Airport Curiosities?

For a lot of people, going to the airport is often the least wondrous part of any journey. But as the gateways to and from the places where they’re located, many airports hold hidden secrets and curious attractions that are just as fascinating as the destinations they help people get to. Whether it’s a runway made from seasonal ice, a bizarrely-shaped terminal building, a lovely park where you can sitting frighteningly close beneath passing planes, or… whatever’s going on in Denver, airports can be unforgettable places!

(Image: Mike Sinko/CC BY-SA 2.0)

Now tell us about the most wonderful airport spots you’ve ever encountered in the comments below. Tell us where the airport or airport wonder is located and the story of how you discovered it. As always, we’d also love to see any original pictures you might have of your place. Your story might be featured in an upcoming round-up article on Atlas Obscura. Let’s put some wonder back into air travel!

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Detroit’s airport (DTW) is my favorite place for a layover. Airplane travel can be harsh and disorienting, but Detroit’s rainbow tunnel is truly restorative. The rainbow tunnel (possibly not its official name) connects the airport’s two terminals via an underground passageway lined with frosted glass and slowly changing multi-colored lights, while some soothing music plays. That might sound crushingly hokey, but it’s such a welcome reprieve from the usual airport-as-mall experience. Plus, you kinda have to go through it to change terminals, so you might as well enjoy it! It has a moving sidewalk, but I always just walk so I can spend more time there. There are other nice things about Detroit Airport (I like the fountains, trees, and birds too), but the rainbow tunnel is what makes me happy to pass through.

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I love seeing unusual stuff inside airports. These are only a few that are still on my mobile phone or accessible online since I regularly download pictures onto my hard drive but I’ve got way too many anyway.

These fantastic pillars of luggage in baggage claim at the Sacramento Airport are a wonderful example of environmental-friendliness: reuse, reduce, recycle.


Airplanes in the Rochester Airport.


A mini toy museum inside the Rochester Airport as well.


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It’s not unusual for an airport to have a bookstore. But they’re the “latest bestseller” type.

Mitchell Field in Milwaukee has Renaissance Books - used and rare books. If you didn’t pack sufficient reading material, this is the place to get a good book. When I lived in the northern part of Illinois, I’d always use Mitchell when I could, not least because of Renaissance Books.

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I love, love, love that JFK has its own dentist (that’s some “only in New York” stuff!) and that SFO has a full museum.

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First trip to India (#Atlas Obscura) in March. Blown away by wall-to-wall metal discs and beautiful hand mudras in DEHLI Airport.

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There’s a few which help pass the time. Chicago O’Hare has a fantastic tunnel between terminals:

Which I personally think they need to hang gold coins above to complete the video game chic.

Another great one is Amsterdam airport, which has a miniature Rijksmuseum which you can go into for free and has original Dutch master paintings on rotation from the main one.

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The departure gates at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport (TPE) in Taipei offer some interesting sites. There’s the Hello Kitty gate area (C3) and a fabulous orchid display at C5. My wife and I have changed planes twice there with EVA flying from LAX to Southeast Asia.

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I love that Chicago tunnel!

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I remember this tunnel. I was stuck in O’Hare for 8 hours several years ago and so I spent quite a bit of time just hanging out at that tunnel, listening to Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.

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Always loved this yellow submarine outside John Lennon airport in Liverpool, built by one of the biggest ship builders in Liverpool (Cammell Laird) it even contains genuine submarine equipment on the inside. The airport boss summed it up best “Other airports have the Concorde, we have the Yellow Submarine”

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JFK Airport in New York has a new spectacular oddity! The historic TWA terminal, designed by Eero Saarinen, has been turned into a hotel (an oddity in itself) and they’ve now adorned it with a restored Lockheed Constellation L-1649A, known as “Connie.” It’s one of only four of these aircraft remaining in the world.

(picture by me)

" Trace the epic journey of the TWA Hotel’s 1958 plane, which trucked 300 miles from Maine to JFK Airport." https://www.twahotel.com/connie-airplane/conniejourney

" A team of pros restored the Connie L-1649A — one of only four left in the world!" https://www.twahotel.com/connie-airplane/connie

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Landing on the beach in Barra is pretty special https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=GNRlpv5fmPM

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Changi Airport in Singapore with its orchid and sunflower gardens was already special, as is their almost fully automated Terminal 4 - but now they have a new visitor experience called ‘the Jewel’ https://www.jewelchangiairport.com/

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If you find yourself at the Traverse City, Michigan, airport, don’t miss the easy-to-miss 4,770 year old Bristlecone Pine. Pretty sure it’s from “Methuselah” a tree with one of the oldest confirmed ages in the world.

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At the center of one of the terminals in the Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) Airport is this compass, encircled by mysterious (!) symbols. (I’m pretty sure the symbols are from air navigation charts… or Satan). Video by me.

And there’s this:

And then, after all that excitement, you can enjoy something I’ve never seen in any other airport, a “quiet seating area.”

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I wish I could find the picture, Vancouver Airport has a live jellyfish in a tank shaped like a bubble in one of its hallways. I remember thinking that it looked so realistic, because why would they have a live jellyfish, and it’s real. I love the crazy hallways in O’Hare as well! I live in Denver and between Blucifer (the demon horse pictured above) and the conspiracy theories of mole people, the Masonics and Knights Templar stories, as well as the UFO conspiracies, I enjoy airports that have strange things that are TRUE.

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The fountain in DTW terminal A is also very interesting. In a city known for Engineering, the fountain employs a few cool Engineering features. The water jets come from laminar flow nozzles, so it looks like “noodles” or little “hotdogs” of water jump across the fountain surface. Water flows over the entire edge of the circular fountain, but instead of having a sharp edge for the water to fall over, the fountain curves back underneath itself. Surface tension causes the water to cling to the surface, so it appears the water is defying gravity. I always chuckle when I see people leaning up against the fountain edge, only to walk away with a wet line across the front of their pants.

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I’ve traveled a lot, but I would like to mention something we have locally that is pretty neat. The parking deck at Asheville (NC) Regional Airport is beautiful! When the new deck was needed, I was so happy that the powers that be decided to make it a beautiful one - at least from the outside. The walls of the deck are made of perforated aluminum sheets and picture our gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains. Not sure how many folks can claim a parking garage as a favorite local landmark, but I can! image

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In the municipal airport in Kenai, Alaska is a very large brown bear taken by a prominent bush pilot who my father used to fly with. The photo is not great but should provide an idea of the scale.

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