Ice-Skating Rinks, Christmas Markets, a Stress-Relief Pig: Airports That Go All out for the Holidays

These international airports are so decked out, you may even look forward to a delayed flight or prolonged layover in order to revel in the festivities.

Ice-Skating Rinks, Christmas Markets, a Stress-Relief Pig: Airports That Go All out for the Holidays

At Singapore’s Changi Airport, travelers can trek along a (faux) snowy path.

Courtesy of Changi Airport Group

There’s no denying that travel during the holidays is often stressful, not least because of the sheer number of people crisscrossing the globe this time of year. But these airports are making the experience so much more jolly and bright with holiday markets, winter wonderlands, ice-skating rinks, Santa appearances, festive treats, and more.

Travelers at Munich Airport will be greeted by hundreds of real pine trees, a Christmas market, and a massive ice rink.

Travelers at Munich Airport will be greeted by hundreds of real pine trees, a Christmas market, and a massive ice rink.

Courtesy of Munich Airport

Munich Airport

Munich Airport has a 20-year history of embracing the holidays, and this year is no exception. As of November 18, and running through December 29, 2019, the airport is hosting a 40-booth holiday market complete with seasonal gifts and treats, including Alsatian tarte flambée, dampfnudel, or German dumplings, and mulled wine.

The airport has also installed a 6,700-square-foot ice-skating rink surrounded by an entire pine forest made up of more than 400 real pine trees. Visitors can also try their hand at Eisstockschiessen, or the Bavarian version of curling, on the ice—skates and curling rocks are both available for rent, and the skating itself is free.

The festivities include a lineup of entertainment for both adults and children. The music starts at 6 p.m. on Tuesdays through Sundays and includes live jazz and rock performances. On Thursdays a DJ will play tunes for the ice-skaters. Kids’ shows will take place every Wednesday afternoon and include magic acts, Punch and Judy shows, and decorating gingerbread.

The airport’s Christmas market and ice rink are open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and until 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays (excluding Christmas Eve, when they will close at 5 p.m., and on December 11, when the market will be closed all day for a private event).

The main holiday showcase is occurring in the airport’s centrally located Munich Airport Center (MAC) Forum hall, and some additional children’s activities are taking place in the airport’s kids’ play area, Kinderland.

A Frozen Wonderland at Changi features a larger-than-life Olaf.

A Frozen Wonderland at Changi features a larger-than-life Olaf.

Courtesy of Changi Airport Group

Singapore’s Changi Airport

After recreating an entire Harry Potter–themed Wizarding World for the holidays last year, Singapore’s Changi Airport has outdone itself once again this year with a sprawling winter wonderland inspired by Disney’s Frozen 2.

A Frozen Wonderland at Changi opened on November 21 (to correspond with Disney’s Frozen 2 release in Singapore) and will continue through January 5, 2020. It includes a Frozen 2–themed light show set against scenes from the movie (in Terminal 3) and a larger-than-life Olaf statue (in Terminal 2).

The airport’s holiday festivities go beyond Frozen, though. At the Changi Airport Jewel complex, imitation snow will be falling at the Canopy Park and in the Shiseido Forest Valley at intervals throughout the day. Jewel’s Topiary Walk has been transformed into a (faux) snowy path, and the HSBC Rain Vortex—the world’s tallest indoor waterfall—plays host to a Christmas light and sound show each evening.

Be sure to stop by the 52-foot-tall Christmas tree set up at the entrance to the Shiseido Forest Valley. The airport’s holiday festivities will also include regular appearances by Santa Claus, stilt walkers, and Christmas carolers around Jewel.

And as if all of that wasn’t enough, there is also festive market in Jewel at Cloud9 Piazza on Level 5 that includes a handful of holiday-themed booths and workshops, such as a Kit Kat Chocolatory and Playmade Bubble Tea stand. The workshops include terrarium-making, ukulele-painting, card-making and leathercraft sessions.

Human-sized snowmen greet passengers at Zurich Airport.

Human-sized snowmen greet passengers at Zurich Airport.

Courtesy of Zurich Airport

Zurich Airport

Zurich Airport’s X-Mas Game—a shopping game and giveaway that includes nearly 20 international flights being doled out—is reason alone this Swiss hub stands to make the holidays that much brighter. Zurich Airport also has several special events and attractions planned for the holiday season.

The airport’s runway-view Air Restaurant is hosting a Fondue evening with glögg (Swedish mulled wine) on December 12, 13, and 20, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. ($41 for adults, $20 for children aged 7 to 14, and free for children 6 years and younger). On December 15, a Nordic Christmas brunch will be on offer from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the hub’s Upperdeck restaurant, featuring a buffet of Nordic specialties and a live band ($59 for adults, $20 for children aged 7 to 14, and free for children 6 years and younger).

The weekend of December 14 and 15 is the time to be at the Zurich Airport. There will be numerous performances taking place throughout the terminals, including a concert from 10:30 a.m. to noon on December 15, as well as Nordic singers and dancers and a Scandinavian choir that will be performing throughout the weekend in the shopping and check-in areas.

Starting December 14, a Children’s Paradise area (in the visitor room in front of Observation Deck B) will open, allowing parents to leave their kids free of charge while they shop the airport boutiques.

Heathrow has created a hidden Santa factory under the airport that travelers can peak in on.

Heathrow has created a hidden Santa factory under the airport that travelers can peak in on.

Courtesy of Heathrow

London Heathrow

For those who love a good Santa sighting, Father Christmas is making appearances daily at several terminals (there’s a schedule online) in London Heathrow Airport from December 6 until Christmas Eve. During that time, carolers will also be performing in the departure lounges.

For younger travelers, Mr. Adventure and Little Miss Explorer will be roaming the terminals postsecurity at Heathrow handing out stickers. And through December 27, Heathrow is going to give travelers the chance to peer at “Santa’s Hidden Heathrow Ho-Ho-Home,” a secret Santa factory under Heathrow Airport complete with present-sorting conveyor belts. Travelers can get a peak of the workshop through periscopes that have been set up in Terminals 2B and 5, after security.

During the holiday period, kids can also eat free at participating Heathrow restaurants.

View this post on Instagram A post shared by LiLou the Pig San Francisco (@lilou_sfpig) on Dec 2, 2018 at 12:14pm PST

San Francisco International Airport

The lights are aglow at San Francisco International Airport, where the facility goes to great lengths to create an elaborate outdoor display complete with a mock-up Golden Gate bridge and countless lighted trees—a tradition that goes back more than a decade.

If holiday shopping and travel are stressing you, the SFO Wag Brigade is bringing in trained animals to provide some relief, including LiLou, a three-year-old Juliana pig (pictured above).

For the 2019 holiday season, the first section of SFO’s new Harvey Milk Terminal 1 is open, including the SFO Museum exhibit Harvey Milk: Messenger of Hope. The exhibit features nearly 100 pieces, including photos, correspondence, and campaign materials, for a glimpse into the life of the politician and equal rights activist who made history as the first openly gay elected official in California. It explores his activism, his role as a political leader in San Francisco, as well as his tragic assassination, and his legacy fighting for diversity, equality, and inclusion—it is worth a stop if your holiday travels allow for it.

Hit the ice at Denver International Airport’s free outdoor ice-skating rink.

Hit the ice at Denver International Airport’s free outdoor ice-skating rink.

Courtesy of DEN

Denver International Airport Munich isn’t the only airport where you can lace up your skates and hit the ice. For the fourth year in a row, Denver International Airport has set up a free ice-skating rink in its outdoor plaza (so fliers and nonfliers alike can skate). The rink is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily between November 22, 2019, and January 20, 2020. Skate rentals are free too, and on Friday afternoons there are additional winter activities and entertainment on offer.

And if skating isn’t your thing, how about an airport pub crawl? Denver has introduced a Beer Passport for the holidays, which promises travelers a free pint of beer after purchasing a beer at each of the four Colorado breweries located inside the airport. They include Tivoli Brewery inside Tom’s Urban (presecurity on the plaza between the terminal and the Westin); Breckenridge Brewery (in Concourse A near Gate A71); New Belgium Brewing (in Concourse B near Gate B30); and Great Divide Brewing Co. (in Concourse C near Gate C32). Pick up the free Beer Passport card at any of the participating breweries or at an airport information booth. After purchasing a beer and receiving a Beer Passport stamp from all four breweries, the Passport can be redeemed at any participating brewery for a free pint of beer.

This article originally appeared on December 6, 2018, and was updated on December 6, 2019, to reflect current information.

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Michelle Baran is the senior travel news editor at AFAR where she oversees breaking news, travel intel, pandemic coverage, airline, cruise, and consumer travel news. Baran joined AFAR in August 2018 after an 11-year run as a senior editor and reporter at leading travel industry newspaper Travel Weekly.
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