Keeping the kids entertained at an airport isn’t easy, especially with flight delays and layovers. Fortunately, some of the world’s busiest airports are equipping themselves with extensive play areas, exhibits, and other activities designed with families in mind.
From museums and live music to scavenger hunts and games, these busy airports have you (and your kids) covered.
San Francisco International Airport, a major gateway to Europe and Asia, hosts on average more than 56 million passengers each year. According to Dana Zeliff, a travel expert and owner of The Talking Suitcase, families travelling through this major port will find a museum with changing exhibitions and 25 galleries scattered throughout the terminals. There are also exploration areas for children called ‘Kids' Spots’.
Zeliff suggests playing games to help kids get their wiggles out before boarding the plane. “Games such as ‘I Spy’, ‘Walk Like a… (mummy, crab, etc.)’, and ‘Mother May I’ will keep kids entertained,” she says.
The tiny island-state of Singapore is an amazing destination for families. Changi, Singapore’s main airport and host to more than 65 million passengers a year, features two free cinemas, multiple playgrounds, an entertainment zone with TVs and video games, a swimming pool, a waterfall and koi pond, and a butterfly garden housing 1,000 species. Did we mention the massive slide? Towering 12m up in the air (or four storeys), The Slide@T3 claims to be the tallest slide in the world.
Dutch children have been called the happiest kids in the world, according to several studies. Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, which sees 71 million passengers pass through its gates each year, helps the country live up to its reputation. Inside are a variety of kid-centric amenities including the NEMO Science Museum a LEGO pop-up shop and Airline playset where kids can pretend to be real pilots. Tired parents can stretch their arms and legs at the Baby Care Lounge equipped with cribs for napping babies. While one parent stays with the baby, the other can enjoy a massage, take a nap in a state-of-the-art sleep cabin, or relish in peace at a meditation centre or church service.
Many airports have museums and art galleries for adults. But Chicago O’Hare, the United States’ second busiest airport with over 83 million passengers annually, is one of the very few hubs who have opened interactive museums entirely geared at children. Kids on the Fly includes a control tower and helicopters and planes they can repair. There’s also a lighted moving walkway called “The Sky’s the Limit” and an aeroponic urban garden made up of 26 towers with more than 1,000 fresh veggies and herbs plants.
London Heathrow is one of the world's busiest airports, welcoming around 80 million passengers annually, and a major European hub. Airport amenities and services make flying with kids to and from London easy and fun. A Harry Potter Shop, numerous play areas, and game zones will help keep young minds occupied. At select restaurants, kids eat for free with an adult meal purchase on specific dates, says Zeliff.
The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, which accommodates around 38 million passengers per year, has three children's play areas that are available with mock airplanes, control towers, and a 1.4-mile walking path that runs throughout the airport. Facing an extended layover or delay? Zeliff suggests taking a 12 minute ride on the light rail from the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport to the Mall of America. “This is a great way to get out of the airport during long layovers,” she says.
More than 31 million passengers travel through Zurich Airport each year. Families will love the observation decks, which keep visitors of all ages entertained. Watch as the aircraft take off and land and peek behind the scenes with multimedia binoculars. The mini-airport playpark and SWISS Kid's Tour allow children to discover the airport in a fun, interactive way. For families with a long layover, Zurich Airport offers bicycle and inline-skate rentals.