Entertaining your kids at the San Francisco International Airport

Artwork on display at the San Francisco International Airport
Artwork on display at the San Francisco International Airport

Air travel certainly has its challenges these days – and even more so when you're traveling with young children. Here are three ways to entertain the kids at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) if bad weather or tarmac delays have extended your layover a little longer than expected:

1. Ride the rail – The monorail, that is. From your perch high above the ground, you can enjoy a scenic ride as SFO’s AirTrain takes you to each of the terminals, the car rental, parking garage and BART station. You’ll get an eagle eye view of Highway 101 plus some airplanes, while zipping along like the Jetsons. The kids will love the E ticket ride, with its large window (including the window seat on each end) and poles to hang onto. You’ll love a few minutes of peace and quiet.

2. Look at art – Did you know SFO has an art museum? That's right - the airport features approximately twenty different galleries throughout the terminals that display a rotating schedule of art, history, science and cultural exhibitions. Some of the current exhibits are pinball machines, Chinese jades, ancient Mediterranean pottery, airplane models, animals of the rain forest and coral reef, slot machines and more. You don’t need a boarding pass to see all the exhibits – some are waiting for you in baggage claim or the entrance lobbies. The San Francisco Arts Commission also features some permanent installations you’ll grow to recognize (and perhaps love) as a frequent traveler through this airport.

3. Play with toys – Terminal 3, also known as the United Terminal, houses a small play area designed by the Exploratorium called Kid's Spot II. It features a small tunnel for kids to crawl through, two Turbulent Orbs (they look like colored dish soap in a glass ball) and a tornado apparatus. The best part is that the Bay Area's own Peet’s Coffee is just across the way, so you can sip your java while the kids play.

If you want to excite the kids even more, take BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) to or from the airport. The St. Regis, Sheraton Palace, and Hyatt Regency San Francisco are all a quick subway ride away.

- Debbie Abrams Kaplan of Frisco Kids and Kaplan Ink.

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