When Flights are Delayed: Unusual Airport Time-Killers

PHOTO: As night falls, rush hour begins in seven degree weather, in downtown Denver on Dec. 4, 2013.Brennan Linsley/AP Photo
As night falls, rush hour begins in seven degree weather, in downtown Denver on Dec. 4, 2013.

A week ago, the Dallas airport was pummeled by a blast of ice and snow. Airlines reeled as passengers piled up waiting to board flights that weren't going anywhere. Still, if you have to be stranded, there are worse places than DFW.

It has its charms. Like a yoga studio. And a sculpture garden.

You might be surprised at some of the unusual attractions you can find in the world's airports plus fun things to look at or buy or even eat and drink. Next time you're stuck waiting for a flight, nose around. You never know what surprises await, like the two movie theaters in Singapore's airport (and you don't pay a dime to get in). Here are some more favorites.

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You might say Amsterdam's Schiphol has something for everyone. First and foremost is a branch of the incomparable Rijksmuseum featuring Dutch masters like Frans Hals and there's no admission charge. Also free is the Holland Casino. That's right, a gambling emporium right inside the airport (but do not confuse it with Vegas; the airport casino's doors close each night at a circumspect 7:30). If you become breathless from losing money, you can stop XpresSpa for some oxygen therapy or visit the airport's Silence Centre where you can meditate on the nature of luck.

Auckland, New Zealand's airport is notable for its shops including one with a particularly nice selection of spirits. If you've just won at bundle at the Amsterdam casino, check out the bottle of Johnny Walker Blue Label King George V edition which sells for $650.

Canada's Vancouver airport might be a good place for anyone who's overindulged. I'm sure their on-site medical clinic could deal with a hangover. The airport even has a dental clinic so you can while away a flight delay by listening to the whine of a drill. By the way, if your luggage is sick, the airport has a handy baggage repair shop right on the premises.

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Denver's airport is renowned for fun and thought-provoking art exhibits that seem to be all over the place but for a different kind of airport time-killer, it's hard to beat those 200 landline phones scattered about that allow you to call friends or family anywhere in the world, for free.

Germany's Frankfurt offers something a little different in the way of distractions: Weddings. For about $2,000, a couple can "take their wedding vows in one of the terminal buildings, celebrate at the airport with a reception, spend the night in a five-star hotel there, and then take straight off on their honeymoon." Airline tickets not included, presumably.

Try killing time at another German airport by checking out the unusual food options: Eel soup, anyone? Or try the labskaus which is described as a roundish pink glob of mashed potato mixed with corned beef and beetroot, topped with fried eggs and served with herrings and pickles. Some Hamburg natives have apparently admitted that, yes, it does look disgusting, but it sure tastes good.

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Nothing to do in Heathrow? Impossible. Among its attractions, it's a shopper's paradise with an incredible array of designer shops filled with stocking stuffers like a sapphire diamond pendant set in platinum (Tiffany, $14,000). But say you hate to being in stores; the London airport has you covered with its free 'personal shopper' service.

Get out the red-checked table cloth at Los Angeles International thanks to a shop called Petrossian Champagne and Caviar Bar, which will be happy to make you a "picnic pack" for the plane, or for dining al fresco at the gate area if you're waiting on a flight. Naturally, the pack includes lots of fancy fish eggs but then it should since it costs just under $1,600. If you can't afford that and it's getting you down, try petting one of the therapy dogs running around LAX; these vest-wearing pups patrol the terminals in search of harried passengers who need some love.

Need some serenity? Several airports around the world say they can provide exactly that thanks to an unusual selection of horticultural experiences: See Dubai's airport for not one but two Zen Gardens; or Seoul's award-winning Incheon for a tree garden and a rock garden. Singapore even has a cactus garden which is said to be otherworldly, but then so is its live butterfly habitat.

Maybe all this serenity will put a delayed flight in perspective. Or, maybe give us an inkling why ticket prices are getting so high! But at least you'll have some fun.