Airport Fun Guide for Kids
Las Vegas McCarran International Airport (LAS)
On the 2nd floor of D Concourse, little kids are drawn to control tower (it's their size, after all) in the play area. Older kids should check out the interactive videos, old newspaper clippings, dioramas, and a vintage Cessna 172 dangling from the ceiling in the Howard W. Cannon Aviation Museum on Level 2, above baggage claim.
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
Got a long layover in L.A.? The Flight Path Learning Center of Southern California chronicles the golden years of commercial aviation, featuring aircraft models, extraordinary aviation displays and free admission. 6661 West Imperial Highway. Hours: Tuesday through Saturday from 10am to 3pm. Call: 1-310-215-5291.
Miami International Airport (MIA)
There's a children's recreation area at Gate 35 on the D Concourse. Or check out the most recent children's art exhibits in the Concourse D/E Connector after you go through security.
Minneapolis/St. Paul International (MSP)
This airport has a couple of nicely outfitted play areas: one in the main Lindbergh Terminal (Concourse C), the other in the Humphrey Terminal (Concourse C, second floor). Each is about 1,000-square feet. Kids can climb about on a mock airplane, control tower, and lounge about in seats that resemble luggage. The walls are decked with interesting facts about aviation.
Milwaukee Mitchell International (MKE)
The Mitchell Gallery of Flight, located near Concourse C, tells the story of General Billy Mitchell, the visionary Army Air Corps officer who foretold the shape of modern aerial warfare. There's also a cool collection of model aircraft. It's free, open 7 days a week from 7am to 10pm. Call: 1-414-4503.
Nashville International Airport (BNA)
Nashville is Music City, USA, even at the airport. There are three live music stages (for all kinds of music, not just country): the Welcome to Music City Stage is on the baggage claim level, and two other stages, are at each of the security checkpoint entrances. If a live band won't distract the kids, there's a play area in the Concourse Connector.
New York John F. Kennedy International (JFK)
JFK was built for business travelers, but here's one of Kennedy's best-kept secrets for kids. The AirTrain is free when you're using it to connect between terminals. It's sleek, fast, elevated and guaranteed to give you and your children a fascinating bird's eye view of one of the most colorful airports anywhere (and maybe even a peek at the Manhattan skyline).
Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)
Newark also has a free AirTrain, one of the very best diversions around. The set-up is supposed to be there for connecting travelers, but lots of folks ride just for the fun of it.
Orlando International Airport (MCO)
Families come for Disney and Universal Studios, but before they even hit the theme parks, they can get a peek at the fun right at the airport. First, the art. Look for whimsical characters at each level of the parking garage. One kid-favorite is the life-size bronze called The Traveler. It's on the A side of the Hotel Atrium. Gates 100 through 129 are decorated with large floor mosaics of fish, flowers, and ferns. For real fish, in the main terminal's food court, there's a 3,000-gallon salt-water tank filled with 100 aquatic creatures. At the Kennedy Space Center stores in the main terminal, kids can actually touch a portion of an asteroid from Mars, and see life-size astronaut models. The Power Arcade -- yes, it's as fun as it sounds -- is on the South Walk of the Landside Terminal building.
Portland International Airport (PDX)
PDX totally gets families with children. Pre-security near the checkpoint for Concourses D and E, you'll find a multi-colored jungle gym, with padded surfaces, stairs that lead to a couple of slides and a "lookout" with a toy telescope and steering wheel so kids can spy aircraft out on the tarmac. (Lots of steam to be blown off here!) Post-security on the C Concourse, the play area sports Lego tables, bead maze, play cars, and child-friendly channels on the TV. Best of all, the area is close to restrooms and has plenty of seats for parents. Before you board, stop by Creative Kidstuff in Concourse C and nab some travel-worthy games to keep them occupied during the long flight.
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)
Four play areas are fitted with padded climbing gear, designed for young children, and are post-security. You'll find them in Terminal 2's upper concourse area, on both of Terminal 3's concourses, and in Terminal 4's International Concourse, near Gates B15-28. Looking for kid-friendly art? There's a pre-security gallery in Terminal 4, on Level 3. It's free and open 24/7.
Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC)
Kids can burn off extra energy during a layover or before a long flight at play areas in concourses A, B and E. And Creative Kidstuff (Terminal 2, Concourse C) sells many creative, hands-on learning toys that will keep them occupied in-flight.
San Francisco International (SFO)
Kids' Spot is post-security, in Terminal 3, Boarding Area F, near Gate 87A. There's a crawling apparatus, and a Plasma Wall, which shoots arcs of energized color activated by sound. It's a great place for children to de-energize before boarding. For older travelers, the new international terminal boasts the elegantly retro Francisco Airport Commission Aviation Library & Louis A. Turpen Aviation Museum. The 11,500-square foot facility is modeled after an SFO 1937 waiting room. Hours: Sundays through Fridays from 10am to 4:30pm. Call: 1-650-821-6700.
Seattle/Tacoma International Airport (SEA)
In the Central Terminal, post-security, the 1,400-square-foot play area is fitted a bunch of soft foam structures for climbing. Kids especially like the airplane, control tower, and baggage cart. There's a family-friendly restroom here with rocking chairs for parents and babies as well as seating around the play area for mom and dad.