Airports can be busy, stressful, and sometimes, awesome.
Airports can be busy, stressful, and sometimes, awesome. Dawn Huczek/CC BY 2.0

There was apparently a time, in some far-off age, when commercial air travel was exciting and fun. Today, it’s easy to understand why most people now feel that airports are dreaded prisons of bureaucracy and inconvenience. And yet, even as airports have turned decidedly toward the dystopian, one can still find awesome surprises in bustling terminals across the globe. We recently asked Atlas Obscura readers in our Community forums to tell us about the most wondrous attractions they’ve ever encountered in an airport, and their responses made us want to arrive for our flights even earlier than before.

From psychedelic neon tunnels to sandy beach runways, our readers sent us a first-class selection of unbelievable airport features. Take a look at some of our favorite recommendations below, and if you have an incredible airport oddity of your own that you’d like to share, head over to the forums and keep the conversation going! Flying might not seem as wondrous as it once was, but airports can still amaze.

Tony Webster/CC BY-SA 2.0

Samson Luggage Sculpture

Sacramento International Airport (SMF)

“These fantastic pillars of luggage in baggage claim at the Sacramento Airport are a wonderful example of environmental-friendliness: reuse, reduce, recycle.” AnyaPH

Captison/CC BY-SA 3.0

Renaissance Books

General Mitchell International Airport (MKE)

“Mitchell Field in Milwaukee has Renaissance Books—used and rare books. If you didn’t pack sufficient reading material, this is the place to get a good book. When I lived in the northern part of Illinois, I’d always use Mitchell when I could, not least because of Renaissance Books.” JLP60615

Joe/CC BY 2.0

Recombobulation Area

General Mitchell International Airport (MKE)

“In Milwaukee, after you take off your shoes and belt to go through security, put yourself back together in the ‘Recombobulation Area.’” pinchanygo

David Brossard/CC BY-SA 2.0

Mudra Sculptures

Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL)

“First trip to India (#AtlasObscura) in March. Blown away by wall-to-wall metal discs and beautiful hand mudras in the Delhi Airport.” marys826

Paul VanDerWerf/CC BY 2.0

‘Sky’s the Limit’

Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD)

“Chicago O’Hare has a fantastic tunnel between terminals. Which I personally think they need to hang gold coins above to complete the video game chic.” Bumpy

calflier001/CC BY-SA 2.0

The Yellow Submarine

Liverpool John Lennon Airport (LPL)

“Always loved this yellow submarine outside John Lennon Airport in Liverpool. Built by one of the biggest ship builders in Liverpool (Cammell Laird), it even contains genuine submarine equipment on the inside.” ollieclark96

Jag9889/CC BY-SA 4.0

TWA Hotel

John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)

“JFK Airport in New York has a new spectacular oddity! The historic TWA terminal, designed by Eero Saarinen, has been turned into a hotel (an oddity in itself) and they’ve now adorned it with a restored Lockheed Constellation L-1649A, known as ‘Connie.’ It’s one of only four of these aircraft remaining in the world.” Philip_Shane

Simaron/CC BY-SA 2.0

Beach Runway

Barra Airport (BRR)

“Landing on the beach in Barra [in Scotland] is pretty special.” Kenneth_Wardrop

Joanna Poe/CC BY-SA 2.0

Laminar Flow Fountain

Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW)

“The fountain in DTW Terminal A is also very interesting. In a city known for engineering, the fountain employs a few cool engineering features. The water jets come from laminar flow nozzles, so it looks like noodles or little hot dogs of water jump across the fountain surface. Water flows over the entire edge of the circular fountain, but instead of having a sharp edge for the water to fall over, the fountain curves back underneath itself. Surface tension causes the water to cling to the surface, so it appears that the water is defying gravity. I always chuckle when I see people leaning up against the fountain edge, only to walk away with a wet line across the front of their pants.” tiretester

JasonParis/CC BY 2.0

Light Tunnel

Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW)

“Detroit’s airport (DTW) is my favorite place for a layover. Airplane travel can be harsh and disorienting, but Detroit’s rainbow tunnel is truly restorative. The rainbow tunnel (possibly not its official name) connects the airport’s two terminals via an underground passageway lined with frosted glass and slowly changing multi-colored lights, while some soothing music plays. That might sound crushingly hokey, but it’s such a welcome reprieve from the usual airport-as-mall experience. Plus, you kinda have to go through it to change terminals, so you might as well enjoy it! It has a moving sidewalk, but I always just walk so I can spend more time there. There are other nice things about Detroit Airport (I like the fountains, trees, and birds too), but the rainbow tunnel is what makes me happy to pass through.” latourex

rkrichardson/CC BY 2.0

‘Iron Feathers’

Will Rogers World Airport (OKC)

“Outside of Will Rogers Airport in Oklahoma City are four 70’ long steel arrows, rusting in the sun.” tzircher

Zairon/CC BY-SA 4.0

Baggage Claim Polar Bear

Svalbard Airport (LYR)

“A taxidermied polar bear at the baggage claim in the Longyearbyen, Svalbard airport?” penelopeashe

itravelNZ/CC BY 2.0

Lord of the Rings Features

Wellington International Airport (WLG)

“I love the Lord of the Rings theme at Wellington Airport in New Zealand.” Taz_Coronado

Djasc112/CC BY-SA 4.0

‘Flight Paths’

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)

“The forest walk between Concourse A and B at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta.” zamand

Dr. Raju Kasambe/CC BY-SA 4.0

The Gardens

Singapore Changi Airport (SIN)

“The Changi Airport in Singapore is almost a destination in of itself. [There’s a] butterfly hatchery in the butterfly garden, one of many gardens throughout the airport. There’s a water lily garden; a sunflower garden on one of the rooftops where you can grab some snacks and watch planes among hundreds of sunflowers; a fantastic cactus garden; an orchid garden; an arrival garden… Throughout are major art works, some are interactive. Very social media friendly.” tpalms

delta82/Public Domain

Bamboo Tunnels

Deputado Luís Eduardo Magalhães International Airport (SSA)

“I particularly love this bamboo archway that welcomes you to the city of Salvador [in Brazil] right after you leave the airport (Deputado Luís Eduardo Magalhães International Airport). There’s one road leading in and one leading out—and yes, they’re both under individual bamboo arches.” ravelmarques

Mike McBey/CC BY 2.0

Runway Crossing

Gibraltar International Airport (GIB)

“The most bizarre thing I’ve seen at an airport is in Gibraltar. To enter or leave the country by foot, car, or airport transfer, you have to cross the runway. When a plane is preparing for landing or take off, the barriers go down, traffic stops, and the runway is cleared.” PinkyPea

Antonin/CC BY-SA 2.0

Tintin’s Rocket

Brussels Airport (BRU)

“Brussels is a glorious experience for anyone who loves The Adventures of Tintin. Hergé’s hero is everywhere (along with other Franco-Belgian comics icons like The Smurfs) and that extends to the airport. Before you blast off back home, admire the rocket from the Destination Moon and Explorers on the Moon albums…” JamazingClayton

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.