Flying with kids? Check out these airport play areas 5

Update: Now it’s even easier to find and share playgrounds (and airport play areas) wherever you go with our new, FREE Playground Finder iPhone App. Download it today Also, visit our main website, Play Across America to discover and share great playgrounds near you!

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…” softly taunts us as we usher our children through the long ticket line. No biggie, we’re only running 30 minutes behind. The line will move quickly, right? Deep breathe…stay calm. After all, it’s the holidays, and flying with kids has always been my favorite holiday tradition (not!). As if right on cue, Andy Williams croons “…and everyone telling you be of good cheer”. Yes, cheerful, happy. So far, that’s the overall mood in our family. The kids are thrilled to be going to visit Grandma and Grandpa.

Next stop, security. “It’s a hap-happiest season of all…” Seriously? They must have this song on repeat as a cruel joke played on weary travelers. Clearly, Mr. Williams never flew with three kids under the age of 4, by himself.

Once we squeeze all our belongings through the bottlenecked baggage check and collect our luggage, and composure, which are both now scattered all over the place, we begin our journey to the gate. Now the real fun begins!

Trying to get children to move through a terminal towards the gate is a bit like watching a Bey Blade battle. Always spinning in circles, rarely moving forward in a straight line, and ricocheting off every other object in their path which, in this case, is other airline passengers. It’s truly a battle that no parent (or other passenger) wants to fight.

Somehow, we manage to stumble up to our gate, with my sanity barely intact, only to discover that the flight has now been delayed by a whole hour! Lovely. As I look over at my disheveled, crying children I can only think to myself that their tears express my sentiments exactly. But suddenly, I catch something out of the corner of my eye: a play area!! Oh. My. Goodness! Sanity restored. I quickly grasp at the threads of my children who are unraveling at the seams and drag them over to this wonderful oasis. Now, if only they had beer and wine vending machines at this play area…

Does this scenario sound familiar? Minus, perhaps, the play area? Well, if you answered yes to these questions, maybe this year can be different. If, while flying with kids, you somehow find yourself stuck with a long layover or flight delay, then let’s hope it’s at one of these airports below which all have play areas where children can burn off their energy before boarding the plane (click the airport name to read the complete review and see more pictures):

Seattle/Tacoma International Airport (SEA):

My personal oasis was discovered here when I was flying to Florida with three small children. This was my first experience with children’s play areas inside airports. Seattle certainly understood the NEED for such a place, and this one is fantastic!

If you are flying out of terminal A in Seattle airport, you are in luck because the playground is right there. Otherwise, there are no other play areas inside the airport. If you arrive early and have a long time before your flight, it is well worth the detour.

seattle airport

Portland Airport (PDX):

Though Portland Airport is not one of the largest or busiest airports in the country it is certainly one of the more kid friendly airports. There are two play areas in this airport: one prior to security, near Concourses D/E security checkpoint and one beyond security in Concourse C near Gate C17.

Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP)

This play area is conveniently located right next to the Concourse Tram entrance/exit in Concourse C, Terminal 1-Lindbergh, Gate C12. It is a large play area with a plane kids can play on, an air traffic control tower with a slide coming out of it, and a baggage truck kids can climb in and out of. It is walled in so little ones cannot disappear on you easily (one entrance and exit).

Minneapolis St. Paul airport

Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)

There are FIVE, yes I said that right, play areas in this airport! There is one in each terminal except for Terminal E. So, if you are flying through DFW with kids, hopefully you are flying American Airlines or flying internationally because it appears that all other non-American Airlines affiliates fly through Terminal E (the only one without a play area).

DFW airport play area

San Francisco International Airport (SFO)

SFO Kids’ Spots are located throughout the airport and can be found in Terminal 2, post-security in Boarding area D, near Gates 54A and 58B; and, in Terminal 3, post-security in Boarding Level F near Gate 87A.

Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD)

Thanks to the Chicago Children’s museum, O’Hare airport has a wonderful place for kids to burn some energy while waiting for a flight. The Kids on the Fly play area has an airplane that kids can climb inside of and load cargo onto, a control tower, and a helicopter. This play area is just inside Terminal 2, near Gate F1.

McCarran International Airport (LAS)

It’s not often that children come to mind when thinking of Sin City; however, if you happen to be passing through the Las Vegas airport with little ones, you will be happy to know that there is, in fact, a kid’s play area.

This play area is in Terminal 1 in the D gates area, right next to the Tram to Terminal 3.  According to the airport’s website, “The aviation-themed area features an interactive mini control tower and mock jet engine.”

Tampa International Airport

Tampa airport is currently undergoing some renovations, so this information may change down the road (and we will do our best to keep you up-do-date), but thanks to the wonderful help from Christine Osborn, the Communications Manager at TPA, we were able to get the following information:

Through the holidays, we have play equipment in the following locations:

Airside A – near Gate 18

Airside C – near Gate 45

Airside E – near Gate 71

Tampa airport play area

Photo courtesy of Christine Osborn at TPA

Also, should families find themselves with a need to entertain children at TPA we also recommend the aquariums located at both Red and Blue baggage claim make great viewing.  We have a Master Plan gallery between the Main Terminal and the Marriott hotel that talks about the history of the Airport and transportation in Tampa Bay with a short video playing. If you need a little “fresh air” we have fountains and green space outside of Blue Baggage Claim – just cross the street.

And for the best plane watching you can go to Level 9 of the Main Terminal which is rooftop parking.  The terminal is located between the two main runways so there are always planes to watch.

Fort Wayne International Airport

Fort Wayne International Airport may be a smaller airport but they certainly did not forget about their smallest travelers! They boast an awesome little play area right by gate 5 where young children can climb on a plane, run down the runway, slide through the clouds, and balance on top of some luggage.

Photo courtesy of Jessica Miller at Fort Wayne Airport

For some more fun and entertaining reading, click HERE to see if you qualify for the “New Mile High Club”!

Have we missed an airport that has play areas? Please let us know so we can add it to the list!


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5 thoughts on “Flying with kids? Check out these airport play areas

  • Angela Smith

    There is a fairly large playground at CAK Akron/Canton airport as well- Complete with slides, playhouses, children’s picnic tables all in fake park scenery! Called Step2 playport, it even has fake grass as the flooring! My 15 month old loved it!!
    (I have pictures but this forum has no way to let you upload images:/)

    • Amy Rowland Post author

      Hi Angela! I would love for you to share the pictures and play area with us! Just visit our main website, and you can “add a playground” there. You will just need to log in with Facebook (the Google sign in is disabled at the moment). I can’t wait to add the playground to our app/website as well as to this article! Thanks!