Events

Some things to do while grounded.

Like these guys, no one is traveling anywhere right now.

But there are still fun things to do.

Neon Museum Las Vegas
Neon Museum Las Vegas – photo Harriet Baskas

The Neon Museum in Las Vegas has a colorful app on its website that will take you on a tour of its Neon Boneyard. (Password: Neon)

And while Shakespeare’s Globe Theater in London is closed due to the Covid-19 crisis, the theater is rolling out a long list of free online performances.

The Globe will be dropping the on-demand streaming fees for some past productions, with a new play offered every two weeks. The line-up includes:

‘Hamlet’ (2018) from April 6-19;

‘Romeo & Juliet (2009), from April 20-May 3;

‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2013), from May 4-17;

The Winter’s Tale (2018), from May 18-31;

‘The Two Noble Kinsmen’ (2018), June 1-14 and;

‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’ (2019), June 15-28

The free streamed performances will also include productions from the 2021 ‘Globe to Globe‘ series that included Shakespeare plays performed in a variety of languages.

One good reason to check a bag on your next flight

So many people are determined to travel with just a carry-on bag these days.

No fees and no waiting at the bag claim carousel are just two of the many good reasons for sticking with a carry-on only policy.

But here’s one good reason why you might want to check a bag next time you fly.

Prizes. And surprises.

On Monday, passengers on an arriving United Airlines flight at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) were greeted with a surprise welcome party at the bag claim.

Before spitting out real baggage, the bag carousel dispensed gift boxes with restaurant gift cards, socks, water tumblers, earbuds, holiday snacks, and more.

The party didn’t stop there.

Other travelers could visit the hot chocolate bar, snack on Graeter’s ice cream samples, and listen to carolers from the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music.

And check out this gift-delivering Grinch.

And it looks like other airports have the same idea this holiday season.

Here’s a tweet from the Krakow Airport, showing gift bags arriving for passengers at the bag claim as well.

What do you think? Would the possibility of prizes at the baggage claim carousel make you rethink your carry-on only policy?

Visit the New Orleans Airport without a ticket

Gate pass program at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport

As promised, the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) is joining the list of airports that invite and allow non-ticketed guests airside, past security to shop, dine, listen to live music and spend more time with friends and family leaving for trips or coming home.

The free MSY Guest Pass program kicks off December 4 and will be available seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.  MSY officials say the airport will issue no more than 50 passes on weekdays and no more than 100 passes each Saturday and Sunday.

Anyone seeking an MSY Guest Pass will need to sign up 24 hours in advance and provide their full name, date of birth and contact information. Visitors under 18 will need to be accompanied by an adult.

Pass holders must still pass through the security checkpoint and all pass holders will be limited to one visit per month.

Leah’s Kitchen at MSY

MSY is justifiably proud of its shiny new terminal, which has branches of local shops such as Dirty Coast and Fleurty Girl and restaurants from award-winning chefs, including Emeril Lagasse, John Folse, Michael Gullotta, Susan Spicer, and the late Leah Chase and her family.

We expect more airports to join this trend, but for now just a few other airports offer gate passes to non-ticketed guests: Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) has the MyPITpass program and Tampa International Airport (TPA) offers an All Access gate pass program.

Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW) is testing a gate pass program now through January 5.

Have you applied for a gate pass at one of these airports? If so, tell us how it worked.

Stuck at the Airport? Lucky you!

Here are some new airport amenities that might make winter travel fun. Or less of a hassle.

Here’s a round-up I put together for USA TODAY of some new amenities you’ll find in airports this season.

Airport ice-skating

Denver International Airport (DEN) has brought back its free outdoor skating rink for the fourth season.

The rink opens will be open through January 20 and is in the pre-security area on the DEN Plaza between the airport terminal and the Westin hotel. Skate rentals will also be free.

Hours: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily through January 20, 2020. As a bonus, on Friday afternoons there will be hot chocolate, hot cider and a variety of winter activities, including live entertainment.

More airport ice-skating

The TWA Hotel, across the road from the JetBlue terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport will also be setting up an ice-skating rink.

This rink opens November 30 adjacent to the hotel’s 1958 Lockheed Constellation Connie airplane-turned-cocktail lounge and will stay open through February.

Free skating shows are planned, but if you want to get out on the ice admission will be $15 for adults and $10 for kids under 12. Skate rentals will be $10; $8 for kids under 12.  Hours: Monday to Thursday 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday: 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Even more airport ice-skating

If you find yourself at Germany’s Munich International Airport this holiday season, you’ll find free ice-skating (and a curling rink) too.

For the 21st year, the large roofed open space between Terminals 1 and 2 at Munich Airport has been transformed into a winter wonderland, with a winter market, more than 45 Christmas trees, live music, activities for kids and adults, a pine forest and a free ice-skating rink. Skates can be rented for a small fee.

Germany’s Dusseldorf Airport has ice-skating too.

“Airport on Ice“ offers passengers and visitors free ice-skating from November 30 until January 5. Skate rental is also free. Hours: Friday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays: 11 am to 7 pm.

Free short stories

The list of airports where hurried passengers can pick up a free short story is growing.

In October both Oakland International Airport (OAK) and Dane County Regional Airport (MSN) in Madison, WI installed short story dispensers in their terminals.

The dispensers, by French Company Short Edition, are slim kiosks that invite curious readers to push a button to request a short story that will take an estimated one minute, 3-minutes or 5-minutes to read. Stories print out on eco-friendly paper and there’s an option to request kid-friendly stories.

You’ll also find short dispensers at Philadelphia International Airport (PHL); Ohio’s Akron-Canton Airport, in Lansing, Michigan at the Capital Region International Airport (LAN).

Canada’s Edmonton International Airport (YEG) has a short story dispenser, as do several French airports, including the Paris- Charles de Gaulle Airport.

Free beer or beer koozie

Colorado has a robust craft brewing scene and there are plenty of places to order a local or regionally brewed beer at Denver International Airport (DEN).

The airport even has a Beer Passport you can use to score a free pint.

Here’s how it works:

Pick up a beer passport at an airport information booth or at one of the four participating airport brewpubs, which include: the Tivoli Brewery (pre-security inside Tom’s Urban); Breckenridge Brewery (Concourse A, by Gate A71); New Belgium Brewery (Concourse B, by Gate B30); Great Divide Brewing Co. (Concourse C; by Gate C32).

Order a beer at each of the four brewpubs and be sure to get your passport stamped when you order.

Once you have all four stamps, swap the passport for a free pint at any of the participating breweries.

No need to drink all four beers in one airport visit: the free Beer Passport program runs through April 1, 2020.

At Nashville International Airport (BNA) your beer crawl can score you a free beer koozie.

Cuddle a cat before your flight

More than 70 airports around the country now have programs that invite certified therapy animals and their owners into the terminals to hang out with and help de-stress travelers.

Dogs make up the bulk of the animal team members but there are a few exceptions, including Stiches, an 11-year-old, 13-pound mixed-breed cat that recently joined the Animal Ambassador program at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP).

This holiday season keep an eye out for some of the other non-canine therapy animals that visit airports. Denver International Airport’s CATS program (Canine Airport Therapy Squad) includes 100 dogs and a cat named Xeli. LiLou the pig is an official member of San Francisco’s International Airport’s Wag Brigade. And miniature therapy horses from Seven Oaks Farm are occasional visitors at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG).

In Boston, arrive by boat, skip the TSA line

Boston Logan International (BOS) is serious about its commitment to reduce congestion and encourage passengers not to drive to the airport.

Their latest incentive is as creative as it is unusual and fun. 

Passengers who take a ferry operated by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) or commercial water taxi service to the Logan Airport Boat dock are given an orange “Ticket to Skip” pass when they board the free Logan Airport shuttle from the dock to the terminals.  Passengers can then give that orange pass to a security checkpoint officer to get preferred lane access and move ahead of the line.

The MBTA ferry and the water taxis run year-round and serve the Boston waterfront as well as the nearby Hingham and Hull communities.

More airports add gate pass programs

At first it sounds counter-intuitive: why would someone who is not flying want to go through the security checkpoint hassles just to hang out inside an airport?

Especially during the holidays.

But it can be a real bonus if you want to have a send-off meal or drink with a friend or family member, accompany them to their gate or be there to greet them when they step off their flight.

Through the holiday season (until January 5, 2020) Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW) is testing the DTW Destination Pass program. The program invites non-flying guests to apply for day passes to visit the airport. Passes are issued for both DTW terminals, Tuesday through Sunday, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Two other airports, Pittsburg International Airport (PIT) and Tampa International airport (TPA) have permanent gate pass programs in place.

The number of passes issued each day is limited at each airport, but on December 7, Pittsburgh International is inviting the community to come by for a Holiday Open House, which will include dining and shopping specials, live music and other entertainment and, of course, visits with Santa.

And officials at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) promise that a 7-day a week gate pass program will be rolled out “in the coming weeks” for the brand new MSY terminal.

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Orlando Int’l Airport

It’s only Monday, but we may already have a nomination for Airport Amenity of the Week.

Especially if you’re a fan of Star Wars and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

Passengers traveling through Orlando International Airport (MCO) will find that some of the tram shuttle stations are now decorated to evoke Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, the new 14-acre land inside Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.

Arriving passengers getting ready to board the shuttles for the airport’s Main Terminal will see life-size depictions of characters and scenes from Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

One scene creates a dimensional landscape that feels as if visitors are standing inside Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. They’ll see the iconic Millennium Falcon and other landmarks from the new amusement park land.

In another scene, it will appear to passengers as if First Order Stormtroopers are waiting to step off the shuttle as the train arrives in the station.

Make way…

There’s more.

At the Magic of Disney store located inside the main terminal in the pre-security West Hall, there’s now a fun new photo op location featuring droids from the Star Wars galaxy.

And when the airport’s second Magic of Disney store reopens on November 22 in the Main Terminal East Hall, an exterior wall will feature a 36-foot-long video screen showing scenes from Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

Should we just go ahead and make this the Airport Amenity of the Week?

(Photos courtesy Orlando International Airport)