Albuquerque Int’l Sunport

Visit an Airport Museum on Int’l Museum Day

New England Air Museum adjacent to Bradley International Airport (BDL)

May 18 is International Museum Day, which gives us an excuse to talk about some of the great museums in and adjacent to airports around the country.

Having a museum or museum program in an airport just makes so much sense. Millions of people pass through airports each year. Many passengers have plenty of downtime before their flights. And art or history exhibits in airports can connect passengers with a place, inspire them, educate them, or create those sought after moments of suprise and delight.

Here are a handful of airport museums and museum programs to look for on your next trip. Let us know if we missed your favorite.

Phoenix Airport Museum

The Phoenix Airport Museum at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) is one of the oldest and largest airport art program in the country. You’ll find permanent artwork and temporary exhibitions throughout the sprawling airport facilities, including in the rental car center and at the Sky Train stations.

SFO Museum

The SFO Museum at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) is accredited by the American Alliance of Museum (AAM). In addition to permanent public art and more than a dozen temporary exhibitions at a time, the museum maintains a video arts program , student art programs, and photography galleries.

While the airport’s wonderful Aviation Museum & Library is currently closed for renovations, temporary exhibitions throughout the terminals currently celebrate everything from Early Women Aviators and their Aircraft to Victorian Wallpaper.

Julia Clark (1880–1912) at the controls of a Curtiss biplane  c. 1912. Courtesy SFO Museum

Mitchell Gallery of Flight at MKE

The free Mitchell Gallery of Flight at Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport (MKE) is located pre-security and open 24 hours a day. Exhibits include airplane models, aviation paintings, propellers, a scale model of the Milwaukee airport terminal as it looked in 1941, and sections dedicated to famous Wisconsinites in aviation history such as astronaut James Lovell and General Billy Mitchell, known as ‘the father of the U.S. Air Force.

You’ll find aviation-themed history exhibits and full-fledged aviation museums in and adjacent to many other airports too.

Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport (GSP) in South Carolina has a 350-square-foot museum in its Grand Hall. The Frontiers of Flight Museum is on the southeast corner of Dallas Love Field Airport. And the New England Air Museum is adjacent to Bradley International Airport (BDL), in Connecticut.

And there are lots more.

Courtesy New England Air Museum

More airport museums and museum programs not to miss

Take a few moments to look around next time you’re at an airport and it’s a very good chance you’ll spot art and history exhibits you may have rushed by in the past. Curators at Philadelphia International Airport (PHL), New York’s Albany International Airport (ALB), Denver International Airport (DEN), Albuquerque International Sunport (ABQ), Miami International Airport (MIA), Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), and many others do a great job filling the terminals and concourses with art and exhibits you’ll enjoy.

Quest by Bert L. Long, Jr

Great art at Albuquerque Int’l Sunport

A new Stuck at the Airport subscriber (Welcome, Barbara!) was happy to see my recent Travel story about Airports wit the best artwork, but was disappointed that I didn’t include the artwork at ABQ: Albuquerque International Sunport on the list:

“The entire airport feels like an art museum, with spectacular Native American art, pottery and sculpture ….Even its vigas [heavy beams or rafters] in the ceiling are decorated and carved.”

She’s right!   In addition to a changing exhibits program and a performance series, the Albuquerque International Sunport has a permanent art collection that’s mighty impressive and includes more than 100 pieces.
ABQ - Running Horses

One of Barbara-the-new-subscriber’s favorite pieces is Gray Mercer’s Running Horses. I’m smitten by Tim Prythero’s American

ABQ AMERICAN by Tim Prythero

If you’re heading to Albuquerque, make time for an art tour of the airport.  In the meantime, you can see images of what appears to be the airport’s entire art collection on Flickr, courtesy of the City of Albuquerque Public Art photostream.


Zebra, David Alvarez

All photos courtesy City of Albuquerque Public Art.

Airport Observation Decks: Have a favorite?

Vancouver Airport - New Observation DeckIn my At the Airport column on this month, I offer a run-down of airport observation decks around the country.  I wanted to write about this because, while a lot of the amenities getting rolled out at airports these days are designed to make travelers forget they’re in an airport terminal, observation decks are all about airports, airplanes, and the magic of flight.

Unfortunately, a lot of airports that used to have official observation decks have shut them down. But here’s a round-up of some that still exist:

Minneapolis - Observation deck - wide

Minneapolis International Airport (MSP) MSP has an observation deck post-security on Concourse D, in Terminal 1. Built decades ago, the enclosed observation deck is only accessible via a set of stairs, but those who find their way up there are rewarded with great views in all directions.

Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI)

BWI - Observation rocking chairsYears ago, when BWI was known as Friendship International Airport, there was an outdoor observation deck.  Today there’s an enclosed Observation Gallery on the upper level of the airport, in the pre-security area between Concourses B and C. In addition to great views of airfield activities, there are rocking chairs, a children’s play area, and several exhibits related to aviation, including the nose cone, cockpit, landing gear and other sections of a Boeing 737-200 aircraft.

Albany International Airport (ALB) A pre-security observation area on the 3rd level of the terminal offers a panoramic view of both airport runways, all three wings of the terminal and, on a clear day, the southern Adirondack Mountains. A live feed of the chatter from the air traffic control tower is piped in and the airport’s art gallery is adjacent.

Albany - looking out from deck

Albuquerque International Sunport (ABQ) At the Albuquerque airport, the observation deck is located post-security, between the two concourses.  Equipped with bench seating, leather couches and chairs, this area offers travelers great airfield views as well as views of the Manzano Mountains and the Rio Grande.


Gerald R. Ford International Airport (GRR) At Gerald Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, MI., there’s an enclosed observation deck, pre-security, that overlooks the airport runways.

Tri-Cities Regional Airport (TRI) in Tennessee has an open-air deck, located pre-security, on the mezzanine level of the airport. The deck looks out over the airfield, Boone Lake, and off to the Appalachian Mountains.

Vancouver International Airport (YVR) opened a new observation area in July 2009 with floor-to-ceiling windows, complimentary telescopes, interactive kiosks, and several other amenities.  At the end of September, the observation deck on top of Theme Building at Los Angeles International Airport will reopen. Like a lot of observation decks around the country, LAX had closed this area after 9/11.

View Of Downtown Los Angeles  (2004)

Do you have a favorite airport observation deck or place to go outside the airport to watach plane?  If so, please tell us about it.