With its full-body scanners and enhanced pat-down procedures, the TSA is a shoo-in this year for the Scrooge role during the busy holiday travel season. As a counterpoint, many airports will be doling out candy cane kindness in the form of festive decorations, dining and retail discounts, giveaways, contests and entertainment.
Here’s a sampling of what’s in store; check your airport’s website – or Facebook page – for more.
Tunes in the terminals
Airports stretching from San Diego and Sacramento to Philadelphia and Fort Lauderdale will be hosting holiday carolers, choirs, crooners and yes, Virginia, karaoke.
Nashville International Airport is hosting half a dozen holiday-themed performances between now and December 22nd, while at Austin Bergstrom International Airport, the holiday entertainment program once again includes the Judy Lee Dancers (all dancers are 60 years old and up) on December 16th and, on December 22nd, the Austin Airport TSA Chorus. See the full schedule for Nashville airport and the Austin airport.
Los Angeles International Airport also has a TSA chorus and this year has concerts scheduled December 14th on the Terminal 2 mezzanine, December 15 in the Tom Bradley Terminal, December 16th in Terminal 7 and Dec 21 (post-security) in the American Airlines rotunda in Terminal 4. “Our goal is to sing put the human face of the TSA in the public. So it’s not just the ‘Hey, take of your shoes’ image” says chorus organizer and terminal screening manager Raul Matute.
San Francisco International Airport’s ‘You Are Hear’ music program presents free concerts each Wednesday and Friday throughout December (except on the 24th) from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. in the International Terminal, Terminal 1 and Terminal 3. Apropos of the season, on December 22nd, the Golden Gate Bellringers will be in the International Terminal. See the full schedule.
At the Philadelphia International Airport, Victorian carolers will sing and stroll through the airport terminals on December 11 & 12; 18 & 19; and 22 & 23. Santa’s PHL strolling stretches from now through the 24th and, while out and about, he’s happy to stop and pose for photos with travelers.
In addition to its regular Terminal Tunes Entertainment Program, which emphasizes holiday tunes during December, Fort Lauderdale International Airport is hosting its Winter Festival of Music. The program stretches from December 13-17 and features children from local schools dancing, singing and playing instruments during morning and afternoon performances in all four terminals and in the Rental Car Center.
At Montana’s Missoula International Airport, entertainment on tap for December 15 – 24 includes holiday music on piano, harp and woodwinds. Performances will be held in the airport lobby.
Mondays and Fridays through December 17th, Sacramento International Airport hosts five performers a day in Terminal A, beginning at 6 a.m. and ending at 8 p.m. See the full schedule. And from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on December 18th, characters from Nickelodeon’s Dora the Explorer TV show will be at the pre-security Civic Plaza at Indianapolis International Airport taking photos with kids. There will also be a coloring contest and a sweepstakes to win tickets to the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. Any adult who fills out an entry form will win free parking.
San Antonio International Airport will have 60 different music groups from local area schools performing everything form choral performance and jazz music to mariachi between now and December 17. At the San Diego International Airport, the monthly calendar of airport entertainment gets a December boost with roving entertainers on December 22nd (The Rockin’ Cranberries and the Full Measure Carolers) and the San Diego Children’s Choir on December 23rd.
In addition to musical performances by area high school bands and choirs and occasional visits by Santa, Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport will once again be hosting airport karaoke. All-ages karaoke sessions will take place December 9th and 18th and there will be a special kids-only karaoke event on December 22nd in Terminal A.
And the Fresno Yosemite International Airport is taking over the long-standing Central California Christmas tradition once held by Fresno’s Metropolitan Museum: the display of 12 uniquely decorated Christmas trees. The airport is also presenting a lighted Victorian Christmas Village display, entertainment and surprise visits by Santa Claus.
Coupons and contests
The TSA warns travelers that wrapped gifts may get unwrapped at the security checkpoint, so airports in San Francisco, Phoenix, Philadelphia and several other cities are providing free post-security gift wrapping stations. Travelers will also find some promotions and treats at many other airports:
Through December 31st, all airport Vino Volo shops that sell wine are offering 10% off on the purchase of 3 or more bottles. And in both the Food & Shops at LaGuardia airport’s Central Terminal and at Philadelphia airports’ Philadelphia Marketplace, travelers who spend $100 or more in the shops can pick up a complimentary silver snowflake necklace from the Taxco Sterling shops in those airports.
The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport is handing out a free coupon book full of almost 80 discounts and/or gift-with-purchase offers for dining and retail outlets throughout the airport. Download the booklet from the airport website or pick one up at an airport information booth. Las Vegas International Airport is also offering travelers a discount holiday coupon book this year. Look for the red Travel Advantages booklet at the airport or download a copy.
During its annual Holidays Take Flight festival (now through Jan. 2) Oregon’s Portland International Airport offers food and beverage samplings, store promotions, live entertainment and special events. With Air Canada, the airport is also giving away a pair of round trip airline tickets from Portland to Toronto. Enter at the airport or on the PDX website through January 2nd.
Christmas Market and a Magical Teapot
The holiday spirit extends beyond US airports.
The Christmas Fantasy at Singapore’s Changi Airport includes giveaways, song and dance performances, activities for kids and fanciful décor that includes a ‘magical teapot’ that lights up with special effects and dispenses colored balls that can be exchanged for prizes.
While the traditional Christmas Market is no longer held at the Frankfort Airport, the airport continues the tradition of hosting a holiday sweepstakes for a car. This year, airport shoppers can Win the Fastest Christmas Mini.
Through January 2nd, the Winter Market at Munich Airport, underneath the roof of the Munich Airport Center features nightly entertainment, free ice-skating and curling rinks, 300 Christmas trees and 45 booths selling Bavarian specialties and handicrafts.
This article was originally prepared for USAToday.com.
More airport holiday events listing tomorrow….