Now that’s entertainment
Transportation hubs are expanding on the mall concept, creating megaplexes of inspired diversions and Rodeo Drive-style shopping.
Singapore’s Changi has put its distractions on steroids: In addition to two free movie theaters, there’s also a 4-D theater; the Slide@T3, a playground-style twister that tumbles down 40 feet; and a baby slide in Basement 2. Fat-wallet shopping includes Hugo Boss, Hermes, Bottega Veneta, Rolex and Sugar Cube, a Japanese boutique.
Las Vegas knows its travelers well, adding about 260 slot machines to its renovated Terminal 3. Miami caters to its fashionable crowd in the North Terminal, which last year unveiled more than 20 new vendors and luxury shops, such as Coach, Emporio Armani, Montblanc and Thomas Pink.
If your kids moan about shopping, ship them off to Hong Kong’s Dream Come True Education Park. The interactive occupation-themed exhibits, with dress-up uniforms, help little fliers figure out what they want to be when they grow up. At Tokyo’s Haneda, they can race slot cars around a 150-foot-long circuit at Hakuhinkan Toy Park and dine under the twinkling constellations at the Planetarium Starry Cafe.
For spotting stars of the Hollywood kind, the Los Angeles International Airport has reopened the outdoor observation deck at the spaceship-shaped Theme Building, with free use of its telescopes.
At the Edo Marketplace and Tokyo Pop Town, you won’t confuse your surroundings for Zurich or Buenos Aires. The Edo-period-inspired retail space and cutesy character emporium (Hello Kitty) at Haneda airport are pure Japan.
“Airports want to convey a sense of place,” said Chris Oswald, vice president of safety and technical operations at the Airports Council International. “They want to localize the experience and say something about the city they’re serving.”
To personalize the environment, the transportation hubs are creating cultural and culinary microcosms of the macro-destination. At Raleigh-Durham, Curtis Fentress, principal designer at Fentress Architects, whose portfolio includes domestic and international airports, used laminated wood beams to evoke the rolling hills of the Piedmont and the traditional crafts industries; concessionaires also sell state specialties, such as North Carolina pork barbecue at Brookwood Farms BBQ and local wines, sauces, cheeses, meats and grits at Carolina Vintages. At Sea-Tac in Seattle, the Pacific Marketplace resembles a Northwest ’hood with public art, including illuminated snow geese; such shops as Made in Washington and Discover Puget Sound; and the local joe, Starbucks.