DEN’s ELF, PHL’s Pottery Bike & More Airport Fun

Some airports around the country are going all out to celebrate the holidays this year and entertain travelers. Here are some of the fun celebrations we’ve spotted.

More to come. Let us know what we missed.

Denver Int’l Airport’s Purple Elf

Pottery Bike Landing at Philadelphia Int’l Airport

If you’re at Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) on Friday, December 16, between 11:30 am and 1:30 pm make your way to the spot between Terminals B and C across from the food court.

PHL Airport will be teaming up with The Clay Studio, Philadelphia, for the second visit of Pottery Unplugged–a people-powered pottery bike.

Passengers and employees will be able to try to throw their own clay vessel or just watch and see how it’s done. The twist here is that the pottery wheel is powered by a bicycle.

“At PHL, we always strive to represent what Philly has to offer artistically and culturally,” says Leah Douglas, PHL’s Director of Guest Experience. “Pottery Unplugged certainly accomplishes that through its creative ingenuity.”

Festive Decor at Chicago O’Hare Airport

Christmas Miracle at SEA Airport

The pandemic put the renovations in the Central Terminal at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) years behind schedule. But just in time for the holidays, the airport has finally opened Salty’s – a welcome sit-down restaurant with great airfield views – and a beer & wine garden.

Now if only the reindeer would return to the airport light rail station…

How will airports mark April 1?

We’re looking forward to some fun on April 1 as airports, airlines & others (maybe you?) celebrate April 1.

We got a preview earlier this week from Sacramento International Airport (SMF), which alerted fans of the airport’s iconic giant red rabbit that a makeover might be in the cards.

We love this 2022 wayfinding idea from Edmonton International Airport

And, honestly, we’d buy some of these DEN Candles

Here’s the sales pitch and ‘ordering information’ for a new line of DEN-scented candles.

Who says spring cleaning has to be dull? Spice up your home with scents from DEN’s new candle line that include our favorite airport aromas.

Scents include:

  • Mustang Musk: He’s big, he’s blue and he smells good too! Mustang is one of DEN’s most controversial art pieces and now you can be reminded of his special glow with this amazing candle scent mixed with musk, cedar and sage.
  • Smells Like Vacation: You’ve got your toes in the water, a cold drink in your hand and the sea breeze in your hair. Want to take a relaxing beach vacation, but can’t get away? Enjoy our “Smells Like Vacation” candle that will bring the sea breeze, coconut and pineapple daiquiri scents straight to your home.
  • Jet Fuel: No judgment over here. We know you people like this scent. For people who REALLY love to travel. This is one of our most unique scents in the DEN candle line, but one that will no doubt make you feel like you are at the airport waiting for your next flight. Enjoy a mix of fig tree and sandalwood with a hint of kerosene.
  • DEN Hops and Barley: It’s never too early to enjoy a Colorado local brewed beer. As we like to say, “it’s 8 a.m. somewhere!” Attention beer lovers! This is the candle just for you as you set the mood for your next party or poker night. The scents of citrus, hops and lager will leave you craving your next Colorado-brewed beer at DEN.
  • Clean Linen Tent: Close your eyes and imagine you’re in the DEN terminal looking up. Those crisp white tents must smell like fresh, clean linen. When it’s time to kick back and relax, make sure to look up and take in the view. Our “Clean Linen Tent” candle should remind you of this architectural wonder and smells like clean linen and eucalyptus.
  • Gargoyle Garden: This candle is the perfect mix of the DEN gargoyles’ favorite scents: gardenia, fresh rain and good luck. The three DEN gargoyles – two art pieces and one talking gargoyle perched on Level 5 near baggage claim – watch over DEN passengers and provide them with good luck. Now you can bring that luck home as well as the wonderful smells of spring, gardenia and fresh rain.

Want some? DEN says the scented candles are available for $20 each, with a six-pack of candles available for $50, in a collector’s DEN Tents box. And “coming soon are lotions and hand sanitizers.”

Follow this link to try to buy the candles…..

Rental cars are hard to get, so LAX is renting cardigans instead

A step back for New Orleans?

DFW is now FWD

SLC has a new name too

Sail away from CHA

Ice-skating back (?) at Dallas Love Field

DCA will now be Cherry Blossom pink year-round

Fast news from JetBlue

Mic drop from Southwest Airlines

Welcome to MCO

O’Hare & Midway Airports going to the birds – and the dogs

(We think…)

And here’s how Leap the rabbit looks in green

DEN also had one of our favorite pranks from 2021

Airports celebrate the Year of the Tiger

Here’s a sampling of Lunar New Year messages for the Year of the Tiger from airports around the world.

If we missed yours, please send it along.

(Up next: Airports mark Black History Month)

Reno Airport dishes out the compliments

Courtesy Reno-Tahoe International Airport

Here’s a hopeful sign that airports are getting their groove back.

On Monday, National Compliment Day, the Kindness Takes Flight team at Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO) brought back its Free Compliments Campaign.

From a kiosk in the main terminal and via “compliment balloons” spread throughout the airport, passengers and airport visitors received free compliments such as “That color is perfect for you,” “I bet you sweat glitter,” and “You are glowing,”

The plan was to continue the nice-fest “until the complement of compliments is exhausted,” said airport spokeswoman Annie Turner.

You can read more about the plans for the day and the bonus benefits of giving and receiving compliments in the story our compliments correspondent wrote the Points Guy.

But this isn’t the only holiday RNO does right. On National Chocolate Cake Day, volunteers often hand out complimentary chocolate cupcakes. On National Popcorn Day (a high holy day at, travelers get free popcorn. And on National Dog Day, traveling pups often receive milk bones.

RNO also has fun on May the Fourth

Holiday travelers will find busy airports, but with plenty of free things to do

(This is a slightly different version of a story we prepared for NBC News)

Over this holiday, the Transportation Security Administration is expecting to screen a near pre-pandemic number of passengers.

Many travelers will be visiting an airport for the first time in almost two years but will be pleased to find a wide range of free services and amenities at the ready to help ease the journey. 

Security Checkpoint Reservations

Travelers who haven’t paid for expedited security lane access with a TSA PreCheck or CLEAR membership may still be able to skip the long lines. A handful of airports now host free programs that allow travelers to reserve a time slot for going through the security checkpoint during the busiest hours. Look for the SEA Spot Saver Program, the LAX Fast Lane, DFW’s Fast Pass Pilot Program, Newark Liberty International’s Virtual Lane, and Orlando International Airport’s Reservation Lane, operated by CLEAR.   

Gate Passes

A handful of airports offer free gate passes to non-ticketed visitors who want to meet an arriving passenger, see someone off at the gate, or spend baggage-free time dining, shopping, or plane spotting in the terminal. Pass seekers apply online ahead of their visit and, if approved by TSA, go through standard security screening. Airports currently offering gate passes include  Seattle-Tacoma International (SEA), Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW, Louis Armstrong New Orleans International (MSY), Bishop International (FNT) in Flint, MI, and California’s John Wayne Airport. The gate pass programs at Pittsburgh International and Tampa International airports are still on hold due to the pandemic.

Holiday Entertainment  

Many airports have brought back free live concerts, performances, and other forms of entertainment just in time for the holiday season. For example, Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport (MKE) has a bright red mailbox set up to collect letters to Santa and promises a personalized response to anyone who includes their address.

Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) has a robust holiday performance series underway, and the 25-foot-tall water feature in Terminal B at New York’s LaGuardia Airport (LGA) is rotating in a holiday-themed show with its signature program

Movies and Games

At Dallas Forth International Airport (DFW) there’s a new, free interactive gaming experience at gate D-18 featuring a 40-foot-long media wall with a touchless tracking sensor.

The free 22-seat Hollywood Theatre Microcinema at Portland International Airport (PDX) has reopened, showing short films by Pacific Northwest filmmakers. (The films can also be viewed online). The free Video Arts gallery in the International Terminal at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) has reopened as well, showing four new films a month every 20 minutes or less in the gallery and online. Free short films are also screened at the See 18 Film Screen Room (by Gate C18) at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP).

Free books and short stories

Reading is a great way to pass the time when traveling and a handful of airports offer passengers free reading material.

In Houston, there are two free Little Libraries at George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) and three inside Hobby Airport (HOU). Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) has a book exchange corner in Terminal A West and a machine that dispenses short stories between Terminals D and E. Oakland International Airport, Pittsburgh International Airport, and Dane County Regional Airport (MSN) in Madison, WI, have short story dispensers too. And at San Jose International Airport (SJC), anyone can access the Pop-Up Library to download and access eBooks from the San Jose Public Library for free.

Free Airport Museums

In addition to permanent and changing art and history exhibits, airports in San Francisco, Miami, Phoenix, Albany, NY, and many other cities have free on-site museums and professional museum programs. For example, McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas is home to the Howard W. Cannon Aviation Museum, with its main exhibit up above baggage claim, and Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport (MKE) recently reopened the Mitchell Gallery of Flight, a free aviation museum open 24/7 in the pre-security area.

More free airport amenities

Look around and you’ll find plenty of other free things to do at airports this season.

Free yoga rooms are available at airports in Chicago, San Francisco, Houston, and Miami. American Heart Association kiosks offering free training in lifesaving, hands-only CPR are operating again at many airports. And cute as a button teams of therapy dogs are out in force in dozens of airports this season offering stress-busting visits and accepting free pats and hugs.