Airports mark holidays with sales, Santas and song

It may seem unnatural to blend a holiday shopping excursion with a trip to the airport, but this season many airports are working overtime to court you and your gift-buying dollars with prizes, promotions, festive décor and lots of top-notch entertainment.

There are plenty of other reasons to shop for holiday gifts at an airport. Over the past few years, airports have been steadily upgrading the quality and variety of their concessions. Stores generally open early and close late to accommodate travelers' wacky schedules. And many airports impose a "street pricing" policy, which means that the prices charged inside the airport must closely match the prices at local malls. Besides, if you travel by air, you're already spending a lot of time hanging out in airports. So you may as well be merry while you multi-task.

Here, then, are holiday offerings you'll find at some airports:

In addition to a wide range of holiday music and entertainment, the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport is handing out free Holiday Traveler coupon books stuffed with discounts and special offers from more than 60 restaurants and shops inside the airport. Deals range from free appetizers (with purchase) at Houlihan's restaurant to discounts on merchandise at Brookstone and Hugo Boss. The coupon books are available at the airport Traveler's Assistance desks and downloadable from the airport website, with offers good from Nov. 26 through Dec. 31.

A holiday version of the merchant coupon book distributed at Sacramento International Airport includes special offers from many shops, services and restaurants throughout the airport.

At Oregon's Portland International Airport the annual "Holidays Take Flight" celebration kicks off Nov. 16 and runs through Jan. 3. In addition to a long slate of live entertainment, there will be special promotions, demonstrations, food and wine samplings, celebrity appearances and drawings for two pairs of roundtrip tickets on JetBlue Airlines. Travelers who can't make it to the airport in person can enter online.

Beginning in mid-December, Santa will start roving the concourses at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and many shops will be offering buy-one-get-one-free promotions and discounts on products. In addition, a zany pair of performers will wander through the airport organizing trivia games and awarding discount coupons and prizes. There will also be free coloring books and stickers for kids as well as a free gift wrap station for travelers.

At Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, the Paradise Bakery will be selling red-and-white striped holiday cookie boxes, while El Bravo will once again be honoring Southwest tradition and offering boxes of its signature red and green tamales, frozen and gift-wrapped. In addition to a variety of gift-with-purchase offerings at the airport's Duty Free Americas store, customers will receive a free pashmina wrap with any purchase of $95 or more. And on Christmas Day, 10% of all sales at several airport shops, including Indigenous, Talking Hands, Earth Spirit, Travelstyle and Accents, will be donated to United Way.

Travelers passing through Terminal 4 at Los Angeles International Airport will find a wide variety of holiday promotions at the Destination LA/LA Edge shops, including a variety of fragrance gift-with-purchase offers and a chance to win a gift bag filled with $250 of Oakley lifestyle items.

And during "Traveler Appreciation Weeks" (Nov. 23-29 and Dec. 21-27) at Jacksonville International Airport there will be live music as well as product giveaways and prize drawings from local vendors and airport shops.

Tap your feet and swing your partner at the airport

San Francisco International Airport isn't offering travelers a discount coupon book this year, but until Dec. 31 you can get a 25% discount on apparel, watches, luggage, briefcases and travel accessories at the airport's three Pacific Outfitters stores. The airport has also scheduled an ambitious holiday music concert series. Each Wednesday and Friday, from Nov. 26 through New Year's Eve, Bay Area musicians will be performing everything from jazz and R&B to pop, world music, and bell ringing at three locations throughout the terminals.

At Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, an army of holiday helpers and jugglers will join Santa and his elves to entertain travelers on Nov. 25 and again on Dec. 23. Meanwhile, over at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, the holiday season kicks off (literally) on Nov. 26 with the annual appearance of the world-renowned Rockettes. Holiday carolers, barbershop quartets and dancers will perform at O'Hare and at Midway International Airport between Dec. 10 and 24. And on Dec. 19, Santa will make an appearance at both Midway International Airport and O'Hare Airport. Santa has also promised to swing by the Montréal-Trudeau International Airport where last year he handed out 26 pounds of candy canes.

During the Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Year season, Denver International Airport will once again host its popular International Performance Series featuring more than 350 hours of regional entertainment. Music and dance of North and South America, Italy, Ireland, Spain, Israel and Eastern Europe will be presented in the main terminal and in the passenger check-in areas.

In addition to the nine live music concerts offered weekly at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, there will be extra holiday performances on Dec. 19, Dec. 22 and Dec. 23. Keep an eye out for the dancing Santas and dancing snowmen of the Judy Lee Dancers and a performance by the local TSA Choir. There will also be square dancing in the terminal.

At the Lehigh Valley International Airport in Allentown, Pa., the whole community pitches in to celebrate the holidays. Bands and orchestras from local schools perform for passengers, students decorate more than two dozen trees donated by local tree farms, and community members who help stuff a bus with donated food items become eligible to win one of 14 sets of roundtrip tickets from Allegiant Air.

As in past years, though, Germany's Frankfurt Airport has the most intriguing, and potentially rewarding, holiday offering. Travelers who visit the airport's website can enter a contest to win a diamond worth more than $139,000.

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Harriet Baskas writes about travel etiquette for and is the author of the airport guidebook Stuck at the Airport and a blog of the same name.