Airports coast to coast let youngsters unwind

The only thing worse than a flight delay is a flight delay when you're traveling with kids, and the traveler-clogged holidays always promise plenty of delays. Fortunately, many airports have created designated kids areas so pint-size travelers can blow off some steam.

Boston Logan International Airport has two play areas. In the first area, at Terminal A, Gate 18, children will find climbing structures, a kid-size replica of the airport's control tower and slides. The other space, in Terminal C just before Gate 25, has climbing structures that look like vintage airplanes, and a space where children can watch TV. There also are rocking chairs and nursing rooms throughout the airport.

Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport has two play areas. The main one is part of the airport's observation gallery on the upper level between Concourses B and C. In the observation gallery, children can touch parts of an actual Boeing 737-200, which was disassembled, restored and put on display. The other play area, at Gate D7, contains large aviation-related playground materials that children can climb on and explore.

Detroit Metropolitan Airport lets parents watch from a comfy seating area while children climb on a soft aircraft and squishy luggage or slide through the clouds at this aviation-themed play area in the North terminal, Gate D16.

O'Hare International Airport in Chicago has an actual Chicago Children's Museum called Kids on the Fly in Terminal 2, just on the other side of security checkpoints. There children can learn about the inner workings of an airport. They also can pretend to pilot a plane, propel a helicopter and work as an air-traffic controller. For those inclined to create, they can design the interior of their own airplane by adjusting metal and wood poles and fabric on a plane.

Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport has two play areas, at Terminal 1, Gate C12, and Terminal 2, Gate H6. Both feature a mock airplane, an air-traffic control tower with slides and an adult seating area complete with electrical outlets within sight of the play area. There also is a statue of Snoopy, popular with the mini-travelers. Finally, there are some rides (75 cents each), which can make the time pass faster for parents and kids.

Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport doesn't have just one place for kids to play; it has five spread out across the airport: A13, B12, C14, D33 and D10. Entertain your kids for hours with everything from hip-hop, yoga and tai chi videos to a 685-square-foot lounge where kids can play on the airplane-themed toys. Thankfully, the airport has Skylink to quickly transport kids from one play area to the next.

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport wanted to make sure kids always have something to do, so it put one play area in each terminal. They all have climbing structures, tunnels, activity walls and room for kids to run around. The airport also has aviation-themed artwork and museum-type areas to satisfy older children. The play areas are at Terminal 2, Gate 9; Terminal 3, between Gates 7 and 9; Terminal 3, Gate 24; Terminal 4, Gate B19.

San Francisco International Airport has three play areas, all with different equipment. At Terminal 2, Gate 54A, kids are welcome to make some noise on a xylophone. At Terminal 2, Gate 58B, there's a jungle gym, and an interactive display of crank-operated butterflies taking flight. At Terminal 3, Gate 87A, there are interactive weather displays, a crawling apparatus and a plasma wall.

Portland International Airport has two spots for children. One, on the pre-security side of the D/E security checkpoint, has a big play structure complete with two slides, climbing stairs and a creative space for imaginative play. It also has three Lego tables and a wooden activity set for toddlers. The other location, at Concourse C, Gate C17, has an airplane-themed play space for toddlers and a flat-screen TV for older kids.

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