George Bush Intercontinental Airport

4-hour layover at IAH airport? Lucky you!

Greeting from Houston – mural by Daniel Anguilu and Frank Nathan. Pictured: Art Curator Alton DuLaney and Harriet Baskas

Many people dread and try desperately to avoid long airport layovers. Not us. On our journey to the Galapagos, we swapped a stress-inducing 56-minute connection at Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) for a four-hour layover at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH).

Just so we could get a tour of the art.

Countree Music by Terry Allen – created 1999

Alton DuLaney, Director and Curator of the Public Art Program for the Houston Airport System, was kind enough to meet me for a tour of some of his favorites. You can see the full list, with photos, in our story for The Points Guy site.

But I’ve pulled out a couple of my favorites here.

The Houston Airport, which operates both IAH and Hobby Airport (HOU) owns more than 350 works of art, one of the largest public art collections in Texas. Art curator DuLaney is a proponent of displaying as much of the collection as possible. So if you take a walk in any direction at the airport you will spot art. Some of it you’ll love. Some of it you may not care for. But all of it adds to the experience of being at the airport.

Countree Music (the ‘tree’ image above), is one of the first works purchased for the airport back in 1991. It is in Terminal A and was created by singer-songwriter Terry Allen. He also created the terrazzo floor surrounding the tree that depicts a map showing Houston as the center of the world. Pick a spot to stand on that floor near the tree and listen: there’s an original soundtrack of 16 songs recorded by Allen with the help of various musicians, including David Byrne from the Talking Heads.

Fiesta Dancers by Latino artist Luis Jimenez shown alongside High Flying by Larry Schuekler

The Terminal A Connector Gallery is both filled with art and is a great spot to avoid the noise and hustle of the airport. Here, away from the gates and the overhead announcements, you’ll find 20 vitrines filled with new and existing artwork from the collection- sometimes in the same display case.

For example, Fiesta Dancers by Luis Jimenez is paired with High Flying by Larry Schuekler. “Both sculptures explore the joy of dance from two different cultural perspectives,” says DuLaney.

(Photos courtesy Houston Airports)

Tips for traveling with gifts

Getting your gifts through airport security

Flying this week?

Stay safe, stay sane, and pay attention to the gifts you put in your carry-on bags.

TSA officers may ask you to unwrap a package if they need to get a look at what’s inside. That can be slow you down, of course, but it could also spoil a holiday surprise if the gift you’ve carefully wrapped is for one of your traveling companions.

One suggestion – offered in the TSA Travel Talk below – is to pack presents in gift bags so that checkpoint staff can look at the contents without ruining a great wrapping job.

But Alton DuLaney, who happens to be both a world-famous gift wrap artist and Houston Airports’ public art curator, isn’t a fan of gift bags.

“I feel like gift bags are a little lazy when you’ve gone to all the trouble to find the perfect gift for someone,” he told us in a pre-holiday interview. He offered a few more creative, TSA-friendly, wrapping alternatives.

One idea is to use a box with a lid and wrap the bottom of the box and the lid of the box separately.

“That way you can open the box to show TSA what’s inside. And when you get to where you going just tie on a ribbon and you’re ready to give the gift,” said DuLaney.

Another option is to put gifts in decorated tins or containers that can be easily opened and reclosed at the security checkpoint.

“You can also wrap gifts in clear colored or printed cellophane. And that way TSA can still see what’s inside as well.”

On Monday, December 20 from 9 am to 3 pm, both Hobby Airport (HOU) and George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) in Houston will be hosting free gift-wrapping stations. DuLaney will be at Hobby Airport but says he’s carefully trained the teams that will be staffing the tables at both airports.

Many other airports around the country will be offering free gift wrap stations during this busy travel week as well. Some will be collecting donations for local charities, so tip generously and take the opportunity to do some last-minute shopping at your airport. Those stores could really use your business this year.

IAH: 5 Thing We Love About George Bush Intercontinental Airport

Our “5 Things We Love About...” series celebrating features and amenities at airports around the country and the world lands at George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH).

The airport is located about 23 miles north of downtown Houston and is served by more than two dozen airlines offering flights to about 185 non-destinations.

Keep in mind that some of the amenities we list may be temporarily unavailable due to health concerns. We’re confident they’ll be back.

If we miss one of the things you love about George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), be sure to leave a note in the comments section below.

5 Things We Love About George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)

1. The art at IAH Airport

The Houston Airport System owns one of the largest collections of public art in Texas and a good amount of that art is on display at IAH Airport.

Travel Light – by The Art Guys
Moonwalking Cow – Silvestri

2. Live music at IAH Airport

The Harmony in the Air performing arts program at IAH presents live concerts in Terminal A, Northside Atrium, and in Terminal D, near gate D8.

Concerts are scheduled Monday through Friday and include classical, jazz, pop, and International music. See the IAH website for schedule and concert times.

3. The IAH Yoga studio

IAH has a yoga studio for passengers in Terminal A, near Gate A3.

4. Shopping at IAH

We’ve picked up some great souvenirs in the shops at IAH

5. The Inter-Terminal Train at IAH

All five terminals at IAH are connected by an above-ground automated people-mover (the Skyway) and the underground Subway, which dates to 1981 and runs on a circuit that makes a curving and somewhat amusing round-trip every 18 minutes.

As of September 2020, the subway was undergoing some major repairs, so the video below may be the closest you’ll get to this unusual ride for a while.

The Inter-Terminal Train at IAH has a great backstory.

In the late-1970s a Disney executive who traveled through IAH on a regular basis became irritated with the unreliable tram system then operating between terminals. Not long after, a Disney-made people mover opened at IAH.

That’s why Mickey Mouse was on hand for the subway’s opening day.

Did we miss one your favorite features or amenities at George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)? Be sure to leave a note in the comment section below.

Looking ahead: Will we ever be able to travel again? And, if so, what will that be like?

Will we ever be able to travel again? And, if so, what will that be like?

No one knows for sure, but an interesting group of travel experts is going to talk about it on October 7-8 during the online Travel 2021 Summit.

I am on the agenda talking about what airlines and airports are doing to make travelers feel safe now and what air travel may be like in the future.

Want to attend? Here is a link to the Travel 2021 Summit where you can get a discount on tickets.

Early bird pricing ends September 17. 

Use code SEPT50 for $50 off the registration fee.

More way to celebrate books at airports

More airport book options

We celebrated National Book Lovers Day over the weekend with mention of some airport book stores we love and will miss.

We’re not done celebrating the creative ways airports help travelers find books.

In Houston, there are Little Libraries, the kind you may see around your neighborhood, filled with free books at both William P. Hobby Airport (HOU) and at George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH).

At IAH, you’ll find Little Libraries in Terminal A, near Gate A3 and in Terminal D, near Gate D9. In HOU, find the Little Libraries near Gates 44, 4 and 23.

You’ll also find a fun Little Library-style book swap at Philadelphia International Airport (PHL)

PHL’s book exchange box and the seating area in Terminal A are made of reclaimed wooden pallets. The books are “take one, leave one” and come from passengers and from airlines that donate books left onboard airplanes.

Do you have a favorite airport bookstore or book exchange? Share you tips in the comments section below.

Celebrating the Apollo 11 Moon Landing anniversary

Straight to the Moon – well, Houston.

This week pretty much everyone is celebrating and commemorating the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 launch and the first manned mission to land on the Moon.

And today, July 17 -the same day Astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin Buzz Aldrin made their first TV transmission from Earth to space – United Airlines is hosting a special celebration flight from Newark Liberty International (EWR) airport to Houston’s Georg Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH).

Why fly to Houston now?

Houston is also known as “Space City”  because it is home to NASA’s Mission Control Center at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center.

StuckatTheAirport.com is going along on Flight 355. We’re promised space-themed entertainment, inflight gifts (yay!) and “special onboard guests who have first-hand experience in space.”

We think that means astronauts will on board…

Once we land in Houston, we’ll join Space Center Houston’s Apollo Anniversary Celebration and get to tour the Apollo Mission Control Center, among other activities.

We’ll also try to taste some of the special cocktails and menu items being served this month at two OTG restaurants at IAH that were inspired by meals the astronauts ate during the Apollo 11 mission.

The astronauts were served “meals” that look like this:

But the special “Eat Like an Astronaut” dishes on the menu at Ember Tavern and Tanglewood Grille in United Airlines’ Terminal C and E at IAH look far more appetizing:

 Stay tuned here and follow us on Twitter and Instagram for Apollo 11 celebration pictures along the way.