Secrets to Enjoying Yourself at the Airport, Part 3: North America
Frequent travelers know that the airport you use is as important as the airline you travel on when it comes to
your travel experience. In the previous two articles of this series, we have seen airports in Asia and Europe overturn the general impression of airports. Instead of long security lines, rude agents, pricey food, and boredom, we’ve seen plush sleeping pods, movie
, and even an ice skating rink. In this last article, we’ll see how North American airports are pushing the boundaries.
San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
With San Francisco being the birth place of several technology companies, it seems fitting that the San Francisco International Airport (SFO) has a Google-like working space in the airport. With a name like #Converge@flySFO, you can imagine the crowd that it caters for. Armed with free Wi-Fi, a white board, and a magnetic chalk board, this space is set aside for passengers to meet and exchange ideas on anything of interest. In a part of the world teeming with technology startups, who knows? You could find yourself talking to the next Mark Zuckerberg.
If technology isn’t your thing, try the SFO Museum. More than just a few hanging pieces of art, the museum is a world-class museum. Created in 1980, it the first of its kind. It features more than 20 galleries throughout the airport and consists of both permanent collections and rotating collections of different art genres. At the San Francisco Airport Commission Aviation Library and Louis A. Turpen Aviation, visitors can learn about the history of commercial aviation—truly a good way to spend your time at the airport!
Don’t be surprised to see dogs with vests that read “Pet Me!” roaming SFO’s terminals. The airport’s Wag Brigade, are trained dogs that passengers can pet. These dogs are specially selected for their temperament to ensure no passenger’s trip ends with a trip to the ER.
Take a break from replying to nasty e-mails from the client or mindlessly scrolling Facebook by visiting the Berman Reflection Room. As the name suggests, this room is a space free of distractions (namely technology), allowing for quiet self-reflection and meditation. This is perhaps the one facility in SFO that is least utilized but most needed.
Vancouver International Airport (YVR)
Not to be mistaken for Vancouver, Washington, the next airport on this list is in Vancouver, British Columbia.. Vancouver International Airport (YVR) is the second-largest airport in Canada with non-stop flights to the rest of the world, so chances are you’ll find yourself flying or connecting through YVR at some point.
If you need to get work done, you can utilize the free Wi-Fi everywhere in the airport or the computer stations found in various locations. However, it would be a shame to ignore the efforts of YVR to bring a piece of the British Columbia culture to you right at the airport.
The airport’s modern vibe and sea-to-sky theme are a refreshing change from the usual airport guise. In line with its theme, one of the airport’s most acclaimed attractions is a massive aquarium in the main atrium of the international terminal. Home to more than 5,000 native marine creatures, it mimics the rich marine life of British Columbia and is a great way to learn about British Columbia’s underwater world without stepping out of the airport. It also boasts a smaller exhibit of jellyfish on the fourth floor.
Art installations are not a rarity in airports, but what sets YVR apart is the magnitude of the art. Numerous towering art pieces dot the airport, including a 40 meter by 10 meter wall made up of thousands of glass pieces representing the ocean and a 10–meter-high totem pole. Created by local artists, the impressive pieces reflect the province’s history and culture.
The fitness buffs can hop over to the Fairmont Hotel, which is connected to the airport. For a small drop-in rate, you get access to the gym, saunas, and showers! If you’ve had enough of being inside, check out Chester Johnson Park, a small green space just outside International Arrivals. Featuring a small pond and waterfall, the park is a source of much-needed fresh air.
Denver International Airport (DEN)
The Denver International Airport (DEN) ranks high on my list of most beautiful airports in the world. The unique tent-like structure mirroring the white-capped mountains in the background is truly a sight to behold. Besides being an architectural wonder, DEN is also the biggest airport in the United States.
Considering the airport’s size, be prepared for the distance you’ll need to walk. An automated train eases the way by connecting selected terminals with boarding and departure gates. While traveling through the airport, watch for art in the most unexpected locations. Try spotting the propellers lining the train tunnels toward Concourse C. Sometimes mistaken for tunnel turbines, Kinetic Air Light Curtain by Antonette Rosato and William Maxwell consists of 5,280 spinning propellers. Open Windows is another art installation that has been raved about. It features a tower of lights that reacts to a person’s movements. You can make quite a sport out of scavenging for the hidden art pieces in the airport.
Next, make your way to the new open-air plaza located between Jeppesen Terminal and the Westin Hotel for Events at DEN, an ongoing series of activities guaranteed to provide some entertainment during your layover. Spirit of Colorado, which ran in July 2016, boasted a day of Western Colorado music, stuntmen, a photo booth, and a mechanical bull!
For the introverts, one of the best kept secrets in DEN can be found at the end of Concourse C: massive windows offer an unbeatable view of the Rocky Mountains. While you are in the best seats in the house, make use of the free Wi-Fi and Google “conspiracies of Denver Airport.” I assure you it will make you appreciate DEN even more! Grab a cup of coffee from Caribou Coffee along the way and you may find yourself wishing your layover was longer!
Not all airports are made equal, but increasingly airports are breaking out of the stuffy mold into the likes of SFO, YVR, and DEN. Layovers are here to stay but dreadful airport experiences may become a thing of the past!
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