U.S. Airports as Mini Destinations for Layover Lingers

Chicago O'Hare airport goes green with the world's first farmers market and herb garden.
Chicago O’Hare airport goes green with the world’s first farmers market and herb garden.

Your umpteenth business trip is planned. Tickets, hotel and car reserved. Check. Meetings and presentation prepared. Check. If life’s really about the journey—what about the road (or concourse) well-traveled?

Many airports now strive to not only alleviate headaches (think massage chairs or paying to bypass security lines) but infuse spaces with activities, art, cuisine and detour-worthy entertainment.

American airports attempt to shift from mere transit depots to destinations:

  • Chicago O’Hare opened the world’s first airport farmers market in 2012 and the world’s first airport garden the year prior. Bag some freshies.
  • San Francisco SFO has a yoga room to stretch, meditate or chill during layovers. Oommm.
  • Austin International features live music stages with local bands. Snap your fingers to jazz. Bounce to blues.
  • Seattle SeaTac offers free books for the digitally overloaded or those who yearn to disconnect. Look for the racks of free books.
  • Denver International has 100+ pieces of public and exhibit art. Stroll. Interpret. Board.
  • Minneapolis MSP has more iPads than an Apple store—all free to use. Plop your travel-weary self in front of an iPad to order food, track flights and surf the Web. Food magically appears at your table.
  • Portland PDX, home of Portlandia vibe, has a partial solar roof, compost everywhere and a bike assembly and disassembly station for travelers to fly with wheels.
  • Santa Barbara might be the quaintest airport in which to await your flight. It has a white-washed architecture style and chandeliers.
  • Palm Beach in Florida has an airport putting green. Beat that.

NBC and Forbes reported in 2010 that longer waits and US plane delays contributed to the shift in airports improving shopping, dining and entertainment as travelers spend more time in airports.

Skift sees airports as destinations as one of travel’s biggest 2013 trends. “As the airline experience continues to deteriorate and fragment—at least in the Western world—airports are seeing a buzz of activity and are reinventing themselves around user experience and design.”

Next time you travel, seek soul food. One-of-a-kind hotels can also be mini destinations.

Your favorite airport experience? Other US airport mini destinations? Do tell.

Photo: Future Growing

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