Chestnuts roast on an open fire. Jack Frost nips at your nose. Airport security leaves you standing in line for what feels like 12 hours, and your little one won’t stop shrieking during pre-boarding. Those last two aren’t exactly the stuff of which carols are made, but let’s be serious: They paint a pretty accurate picture of the holiday travel experience, especially when you’re dashing through the snow with kids in tow.
Still, while nothing short of a team of reindeer and a jolly sleigh will save you from the seasonal crowds, some airports go above and beyond to make holiday jaunts easier on families. Below, we’ve rounded up a few spots that land on Santa’s Nice List year after year, so you can save those lumps of coal for another day.
1. Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD)
Sure, this intensely busy airport might be known for delays, but it makes up for all that waiting with some of the best kiddie stuff this side of the North Pole. O’Hare boasts loads of play areas, including Kids on the Fly: an interactive plane-themed playground where your little elves can burn off pre-flight energy in a model control tower, helicopter, and airplane. Head to Terminal 2 near Gate F1 to get your wings. Looks like you’re ready for takeoff.
2. Nashville International Airport (BNA)
There’s no place like Music City for the holidays. Okay, we don’t know if that’s actually true, but at least the airport has brought its A game when it comes to being kid-friendly. First of all, Concourses A, B, and C offer play areas with climbing walls and super-cool tunnels. Secondly, the airport features six concert stages designed to host live bands, so you’ll be able to join a sing-along or two while you wait for that boarding call. Time to finally memorize the third verse of “Deck the Halls.” Fa la la la…what comes next?
3. San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
Leave it to the Bay Area to create a bunch of airport amenities packed with tech tricks. Like Chicago O’Hare, San Francisco International is home to its very own museum-like display, but this one, called the Kids’ Spot, features interactive weather games and a colorful plasma wall that responds to sound and movement. You’ll also find aquariums and kid-designed artwork, and we’re still hoping that they create a “How to Found a Billion Dollar Startup for Dummies” exhibit.
4. Orlando International Airport (MCO)
Walt Disney World® may not have dropped a satellite location into this airport – oh, if wishing made it so – but there’s still plenty to entertain kids from ages 1 to 92 at MCO. The King of Kong arcade is packed with games galore, and the crazy-huge fish tank and on-site Build-A-Bear® Workshop are sure to keep your little ones out of the boredom zone. Plus, the NASA Kennedy Space Center℠ Store features part of a real-life asteroid, which is sure to delight Dad and Grandpa just as much as those new golf clubs you’ve been hiding in the attic for three months. Santa would approve.