airport events

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.

Giant puppets at San Diego Int’l Airport

 Halloween may be over, but at San Diego International Airport there’s more to go.

Today, November 1, the airport is marking Dia de los Muertos (the “Day of the Dead”) by inviting the San Diego Guild of Puppetry and their larger-than-life, 10-foot-tall puppets back for a giant puppet parade.

The parade takes place today from 11:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. in the pre-security baggage claim area of Terminal 2.

The San Diego Guild of Puppetry has been creating large-scale puppet parades in the community since 2004 and its Dia de los Muertos (“Day of the Dead”) figurines are the creations of Felix Diaz, his family, and his students.

Puppets in the Day of the Dead parade at SAN will include versions of skulls, skeletons and butterflies, which represent the spirits of the departed returning to join their families for the celebration.

First look at Jewel Changi Airport attraction in Singapore

With a butterfly garden, pool, free movie theaters and much, much more, Singapore’s Changi Airport is all about the wow.

With the opening of the Jewel Changi Airport attraction, this award-winning airport is even more wow.

Located right in front of Terminal 1, on space formerly occupied by a parking lot, the Jewel is a large dome-shaped structure with a lush “Forest Valley,” a Rain Vortex that’s now the tallest indoor waterfall in the world, a 130-cabin YotelAIR hotel and 280 shops and restaurants.

I was on-site today for the opening-day preview events. Here are some snaps from the day.

More details about the attraction to come.

Mural painting in airports

Here’s a fun way to stay entertained when you’re stuck at the airport.

HMSHost is hosting pop-up mural painting at several airports his holiday season.

Local artists are being invited to sketch murals that travelers will be invited to paint. 

There will be a mural at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on December 13 and one at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport on December 15.

Each large-scale mural is different. At each airport, the artist will kick-off painting and then turn the art-making over to travelers, who will be treated to complimentary holiday drinks, sweet treats, holiday-themed giveaways and discounts to HMSHost restaurants.

“Our focus is on enhancing the travel guest experience while connecting with the local community.  Studies show creative activity, regardless of artistic talent, lessens stress,” said HMSHost Vice President of Marketing and Communications Atousa Ghoreichi. “With the craziness holiday travel can bring, our interactive mural painting pop-ups will be a unique airport experience.”

Here are some pictures from the mural painting that took place last week at Miami International Airport. This looks like so much fun that I’m adjusting my schedule this week to be on site for the mural painting at SEA airport. Stay tuned.  

(Photos courtesy HMSHost).

Puppets at LAX; an outdoor park at Denver Airport

Don’t be shy.

If you’re at Los Angeles International Airport on Tuesday or Wednesday, July 10 and 11, make your way to Terminal 4 (post-security) to see a performance by the LA-based Bob Baker Marionette Theater.

The shows will be at 11 am and noon each day and if you’ve got a ticket to any terminal at LAX it should get you through the security line at Terminal 4 as well.

 

For the summer, Denver International Airport has turned its 82,000 square-foot open-air plaza between the Jeppesen Terminal and the Westin Denver hotel into a Pop-Up Park with native Colorado trees and plants and 9,000 square feet of turf.

Passengers and locals are invited to hang out in the park, which has lawn games, lunchtime fitness classes, lounge seating and a variety of scheduled music events and activities. More details here.