Unexpected Pleasures at a Terminal Near You. Update: Minneapolis!
ALL PHOTOS BY THE AUTHOR
WITH SCATTERED EXCEPTIONS, U.S. airports don’t have a whole lot going for them. They’re noisy, dirty, poorly laid out, and hostile to passengers connecting from overseas. As my regular readers are well aware, I’ve made this point in numerous prior posts. So that I’m not accused of harping on the negative, “Hidden Airport” is a semi-regular feature highlighting little-known spots of unexpected pleasantness.
— Newest Addition: the “quiet area” at Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP)
On the whole, the Minneapolis airport is about as architecturally unexciting as they come. It’s an older complex with low ceilings and endless corridors that reminds me of the ’60s-era grammar school that I once attended. And like most American airports, it has a noise pollution problem. But unlike most American airports, it has a place to escape the racket: an upper-level “quiet area” overlooking the central atrium of the Lindbergh (Delta Air Lines) Terminal. It’s difficult to find, but worth the effort if you’ve got a lengthy layover and need a place to relax. Look for the signs close to where F concourse meets the central lobby.The long, rectangular veranda has pairs of vinyl chairs set around tables. There are power outlets at each table and visitors can log in to MSP’s complimentary Wi-Fi. Delta provides pillows and blankets so that stranded passengers can nap. It’s a bland space without much ambiance, lacking the funky chairs, sofas, and other quirky accoutrements that you might find in Europe or Asia (Incheon Airport’s quiet zones are the coolest anywhere), but it does what it’s supposed to do. It’s comfortable, detached and peaceful. It’s a shame that more airports don’t set aside spots like this.
Previously in Hidden Airport:
— The garden at New York-La Guardia (LGA)
I’ve already written at length about the Marine Air Terminal at La Guardia Airport in New York City. This historic art-deco building, in the far southwest corner of LGA, is one of the most special places in all of commercial aviation — the launching point for the Pan Am flying boats that made the first-ever transatlantic and round-the-world flights. Inside the cathedral-like rotunda is the 240-foot “Flight” mural by James Brooks, as well as Rocco Manniello’s Yankee Clipper restaurant — a good greasy-spoon place that is one of the few remaining non-chain airport restaurants. What few people know about, however, is the cozy garden just outside. Facing the building, it’s to the right of the old Art Deco doorway, set back from the street. It’s a quiet, tree-shaded hideaway amidst, grass, flowers and shrubs. There’s even… well, I guess sculpture is the best description (see photo). Grab a sandwich from the Yankee Clipper and enjoy it on one of the wooden benches. To get there, take the A Loop inter-terminal bus to the Marine Air Terminal. The spot is best appreciated in the warmer months, of course. Like the Marine Air rotunda it is outside of the TSA checkpoint, so you’ll need to re-clear security if you’re catching a flight.
— The terminal B-C connector at Boston-Logan (BOS)
In the connector walkway between terminals B and C at Logan International Airport in Boston, Massport has installed a series of whimsically painted rocking chairs that face floor-to-ceiling windows with a view of the runways. There’s relatively little foot traffic and, best of all, no public address speakers. It’s a quiet, sunny location to read, send text messages or otherwise relax. This isn’t one of Logan’s newer, elevated walkways with the inlaid sea life mosaics, cool as they are, but rather the old, terminal-level passageway.
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