Parenting Tools

Hang time: The best airports for killing time with kids

Heading out on a family vacation soon? Perhaps you're already anticipating "downtime dread": that creeping feeling that there aren't enough sticker books, GameBoys and Goldfish crackers in the world to keep your crew from crawling the walls during hideous airport layovers.

You can shovel money into airport shops ($15 wind-up airplanes - gah!) or you can download this handy-dandy "Kids' Airport Diversion Guide" from, and let 'em get those ya-yas out for free.

A few highlights:

At Seattle/Tacoma International Airport, Alaska Airlines recently opened up a great aviation theme play area near the Central Terminal. The 1,400 square-foot playground made of soft foam has a control tower, baggage cart and an airplane.

San Francisco International’s secret gem is an aviation museum. It's free, modeled after the 1937 waiting room at the airport, and features cool aviation models. There is also a nice aquarium in Boarding Level C, the Departures/Ticketing Level of Terminal 1. And for those families that crave something more interactive, visit SFO Kids’ Spot in post-security Terminal 3 near Gate 87A. The spot features a crawling apparatus and a plasma wall that shoots arcs of energized color activated by sound.

The guide lists 24 US hubs and 10 international airports - dozens of little-known sweet spots where kids can cool their jets.

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