by G.K. Sharman
Two hours before your flight leaves. Not enough time to go somewhere, have fun and get back. Too long to sit around doing basically nothing.
So there you are, stuck in the airport. Trapped. Staring at your bags. Trying to keep the kids from running amok. Thinking that your only options are to nurse a drink or pick up a paperback to ease those long airborne hours ahead.
Time to put your seats and tray tables in the upright position and pay attention. While you still cant click your heels three times and magically appear at your destination, you can amuse yourself while hanging at the airport.
These days, you can get a massage, work out, enjoy art exhibits, learn about tropical marine life, practice putting, shop without the kids or quaff a cold one at the brew pub. Its enough to make killing time between flights or weathering a delay downright enjoyable.
Heres a sampling of whats available around the Sunshine State:
Orlando Sanford International Airport
OSI caters to charter flights and package tours from the UK, and so concentrates
its special services on the international side of the terminal.
Perhaps the most popular option surpassing even the pool tables
is the free child care. The service is sponsored by Airtours Airline,
but is open to any departing international passenger. Staffed by professional
child-care workers from Kinder Care, a pre-school/kindergarten chain,
the facility accepts kids between the ages of 2 and 10 (though the little
ones have to be potty trained).
Parents can shop, hit the coffee shop or bar or shoot that last game of
pool before boarding.
Speaking of shopping, the airports duty-free stores operate a little
differently. In most airports, the shops are in the main terminal. Buyers
show their tickets when making a purchase and goods are delivered after
the flight takes off. The precaution prevents domestic travelers or local
bargain hunters from buying the tax-free goodies.
OSIs duty-free shops are beyond the checkpoint on the international
side of the terminal. The only folks back there are international passengers,
so buyers can carry their purchases onto the plane with them.
Nothing works out the kinks caused by a long flight or the anxiety
of the plane ride to come like a good massage. You can get one
without leaving the Jaxport terminal. The massage therapists offer a variety
of types of massage that work on specific muscle groups and that soothe
nerves frayed by flying.
The airport pays attention to quality of life in other areas as well.
Theres valet parking, which was inaugurated in response to consumer
requests, and artwork in a small gallery. Plus, a mostly-jazz musical
combo serenades passengers on Friday afternoons.
Golfers will want to arrange their schedules to fly in in March when the
Players Championship, one of the top tournaments in the nation, comes
to town. Thats when the airport rolls out the putting green and
lets passengers tee up. Those who do well get a prize.
For those who seek contemplation or quiet time, theres a non-denominational
You can buy a drink in any bar in any airport in the Sunshine State. But
can you hoist a brew made on the airport premises? In Orlando you can.
Shipyard Brewing, a Maine-based beer maker, opened the first as
in, first-ever airport brew pub at OIA in 1997. Shipyard makes
six beers and three seasonal brews, which also are available in local
restaurants. The brewery and brew pub are located in the main terminal
between the A side and the atrium of the Hyatt airport hotel. Beers also
are available at the Shipyard Brewport on airside C.
You simply cant leave Orlando without enough souvenirs for the kids
and the folks back home. If you still need one last t-shirt, stuffed Shamu
or set of mouse ears, you can get it at one of the Disney, Universal or
Sea World gift shops in the terminal.
Watching airplanes take off and land used to be a form of family entertainment.
If seeing jet-powered behemoths break the bonds of gravity seems like
more fun than browsing gift shops, go up to the top floor of this airports
new seven-story parking garage. Thats the place with the best view
of everything runways to the west, ocean to the east. Youre
so high up, its almost like being in the plane already.
Theres a special spot set aside for those who like to park and watch
the Ron Gardner Airport Viewing Area.
You also can get in a pre-flight jog on a path that winds through a reforestation
area that parallels the south runway. The airport spent $1.4 million to
replant the area with native Florida species.
Palm Beach International
If your short game needs some work before you hit the links, head for
the putting green in this airport. Located outside Sam Sneads Tavern,
a golf-themed eatery, the putting green is a hit with both kids and adults.
Several different putters are available. If you find one you like, you
can buy it at the nearby PGA tour shop. Or vice versa if youre
shopping for a putter, you can try before you buy.
The airport also displays several works of fine art by both local and
nationally known artists.
The fastest-growing segment of Miami Internationals passenger traffic
is the international-to-international connecting flier. Many are flying
on business and have several hours of ground time between flights. The
airlines have their own clubs and lounges for first-class and business
passengers, of course, but the nations ninth-largest airport also
offers a variety of places for travelers to do business or just relax.
are a consular lounge, open to U.S. and foreign dignitaries; an armed
forces lounge for active-duty and retired personnel and their dependents;
and a press center for working journalists, complete with phones, faxes,
computers and databases. Theres also a conference center at the
MIA Hotel where business travelers can conduct meetings without leaving
Also at the hotel is a rooftop Health Club that features Nautilus equipment,
sauna and steam rooms, a racquetball court, jogging track, heated swimming
pool and whirlpool and a sun deck.
Lots of Florida airports hang pictures on the walls. Sarasota-Bradenton
likes to clown around with its artwork. The many circus-themed paintings
showcase the areas ties to Ringling and other circus companies.
A separate series of paintings depicts all the ways earlier Floridians,
both locals and visitors, hauled their gear. The pictures are displayed,
appropriately enough, in the baggage claim area.
Area sea life is showcased in a 6,000-gallon aquarium sponsored by Mote
Marine Laboratory. Located on the main concourse, this crowd pleaser contains
young sharks, snook, angelfish and other species native to the Gulf of
Art is a big
deal at Tampa International. The airport features not one but two exhibits:
a long-running public art program that brings fine art to the walls of
the airport, and a rotating exhibit begun in late 99 that showcases
local talent. Works include painting, sculpture, mixed media, glass, tapestries,
photos, tile and other pieces. Most have a Florida theme. The most eye-catching
is probably "Birds Leaving the Earth," a huge work of art that
also includes sound.
Two aquariums, one at each baggage claim area, feature the underwater
life of the region. Theyre sponsored by the Florida Aquarium and
can be seen from outside the airport ad well as inside great entertainment
if youre the one who has to wait with the car.
Those who want a little fresh air can check out the fountain (outside
near the blue baggage claim) or the patio at the airport Marriott. The
roof of the parking garage, meanwhile, is a dandy place to see aircraft
taking off and landing on both runways.
If you need to do a little business while you wait, the Marriott lobby
also has a business center with computers, dataports, fax machines, UPS
and FedEx shipping and other business needs.
For food with a view, theres CKs, a revolving restaurant atop
the airport Marriott. If youve got an hour to spare, stick around
thats how long it takes the floor to make a complete revolution.
If flying is a pain in the neck literally give those stressed
muscles some relief at the massage station located in the central concourse.
You can pick from several varieties, including a seated massage.
The airport art gallery features local talent. The exhibit changes every
month, so even frequent fliers can enjoy work thats new and different.
In April, the airport began a Wall of Fame to honor the areas aviation
history. Eventually, pictures of fliers connected to the airport will
fill the space. So far, there are two: area aviation pioneers Dale Mabry
and Ivan Monroe.
it usually happens is, your cruise ends long before your flight home is
scheduled. So youre stuck at the airport for hours. What a way to
end a nice, relaxing vacation.
Melbourne International is building a cruise lounge designed to help people
ease back into the hectic normal world after those stress-free days at
sea. The nautical-themed lounge will contain TVs, videos for the kids,
food and music. Even the bathrooms have a nautical theme. Its expected
to be in operation by the end of 2000. Though intended for returning cruisers,
nobody will kick you out if you, a regular passenger, happen to wander
Out in the main concourse is a place for kids to amuse themselves. The
play area features games and coloring books with a local slant
picture of manatees to color, for instance, or the words "Brevard
County" to find in a word game. All the kids get a pair of wings,
The airport also inaugurated valet parking last spring. For $8 a day,
valets will park your car, take your luggage to the check-in counter and
have your vehicle waiting when you return.
Okaloosa Regional Airport -
The Okaloosa Regional Airport, located just
25 minutes north of Destin in Florida's Panhandle, has a restaurant,
lounge, and arcade, all located inside the terminal.