A long layover is no longer something to dread, thanks to a number of airports which are upping their game when it comes to entertainment between planes. So what’s on offer? Everything from dog therapy to miniature horse hugging to butterfly gardens. Here’s our rundown of the best airport amenities around the world:
1. Toast to your next flight at Munich airport’s brewery and beer hall, Germany
Thanks to Munich Airport’s Airbräu – the largest brewery inside an airport – you can raise a toast to Bavaria’s capital moments after stepping off the plane. At the world’s first airport brewery there is traditional music, potted chestnut trees, lederhosen-wearing waitresses and enough space for over 1000 people. There are outdoor and indoor seating areas, and if you’ve got time to kill, it’s worth signing up for one of the brewery tours.
2. Calm your nerves dog therapy at Denver airport, USA
If you’re a nervous flyer, resist a pre-flight tipple and opt for some dog love instead. Denver airport’s Canine Airport Therapy Squad (which somewhat confusingly, is referred to as CATS) comprises 28 therapy dogs who roam the airport, searching for nervous flyers in need of a furry hug.
All of the animals have been trained and certified by the Alliance of Therapy Dogs and are well looked after. Our favourite is Ani, a shaggy Saint Bernard, while PJ, a perky-eared Alsatian, comes a close second – even if we’ve got a sneaky suspicion that he’s actually an undercover sniffer dog.
3. Explore an aquarium at Vancouver’s airport, Canada
Vancouver Airport has two aquariums – the larger 114,000 litre-tank contains 5000 creatures, including urchins, rockfish and eight species of starfish, while the smaller 1800-litre tank is dedicated purely to jellyfish.
The tanks are pretty hi-tech affairs too, with 18 different lights that work in harmony to create artificial sunrises and sunsets.
4. Slide to your connections at Singapore’s Changi airport
Terminal 3 © qvist/Shutterstock
Singapore has been named best airport in the world for the fourth year running at the Skytrax’s World Airport Awards (the aviation industry’s version of the Oscars) and it’s not hard to see why.
There are rooftop pools, cinemas and social media trees, but our favourite feature is the 12m-high slide which allows you to whizz between the floors of Terminal Three.
With potential speeds of up to six metres per second, you’ll have fewer excuses available should you miss your flight.
5. Get back to nature at Zürich Airport, Switzerland
Only half of the sprawling site owned by Zürich’s airport is actually used for its buildings, with the rest being an untouched habitat for a number of rare plant and animal species. Although you can’t just turn up and explore (the conservation area is between runways) it’s possible to request guided tours four weeks in advance.
And if you’re on a long stopover and your sports kit in transit, don’t panic – the airport offers hourly rentals of inline skates, bicycles and hiking poles.
6. Get a history of Aviation in San Francisco’s international terminal, USA
Got time to kill at San Francisco International Airport? Then head over to the airport’s aviation museum, which opened in 2000. Exhibits span the past century and include everything from pre-war Pan American Airways’ route maps to luggage labels from the 1950s and flight officers’ cases from the 1930s. Even the location is fascinating – it’s housed within a recreation of a 1930s airport passenger terminal.
7. Drink gin direct from the distiller in London Gatwick Airport, England
In early 2016 the world’s first airport-based gin distillery opened at Gatwick Airport. At the heart of this North Terminal bar is a fully functioning gin still, capable of producing 12 litres per batch. Ingredients used in the house speciality, Nicholas Culpeper London Dry Gin, include Chinese cassia bark and angelica root from India.
The bar even has its own in-house expert – Matthew Servini, a world renowned master of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century gin recipes.
If you decide not to imbibe, you can opt for a full English breakfast, served with a side order of gin-cured smoked salmon, of course.
8. Get your best horse whisper on at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky airport, USA
The directors at this American airport may well have caught wind of Denver’s therapy dog scheme (see above) and decided to up their game.
Miniature ponies (they’re about the same size as an Alsatian) have been soothing frayed nerves at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport since the start of this year, and the horses now visit twice a month.
The ponies are apparently less flighty than dogs and more responsive to humans. And just to be clear, they can’t be ridden, although we rather like the thought of a horseback airport transfer.
9. Visit a tropical butterfly garden in Singapore’s Changi Airport
© Robin Runck/Shutterstock
It’s perhaps unsurprising that the world’s first airport butterfly garden can be found at the award-winning Changi Airport. This tropical habitat contains 1000 butterflies of over 40 different species.
The enclosure features an enormous range of flowering plants and a six-metre waterfall; head to the educational areas to watch the fluttering insects being fed.
And if butterflies don’t do it for you, you can relax in the sunflower garden or the cactus garden instead.
10. Meet a dinosaur at Chicago O’Hare International, USA
One of the world’s largest mounted dinosaurs can be found at this Chicago airport, and it’s a brachiosaurus, in case you were wondering. For years the creature could be found inside the main hall of Chicago’s Field Museum, but he made the move to the airport when Sue the Tyrannosaurus rex arrived on the scene. The brachiosaurus was taken apart prior to the move and reassembled, piece by piece, in-situ.
Top image © Chao Min Tseng/Shutterstock