Denver International Airport is known for its many art exhibits

Mollie Weems was nervous about taking her first flight at the age of eight. Her 11-year-old brother, Tom, has flown once before but because it had been a bumpy experience, he feared a repeat performance.

Then, suddenly, everything changed. Delighted by the antics of a friendly pig named LiLou, Mollie forgot her qualms. For Tom, it was a large rabbit that enabled him to replace fear with fun.

These youngsters were at the San Franciso International Airport with their parents, waiting for a flight to visit their grandparents in Chicago. Their pre-departure jitters were allayed by two members of the Wag Brigade, a menagerie of certified animal therapists that roam the waiting rooms and make passenger travel less stressful and more enjoyable. 

A member of the Wag Brigade awaits its next assignment
A member of the Wag Brigade awaits its next assignment.
Photo credit San Francisco International Airport

This program, now in its tenth year, is one of many pleasant surprises that greet people at airports around the country. They offer an inviting choice of both basic amenities and unexpected treats.

Anyone in San Francisco seeking to relax before take-off also may take advantage of the yoga studio and meditate in the reflection room. For those dealing with a more severe challenge than pre-flight fright, a medical clinic offers urgent care treatment. 

Unusual Amenities at Several International Airports Ease Long Layovers

Passengers at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport who are seeking to relieve musculoskeletal discomfort may get an adjustment, trigger point massage and other chiropractic services at the cleverly named Chiroport facility. Other services include a screening room that features short films and documentaries.

Duty Free shops are the least of attractions at many international airports
Duty Free shops are the least of attractions at many international airports.
Photo credit Glowonconcept/

Music rather than movies is offered at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in Texas. Austin claims to be the live music capital of the world and local musicians appear throughout the venue to play everything from western swing sounds to vintage classics. Melodies are piped to other areas of the terminal where the live sounds don’t reach.

When it comes to food, airport options long have escaped their negative reputation for overpriced stale sandwiches and cold coffee. Some feature restaurants that almost make a flight layover worth the wait. 

Upscale restaurants are often now a mainstay at airports nationwide
Upscale restaurants are often now a mainstay at airports nationwide.
Photo credit Tea/

A recent survey ranked San Francisco first in terms of dining choice and quality. It recommended eateries that feature Asian fusion fare and Farmer Brown, a soul food eatery that features southern favorites like chicken-and-waffles and jambalaya.

Dessert is front and center at Boston’s Logan International Airport. Flyers with a sweet tooth may create their own sundae at an Ice Creamery Machine that offers close to 100 combinations of ice cream, mix-ins and toppings.

It’s treats for the eyes that are offered at airports which double as galleries. The show begins outside the Denver International Airport, where the peaked roof of the terminal resembles the nearby snow-capped mountains and a huge blue mustang sculpture rears up on its hind legs.

Denver International Airport Has a Wide Variety of Art Exhibits for Tourists to Explore

Inside, the city’s public art program has supported the installation of numerous artworks. They range from paintings, wall murals and photographs to statues, sculptures and sound art.

A statue at Denver International Airport intrigues its many visitors
A statue at Denver International Airport intrigues its many visitors.
Photo credit Mitchblatt/

Architecture and art are front and center at the Albuquerque International Sunport, whose adobe-like façade echoes the distinctive New Mexican style. Inside, the culture-related décor and extensive art collection make the facility an attraction even for non-travelers. Permanent exhibits are augmented by temporary displays of works by local artists and borrowed from museums.

Then there are airports that offer some below-the-radar attractions and activity surprises. When a ping pong table installed in the General Mitchell International Airport for a special event became popular with Milwaukee residents, it became a permanent fixture.

Imagine Getting a Car Wash When You Park at an Aiport. In Spokane You Do.

People who book a flight from Denver during the winter holiday season have access to a free ice skating rink. Those who park their car in the Spokane International Airport garages receive a free car wash. Golfers passing time at the Palm Beach International Airport may test their skills at a putting green.

It's not often you encounter a putting green as you do at Palm Beach International Airport
It’s not often you encounter a putting green as you do at Palm Beach International Airport.
Photo courtesy of Palm Beach International Airport © Clay Cook 2022

People in search of even more comforts and conveniences also have alternatives.  There are airport lounges that usually offer complimentary food and beverages and comfortable seating, and may have amenities like showers and nap pods, or perhaps even a spa, barbershop and workout equipment.

While these havens generally are available to frequent flyers, and those who hold certain credit cards, others too may be able to enjoy their perks. At some airdromes, it’s possible to purchase a day or one-time use pass to some of these sanctuaries, and their benefits may be worth the cost of a few bucks.

Because airport facilities and services can change from time to time, it’s worth checking in advance whether any in which you’re interested still are available.

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