Skip to main content

8 airports that make layovers fun with pools, theaters, gardens and more

The dreaded layover: Many flyers do all they can to avoid it. After all, it’s not fun getting stuck in an air-travel prison until you’re released to your next flight. Worse, you run the risk of missing your connecting flight or camping out longer than expected, due to delays.

But layovers are one of those necessary evils of air travel, and many airports realize this. The ones that get it have invested in providing travelers all the creature comfort amenities to occupy their time – art exhibits, resting zones, comfortable chairs, etc. – and many of them are free, too. In fact, some airports do such a good job, you may actually wish for a delay so you can stay even longer (and these are also the airports that, year after year, get voted “the best” in surveys).

If we have to do a Tom Hanks and get stuck at an airport, here are our favorite hubs to get lost in.

Changi Airport, Singapore

If an airport could be a self-enclosed city, Changi would be the ideal model. Voted the world’s best airport by many travel publications for, like, every year, Singapore’s busy hub houses an insane number of amenities: swimming poolsgardens; rest areas; art installationsentertainment centers where you can catch a movie or play a video game; private lounges (many that are opened to the public); and –Singaporean’s favorite activities – loads of shops and restaurants. The airport also offers free Wi-Fi for those transiting (although, during our last visit, it was pokey), and its new website has been much improved to help guide you through this massive facility. It’s also one of the friendliest airports we’ve experienced. (Note: Avoid landing when the airport closes, especially if it involves clearing immigration and re-checking into another terminal; you won’t be able to enjoy the airport until it reopens.)

Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, Netherlands

Befitting a city with a rich cultural heritage, Schiphol in Amsterdam houses an annex of the city’s famous Rijksmuseum, where you’ll find plenty of art by Dutch masters on exhibit – for free. Next door, the airport has a library where those in transit can browse books or download free digital content about the country’s music, history, and culture. Unfortunately, due to airport security renovations, both facilities are temporarily closed until end of 2015. In the meantime, gambling enthusiasts can check into the airport’s casino before a flight, take advantage of the unlimited free Wi-Fi, or check into the connected Yotel hotel if you need to stay overnight – all without leaving the aiport.

Hong Kong International Airport, China

One of Asia’s top airports, Hong Kong International’s Terminal 2 has plenty of amenities to keep transit passengers busy. These include an IMAX theater that plays the latest blockbusters, two learning centers – one for kids and another for aviation buffs, and a golf simulator to practice your swings. There’s also a real golf course for playing the full nine holes, but it requires leaving the airport.

Incheon International Airport, South Korea

Like Hong Kong, Incheon has a golf course and movie theater to help you pass the time between flights. There’s also a cultural center where you can learn about Korean heritage and arts and crafts. You’ll find planespotters congregated at the Airstar Terrace observation deck, while the Ice Forest indoor ice skating rink lets you practice your triple axle. Being that this is high-tech Seoul, there’s free Wi-Fi throughout.

Munich Airport, Germany

Naturally, the airport serving Germany’s Bavarian region has its own brewery, Airbräu Beergarden, where transit passengers can learn about German beer making and sample everything from a weissbier to pilsners and dark double bocks; it’s even designed to mimic an outdoor experience. If you find yourself at the airport during the summers, slip into a bathing suit and hit the 5-foot waves at Surf & Style, a manmade indoor pool (ends on August 23 in 2015). For aviation geeks and kids, the airport offers 50-minute tours on how the airport operates. There’s also an outdoor park and an observation terrace.

Zürich Airport, Switzerland

If you want to take in fresh Swiss air and enjoy some physical activity, Zürich Airport will rent you bikes, inline skates, or walking poles for exploring the natural area surrounding the airport. If sleep is what you’re after, there’s an attached transit hotel connected, which offers sleeping rooms, day beds, and showers.

San Francisco International Airport, USA

Being that you’re in Silicon Valley, why not pitch a few of your ideas for a new startup? San Francisco International has a dedicated area in the International Terminal called #Converge@flySFO. The concept is a space that allows passengers to exchange “exchange ideas about technology, start-ups, the shared economy, disruption, travel, politics, and ways to change the world,” according to the airport. No appointments are necessary, and every visitor puts up a topic that he/she would like to discuss; there’s also free Wi-Fi and power outlets, and who knows, you might bump into the next Mark Zuckerberg. If you don’t want to talk business, the airport offers plenty of artwork and farm-to-table eateries to enjoy. Unfortunately, the airport’s terminals aren’t connected, so it isn’t possible to move around without having to leave the secured areas.

Vancouver International Airport, British Columbia

The Vancouver Airport Authority initiated a program, called the YVR Art Foundation, to promote the art, artists, and traditions from the First Nations of British Columbia, which comprises of the many aboriginal groups in this Canadian province. Throughout the airport, you will find sculptures and other artwork from the people whose ancestors first settled in this part of North America. After your cultural experience, space out for a while inside the airport’s aquarium.

Les Shu
Former Digital Trends Contributor
I am formerly a senior editor at Digital Trends. I bring with me more than a decade of tech and lifestyle journalism…
New Leica Lux app turns your iPhone into a Leica (sort of)
The Leica LUX app for the iPhone.

If you’ve always coveted a Leica camera, but don’t have the absurd amount of money required to buy one, then perhaps you can make do with camera maker’s new Leica Lux app instead.

Currently only available for the iPhone, the Leica Lux app promises an experience about as close to a Leica as you can get without actually owning one.

Read more
Best GoPro deals: Save on action cameras and accessories
Prime Day 2022 GoPro deals graphic.

Action cameras are great for recording your active lifestyle; whether it's tracking through a mountain range or skiing down a slope, they can keep up with even the most strenuous activity. Of course, one of the best action camera brands is GoPro, and there are a lot of options you can pick from within its lineup, with a lot of great deals on the base camera and other accessories, of which we've collected our favorites below. You could also check out these drone deals to give you another cool perspective, or if you don't want to grab a GoPro, these camera deals might be good for you instead.
Best GoPro camera deals
GoPro HERO9 Black (open box) -- As low as $156

The GoPro HERO9 Black is a bit of an older GoPro at this point, but that certainly doesn't mean that it's geriatric, and the older age means you can get it for a lot cheaper. It has a large front screen for you to work with, and it can take 27MP stills, although the 5k video recording is a little bit pointless on a model like this. It has a larger battery, which is nice, and if you're okay with going for a refurbished or open-box version, then you can save a little cash.

Read more
Hurry! The GoPro Hero12 has a $100 price cut at beat buy
GoPro HERO12 offers waterproof use.

There are a lot of action cameras on the market, but one of the best and most well-known is the GoPro, so if you want something that can handle your active lifestyle, a GoPro is a great option. That said, GoPro cameras can be quite expensive, which is why you'll likely want to grab a deal on one to save you a little bit extra. Luckily, this GoPro Hero12 has a great deal on it from Best Buy that discounts it down to $300 from $400, saving you a solid $100, which is a nice discount.

Why you should buy the GoPro Hero12
One of the most important parts of any action camera is its video quality, and you'll be happy to know that the Hero12 can manage a whopping 5k at 60fps, which is pretty impressive for something so small. If you need more frames, you could go for the equally impressive 4K at 120fps, which is still quite impressive, and you could even go as fast as 240fps at 2.7K, so you have a lot of options when it comes to resolutions and framerates that work best for you. Another big positive is that the Hero12 has a pretty large field of view and can capture an aspect ratio of 8:7, which is pretty massive, all things considered.

Read more