When it comes to decking their terminals, some international airports are pulling out all the stops with ice skating rinks, a wintry Harry Potter land, holiday markets, Santa appearances, and more.
There’s no denying that travel during the holidays is often stressful, not least because of the sheer number of people crisscrossing the globe this time of year. But some airports are bringing so much holiday spirit to their terminals that you may even look forward to a delayed flight or prolonged layover in order to revel in the festivities.
Munich Airport has a 20-year history of embracing the holidays, and this year is no exception. As of November 17, and running through December 26, 2018, the airport is hosting a 44-booth holiday market complete with seasonal gifts and treats, including bratwurst, gingerbread, and mulled wine, as well as more regional specialties. The airport has brought in a large ice skating rink surrounded by an entire pine forest (made up of hundreds of real pines).
Because one ice rink clearly isn’t enough, there is also a smaller rink where visitors can try their hand at Eisstockschiessen, or the Bavarian version of curling (skates and curling rocks are both available for rent).
The airport’s Christmas market, which is open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., also features a line-up of entertainment for both adults and children. The music starts at 6 p.m. from Tuesday to Sunday and includes live jazz and rock performances. On Thursdays a DJ will play tunes for the ice-skaters. The kids’ shows take place every Wednesday afternoon and include things such as magic shows, Punch and Judy shows, and decorating gingerbread.
The main holiday showcase is occurring in the airport’s centrally located MAC Forum hall, and some additional children’s activities are taking place in the airport’s kids’ play area, Kinderland.
Singapore’s Changi Airport
Not to be outdone, Singapore’s Changi Airport has recreated an entire Harry Potter–themed Wizarding World for the holidays, complete with a Hogsmeade Village, Diagon Alley, Hogwarts School Whomping Willow, and Newt Scamander’s Menagerie.
The Wizarding World Holiday at Changi (a collaboration with Warner Bros. in Singapore) kicked off last month and runs through mid-February 2019. It includes a wintry Hogsmeade Village that has been installed in Terminal 3, depicting the fictional town with snowy rooftops set against the backdrop of Hogwarts castle. It features replicas of shops such as Zonko’s Joke Shop, Madam Puddifoot’s Tea Shop, the Owl Post, and sweets shop Honeydukes, as well as a recreation of the Hogwarts Express. A visit to the Changi Hogsmeade is enhanced by daily snow and light shows.
Also in Terminal 3 is a mock-up of Diagon Alley, where at the Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions installation visitors can dress up in Hogwarts school uniforms and robes. Travelers can also try their hand at Quidditch by riding on a broomstick and throwing Quaffle balls into a series of hoops to score points.
The Whomping Willow tree is set up in the Terminal 2 Departure Hall, and Newt Scamander’s Menagerie is located in the Terminal 1 Transit Hall. For holiday shoppers, official Harry Potter merchandise is being sold at Changi Airport, including Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger, and Hedwig plush toys, and Harry Potter–themed travel pillows.
Zurich Airport’s Christmas lottery—a giveaway that includes 20 international flights—is reason alone this Swiss hub stands to make the holidays that much brighter. In addition to festive lights, human-sized snowmen, and holiday music, Zurich Airport also has several special events and attractions planned for the holiday season.
For travelers doing their last-minute shopping on the run, the airport has set up a custom gift-wrapping station. And it is further encouraging shoppers with the lottery—on December 15 and 16, “Christmas angels” will be handing out lottery tickets to airport shoppers who will be entered into a giveaway that includes the aforementioned international flights, as well as airport gift cards and meal vouchers, among other prizes.
Starting December 12, a Children’s Paradise area (in the visitor room in front of Observation Deck B) will open, allowing parents to leave their kids free of charge while they shop the airport boutiques. Additionally, on December 16, which appears to be the day to be traveling through Zurich, a Coca-Cola truck will be parked at the airport from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m., and Santa will be on board passing out gifts and making himself available for visits and souvenir photos.
For those who love a good Santa sighting, Father Christmas is making appearances daily at two terminals (there’s a schedule online) in London Heathrow Airport from December 7 until Christmas Eve.
During that time, carolers will also be performing in the departure lounges, and local Salvation Army bands will be playing in the check-in areas (before security).
For younger travelers, Mr. Adventure and Little Miss Explorer will be roaming the terminals at Heathrow and will be occasionally joined by their creator, Adam Hargreaves, who will be drawing and signing Mr. Men and Little Miss pictures. Kids who want to try their hand at various crafts will have the chance with free craft workshops courtesy of a mobile craft trolley that will be moving around the departure lounge. Among the crafts available to them will be decorating biscuits and papier-mâché bears. During the holiday period, children can also eat free at participating Heathrow restaurants.
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San Francisco International Airport
The lights are aglow at San Francisco International Airport, where the facility goes to great lengths to create an elaborate outdoor display complete with a mock-up Golden Gate bridge and countless lighted trees—a tradition that goes back more than a decade.
For the holiday season, the airport is also hosting a giveaway through January 8 with weekly drawings for everything from SFO goodie bags filled with treats from Napa Farms, to a one-year CLEAR membership, to a GoPro camera.
If holiday shopping and travel are stressing you, the SFO Wag Brigade is bringing in trained animals to provide some relief, including LiLou, a three-year-old Juliana pig (pictured above). Another stress reliever is the live music that will be playing in the terminals December 18, 19, 20, and 21 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
San Diego International Airport
It may not necessarily always look or feel like Christmas outside in sunny San Diego, but San Diego International Airport is determined to make it feel like the holidays inside with airport-wide decorations and weekly holiday performances throughout December. The airport has also released a holiday-themed Spotify playlist to get travelers into the spirit and said it will be offering goodies to traveling children through the New Year.