Family vacations are fun, but delays and long layovers can taint them with frustration. Luckily, this is no secret to airports, many of which offer amenities and services just for families.
The following are the best kid-friendly airports, selected for their play area offerings, accessibility of family restrooms, and the quality of aesthetic, calming environments.
1. Chicago O'Hare International (ORD)
At Chicago O'Hare Intenational Airport, The Children's Museum of Chicago has designed a playground called "Kids on the Fly." The aviation-themed interactive exhibit features a cargo plane that needs fueling, a cockpit in a fantasy helicopter, a luggage station and an air traffic control tower. The play area, which also has LEGOS, is fully accessible to all children, and is located around the corner from Gate F1 in Terminal 2.
In Terminal 5 near Gate M12, the "Play It Safe" exhibit -- an educational area sponsored by the Chicago Fire Department -- teaches kids about the importance of safety and the proper responses in emergencies.
Recommended Chicago O'Hare Airport Hotel: Hilton Chicago O'Hare Airport
Hilton Chicago O'Hare Airport
2. San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
San Francisco International Airport offers self-guided, educational tours for kids, all of which end with a small prize at an information desk. Tours explore the International wing, Terminal 1 and Terminal 3, and tour guides can be printed online.
Another particularly kid-friendly feature is the SFO Kids' Spot. The Exploratorium of San Francisco has designed a weather-themed play area with crawling equipment and the Plasma Wall -- a display of colorful arcs that jump around when activated by sound in the airport. SFO Kids' Spot is located after passing through security in Terminal 3, Boarding Level F near Gate 87A.
You might also visit the Ticketing Level of Terminal 1 for a trip to the underwater world. Three different aquariums offer a window to distinct fish communities across the planet.
Recommended San Francisco Airport Hotel: Holiday Inn Express San Francisco Airport North
Holiday Inn Express San Francisco Airport North
3. Boston Logan International (BOS)
Boston Logan International has not one, but two separate play areas for kids. Terminal C is home to a Kidport designed by the Children's Museum of Boston. The indoor playground features a baggage-claim slide, a climb-worthy airplane and window display area. The floors are soft, lessening the impact of tumbles. The educational, hands-on exhibits are fun for kids. Infants and toddlers enjoy a separate play area, and parents have plenty of seating room.
The second Kidport, produced by Playtime, is situated post-security in the Satellite building of Terminal A near Gate 18. This indoor playground features a replica of the air traffic control tower, colorful slides, climbing structures and a child's version of Terminal A. Concessions are nearby so children never have to leave the play area.
For families with babies, there are rocking chairs strategically located throughout the airport. Family restrooms with changing stations and private rooms for nursing mothers are located in Terminals A, C and E.
Recommended Boston Airport Hotel: Embassy Suites Boston Logan Airport
Embassy Suites Boston Logan Airport
4. Orlando International Airport (MCO)
Kids can watch real wildlife in the airport's 3,000-gallon aquarium in the main food court on Level 3 post-security of the Main Terminal. The huge tank holds more than 100 creatures, giving travelers a taste of what they could see should they visit SeaWorld Orlando. Families with an interest in space travel can visit one of the two Kennedy Space Center stores on Level 3 of Terminals B and G. Kids will flip as they touch part of an asteroid from Mars or see a life-size model of an astronaut.
Hours will fly by at the King of Kong Arcade in the Main Terminal. The small game room sports well-kept pinball machines, racing simulators, gun shooting and claw machines.
Recommended Orlando Airport Hotel: Courtyard Orlando Airport
Courtyard Orlando Airport
5. Portland International Airport (PDX)
Portland International Airport has a vibrantly colored, padded jungle gym situated in the Concourse Connector just before you pass through security on the way to Concourses D and E. The play area also presents slides and a lookout telescope where kids can see planes on the tarmac. Concourse C is another great area to spend some time with the kids. The end furthest point of the Concourse, near Gate 18, offers LEGO tables, bead mazes, play cars and a television that constantly airs children's channels. Restrooms are close at hand and there is plenty of seating for parents to take a load off.
Outside of play areas, the post-security ABC lobby is home to an interactive museum exhibit on the Columbia River. Here, kids will read journal entries about the adventures of Lewis and Clark, study old world maps and view historic artifacts.
Recommended Portland Airport Hotel: Sheraton Portland Airport Hotel
Sheraton Portland Airport Hotel
6. Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)
Dallas Fort Worth International, the nation's largest American Airlines hub, is more of a small town than an airport. The facilities are so expansive that the building could have its own zip code. Three Junior Flyer Clubs are large play areas at the airport. One, sponsored by Pepsi, sits in Terminal B by Gate 12, offering a 658-square foot area with aviation-themed, padded playing equipment. There is an indoor runway, an airplane, a car and a traffic control tower for kids to climb on and play make-believe. A cozy area for parents to relax and keep a watchful eye is nearby.
International Terminal D presents a second indoor playground, featuring a similar, if not slightly smaller, layout to the first. It sits near Gate 10. The third play area, also in Terminal D by Gate D30, is next to McDonald's, conveniently located to facilitate grabbing some kids' meals and busting out the toys for play. This comes complete with a playscape and games. Televisions in all kid zones continuously broadcast the local children's channel.
Recommended Dallas Fort Worth Airport Hotel: Courtyard Dallas DFW Airport North/Grapevine
Courtyard Dallas DFW Airport North/Grapevine
7. Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW)
Detroit's airport values families, trumping most airports with a whopping seven play areas for children! Concourse A has four kid zones, Concourse B has two and one is in Concourse C. If your layover seems like its lasting forever, all you have to do is walk along the terminal and hit all the play areas on the way to your gate.
KidZoo is a children's toy and apparel store worth checking out. It is close to Gate A43 in the McNamara Terminal. Inside, visitors find an onslaught of toys, games and souvenirs. A flat-screen television plays children's shows.
Recommended Detroit Airport Hotel: The Westin Detroit Metropolitan Airport
The Westin Detroit Metropolitan Airport
8. Nashville International Airport (BNA)
As a major hub for Southwest Airlines, Nashville has mastered the management of crowds by installing six concert stages throughout the airport. Check the airport website's monthly calendar of concert events for specific details.
Besides live music, the airport hosts various art exhibitions and has three padded, play areas for kids. The brightly colored playgrounds feature LEGOs, tunnels to explore, slides and climbing walls. They are located towards the far ends of Concourses A, B and C.
Recommended Nashville Airport Hotel: Country Inn and Suites Nashville Airport East
Country Inn and Suites Nashville Airport East
9. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)
Thanks to Alaska Airlines, the Seattle airport is constantly buzzing with children. A 1,400-square-foot play area displays aviation-themed play equipment made of soft, foam. The playscape dons a landing airplane, control tower, baggage cart and even a smiling ladybug -- all ready to be climbed and explored. A padded floor presents illustrations of the runway and a "grassy" area where children are instructed to count the flowers. Padded walls exhibit mounted educational games to touch, flip and count. To get to the play area, head from the Central Terminal towards Concourse A. It's on the left, just past the exit to the Main Terminal.
Recommended Seattle Airport Hotel: DoubleTree by Hilton Seattle Airport
DoubleTree by Hilton Seattle Airport
10. Philadelphia International Airport (PHL)
Kids' favorite airport features at Philadelphia International Airport are the two aviation-themed play areas. Playscapes exhibit educational, interactive displays that teach kids about aviation. Hands-on equipment includes a huge jet that kids can crawl in and pretend to be a pilot or members of the flight crew. Smaller planes offer hand controls that trigger a rotating propeller. The A Terminal indoor playground showcases a control tower, another large jet and a plane tug. Aviation Play Station is set near Gate D10 and Ready for Takeoff is by Gate A1.
Recommended Philadelphia Airport Hotel: Courtyard by Marriott Philadelphia Airport
Courtyard by Marriott Philadelphia Airport
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Written by Whitney Rife