- Golf, ping pong and gym facilities are available at a handful of airports
- Fresh brews and instant ice cream are a step up in concessions
- In Singapore, tiny fish will help travelers with a pedicure treatment
It's inevitable these days. If you fly, you're going to have to spend a good amount of time at the airport, either waiting to take off or between flights. Thankfully, more and more airports are sympathetic to your situation and are adding unique amenities to help keep you entertained.
Of course, you can always whip out your laptop and check your e-mail or stop into the nearest newsstand and pick up the latest James Patterson thriller, but we think you'll find these options a lot more exciting.
SCHIPHOL AMSTERDAM AIRPORT, Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Schiphol certainly isn't the only airport to feature its own museum, but it was the world's first. The terminal houses an annex of the city's famed Rijksmuseum, the national museum devoted to Dutch art, history and more. Exhibits change every few months and admission is free. www.schiphol.nl
LOGAN INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, Boston, Massachusetts: Fliers with a sweet tooth can make their own sundaes at the self-serve MooBella Ice Creamery Machine. Simply step up to the interactive touch screen, key in your choices from the 96 combinations of ice cream and mix-ins, and, in less than a minute, out pops your tasty made-to-order frozen concoction. www.massport.com/logan-airport
MINNEAPOLIS-ST. PAUL INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, Minneapolis, Minnesota: Another interactive touch-screen concept has just recently been introduced in Minneapolis, but instead of ice cream, it dishes out movies. At 11 Digiboo kiosks, travelers can download, via flash drive, digital versions of more than 500 movies (from classics to new releases), that they can then watch on their laptop or tablet while in flight or just hanging around the terminal. The flicks can be either rented or purchased, and since the service is digital, new releases are always in stock and there's nothing to return. In addition to Minneapolis, there are kiosks at the airports in Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington. www.mspairport.com
AUSTIN-BERGSTROM INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, Austin, Texas: Austin claims to be the live music capital of the world, and to prove their point, visitors don't even have to leave the airport to catch a show. On stages at four venues in both the east and west concourses, more than a dozen live concerts are held each week, where ticketed passengers can get a front row seat for performances of everything from western swing to vintage jazz. www.abia.org
HONG KONG INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, Hong Kong, China: Getting in nine holes is par for the course in Hong Kong, thanks to the USGA-approved SkyCity Nine Eagles Golf Course adjacent to Terminal 2, which just like your favorite courses at home boasts a clubhouse, pro shop and putting greens. Didn't pack your clubs? No worries, you can rent them there. Flight get in late? Not a problem, as flood lights let you play after dark. www.hongkongairport.com
PORTLAND INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, Portland, Oregon: Portland is widely regarded as one of the nation's most bikeable cities, so it's only logical its airport would want to install a bike assembly station. The space provides a handy place for travelers to assemble or disassemble their bikes before and after their flight. Travelers can even take a quick spin along the bike path that connects to the airport. Basic bike tools can be borrowed from the airport's State Welcome Center, along with information on local cycling resources. www.flypdx.com
INCHEON AIRPORT, Seoul, South Korea: Travelers connecting through Incheon can make the most of a long layover by joining one of the airport's guided transit tours. Whether you've got just an hour or two, or eight hours or more, there's an option to fit your needs, including the Temple Tour, Shopping Tour, Korean Drama Hallyu Tour and Traditional Culture Experience Tour. www.airport.kr/eng
MIAMI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, Miami, Florida: Need some snuggle time? Casey, a 69-pound golden retriever, strolls though Miami International Airport two days a week with owner Liz Miller, an airport volunteer. The trained therapy dog is outfitted with a "Pet Me" uniform and her own business cards (e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org). Casey and Liz give passengers directions and generally try to ease the travel experience.
And if you're flying with a pet in tow, you'll want to make note of the growing number of animal relief areas, like those at the Miami airport that feature patches of real grass and a bright yellow fire hydrant. www.miami-airport.com
GENERAL MITCHELL INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, Milwaukee, Wisconsin: It's game on at Milwaukee's Mitchell Airport, where a ping pong table installed last summer as part of a special event has been so popular that they decided to make it a permanent fixture. Just try not to lose the balls. www.mitchellairport.com
MUNICH AIRPORT, Munich, Germany: Germany's beer brewing history is long and storied, and passengers at the Munich airport can sample the country's savory suds at Airbräu, a Bavarian-style tavern complete with outdoor beer garden and its own on-site brewery. Thirsty patrons can even watch the brewmaster as he works his magic on the more than 110,000 gallons produced there each year. www.munich-airport.de/en
ZURICH AIRPORT, Zurich, Switzerland: Swiss chocolates and watches aren't the only thing you can pick up at the Zurich airport. Through the airport service center, exercise-minded jet setters can rent sports equipment like bikes, inline skates and Nordic walking poles so they can get out and move and enjoy the local scenery. www.zurich-airport.com
TAIWAN TAOYUAN INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, Taoyuan, Taiwan: You don't need a library card to enjoy a good book at what has been billed as the world's first e-book airport library. Here, literary-minded travelers with some time to spare can rent an iPad or other e-reader that contains more than 400 works, available in both Chinese and English and spanning the gamut of genres. Thousands of regular books, magazines and newspapers are available as well. www.taoyuan-airport.com
SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, San Francisco, California: Harried travelers can practice their sun salutations at the new yoga room at SFO. The 150-square-foot, mirror-walled studio is simplistic (just a few chairs and mats), but it's a nice, quiet place to work out the kinks and calm the nerves. Namaste! www.flysfo.com
CHANGI AIRPORT, Singapore: When it comes to ways to entertain yourself at the airport, Changi takes the prize.
Routinely voted among the world's best airports, it features a laundry list of enticements, including five themed gardens, one of them home to more than a thousand butterflies; free calf-massage stations, as well as a spa at which you can get one of the crazy treatments where tiny fish nibble the dead skin off your feet; a free movie theater that plays first-run films; free Xbox and PlayStation game consoles; a 40-foot-high slide that you can zoom down at 19 feet per second; a rooftop swimming pool; prayer rooms; designated napping facilities; and a mobile post office that makes sending home those "Wish you were here" postcards a breeze. www.changiairport.com