The Young and the No-Longer-Restless

Even if they're on their way to Disneyland, kids often find airports a bore. Following in the steps of Tampa and Boston, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport is making its terminals less, well, terminal. This summer, DFW will become only the third airport in the country to feature a playground. Two aviation-themed play areas, called Landing Zones, are being installed (at Gate B12 and Gate C14), with pint-size planes, runways, luggage, and even an air traffic control tower. - J.B.

OTHER AIRPORTS WITH AMUSEMENTS AIMED AT ENTERTAINING RUG RATS EN ROUTE:
-PlayStations in most gate areas at Memphis International

-An aquarium with all sorts of spellbinding swimmers at San Francisco International

-A life-size brachiosaurus dating back to the Jurassic period at Chicago's O'Hare

-An observation deck with views of the runway and actual audio from the control tower at Raleigh-Durham International

-Tarantulas, dragonflies, beetles, and other bizarre bugs and critters on display at Phoenix Sky Harbor




At Your Service

Playgrounds aren't the only cool new amenities cropping up at airports these days - there are more than a few adult perks too. At DFW, drop your car off at Airport Valet (at the curb or the gate; www.theairportvalet.com), and they'll have your car's oil changed, the tank filled with gas, and get it washed and detailed - all by the time you return from your trip. For a little extra dough, they'll even do your laundry, pick up your dry cleaning, and get your car inspected should you need it.


In Newark's Terminal C, if you didn't have time for that much-needed haircut before heading out for your flight, you can get a last-minute do at the airport's on-site D-parture Spa (www.departurespa.com). They'll also paint your nails, do your makeup, and massage tired muscles. And at the airport in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, busy travelers can put a stop to their sniffles or whatever else ails them at the 24-hour Aeromed Medical Centre (www.klia.com.my). And, hey, during the holiday season, you can even get your gifts wrapped for free at both Chicago O'Hare and Midway (www.flychicago.com).

With such services available, and the addition of amenities like meditation rooms (at Amsterdam's Schiphol) and movie theaters (Singapore's Changi), airports aren't just mere pit stops before and after your flight. They're fast becoming mini-cities - designed to keep travelers efficient, entertained, enlightened, and on their way. - J.B.




Big Apple Buzz

Those of you who live in Manhattan, Kansas, may not appreciate the significance of this news, but if you live in New York’s Manhattan, you most certainly will. Because in the Big Apple, just getting to the airport (much less to your final destination) can be a chore. But not anymore: US Helicopter just introduced hourly flights (running Monday through Friday from seven a.m. to seven p.m.) that will get you from the Downtown Manhattan heliport near Wall Street to JFK Airport in just eight minutes. (Service to LaGuardia and Newark airports is planned for later this year.) Even better, you check your bags and go through security at the heliport, then land at an American Airlines gate with fast, secure access to your actual departure gate. The process couldn’t be easier or faster — or feature a better view, come to think of it. And all of this for roughly the same price as an airport limo. For more information or to schedule a trip, visit www.flyush.com. — Jill Becker