At the SFO Museum: “self-moving mechanical creations”

If you’re very lucky, you’ll end up getting stuck for a while at San Francisco International Airport sometime between now and the end of May 2012.

When you do, rush over to the pre-security departure lobby of the International Terminal Main Hall to see the exhibition of automata and “self-moving” mechanical creations on loan from the Morris Museum in Morristown New Jersey, which houses the incredible Murtogh D. Guinness Collection of Mechanical Musical Instruments and Automata.

Here’s a link to a radio piece I produced about the collection for NPR back in the 2005.

Tidbits for travelers

If you’re one of those people who heads straight to the gate once you’re at the airport, then the B4 YOU BOARD smartphone app could come in handy.

The app is free and offers the option of having a meal delivered to you right at the gate. You can also use the app to order something ahead of time and pick it up once you’re at the airport.

The service has already been rolled out at JFK and Minneapolis-St. Paul International airports and, just in time for the holiday travel season, is available at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport where, so far, the Tuscany Café and Chili’s Too! In Terminal 1, Blackhawks Restaurant & Bar in Terminal 2 and Wolfgang Puck Café and Chili’s Too!, in Terminal 3, are participating.

During the busy Thanksgiving travel days, Los Angeles International Airport(LAX) is hoping to create a N.I.C.E. experience and “neutralize irritations customers experience. ” Instead of handing out parking citations or warnings, the officers will hand out information with alternative parking options and coupons for a free cup of coffee.

And, at San Francisco International Airport (SFO), there’s a turkey-themed Twitter and Foursquare contest scheduled for November 21-23. @flySFO will tweet pictures of Pardon the turkey at different locations at the airport and all you have to do is guess where he is. Prizes include an iPad and other goodies. Find more details here.

Making the most of America’s busiest airports – part 3

Here’s part 3 of my recent Bing Travel slide show about how to make the best of America’s busiest airports. Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here.

San Francisco International

In the winter, delays can mount at San Francisco International Airport because of rain, wind and, yes, fog. That will leave you plenty of time to enjoy airport amenities that include free Wi-Fi, an aquarium, fun and educational kids’ play areas, spa services at four XpresSpa locations, and a museum program that presents up to 20 exhibitions around the airport at any one time.

Defeat the delay: Most airport eateries are branches of well-loved local restaurants, cafés and bars; the best concentration is in the pre-security area of the International Terminal.

Phoenix Sky Harbor International
All three terminals at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport offer free Wi-Fi, a branch of the popular Paradise Bakery and plenty of permanent and changing museum exhibitions.

Defeat the delay:
Take the free 10-minute airport shuttle bus to the Metro light-rail stop. From there you can head into town or walk across the street to the Pueblo Grande Museum.

Charlotte-Douglas, North Carolina
Charlotte-Douglas International Airport was the first airport in the country to provide rocking chairs in the terminal, an amenity we’re thankful that many other airports have adopted. Additional stress-reduction services at the North Carolina airport include free-Wi-Fi, piano concerts in the atrium and the Terminal Getaway Spa, where the menu includes massages, manicures, pedicures and reflexology and oxygen treatments.

Defeat the delay: The Queen’s Courtyard, in front of the CLT terminal, has a 15-foot statue of Queen Charlotte and a 40-foot reflecting pool.

Miami International
The 12th-busiest U.S. airport for total passengers, Miami International Airport is finishing up a major expansion and overhaul. Spend a delay getting a massage or a spray-on tan at the Jetsetter Spa, visiting the art galleries and public art installations, recharging with Cuban coffee or visiting one of 20 new restaurants.

Defeat the delay:
The on-site Miami International Airport Hotel has a sushi bar in the lobby and a fine-dining restaurant offering panoramic views of airport runways and the Miami skyline.

Orlando International
Once they discover the art installations, the 3,000-gallon aquarium, the entertaining water fountain and the theme-park style character statues, kids — and many adults — will find themselves wishing for long delays at Florida’s Orlando International Airport.

Defeat the delay: Grab some freeze-dried ice cream from one of the Kennedy Space Center shops and spend a delay playing video games at the King of Kong arcade.

Museum Monday:Game Over at National Pinball Museum

If you’re in Washington, D.C. today, go visit the National Pinball Museum.

Today – Labor Day – is the last day to visit the museum before it closes and packs up for a move to Baltimore, Md.

The National Pinball Museum has more than 200 machines on exhibit spanning 140 years of pinball history “from Bagatelle (the 18th Century precursor to pinball) through to modern day computerized marvels.”

There are films about the history of pinball, exhibits exploring the art and artwork that made the games so appealing to the eye and so much fun to play and, best of all, a Pay-to-Play exhibit where you can drop a few quarters and play 40 machines ranging from classic, vintage wood rail games to modern solid state machines.

The museum is open today for free and is located at The Shops at Georgetown Park (3222 M St. NW) in Washington, D.C.

After closing today the plan is to reopen in Baltimore in a few months.

Here’s one of my favorite pinball games:

It was on display awhile back at San Francisco International Airport as part of an SFO Museum exhibit on the history of pinball that included many machines from the Pacific Pinball Museum – and the opportunity to play pinball at the airport for free.

Museum Monday: see the history of TV at SFO Airport

Travelers heading to or through San Francisco International Airport now have a chance to tune in and turn on before they take off, thanks to the latest offering from the SFO Museum.


Television: TV in the Antenna Age is filled with television sets and related items from the first four decades of television


Models range from the earliest commercial sets with 7-inch screens in Art Deco wooden cabinets to colorful plastic versions from the 1970s designed to look like space helmets and flying saucers.


Here’s a preview:

Philco Predicta 4654 Pedestal - 1959

Hoffman M143U Easy Vision 1954

TVs from the early 1970s

Memorabilia from Howdy Doody, Romper Room and other TV shows

Television: TV in the Antenna Age is on view in Terminal 3, post-security in Boarding Area F through February 6, 2012.

(All photos courtesy of SFO Museum)