Family Travel Manual: The Best Airports With Play Areas for Children

April 20, 2023

Traveling with your children is both a blessing and a curse. It's a blessing because they don't stay young long, and getting in experiences while they're still little can build lifelong memories of travel that they'll never forget. Unfortunately, however, the importance of family travel is often outweighed by the difficulties of flying with children, mainly keeping them engaged while at an airport. 

Airplay Zone at BWI in Baltimore.

Thankfully, The Parking Spot has done some research to find airport play areas for children that should make your family travel more enjoyable. The best kid play areas in airports will keep your little ones engaged and improve your trip. Finding an airport with a play area for kids can help keep your little ones entertained and make traveling with kids easier. 

Without further ado, there are nine airports with kid play areas and several other airports with some entertainment options for young ones. We also include several family travel tips at the end for entertaining your children at an airport without a play area for kids. No matter what family vacation destination you plan on visiting, these travel tips will make flying with children more manageable.

Airports With Kid Play Areas and Activities

Traveling with kids can be a manageable challenge in airports if you find a play area for kids. The following airport play areas include multiple fun activities and unique play options to keep your children entertained. Kid play areas in airports have become very popular in recent years to make travel and flying with children more accessible for parents to handle.

Dallas/ Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)

The DFW airport is one of the biggest and most widely used airports in the southwest and has a very active play area for children, making traveling with them easier for parents. These activities include Gameway, a game lounge for all ages that parents and older children can enjoy.

This area lets you log in based on your ticket information, play games with your children, or let them play themselves. DFW also includes the McDonald's Play Area at Terminal D-D8, a foam-soft playscape, and a seating area with charging outlets for parents.

All these activities make DFW one of the best places to travel with kids. Even better, their play area for kids also includes nursing rooms for mothers and young babies and a downloadable children's coloring book that your children can enjoy. That makes it stand apart from other airport play areas in the nation.

Boston Logan International Airport, Massport (BOS)

Family travel through BOS often includes layovers, making flying with children tough. As one of the most active airports in the nation, it has a lot going on. Thankfully, this includes the Kidport, a kid-friendly area designed by the Boston Children's Museum to improve family travel situations.

Kidport includes climbing structures, a kid-sized replica of the airport's control tower, slides, and soft-foam play areas where children can have fun and burn some energy. For parents tired of a high-energy little one, these play areas are critical for keeping their sanity in order.

With three locations throughout the airport, Kidport should make traveling to areas like Buffalo, New York, Columbus, Ohio  , and Detroit, Michigan, that much easier. Even better, these activities are free, meaning your travel budget will be manageable when visiting BOS.

Portland International Airport (PDX)

Before traveling to Portland  with your kids, it is essential to find out if they have a kid play area. Thankfully, kid play areas in airports have made their way west, and PDX  has a fun and engaging place where young ones can enjoy a little time playing before jumping on a plane.

Their airport play areas include a toddler zone with LEGOs where young ones can build and have fun, a slide where they can get in some physical action, toys they can enjoy with siblings or new temporary airport friends, and a flat-screen TV constantly showing-kid friendly films and shows.

This airport-themed area also includes the Hollywood Theatre, a miniature version of Portland's favorite theater. This design helps to tap into a child's imagination and is particularly fun if you saw the theater on your trip or if they know it well from previous travel experiences.

O'Hare International Airport, Chicago (ORD)

Flying with children at O'Hare can seem like a nightmare experience, but thankfully airport play areas can keep your young ones entertained. O'Hare, in particular, has a really cool spot that children are likely to love, especially if they're interested in history or like war movies.

That's because their play area has an F4F Wildcat  fighter plane from WWII that has been fully restored. Children can read about the plane, check out its excellent and in-depth design, and much more. So if you're into World War II history, you can also talk about it with your young one.

In this way, you can bond over your mutual love of airplanes and have a more enjoyable trip. It's the kind of experience you can't get any other way and is worth the time it takes to track it down. Ask airport officials or look around for a while; you should find it fairly quickly.

What some consider to be the “largest light sculpture in the world” also resides in this airport. In Terminal 1 between the B and C concourses, there is almost 800 feet of neon light placed above the automatic walkway. Bring your children here to view the colorful experience for a few minutes. Chances are, even the fussy children will be momentarily mesmerized.ORD Terminal 1 Concourse C Light Sculpture

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)

Los Angeles' bustling airport provides children with different play options. The most unforgettable is the beach-themed playground  inside the Tom Bradley International Terminal  . This popular destination has helped make travel in this airport easier to handle.

LAX Beach includes a 971-square-foot play area open for kids between 2-8. It has soft and sculpted foam pieces that create a beach scene, various toys, and fun play options, making it a very relaxing place for children and parents to hang out between flights.

Even better, children who get tense while in LAX (who doesn't?) can interact with the airport's therapy dogs. These well-trained and friendly pups can detect anxiety and provide relief by giving children a soft and friendly companion before they leave the airport. Even parents love these therapy pups.

Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC)

Salt Lake City has an international airport with three different play areas spread throughout its terminals. These include sections in SLC concourses A, B, and E. Each of these zones provides a variety of fun opportunities for young ones who are bored while traveling in the area.

For example, these play areas  include attractive, kid-friendly floor designs with cute cartoon graphics that engage their minds. They also have soft play options, toys, and even imagination areas where children can play and pretend to be older and more mature.

The frustrating thing about these play areas is that the airport does little to advertise them, and you might need to seek them out. Ask officials where they're located or listen for the sounds of playing children. That should clue you into where the fun starts.

LaGuardia Airport, (LAG)

LaGuardia is another of the most active and vital airports in the nation and, thankfully, has invested a little time and money into entertaining children. There is a play area in LaGuardia Airport Terminal B that should provide plenty of fun experiences for your young one, no matter their age.

This play area includes small kid-friendly toys, various decorations, a soft floor area, and small slides where little ones can have fun. There are also benches nearby where parents can sit and relax, helping their children burn a little energy while their mom or dad plans their next trip.

Terminal B also has a water feature that includes colored lights and beautiful designs that runs every 15 minutes throughout the day. Nearby restaurants and shopping destinations should also keep you and your young ones entertained while visiting this popular and exciting airport.

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) includes four play areas across terminals two, three, and four. That provides parents with plenty of exciting play options, particularly for younger children who may have high energy that makes parents tremble in fear.

These play areas include soft and padded climbing gear  that will give them plenty of chances to explore their environment and have fun. As importantly, these areas also have kid-friendly art that will engage their minds and imaginations and get them thinking.

Interestingly, there's also a free art gallery in terminal four just before security, where you and your children can check out some beautiful decorations. That option is perfect for a curious mind and will allow you to talk about art with your young one. Check out our Sky Harbor Airport Guide  for more general information.

Airports Without Kids Play Areas But With Some Fun Options

While the airports in this section don't have kid play areas to keep your young ones entertained, they're not entirely hopeless. A few have fun other ways that you can entertain your children, including exploring shops, checking out terminals , and much more. If you're in any of these airports, make sure that you keep these simple activities in mind to stay engaged.

Orlando International Airport (MCO)

Though Orlando's airport  doesn't have a kid-friendly play area, it does have a 3,000-gallon aquarium in the  MCO food court and Disney and Universal stores  where you can buy toys and games for your young ones. These should be more than enough to keep them excited and active.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)

Like Orlando, Atlanta's airport  lacks a play area but does give you some chances for fun. For example, walk with your young one to see all the different exhibits rather than riding the train to your terminal. This activity is great if you have time to spare and energy to burn in your little one.

San Diego International Airport (SAN)

Unfortunately, San Diego Airport  does not have a designated play area for children. However, there are still things that you can do with your child while visiting this destination. There are food courts and shops where you can keep yourself and your children entertained.

Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT)

Charlotte Douglas International Airport, like the San Diego airport, has no area for young children to play. However, there are many games and activities that you can use to engage your kids. These activities are great to check out because they can ensure that your trip goes more smoothly.

How to Occupy Your Child at the Airport

While it's true that you could always just hand your kid your phone or an iPad at the airport to keep them entertained, that's simply not that engaging and gives you little time to interact with them. As a result, finding a few kid-friendly activities in an airport without play areas or other activities is a good idea. Just a few things that you can do together include:

  • Playing I Spy, an eternally fun game that constantly engages the imagination
  • Making up entertaining stories about people you see in the airport (excellent stories only, please!)
  • Visiting the airport's comfort animals to get in a few pets before getting on the plane
  • Watching the planes taking off and talking about how they work together
  • Talking with a new friend and considering making a new pen pal together
  • Snacking at the food court on healthy and delicious foods
  • Holding a thumb-wrestling tournament to see who's the champion
  • Creating various arts and crafts (drawing, folding paper, etc.)
  • Practicing various motor skill challenges, such as kid-friendly yoga poses
  • Learning new paper games (paper football, tic tac toe, hangman, etc.)

No matter what your child enjoys, there should be something to keep them entertained at the airport. Turning to the phone should be the last option, and if you have no choice, try to set up an educational game they can enjoy. For example, creative mode on Minecraft  can teach children about geometry and engage their imagination in fun and exciting ways.

Booking Your Next Trip With Your Children

Finding airport play areas like these can make flying with children easier and improve family travel. While other airports have a play area for kids, these are the best options because they're some of the most popular airports in the nation. So before getting on a plane for your next big trip, make sure that you follow these and other family travel tips to ensure things go smoothly.

Just as importantly, you should reserve a parking spot at the airport before you go by using The Parking Spot. These are some of the biggest and busiest airports in the world, and booking a spot can be challenging if you aren't careful. The Parking Spot has 38 locations at 22 different national airports and can help you find a parking spot long before your trip to minimize potential complications.

You can also join our Spot Club to get discounts, travel tips, and more information before you leave for your family vacation. So, consider booking with The Parking Spot, no matter where you plan on traveling or flying with your children. Using our app, you can also find and track our shuttle service to travel from the terminal to your car to minimize your walking time and keep your family safe.

Read the other articles in our Family Travel Manual

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