From Butterfly Gardens to Retro Hotels: 10 Airport Attractions Worth Seeing

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Airports have historically served a purely utilitarian function: getting travelers from point A to point B. More recently, however, many of these transportation hubs have positioned themselves as destinations in their own right.

For travelers who wait longer than expected at the airport, or for those who only have a few hours to kill during a layover, airport attractions can provide opportunities for entertainment, relaxation, or even education. . These attractions also benefit airports; About 40% of airports’ estimated revenue comes from non-aeronautical activities such as shopping, restaurants and lodging, according to 2020 data from US Global Investor.

Considering that a 2014 survey found that many Americans viewed waiting at the airport as worse than waiting at the DMV, it’s no surprise that airports have become increasingly creative with their non-stop offerings. related to theft. With more than one in five flights delayed in the United States between April 2021 and 2022, people are (often reluctantly) spending more time waiting at airports.

From art museums and libraries to aquariums and entire theme parks, air travelers have more activities than ever to keep them busy. To inform travelers, Bounce has researched some of the most interesting and unique attractions found at airports around the world.

11th century runestone

Runestone on display at Arlanda Airport

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– Arlanda Airport (ARN) Stockholm, Sweden

In Terminal 2 of Stockholm Arlanda Airport, a 10-century-old runestone is on display. Runestones were large memorial stones created throughout Scandinavia beginning in the Bronze Age – and peaking in popularity during the Viking Age – when Sweden became Christianized. Carved with runes and illustrations, the stones included the name of the honored deceased, certain facts about their life and death, and the name of the person who ordered the stone. Although they commemorated the dead, runestones were not always placed near a grave but were displayed in public places where they would be seen by passers-by.

The Arlanda airport runestone dates back to the 11th century and was discovered in 1990 during the construction of a road. The stone reads: “Gurnar, Björn and Thorgrim erected this stone in memory of Thorsten, their brother. He died in the east with Ingvar. And built this bridge”, and includes a serpentine illustration, a motif frequently found in Viking art.

Art deco styling

Outdoor airport by the lake

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– Lakefront Airport (NEW) New Orleans, USA

Although no longer New Orleans’ main commercial airport, Lakefront Airport, which opened to the public in 1934, was designed to be admired by the many people who frequented it in its early days. Designed by the architects who created the Louisiana State Capitol, the airport featured luxurious art deco decor, including Spanish marble accents, elaborate geometric balustrades and coffered ceilings, and murals of the artist Xavier Gonzalez.

The airport has had a checkered history. After World War II, Lakefront was used as a military base, and Louis Armstrong Airport, the city’s main international airport today, was built in 1946. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, Lakefront Airport was converted into a cement barricaded fallout shelter. After the threat of nuclear disaster passed, Hurricane Katrina severely damaged the building, though a multi-year, multi-million dollar restoration project succeeded in returning the building to its original condition.

bamboo tunnels

Bamboo Tunnel at Salvador Airport

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– Salvador Bahia Airport (SSA) Salvador, Brazil

Scenic tunnels created by curved living bamboo lead to Salvador Bahia Airport in Salvador, Brazil. Incoming and outgoing roads pass through green tunnels, creating a lush and vibrant first impression of the city for visitors and a warm welcome for residents. Brazil is home to around 18 million hectares of bamboo, the equivalent of 45 million football pitches. Most Brazilian bamboo grows in the southwestern Amazon basin and has nearly 260 species.

Salvador Bahia Airport also offers other wood-based marvels: its Dendezeiros Square, the airport lounge, features elaborate wooden pillars, a decorative paneled ceiling and organically shaped wooden benches made from from sustainably sourced local wood. Other wooden benches have been designed to look like fishing boats floating in nearby All Saints Bay.

butterfly garden

Changi Airport Butterfly Garden

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– Changi Airport (SIN) Changi, Singapore

Changi Airport in Changi, Singapore is home to the world’s first airport butterfly garden. Located in Terminal 3, the garden rises two stories high and features a variety of tropical plants and a waterfall. About 40 species of butterflies live in the garden, which is free for travelers departing from or arriving at the airport.

The butterfly garden is not the only unusual attraction, however. The airport, which has won the award for the best airport in the world eight years in a row, is also a kind of botanical theme park. It’s home to the world’s tallest indoor waterfall (at seven stories), a hedge maze, and a giant walking net suspended more than 80 feet in the air. The airport also has world-class restaurants and gardens dotted around the terminals.

tunnel of light

Tunnel of Light Detroit Wayne County Metropolitan Airport

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– Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW) Detroit, USA

Located in the McNamara Terminal Building, the Light Tunnel runs under the tarmac and connects Concourse A to Concourses B and C. The 700-foot-long tunnel features textured glass panels illuminated by moving multi-color LED lights. An ambient soundtrack accompanies the light show as moving aisles transport the flyers smoothly around the room. There are buttons at each end of the tunnel that turn off the display for light sensitive people. Other attractions at Detroit Airport include a huge granite water sculpture that features jets of water designed to look like glass.

Installation of Lord of the Rings

Sculpture of Gollum at Wellington Airport

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– Wellington International Airport (WLG) Rongotai, New Zealand

Commemorating New Zealand’s cinematic connection to ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Hobbit’ is an installation at Wellington Airport. Featuring two “great eagles” with a 15ft wingspan, the giant birds hang from the ceiling of the terminal, with a staff-wielding Gandalf sitting astride one. Until 2016, a 43ft long Gollum sculpture also hung from the ceiling but has deleted since. Both installations were created by Weta Workshop, the prop and physical effects designers for the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy and “Hobbit” films.


The exterior of the Rijks Museum at Schiphol Airport


– Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS) Haarlemmermeer, The Netherlands

This small branch of the National Museum of the Netherlands is located at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol and is open 24 hours a day for flyers. The main branch of the Rijksmuseum, famous for its collection of Dutch masterpieces, sends a small rotating collection of paintings to the Schiphol location so that visitors who don’t have time to leave the airport can still have an overview of the country. famous works of art. Founded in 2002 as the first art museum inside an airport, the Rijksmuseum is free and located between lounges 2 and 3. The airport also has a science museum and a library.

Swimming pool

Qatar airport swimming pool

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– Hamad International Airport (DOH) Doha, Qatar

Named the World’s Best Airport by Skytrax for 2021 and 2022, Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar features a 25-meter long swimming pool. Located in its Vitality health and fitness center, the pool, along with the gym, squash courts, and other amenities, is available to air travelers 24 hours a day for around $35. Hamad Airport is also known for its contemporary art installations, which are scattered throughout the terminals. Travelers can visit giant sculptures in a variety of styles as they walk around the airport. More playful, the airport features a bronze play area designed by artist Tom Otteress, who uses large sculptural figures to create slides, stairs and hiding places for children and adults.

The yellow submarine

The Yellow Submarine at Liverpool John Lennon Airport

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– Liverpool John Lennon Airport (LPL) Speke, England

Built in 1984 for display at the Liverpool International Garden Festival, the Yellow Submarine was inspired by the boat from the Beatles’ 1968 film “Yellow Submarine.” At 51 feet long and weighing 25 tons, the sculpture was adopted by the Liverpool John Lennon Airport to match its Beatles theme. The airport was renamed in 2001 in honor of Liverpool native John Lennon, 21 years after his death. A bronze statue of Lennon is also on display, along with photos of the Beatles at an ashram in Rishikesh, India.

TWA Flight Center

TWA Hotel Terminal

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– John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) New York, USA

The Trans World Airlines Flight Center was built in 1962 at John F. Kennedy International Airport (then Idlewild) in Queens, New York. The terminal was designed to have a futuristic, upscale look: crisp white exterior and interior walls, with dark red carpeting and mid-century furniture. The building was removed after the invention of much larger aircraft, such as the Boeing 747, rendered its capacity for smaller aircraft obsolete. Due to the terminal’s historical and aesthetic significance, however, it has been named a New York landmark and has been preserved and restored to its original form. Today, the TWA Flight Center operates as a nostalgic luxury hotel, complete with a swimming pool and a 1958 airplane, which has been transformed into a cocktail bar.

This story originally appeared on Bounce and was produced and distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.

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