Long Layover in Chicago? 5 Things to Entertain Your Kids
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Long Layover in Chicago? 5 Things to Entertain Your Kids

withcara2Long airport layovers can be a hassle when you are traveling with kids inpatient to get to their destination. I’ve been stuck overnight in Atlanta with a baby due to a snowstorm in Colorado. I spent a weekend going through security over and over in London Heathrow trying to get to Dublin (again, due to snow – and never did get to Dublin for that meeting). I sat on the floor in Denver praying to get on a red-eye with my little flower girl so we could get to a wedding on time when our plane had a mechanical failure. And, luckily, I avoided the cots in O’Hare due to kindness of my Chicago-based American Airlines buddy, Cara. Missed flights, delayed flights, and cancelled flights are a fact of traveling life. Setting your expectations for this, and keeping a positive attitude can make all the difference between long hours of torture or finding the opportunity to build new memories.

To that end, Cara (seen in this picture with my kids at O’Hare) has given me a few ideas to entertain your kids if you’re ever stuck at Chicago O’Hare.

1. Visit the Kids on the Fly. This exhibit is located in Terminal 2 inside security. It is an interactive educational play area with an airplane, control tower, and helicopter. It is for kids of all ages. Open all day and night.

2. Take a tour of the “spaceship tunnel.”  Well, that’s just what I call it. Pass security in Terminal 1, walk through the underground walkway between Concourses B and C and look at the cool lights on the ceiling. “The Sky’s The Limit” is a 744-foot-long kinetic neon sculpture of light and sound designed by Michael Hayden.

3. Watch takeoffs and landings. At the end of every concourse you can see takeoffs and landings. Grab some food and head down to watch the planes. There are also some actual restaurants where you can eat with a view. Check out: 1) Berghoff Cafe – Terminal 1 near gate 26, 2) the food court in Terminal 1 near gate 26, and 3) Chili’s Too in Terminal 3 near gate G10. Many of the restaurants in the airport also have windows where you can see the airplanes on the ground. Ask the kids to spot different parts of the planes. Can they see the landing gear? The cockpit? The windows? Imagine who might be sitting on that plane and where it might be going. Even make up some goofy stories about them! Hey, wait – there’s an idea for another book!

4. Check out a hydroponics garden and some dinosaur bones. I have to admit, I had no idea the hydroponics garden even existed. For all of you plant lovers, gardeners, and healthy eaters, go to Terminal 3 upper lever near entrance to G concourse (inside security).  Many of the plants/herbs grown on the plant towers here at the O’Hare Urban Oasis are used at the restaurants in the airport. In Terminal 1, Concourse B, you will find one of the largest mounted dinosaurs in the world. The four-story high, 72-foot-long Brachiosaurus skeleton model is on loan from Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History.

5. Take a ride on the Airport Transit System.  If you have a lot of time, you can travel between Terminals 1, 2, 3, 5 and remote parking on the airport transit. This offers a lot of different views of the airport. NOTE: This is outside security, so you need to go through security again to catch your flight, so plan accordingly and make sure you have enough time. There is usually one designated checkpoint to go through when traveling with kids. Ask the TSA where it is located in your terminal as it sometimes changes.

And a bonus tip critical for all family travelers: Know where the family bathrooms are!

  • Terminal 1 – near gates B4, B10, C20, baggage claim
  • Terminal 2 – across from Kids on the Fly , baggage claim
  • Terminal 3 – near gates G11, H14, H3, K1, L5, rotunda area, baggage claim
  • Terminal 5 – near security checkpoint , food court area

So, rather than sitting at the gate for hours on end with cranky kids before sitting on the plane for hours on end with crankier kids, get up and tour around. Put down the electronics and discover the experiences you can have at the airport. Turn a long layover into a lifetime memory!