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Like everything else in the world of travel, airports are in a state of constant evolution. Only a few years ago, amenities such as in-lounge spas and yoga rooms would have amazed passengers; today, they are becoming commonplace. Just as airports are competing for traffic, they’re also looking for ways to separate themselves from the competition by offering diversions that take the boredom out of travel. Here are some of the world’s most unusual airport amenities:
While more and more people have digital devices, the iPad-and-earplug experience still pales next to the big-screen environment. You can burn up several hours of a long layover here:
- Singapore Changi (SIN): Two 24-hour theaters show films free of charge (Terminal 2, Level 3, near the Sunflower Garden; Terminal 3, Level 3, near the Ambassador Transit Lounge)
- Hong Kong International (HKG): The UA IMAX Theater is located in Terminal 2, Level 6, near the Food Court; hours are 11am-10pm Monday-Friday, 9:30am-10pm Saturday-Sunday
- Seoul Incheon International (ICN): Two CGV Theaters, located at Gate 1B, are open 9am-11pm daily
- Minneapolis-St. Paul International (MSP): The See 18 Film Screening Room (Concourse C, near Gate C18) operates 24/7 and shows short films and documentaries by filmmakers from the Upper Midwest
All facilities, except for the one in Punta Cana, are located in airport terminal hotels, and are available to transit passengers for a small fee:
- Singapore: Situated in the Aerotel Airport Transit Hotel in Terminal 1, this rooftop pool includes a jacuzzi, poolside bar and showers
- Hamad International, Doha (DOH): The Vitality Well-Being and Fitness Center in the transit hotel features a temperature-controlled 25-meter (82 foot) lap pool, fully equipped gym, hydrotherapy tub and two squash courts
- Dubai International (DXB): The Health Club of the Dubai International Airport Hotel, in Terminal 3, offers a pool, gym, massage service, showers, and separate saunas and steam rooms for ladies and gentlemen
- Punta Cana International, Dominican Republic (PUJ): In 2018, the new VIP lounge opened with an infinity pool overlooking the runways; access is limited to homeowners of the Puntacana Resort and Club; Priority, Dragon and Lounge Pass cardholders; First and Business Class passengers, and those who purchase the airport’s VIP services
The Nine Eagles course at HKG has closed, but this one is even better:
- Seoul Incheon: The Sky 72 Golf Club, five minutes from the airport on a free shuttle ride, gives visitors the opportunity to play either nine or 18 holes on a putting course; if you’re pressed for time, you can practice your swing at the driving range.
Airports are all about asphalt, but here’s one place that celebrates the great outdoors with carefully planned pockets of greenery:
- The elaborate Nature Trail at SIN includes the Cactus Garden in Terminal 1 (a rooftop garden with over 100 species of cactus from Africa and the Americas), and the Sunflower and Orchid Gardens in Terminal 2
If you get so wrapped up in planning the details of the honeymoon that you forget about the ceremony, these airports combine the romance of travel with romance, period:
- Frankfurt International (FRA) offers an all-inclusive wedding package for 1,500 euros that encompasses a wedding planner, professional photographer, wedding cake, reception for 15 guests in one of the airport’s five-star hotels, and one night’s stay in a suite
- St. Louis Lambert International (STL) has 26,000 square feet of event space with panoramic views of the runways, and can cater receptions of virtually any size
- Stockholm Arlanda (ARN) provides an elaborate collection of VIP wedding services that includes catering, Champagne, photographers, private lounges and priests from the Church of Sweden; if you’d like, you can even get married in the control tower!
- At Manchester International (MAN), you may hold your ceremony under the wings of a British Airways Concorde and enjoy a three-course meal on board
Ice Skating Rink
Lace up your skates, cut some figure eights, and unwind from your flight:
- ICN: The Ice Forest Skating Rink is located at B1, and will rent you skates, gloves and a helmet (open daily from 10am-8pm)
One of the best collections of sea creatures is in a place where you’d least expect to find it:
- Vancouver International (YVR): This engineering marvel begins with a man-made stream running through the International Terminal and culminates in a 30,000-gallon aquarium filled with British Columbia sea life; highlights include 20 species of fish and a nearly 500-gallon jellyfish tank
- There may be no such thing as a free lunch, but Spokane International (GEG) offers a free car wash to anyone parking in the two garages or the outside parking lot; the automated wash covers the outside of the vehicle only, but given the price it’s hard to complain
If you only have a few hours in transit, but want an authentic German experience:
- Airbrau at Munich International (MUC) is a traditional Bavarian beer garden with seating for 600, a mix of salads and hearty German specialties such as sausages and pig’s knuckles, and eight beers crafted by master brewer Rene Jacobsen; Airbrau serves breakfast, lunch and dinner; and tours of the brewery are available for a modest fee
Given the current popularity of craft cocktails, it was inevitable that distillers would set up shop in airports:
- The House Spirits Distillery makes rum, vodka, aquavit and an American single malt whiskey; the tasting room at Portland International (PDX) is open daily from noon-6pm
- London’s Gatwick International (LGW) is home to The Nicholas Culpeper, named for the 17th century physician and herbalist; while the pub and restaurant are open 24 hours, the landside location means that you can’t carry any of their small-batch gin through security with you
Prunier Caviar Bar
You don’t have to forgo the good life simply because you’re flying:
- The legendary Parisian restaurant operates a Caviar and Seafood bar at HKG, London’s Heathrow International (LHR) as well as LGW, John F. Kennedy International in New York (JFK), Copenhagen International (CPH), DXB, and both Charles de Gaulle (CDG) and Orly International (ORY) in Paris; dine on specialties such as Balik smoked salmon, king crab, lobster and fish eggs accompanied by glasses of Champagne
As the travel experience becomes more diverse, airport amenities have expanded to include movie theaters, swimming pools, wedding chapels and golf, as well as dining options such as distilleries, beer gardens and caviar bars.
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