airport guide

Pleasant perks at Portland International Airport


2_PDX_Foot-forward selfies with the PDX carpet are very popular at Portland Int'l Airport


Disclosure: this story was sponsored by National Car Rental

As the author of this blog, a monthly USA TODAY column and various features about how to make the most of your time stuck at just about any airport, I’m often asked which airport is my favorite.

The short answer is always, “The airport where I board the plane that takes me to a new adventure, and the one where I board the plane that takes me home.”

But when pressed, I admit there are a few airports I’ll actually build a trip around.

Oregon’s Portland International Airport is one of them.

Its perks are plentiful and, like the city, PDX airport is super environmentally-conscious and kind of quirky.

For example, an assembly/repair station and a tool check-out where cyclists can borrow a pedal wrench or air pump encourage biking to the airport. And the recently-replaced but hipster-embraced terminal carpet lives on in everything from coasters and caps to dog leashes and luggage tags made from remnants of the old rug.

Shopping for these and other unique-to-the-region items at PDX is a pleasure, in part because Oregon has no sales tax and the more than 60 stores and restaurants must offer their goods and services at prices no higher than what would be charged at off-airport locations.

And there are plenty of Oregon-based venues where you’ll want to spend your money, including the pre-security branches of Oregon-based Pendleton, Nike, Columbia Sportswear and Powell’s Books, the selection of Portland’s favorite food trucks, and at the post-security outlet of House Spirits Distillery, where the makers of Aviation American gin and a variety of other regionally-themed, small-batch spirits offer samples.

PDX also has a pop-up Farm-to-Table stand offering Oregon produce, wine and cheese; a spa; a barber shop; a great art collection; and an extensive schedule of vendor events and live entertainment that extends through the weekend. And, later this summer, Portland’s non-profit Hollywood Theater will open an 800-square foot in-airport mini-movie theater that will run short films telling Oregon stories.

While spending time inside PDX airport is a delight, you’ll eventually want to head outside and explore.

The MAX light rail line makes the trip to downtown in 38 minutes for $2.50, but renting a car is almost as easy and allows visitors the freedom to explore everything the Portland area has to offer.

On-airport rental car companies are on the ground floor of parking garage P1, across from baggage claim, and the National Car Rental location here has an Emerald Aisle. That means Emerald Club members can bypass the counter, choose their own car and be immediately on their way to the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area just 20 miles away, Mount Hood, an easy 60 miles away, or the Oregon beaches, which are less than 100 miles from the airport.

Or you might not want to drive very far: the Cascade Station shopping center, home to restaurants and shops, including an IKEA, is located just outside the airport grounds.


Fresh art at San Diego International Airport

There’s a fresh new art exhibit at San Diego International Airport featuring work by San Diego –based artist Cathy Breslaw in a new exhibition space in Terminal 2, near Gate 22.

Artwork at San Diego Airport

Labryinth, by Kathy Breslaw

Floating in Space features sculptural pieces that suspend and “dance” from the ceiling as well as others that appear to float on the wall. The exhibit is on display through March 15, 2011.

Climbing by Kathy Breslaw

Climbing, by Kathy Breslaw

Here’s more information about the art at San Diego International Airport.

And, here’s a link to my USA TODAY airport guide for San Diego International Airport.

Tidbits for travelers: win free travel, get guides to airports

First a couple of contests you might want to enter. The prizes include all-expenses-paid trips.

To celebrate the release of Disney-Pixar’s Toy Story 3, Aflac is giving away a trip to Hollywood and a tour of Walt Disney Studios – for four people.

Prize includes: airfare, three nights in a hotel, a special Disney tour, a private screening of your favorite Pixar movie (which one would you pick?), and $500 cash.

Enter the Quacktastic vacation giveaway here.

(Auckland, New Zealand  airport welcomes travelers with this!)

The Great Kiwi Adventure contest has as its prize a trip for four to New Zealand.

Prize includes plane fare from Los Angeles or San Francisco to Auckland, New Zealand and a seven-night trip in the Bay of Plenty.

(Photo courtesy Daniel Incandela)

And, take a look at the growing list of airport profiles I’ve been working on for  The note at the top still says “the 25 busiest airports” – but the list is growing and will soon include short guides to 50 airports.  There’s a spot in each guide to add your comments and tips as well. Here’s a link to the USA TODAY Airport Guides.