Kids airport diversion guide

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Flying with kids can be a challenge, particularly when there are flight delays and long layovers. Increasingly, airports around the world are expanding their family-friendly amenities, from family lanes at security checkpoints, family restrooms and nursing stations to play areas, art exhibits, museums and even massive dinosaurs.

We spend much of our time in airports, so we have taken notes on key connecting airports worldwide to highlight airports that have the most exciting options for children to ensure your little ones are entertained on the go.

United States Airports

Merrily rolling along at the airport (Image: Heather Poole, Kid on a bag via Flickr CC BY 

Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI): Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport has a must-see child-friendly space, the BWI Observation Gallery. Located on the upper level of the airport between Concourses B and C prior to the security checkpoint, BWI Observation Gallery is a one-of-a-kind place with aviation exhibits, children’s play equipment and the recently updated Maryland Youth Art Gallery that features artwork by local children. Near the Observation Gallery, children and adults can learn about the life of civil rights activist Thurgood Marshall at the Thurgood Marshall Tribute, an exhibit of the life of the airport’s namesake. A bike share program and the BWI Hiker-Biker Trail is sure to appeal to ‘tweens and teens.

Boston Logan International Airport (BOS): Three of Boston Logan International Airport‘s four terminals offer interactive “Kidport” play areas located post-security. Located near Terminal A’s Gate 18, the Kidport features climbing structures, slides, and a mini replica of Boston Logan International Airport’s control tower. Near Gate 29 in Terminal B is another playspace near concessions and restrooms. In Terminal C, the Kidport can be found before Gate 25. Here children can climb on replicas of vintage airplanes that are parked on a carpet that looks like an airfield. There are TVs here too.

Keep kids occupied between flights. (Image: Daniel Lobo, Espera via Flickr CC BY 2.0)

Charlotte Douglas International (CLT): The USO runs a center on the second floor of the main atrium at Charlotte Douglas International Airport. The center has a children’s play area, family area, video game stations, TV and movie lounges, computers, a library and more.

Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD): Each year, Chicago O’Hare International Airport updates its “Kids on the Fly” Exhibit,” an interactive play area where children can play and explore an airplane, a control tower and a helicopter model. Accessible to children with disabilities, the play area is past security in Terminal 2. There is plenty to marvel at beyond the play area. There is a four-story high, 72-foot-long Brachiosaurus skeleton model on loan from Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History on the upper level of Terminal 1 in Concourse B and a replica of the World War II F4F-3 fighter plane flown by airport namesake and U.S. Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Lt. Comdr. Edward “Butch” O’Hare in the main hall of Terminal 2.

Changing planes is a feast for the senses if you are lucky enough to pass through “The Sky’s The Limit,” a 744-foot-long kinetic neon sculpture of light and sound designed by Michael Hayden located in the underground walkway between Concourse B and Concourse C in Terminal 1. Globe-trotting kids will appreciate the Hall of Flags past security in Terminal 3 between Concourse H and Concourse K; each flag represents a country that American Airlines serves non-stop from O’Hare. There is another Hall of Flags before security in Terminal 5 where each flag represents a country that is served with non-stop service from O’Hare.

Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW): There is plenty to see and do prior to takeoff at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. For the littlest travelers, there are a trio of Aquafina Junior Flyers Clubs, playscapes made of foam that have cars, planes and more that kids can crawl on, at Gate A13 in Terminal A, Gate B12 at Terminal B and at Gate C14 in Terminal C. Terminal D boasts a McDonald’s play area near Gate 33.

Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW): The aesthetics at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport serve as the entertainment for children and adults. Take time to travel along the moving walkways through the underground Light Tunnel, a 700-foot artistic display of LED lighting and sound that connects Concourses B/C with Concourse A and the McNamara Terminal building. Marvel at the magical Water Feature at the heart of McNamara Terminal, Concourse A designed by WET Design, the same folks who designed the Fountains at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. There are 45 devices that shoot streams of water from the 39-foot, elliptical-shaped black granite structure.

Las Vegas McCarran International Airport (LAS): Located on level two above the rotunda near the D Gates, the Kids Play Area at Las Vegas McCarran International Airport is an aviation-themed space. There is an interactive control tower and a mock jet engine. Colorful art murals designed by local students add to the ambiance.

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX): Los Angeles International Airport lacks a children’s play area, but the airport’s architecture makes up for it. The iconic Terminal Building resembles a landing spaceship. Stop by the restaurant Encounters, which was designed with a space theme by Walt Disney Imagineering. If you have a bit more time, visit the Flight Path Museum which is located alongside the main terminal. The museum has a variety of exhibits, artifacts and models documenting the history of aviation in Southern California. Open 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Tues.-Sat., Free.

A world of fun awaits at MIA. (Image: raymondorta, Niño y caleidoscopio #instakid #instatrip #art #opart #miami #airport #boy #kid via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0)

Miami International Airport (MIA): There are several child-friendly options at Miami International Airport. Play with Casey, MIA’s Canine Ambassador, or admire the art by local children and regularly changing exhibits by international artists that adorn the walls and hallways.

Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport (MSP): There are two children’s play areas at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Located on Concourse C at Terminal I (Lindbergh) and past security at Terminal 2 (Humphrey), each play space features a mock airplane, air traffic control tower and slides. A Snoopy statue (his creator Charles Schultz was a native of Minnesota) greets children at the entrance to the Terminal 1 play area. The airport also features pay-kiddie rides and a giant-size suitcase at the Humphrey Terminal.

General Mitchell International Airport (MKE): Each of General Mitchell International Airport‘s three terminals has recently upgraded Children’s Play Areas featuring colorful, padded flooring and equipment. Each play area has small slides, tunnels and airplanes along with interactive games and activity centers. The Concourse D Children’s Play Area has “watch towers” that allow children to look outside and see real aircraft taxing across the runway. For older children and adults, the non-profit aviation museum Mitchell Gallery of Flight on the concession level near Concourse C is worth a visit. Visitors can learn about Wisconsin’s aviation history and key contributors like General Billy Mitchell, General Lester Maitland and astronaut James Lovell. Open 24/7, Free.

Nashville International Airport (BNA): The Music City’s airport is a multi-sensory experience. The Arts at the Airport program features rotating public art exhibits like the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival-themed skylights that can be found on Concourse A, Concourse B and Concourse C. The attractions go beyond the visual. The airport hosts live music on four stages in the terminal. Some 80 to 100 bands perform all types of music each year.

John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK): The new T5 terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport offers something for everyone, including the youngest travelers who will enjoy the large children’s play area. The Moroso Lounge offers the perfect perch for watching planes takeoff and land. Travelers are offered 30 minutes of free Wi-Fi allowing tech savvy toddlers enough time to download more fun and games before taking flight.

Orlando International Airport (MCO): Enjoy some last minute theme park magic at Orlando International Airport. There are plenty of wide open spaces for children to run about, but shops like The Magic of Disney and Kennedy Space Center offer kid-friendly window shopping opportunities. The tram that whisks travelers from security to their gates is an additional enticing amenity for children.

Portland International Airport (PDX): There are options pre- and post-security for littles ones to burn off some steam before liftoff at Portland International Airport. The two colorful play areas feature jungle gyms, slides and interactive games which are conveniently located pre-security near Concourses D and E and post-security in Concourse C.

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX): Kids have four places to run, climb and play at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Each activity space includes colorful interactive games and displays that will delight younger travelers near Gate 9 in Terminal 2, between Gates 7 and 9 and near Gate 24 in Terminal 3, and near Gate B19 in Terminal 4. Older children might enjoy the rotating museum exhibits installed throughout the airport.

Airports have many kid-friendly amenities. (Image: David D, Airport Portrait – Day 352 via Flickr CC BY 2.0)

Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC): Salt Lake City International Airport is one of the more scenic airports in North America. It’s also a very family friendly airport, offering a variety of activities for children and their parents. Fully-equipped play areas are located in Concourse A, Concourse B and at the top of Concourse E.

San Francisco International Airport (SFO): There are a variety of options for kids of all ages at San Francisco International Airport. There are two Kids’ Spots, interactive play areas, in Terminal 2 and Terminal 3. Families with a little extra time should visit the Louis A. Turpen Aviation Museum to learn about the development of commercial aviation. Located in the International Terminal, the museum is reminiscent of the airport’s 1930s passenger lobby. The collection focuses on air transport with an emphasis on the West Coast and the Pacific region. 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Sun.-Fri., Free. Aviation buffs can also make an appointment to visit the San Francisco Airport Commission Aviation Library. Both the museum and library are located before security in the departures lvel of the International Terminal Main Hall. On the way back from the museum to the gate, be sure to admire the rotating museum exhibits scattered throughout the airport.

Seattle/Tacoma International Airport (SEA): Let your children run freely at the Kid’s Play Room located between Central Terminal and A gates at Seattle/Tacoma International Airport. The room has brightly colored games and spaces that match the equally cheerful wall murals. After running off some excess energy, families can enjoy live music throughout the airport from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily. Travelers can also take an art walk through the airport to admire 16 permanent art installations and dozens of rotating exhibits.

International Airports

Calgary International Airport (YYC): Calgary International Airport may arguably be the most family-friendly airport in Canada. There are four Flippers, video game arcades equipped with the latest video games and pinball machines, in Concourse A, Concourse B, Concourse C and pre-security on the Departures level. Each arcade is open 24/7. An added bonus for travelers of all ages is free Wi-Fi throughout the airport. The main attraction for kids is the SpacePort, an educational and entertainment space focused on space and aeronautics located pre-security on the third floor near the Destinations Food Court. Here you’ll find hands-on exhibits and displays, including a piece of moon rock on loan from NASA, a one-quarter scale space shuttle and plenty of interactive displays. 9 a.m.-9 p.m., Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Sat-Sun, Free.

Frankfurt Airport (FRA)Frankfurt Airport likely has one of the largest collection of children’s play areas. There are 10 indoor playgrounds with a variety of interactive play stations. Terminal 1 has six play spaces and Terminal 2 has three fun zones plus a playground at McDonald’s in Terminal 2. Each post-security playground has a different theme: there is a toy helicopter to climb at Gate B22, an ocean themed play space at Gate B44, an airport world at Pier A, a pirate theme wonderland in Pier Z in Terminal 1.  At Pier D and Pier E in Terminal 2, there are space adventures to be had and an outdoor Visitors’ Terrace in Terminal 2. No details for youngsters are overlooked at Frankfurt Airport. Teddy bear companions are given a boarding pass too!

Heathrow Airport (LHR): One of the world’s largest airports, Heathrow Airport has many options no matter which terminal you travel through. All terminals have Stay & Play areas which have separate areas for babies and older children equipped with slides, soft play areas, and more. In Terminal 1, the seasonal Stay & Play area is in the international departure lounge after security and is suitable for children aged 2 to 8. In Terminal 3, the Family Lounge is in Lounge A and has a children’s quiet room, a soft play area for toddlers up to 2-years-old, a play area for children aged 3 to 9, and a Game Zone for children aged 10 to 15. In Terminal 2 (main Terminal 2A departure lounge post security near Gate 16), Terminal 4 (departure lounge post security near Gates 1-6) and Terminal 5 (main Terminal 5A departure lounge post security near Gate A7), the Stay & Play areas have slides, soft play areas and separate baby and junior zones to entertain children up to age 9 pre- and post-flight. All play areas are open 6 a.m.-9 p.m., daily. 

Kids Lounge at Hong Kong International Airport (Image: Michael Coghlan, Kids’ Lounge at Hong Kong Airport via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0)

Hong Kong International Airport (HKG): Hong Kong International Airport offers two colorful Children’s Play Areas to entertain younger travelers. The play areas, between Gates 23 and 25 in Terminal 1 and Between Gates 509 and 510 in the North Satellite Concourse, are stocked with interactive toys. The airport also has four Children’s TV Lounges near Gates 1, 15, 41 and 60 where children (and adults!) can watch cartoons and play games.

The airport is also home to several rotating exhibits that include the Bruce Lee Kung Fu-Arts-Life photo and video exhibit documenting Bruce Lee’s achievements and his contribution to film, kung fu and popular culture near Gate 62 in Terminal 1. Childhood Memories, an exhibit near Gate 31 in Terminal 1, showcases 20 sets of Hong Kong retro toys borrowed from local museum collections, and the Theatre Art of Cantonese Opera exhibit near Gate 22 in Terminal 1 introduces travelers to traditional Cantonese opera with 17 opera costumes and props and video clips of performances. The airport recently unveiled its Trick Art installations, eight optical illusion art pieces depicting local culture and landmarks. Located throughout Terminal 1, there are renditions of Cantonese opera, dragon and lion dances, the Tsim Sha Tsui Clock Tower, a dragon boat, the Goldfish Market, and the Lam Tsuen Wishing Trees.

Incheon Airport (ICN): Incheon Airport has seven children’s play areas, making it easy to find a space for your children to run and play even if you are short on time. There are four play spaces on the third floor next to Gates 10, 15, 40 and 45, two on the fourth floor next to the KAL Lounge and the Asiana Lounge and one in the departure area on the third floor next to Gate 119. For older children, the airport has Ice Forest, a skating rink in the Transportation Center made of artificial turf allowing up to 150 skaters to glide and twirl without getting cold or wet. Open 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Skate Rental: W5,000/Adult, W4,000/Teen, W3,000/Child. There is also a movie theater in the Transportation Center. CGV Theater has two theaters with 240 seats presenting the latest blockbusters.

Narita International Airport (NRT)Narita International Airport has seven Kid’s Parks, colorful play areas for the littlest travelers. There are three Kid’s Parks in Terminal 1. Colorful murals, soft padded seating, a slide and rocking toys greet toddlers at Gate 41 on the third floor. On the second and fifth floors, the play spaces are enclosed by soft blocks and are equipped with mini slides and forts. In Terminal 2, there are four playgrounds with slides and interactive toys, all enclosed with soft padding.

Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG): From the moment children arrive at Charles de Gaulle Airport, they are treated to some wonderful treats. At the security screening, little ones are given a free Mickey Mouse-themed activity book. Free Wi-Fi throughout the airport enhances the pre-boarding experience. Posts-security, families can enjoy retro video games like Pacman and Space Invaders at six arcades (there are three in Hall L at Gates L24, L32, and L45; two in Hall K at Gates M29 and M45; and one in Hall 2G in the departure lounge). An additional arcade is set to open in Hall 4 soon.

Singapore Changi Airport (SIN): There is so much to do at Singapore Changi Airport you might find yourself hoping for a flight delay or considering making the airport your vacation destination. There are four Playgrounds with full size slides, jungle gyms, and more on Level 3 in Terminal 1, Level 2 in Terminal 2 and two playgrounds on Level 2 in Terminal 3. Each of the airport’s three terminals also have Wood Block Rubbing Stations where travelers can make their own woodblock prints designed by artist Justin Lee. These interactive art stations are on Level 3 in Terminal 1, Level 2 in Terminal 2 and Level B2 in Terminal 3.

in Terminal 1, families can make time to enjoy the Kinetic Rain sculpture in the Check-In Hall. Made of 1,216 polished bronze droplets, the sculpture can morph into 16 different shapes, ranging from abstract art to an airplane, a hot air balloon, a kite and a dragon. Share your memories of your time at Singapore Changi Airport at The Social Tree, an interactive memory capsule where travelers can use one of eight touch-screen photo booths to share photos and videos.

In Terminal 2, travelers can explore, smell and touch mystery objects at the Asian Icons Interactive Art Station and take photos in front of a life-size piece of porcelain on Level 2. Little ones will enjoy a stroll through the Enchanted Garden, a colorful fiber-optic and LED garden wired with motion sensors that trigger sounds of nature. Gamers should head to the Entertainment Deck on Level 3. The space features an Xbox Kinect room equipped with Kinect Sports; an MTV booth broadcasting music videos on a 50-inch plasma TV; a movie theater; and Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 game consoles. Terminal 2 also boasts a colorful Orchid Garden with more than 700 orchids and 30 species and a rooftop Sunflower Garden with 500  sunflowers grown in Changi Airport’s very own nursery. On Level 2, the Xperience Zone lets sports fans catch up with their favorite teams via large TV screens. There is a free interactive e-Postcard booth to share electronic postcards with friends and family back home. Terminal 2 and Terminal 3 are home to two 24-hour movie theaters screening the latest movies for free.

In Terminal 3, stop to admire the impressive works of art. Marvel at Baet Yeok Kuan’s Birds in Flight, colorful stainless steel birds in flight formation next to Gate Holdrooms B1 to B4. Take in the giant Daisy, a propeller that resembles a flower painted in the colors of Singapore’s flag – red and white. The sculpture by Christian Moeller has sensors that respond to the movement of travelers making the propeller move in unpredictable ways. Stop to admire Han Sai Por’s Flora Inspirations, a cluster of super-sized seed pods next to the Skytrain landing in the Departure Hall. Post next to Han Mei Ling’s 900kg Going Home sculpture which depicts a homeward bound family. The gigantic red Saga Seed by Kumari Nahappan is an ode to Singapore’s saga trees. Near Gate Holdroom B7, Janet Laurence’s The Memory of Lived Space blends architecture and nature with photographic panels overlapped with painted glass. The Vessel exhibit features series of stoneware sculptures housed with glass enclosures outside immigration in the Departure Hall.

Get close to nature at the Butterfly Garden that is home to 1,000 tropical butterflies. Visitors can spot up to 40 species breeding and feeding. For those who prefer less vigorous activities, the TV Lounge offers the chance to watch television from the comfort of cozy couches. The Slide @ T3 on Level 1 of the Arrivals Hall is not to be missed. Standing four stories tall, the high speed slide is a thrill for travelers of all ages. Open 12 p.m.-10:20 p.m., daily, riders must be 1.3 meters to 2 meters tall; children aged 7 and under cannot ride the slide; For every $10 spent on a single receipt at the airport, travelers can redeem one ride on the slide (redeemable at the Information Counter on Level 1 in Terminal 3). Children six years old and at least 3’6″ can warm up with a ride on the one-and-a-half story slide on Level B2 in Terminal 3 for free.

The rooftop swimming pool, rooftop Cactus Garden, Lily Pad Garden in Terminal 1 and the Changi Aviation Gallery in Terminal 3 are undergoing renovation. Terminal 4 is currently under construction and scheduled to open in 2017 offering even more choices for family friendly entertainment.

Finding a moment of zen before takeoff. (Image: Dan Zen, Kids In Ice, via Flickr CC BY 2.0)

Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ): Toronto Pearson International Airport has two children’s play areas for younger travelers. The colorful play spaces are in Terminal 1 at Departure Lounge D24 and in Lounge 15.

Vancouver International Airport (YVR): Vancouver International Airport offers a variety of options for the children who want to burn off energy before their flights. There are four Children’s Play Areas stocked with fun and games; one before security in the domestic terminal food court, departures level 2; two past security in the domestic terminal on departures level 3 at Gates 13 and 46; and one in the international terminal on departure level 3 at Gate 54. There is also family-friendly fun pre-security in the domestic terminal on level 4 at the Public Observation Area. The 500-square-meter space provides visitors the opportunity to see the airport at work and the beauty of Sea Island through floor-to-ceiling windows. There are complimentary telescopes for close-up views of aircraft taking off and landing.

Informational panels feature educational facts, photos and diagrams of aircraft. There is an interactive model of Sea Island and touch-screen kiosks which include air traffic control listening stations, real-time flight viewers, video of travelers’ luggage behind the scenes and airport history. Free Wi-Fi throughout the airport rounds out the kid-friendly offerings.

Editor’s note: We revised this post for you to make sure it’s up-to-date, comprehensive and even more awesome. We do our best to bring you the most timely information, but until superhuman speed is perfected, we can only move so fast. Always double check current amenities before heading to the airport.

Kids airport diversion guide was last modified: June 26th, 2019 by Lauren Mack
Author: Lauren Mack (163 posts)

Lauren Mack has traveled to 40 countries on five continents, including Cuba, New Zealand, Peru and Tanzania. For many years, she called China, and then Taiwan, home. Countries at the beginning of the alphabet, particularly Antarctica, Argentina and Australia are on her travel bucket list. Lauren is a multimedia travel and food journalist and explorer based in New York City.