Cupcake vending machines, putting greens & other cool airport amenities

My story for CNBC this week allowed me to wax enthusiastic about one of my favorite topics: cool airport amenities.

Spokane International Airport gives airport parkers free carwashes. Fort Wayne International Airport in Indiana hands arriving passengers free cookies. Look closely and you’ll notice that many airports around the country have art worth millions of dollars by big-name artists on their walls.

Here are some other fun and usefuly amenities to look for next time you in an airport:

Cupcake vending machines

Leave it to Las Vegas to make sure travelers have plenty of unique amenities at the airport. In addition to a bag claim liquor store and 1461 slot machines (which generated about $14 million in revenue for the airport in 2018), McCarran International Airport now has four on-site vending machines that dispense cupcakes from the Beverly Hill, CA-based Sprinkles cupcakes chain. Hungry? Cupcakes are $4.95 each and all machines are restocked daily.

Sasquatch sighting

Bigfoot hunters believe one some of the native habitats of the legendary creature also known as Sasquatch are the Deschutes National Forest and Mount Jefferson Wilderness in Central Oregon, or perhaps Redmond Municipal Airport. To make the creature – and travelers – feel welcome, the airport has installed a 6-foot-tall, suitcase-toting Sasquatch statue and named their new mascot, appropriately enough, Biggie.

Play 8 holes before your flight

In Florida, which in 2015 had more golf courses than other state, golfers can squeeze in some practice at the Palm Beach International Airport. An 8-hole putting green is located inside the terminal, in the pre-security area of the Main Terminal next to Sam Snead’s Tavern. Club rental (with souvenir ball) is $3.20.

Eat well without leaving the gate

Airports everywhere are upgrading their dining options. But sometimes the meal you want isn’t near the gate you’re leaving from or by the working power outlet you’ve snagged.

That’s where a growing number of airport food delivery services come in. In addition to OTG’s order-by-tablet option in many airports, travelers can use an app to order food brought to them by Airport Sherpa in BWI Airport or by At Your Gate runners in San Diego (SAN), New York (LGA and JFK, Terminals 7 & 8), Newark (EWR), Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP) and, most recently, Portland (PDX). And later this month, travelers will be able to pick up an app-ordered meal at kiosks being installed in Terminal C at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

Smell, snap a selfie, but please don’t snack on the wall

April in Louisville, Kentucky is all about the Kentucky Derby and mint juleps. To celebrate Mint Julep Month – and offer a fun selfie-station for travelers – the Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport (SDF) has installed a wall with more than 700 fresh mint plants. The living wall will stay in place until the end of the April and sniffing, but not snacking, at the wall is encouraged. Mint juleps are on the menu in several airport bars and restaurants and a wide variety of Kentucky-made bourbons are for sale in the airport’s post-security Distillery District Marketplace.

Piano people wanted

St. Louis Lambert International Airport (STL) recently adopted a “Play Me” grand piano and installed it in the Terminal 1 “Aero” event space. STL officials say passengers, employees and “Anyone who has the chops” is invited to sit down and perform an impromptu concert any time of day.

Readers wanted

Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) encourages and entices travelers to read with a unique seating area and book exchange in Terminal A. Books are donated by airport employees and by American Airlines, which brings over reading material passengers leave behind on planes. In the Virtual Library in the airport’s Terminal D-C connector a short story dispenser issues fiction stories that can be read in one, three of five minutes.

New views at SFO Airport

Airport observation decks seem like an amenity of the past, but in February 2019, San Francisco International Airport (SFO) debuted a new outdoor terrace in the International Terminal. The deck has seating that includes a several chaise loungers, art, landscaping and great view of the airfield. Another observation deck is being built now in Terminal 2 and will open in the pre-security area in October.

Views and waffles

Many airports around the country are in the midst of renovation and new construction projects and Seattle-Tacoma International is one of them. SEA’s Central Terminal, with its iconic glass wall, recently reopened with fresh new, locally-themed food outlets such as Lucky Louie Fish Shack, serving adorable fish-shaped waffles.

Health help on the road 

No one wants to get sick on the road, but it’s reassuring to know that some airports have medical clinics on site. San Francisco, Chicago O’Hare and Phoenix Sky Harbor International (PHX) airports have walk-in health centers with staff on duty to provide urgent care, immunizations and other services. Virtual care appointments are offered at PHX’s US CareWays Urgent Care and Portland International’s Airport’s Providence Express Care centers as well.

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