Restroom. Food. Gate. Outlet. Chair. Repeat. Most airport layovers have a Groundhog Day familiarity to them and are boring to boot. Some airports, however, are worth planning time to enjoy.
If your layover in Changi lasts a couple hours, you can ditch concourse laps for paths through cactus, orchid, sunflower, or butterfly gardens. You needn’t miss a workout here: fitness centers are also available in each of the terminals. If you want to freshen up, the Ambassador Transit Hotel rents rooms by the hour—easy tiger, it’s not like that—perfect for a shower and a nap between flights. If catching some zzz’s is the only thing on your mind, you can head to a napping area equipped with specially designed snooze chairs (fees apply). If your kids are along, take them to the Balinese-themed outdoor swimming pool, two indoor playgrounds, a 12-meter-high slide, or an arcade zone.
If your layover lasts overnight, you can plan a night out while still in the airport. Book a room at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, then catch the latest blockbuster at one of three movie theaters or level up at the Xbox Kinect video-gaming room.
The Munich Airport, the runner-up for the best airport with leisure activities, features the usual accouterments as well as an unusual amenity: several specialized doctors, including ophthalmologists, orthopedists, and dentists, operate practices serving travelers out of the airport. The third most leisurely, Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, offers a branch library and museum.
In the U.S., the San Francisco International–Terminal 3 (pictured below) took home top honors in Outside's 2014 Travel Awards. The airport at large is also worthy of exploration. Each year, the SFO Museum presents 40 exhibitions in art, history, and science. If you’re a yogi or yogini, you’ll find yourself at home in two rooms devoted to the practice; the Berman Reflection Room is offers space for meditation.
You might also want to plan a layover in Portland International Airport (pictured below), which hosts live acoustic performances in classical guitar, piano, and harp in the ABC Lobby and at Gate C6. Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport is known for shopping (there are more than 50 options), quality restaurants, and two play areas for kids.
And, of course, at all of these airports you can bypass the uncomfortable lounge chairs for a barstool. Just don’t forget to toast to world peace.