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Puppies to Ping-Pong: A Dozen Weird Ways to Kill Time at Airports

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Forget napping in uncomfortable airport furniture, feigning interest in duty-free goods and drinking one too many overpriced beers.

    At last, airports are learning how to entertain their guests during layovers and delays, with everything from puppies to ping-pong, from pop-up gyms to pianos.

    Check out the latest amenities being offered at airports nationwide.

    Puppy therapy. Usually the only dogs you'll see at an airport are the bomb-sniffing dogs whose uniforms say “Please don't pet me.” That's not the case at the Miami airport, where Casey, a golden retriever trained in pet therapy, encourages passengers to stop and play. Passengers can also hug and take selfies with more than a dozen pups at Los Angeles International, as part of its Pets Unstressing Passengers (PUP) program.
    Exercise rooms. Passengers at Philadelphia's airport can get their heart rates up in between flights, and not just by racing to the gate. The airport has added exercise bikes and pop-up gyms throughout its terminals, as part of its summer-long customer appreciation program. The program has been so successful that the airport says it's already added 20 more bikes.
    Ping-pong. Competitve table tennis players don't mind breaking a sweat, even while waiting to fly out of Milwaukee’s international airport. Keep an eye on the ball, lest it land in someone's carry-on.
    Yoga and meditation rooms. A handful of airports are catering to passengers itching to downward dog. San Francisco kicked off the trend with its free yoga facilities so travelers can open their chakras before take-off (and before rinsing off in free public showers). Airports in Dallas-Fort Worth and Burlington, Vermont, have followed suit to give passengers a spot for a few sun salutations, while San Diego, Albuquerque and Raleigh-Durham have added meditation rooms.
    Dinosaur skeleton replicas. Plenty of airports display aviation and history exhibits, but only two can boast life-size dinosaur skeleton replicas. Chicago's Field Museum donated a 75-foot-long brachiosaurus skeleton to the city's O'Hare airport, where it stands tall in United Terminal 1's Concourse B. And in Pittsburgh, a towering T-Rex in the Airside Terminal terrifies airport visitors.
    Sleep pods. For all the yoga, bikes and puppies that airports have to offer, all some flyers want is some quality shut-eye. Passengers coming in and out of major hubs Dallas-Fort Worth, Atlanta and Philadelphia can rent rooms by the hour from Minute Suites. Each room is equipped with a daybed, desk, television and noise machine to shut out the airport's commotion and let travelers relax.
    Kids' play areas. Traveling alone can be exhausting, but traveling with kids can be soul-shattering. Enter the old-school arcade. The King of Kong Arcade makes Orlando's airport, which also offers a 3,000-gallon aquarium and two space centers, the only airport with such a feature. Other major airports — including Dallas-Fort Worth, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Chicago's O'Hare and Boston's Logan — allow kids to let loose on aviation-themed play areas where they can pretend to be pilots. Detroit's airport may be the most kid-friendly of all, with seven indoor playgrounds and two toy stores.

    Live music. Nashville and Austin, two of America’s most music-obsessed cities, love live performances so much that even their airports put on shows. The airport in country music mecca Nashville puts on 80 to 100 shows a year on four stages scattered throughout its terminals, while that in Texas' music-obsessed capital provides two-hour sets five days a week at six different restaurants.

    Piano. Nashville and Austin may put on proper shows for flyers, but San Jose International has set up a piano for musically inspired passengers to play at their own leisure, 24 hours a day. No word on how many renditions of "Heart and Soul" have been logged there — but at least one prodigy passing through has been known to bang out a certain Journey hit.

    Bike resources. It makes sense that Portlanders, who commute by bike more than people in any other U.S. city, would have a center for cycling even at their airport. Portland International offers an area for cyclists to lock their bikes while they travel and a repair station where they can rent basic tools to fix flats, disassemble their bikes before flights and read up on local biking activities.
        
    World's biggest lounge for service members. San Diego's airport now boasts the world's largest USO lounge, where U.S. military service members get special privileges. What was once a cramped center now provides service members and their families a 10,000-square-foot space to Skype with loved ones, watch DVDs and play pool, X-Box and air hockey.
    Gardens. Chicago's O'Hare and Vermont's Burlington airport are ahead of the curve when it comes to greening airports. The only airport aeroponic garden graces a food court at O'Hare in Chicago, while nature-loving travelers in Burlington can wander and get some fresh air amid its walking garden's alpine plants, benches and picnic tables.