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Just a few years ago, amenities such as in-lounge spas and yoga rooms would have amazed airport 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. Whether you’re looking to kill time during a layover or are seeking fun amusements and distractions for the entire family, these 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:
- Portland International Airport (PDX): A 17-seat mirco-cinema in Terminal C shows short films made by Oregon filmmakers free of charge.
- Singapore Changi (SIN): Two 24-hour theaters (Terminal 2, Level 3, near the Sunflower Garden; Terminal 3, Level 3, near the Ambassador Transit Lounge) show films free of charge.
- Hong Kong International (HKG): The UA IMAX Theater is located in Terminal 2, Level 6, near the Food Court. Hours are 11am to 10pm Monday through Friday, and 9:30am to 10pm on Saturday and Sunday.
- Seoul Incheon International (ICN): Two CGV Theaters, located at Gate 1B, are open 9am to 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 Changi: Situated in the Aerotel Airport Transit Hotel in Terminal 1, this rooftop pool includes a Jacuzzi, poolside bar and showers.
- Hamad International in Doha (DOH): The Vitality Well-Being and Fitness Center in the transit hotel features a temperature-controlled 25-meter (82 foot) lap pool, a 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 services, showers and separate saunas and steam rooms for both women and men.
- Punta Cana International in the Dominican Republic (PUJ): In 2018, the new VIP lounge opened with an infinity pool overlooking the runways, though 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. Priority Pass membership comes with cards such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve and others.
- Singapore’s airport has multiple really cool slides to help you pass the time. There’s Singapore’s tallest slide, located in Terminal 3, that allows for a free ride with a receipt for every $8 (approximately) spent at the airport. There’s also a slide that will take you to your gate in Terminal 4.
Sadly, the Nine Eagles course at HKG has closed, but there are others:
- Seoul Incheon: The Sky 72 Golf Club, located 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.
- Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport: The PGA MSP Lounge isn’t a full golf course, but you can practice your swing or putting much closer to home — and potentially for free — if you have a Priority Pass membership, as that gives you a credit to use as you wish inside the lounge.
Airports are all about tarmac, but here’s one place that celebrates the great outdoors with carefully planned pockets of greenery:
- The elaborate Nature Trail at Singapore Changi 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. There’s also the newly-opened Canopy Park.
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): Book an all-inclusive wedding package for 1,500 euros and get access to a wedding planner, professional photographer, wedding cake, reception for 15 guests in one of the airport’s five-star hotels and a one-night stay in a suite.
- St. Louis Lambert International (STL): With 26,000 square feet of event space featuring panoramic views of the runways, you can host a reception of virtually any size.
- Stockholm Arlanda (ARN): There’s an elaborate collection of VIP wedding services at Stockholm Arlanda that includes catering, Champagne, photographers, private lounges and priests from the Church of Sweden. You can even get married in the control tower here.
- Manchester International (MAN): 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:
- Seoul Incheon: The Ice Forest Skating Rink is located at B1, and will rent you skates, gloves and a helmet (open daily from 10am to 8pm).
- Munich Airport (MUC): In addition to two seasonal ice skating rinks, travelers passing through Munich Airport can peruse an entire Christmas Market.
- Denver International Airport (DEN): Book a flight out of here during the holiday season for access to a free ice skating rink.
There’s a collection of sea creatures in a place where you’d least expect to find it:
- Vancouver International (YVR): This engineering marvel begins with a manmade 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.
- Spokane International (GEG): There may be no such thing as a free lunch, but Spokane International 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.
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 Hong Kong International, London Heathrow (LHR) and Gatwick (LGW), New York-JFK, Copenhagen International (CPH), Dubai International 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.
If you only have a few hours in transit, but want an authentic German experience:
- Munich International: Airbräu 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 René Jacobsen. Airbräu also serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and tours of the microbrewery are available for a modest fee.
Given the current popularity of craft cocktails, it was inevitable that distillers would set up shop in airports:
- Portland International (PDX): If you have a Priority Pass membership (see the theme) you can enjoy a $28 credit to visit a whiskey tasting room and learn about the entire grain-to-glass process at the Westward Experience near Gate C6.
- London’s Gatwick: Home to The Nicholas Culpeper, which was named for the 17th-century physician and herbalist. While the pub and restaurant are open 24 hours, the landside location means you can’t carry any of their small-batch gin through security.
Featured image by Benji Stawski / The Points Guy.
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