasons (namely crowds) but we promise your time at the airport doesn’t have to be totally miserable. In fact, it can be a pretty merry — dare we say, jolly — part of the holiday travel experience if you end up in one of these airports in the next few weeks. They’ve pulled out all the stops, complete with activities and amenities that go well beyond a well-decorated Christmas tree.
This time of year, airports around the world are playing host to ice skating rinks, full Christmas markets, therapy pups and even flights to the “North Pole.” Here are some of the most impressive ways airports around the world are making holiday travel just a bit more festive.
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Go ice skating at the TWA Hotel
Put on your best (not to mention warmest) 1960s attire and get ready to freeze all your other plans. The TWA Hotel has a “one-of-a-kind ice skating experience” called Runway Rink. What do they mean by one-of-a-kind? We’re glad you asked.
You can take a spin on the tarmac around the hotel’s 1958 Lockheed Constellation Connie airplane (which is actually their cocktail lounge) and then feast your eyes on an ice-skating spectacular. The Runway Rink is custom-made and 56 by 44 feet, and it will operate every day through the end of February. Tickets are $15, and only $10 for kids under $12, plus the cost of rental skates ($10 and $8, respectively).
Finally, a reason to have a long layover at JFK.
Ice skate for free at Denver International
If you’re not on the East Coast this holiday season but still want to get in your airport skating fix, you’re still in luck. Denver International Airport (DEN) has you covered for the fourth year in a row, thanks to its pop-up ice skating rink located at the DEN Plaza.
The best part? It’s all free of charge — even the skate rentals. You can arrive early to skate before your flight, during a longer layover or do your best lutz after landing in Denver. The rink is open through Jan. 20 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. — that’s several weeks longer than last year. As a bonus, you might be able to grab some hot chocolate or cider, as well as enjoy fun activities and entertainment on Friday afternoons. What a way to lift your holiday spirits after or before a long day of travel!
Shop Munich’s famous Christmas markets at the airport
Europe’s tradition of charming Christmas markets is alive and well at Munich Airport (MUC). For the 21st year, it has transformed into a winter wonderland — so be sure to stock up on all the hand-blown glass ornaments and gluhwein (mulled wine) you can fit in your suitcase. Better yet, if you’d like to do some shopping, head outside security between Terminals 1 and 2. Just be sure to make your way there between Nov. 15 and Dec. 29, when Santa’s elves will bring the festivities back to the North Pole until next year. If shopping isn’t your thing, you can also make your way to the airport’s two ice skating rinks, enjoy some live music or check out more than 40 exhibitors and caterers.
Fly to the “North Pole”
Speaking of the North Pole, you’ve got to hand it to United Airlines for their Fantasy Flights when they bring the holidays to especially festive airport gates for some special families. For 30 years, the team has created a holiday experience for children in need. The airline works with local hospitals at its different hubs and changes up the recipient base annually.
These short flights take-off, fly around and give the kids and their guardians an incredible inflight experience before landing at the “North Pole” where Santa and his elves (United employees and volunteers) greet children and throw an awesome holiday luncheon. Here’s what it was like to be on one of this year’s flights out of Washington Dulles (IAD).
Create holiday gifts at the Changi Jewel Festive Market
Why buy a gift to share on your next trip when you could make one? (OK, let’s be real, no one on the planet would want a gift I made.) But, if you’re feeling crafty, the Changi Jewel Festive Market at Singapore Changi Airport (SIN) has dates through January during which you can create a stuffed bear, coin purse and even a lamp in the holiday marketplace. There are fees for these workshops and a full schedule is listed online.
Who’s ready for Christmas? Here’s a sneak peak of the Jewel Festive Market located at Jewel, Cloud9 Piazza at Level 5. Discover exclusive products, participate in art & craft workshops when it opens on 21 Nov! More info: https://t.co/1wOb27FZMy pic.twitter.com/AtRkTXgbLW
— Changi Airport (@ChangiAirport) November 15, 2019
Peer into Santa’s workshop at London Heathrow
In Terminals 2 and 5 at London’s Heathrow, there’s an installation of periscopes that allow travelers to peer into the inner workings of Santa’s workshop. The periscopes show 360-degree films straight from Santa’s Toy Factory, Department of Wrapping, and the Mail Room.
Last-minute holiday travel tips
We hope you’ll encounter holiday magic no matter which airports you transit through this season. But, if your trip ends up feeling like it was orchestrated by the Grinch instead of Buddy the Elf, here are some tips:
- Retreat to an airport lounge where you can sit in relative peace and quiet, refresh and grab something to eat or drink — an even better experience if you can access some of the world’s most exclusive airport lounges. There are many credit cards that confer airport lounge access, and there are also policies that may help active-duty military travelers.
- Dine at an airport restaurant courtesy of your Priority Pass membership that comes as a benefit with credit cards such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.
- Take a deep breath and learn a few quick tips to survive holiday air travel with kids.
Featured image courtesy of Lori Zaino/The Points Guy.
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