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There are worse places to be than stuck in the airport. In fact, these 10 airports are so awesomely kid-friendly, you and your brood may never want to leave.
1. Chicago O'Hare International Airport
You know you've found a good airport when Nickelodeon Magazine calls its Kids on the Fly exhibit the "most awesome airport play area." Kids on the Fly is an interactive, educational playspace, where children can run off their extra energy by exploring an airplane, control tower and helicopter model. Every year, the exhibit is updated with new activities, so return visitors are never bored. Elsewhere around the airport, find a mother's room for nursing and plenty of family restrooms.
This massive Texas airport doesn't skimp when it comes to entertainment for small travelers. There are a bunch of areas throughout the airport called Junior Flyer Clubs, which are outfitted with interactive playgrounds, toys and games. If you want to change things up, visit the McDonald's playspace or step outside for some fresh air and to check out the airport's sculpture garden.
3. Orlando International Airport
As if the home of Disney World isn't already entertaining, getting stuck in the city's airport isn't so bad either. Though playspaces are limited, there is a good-sized video arcade and lots of shops selling fun merchandise from Disney, Universal Studios and other local attractions. Be sure to visit the Kennedy Space Center stores, which house interesting space memorabilia, such as pieces of asteroids and a life-sized model of an asteroid. The highlight of an Orlando layover, however, is the airport's 3,000-gallon aquarium in the main food court, which has more than 100 underwater creatures.
4. Nashville International Airport
With lots of public art and rotating exhibits on display, simply walking through Nashville's air travel hub provides a diversion from typical airport tedium. Known for its musical roots, Nashville delivers even in the airport, where close to 100 bands perform on its stages every year (generally on Thursday and Friday afternoons). For those looking for something more traditional, take advantage of three padded play areas, replete with tunnels, slides and climbing structures.
5. Boston Logan Airport
Boston's international airport has three play areas known as Kidports, all of which offer plentiful space for kids to run off their energy and where parents can relax during a layover. In Terminal A, check out a KidPort with climbing structures and slides. Terminal C has a space that looks like an airfield, including play areas that look like vintage airplanes and hand-painted walls filled with blue sky and clouds. Find rocking chairs throughout the airport to comfort the smallest ones away from home.
6. Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport
Detroit tops the list for playspaces, with seven different fun areas spread throughout the airport. Though you could just hop from one to another throughout the course of your layover, you may also want to check out KidZoo, a shop packed with toys, games and a television that plays children's shows. Make sure you also visit the Light Tunnel, connecting the A and B/C concourses. It has a colorful light show choreographed to music.
7. San Francisco International Airport
Three aquariums in the ticketing area start a kid-friendly trip off right, and the airport's Kids' Spot features a weather-themed play area and an interactive plasma wall. If you've got school-aged children in tow at San Francisco's airport, head to the aviation museum in the international terminal's main hall, or check out one of the educational self-guided tours available on the airport's website.
8. Philadelphia International Airport
Two aviation-themed areas mixing education with play help families kill time in Philadelphia's airport. Interactive displays entice older kids, while children of any age will enjoy exploring a jumbo jet and control tower, where they can pretend to be pilots or air traffic controllers. Check out the airport's website prior to departure to download games and puzzles for additional diversion.
9. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
One of the country's busiest airports is also a very family-friendly place (though, with all those travelers, you'll want to be extra vigilant in keeping an eye on the small ones). In addition to two play areas, stop by the airport's atrium to check out the fully assembled skeleton of a dinosaur. Atlanta's art program is in constant rotation, and three youth art galleries feature work by local students.
A padded, colorful playroom is particularly friendly for the younger kids. There's also an attached mother's area with adjustable lighting, rocking chairs and foot stools so traveling moms can ensure even the littlest travelers get the utmost attention. As you wander the airport, keep your ears open for live music, seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.