Airport Play Areas the Cure for Terminal Boredom
By Catherine | January 12th, 2009
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We all know that flying with small children has its ups and downs (no pun intended). It’s hard to keep energetic little ones entertained for hours when confined to a cramped seat. The issue is further compounded by the two to three hours lag time waiting at the airport before you even get on board. Throw in an unexpected delay and you could eat through your carry-on stash of toys and distractions before you’re airborne.
I don’t know about you, but my kids aren’t much into perusing the duty free shops and we can only have a snack, watch the runway and ride the escalators for so long. That’s why I’m thrilled to see that more and more airports are installing children’s play areas somewhere in their terminals.
These range from a simple puzzle table or slide/climber at a random gate to interactive aviation-themed play zones complete with kid-sized helicopter, fuselage and air traffic control tower! Most of these areas are free of charge for passengers, but there are also fee or membership-based lounges (usually affiliated with specific airlines) that offer books, toys, movies and computer games for in-transit kids.
In this era of cutbacks and surcharges, it’s hardly the time to advocate that all airports dedicate space and budgets to creating elaborate family-friendly amenities like this. However, according to the Travel Industry Association of America, nearly 11 million plane trips per year include child passengers. Isn’t it in everyone’s best interest – not just the families directly involved – to ensure that these young fliers are given the opportunity to stretch their limbs and expend some energy prior to getting on the plane? Rev them up and tire them out so they fall asleep soon after take-off. It might just help relieve some of that anti-family sentiment out in the skies.
Here’s a list of some of the airports around the world that have children’s play areas. They’re not always well marked or advertised (I’ve found that airport personnel don’t always know about them!), but they’re worth hunting down if you have time to kill and steam to blow.
Feel free to add to the list!
Airports With Children’s Play Areas
- Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport – located upstairs in the Observation Gallery of the main terminal.
- Boston Logan International Airport – Kidport (in partnership with the Children’s Museum of Boston) is located in Terminal A and Terminal C, departure level.
- Buffalo Niagara International Airport – there’s one located by gate 14 and one in the food court before security.
- Chicago O’Hare International Airport – Kids on the Fly (in partnership with the Chicago Children’s Museum) is past security in Terminal 2.
- Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport – Kids-port is located on Concourse A by the escalator.
- Cleveland Hopkins International Airport – located on Concourse A, C and D.
- Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport – there are 3 Pepsi Junior Flyer Clubs, Terminal B – gate 12, Terminal C – gate 14 and Terminal D – gate D-30.
- Denver International Airport – small play area on the mezzanine level of Concourse B.
- Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport – they have 7 play areas in the McNamara Terminal along the boarding concourses A, B and C.
- Glasgow Airport - has a soft play area at gates 27A and 27B, plus Fingabox interactive screens nears gates 2, 4, 9 and 11. International passengers can book into the skylounge Holiday Wing for a fee.
- Halifax Stanfield International Airport – has several play areas throughout the departure lounges.
- Hong Kong International Airport – a play area is located in Terminal 1 between gates 23 and 25, departures level plus there are children’s tv lounges near gates 1, 15, 40 and 60. Terminal 2 boasts other entertainment attractions for kids of all ages including an aviation discover center, i-sports complex and PlayStation Gateway.
- Kuala Lumpur International Airport – there’s one on Level 5 of the Main Terminal Building, three in the Satellite Building and one in both the domestic and international levels of the Contact Pier.
- Las Vegas McCarran International Airport – located on the 2nd floor of D Concourse, overlooking the rotunda.
- London Gatwick Airport – the North Terminal has the Servisair Wentworth lounge (fee) and the South Terminal has a play area near the Gatwick Village shopping area before security. The South Terminal also offers story time and puppet shows during peak travel seasons.
- London Heathrow Airport – three play areas are located in Terminal 5, near gate 7, gate 19 and in satellite building 5B behind the British Airways counter. Terminal 3 has the Jetterz Kids Club Lounge and Terminal 4 has the KLM Holideck lounge, both for a small fee.
- Miami International Airport – located at gate 35, D Concourse.
- Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport – has two huge aviation-themed play areas in Concourse C of the Lindbergh Terminal and the 2nd floor of the Humphrey Terminal.
- Nashville International Airport – two play areas located in the connectors between Concourse A/B and Concourse C/D near gates 15 and 17.
- Philadelphia International Airport – has a Please Touch Aviation Station in Terminal D.
- Portland International Airport – located in Concourse C and D.
- Pittsburgh International Airport – Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood play area located in Concourse C.
- Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport – located in the upper concourse area of Terminal 2, both concourses of Terminal 3 (gates 2-9) and the international concourse of Terminal 4 near gates B15 – 28.
- Salt Lake City International Airport – located in Concourse A, B and E.
- San Francisco International Airport – Kids’ Spot (in partnership with the Exploratorium of San Francisco) is located in Terminal 3, Boarding Area F, near gate 87A.
- Seattle/Tacoma International Airport – large aviation-themed facility near the Central Terminal, between Concourses A and B.
- Sydney Airport – Terminal 1 has play areas on the Landside between check-in counters A and B and at the end of check-in counter J. There’s a kid’s cinema and play area on the Airside between gates 31 and 33 in Pier B and between Gates 58 and 59 in Pier C.
- Toronto Pearson International Airport – located in Terminal 1, gates 124 and 139.
- Vancouver International Airport – has several children’s areas scattered throughout the airport before and after security checkpoints.