More Florida Airport & Airline Information

by G.K. Sharman

Two hours before your flight leaves. Not enough time to go somewhere, have fun and get back. Too long to sit around doing basically nothing.

So there you are, stuck in the airport. Trapped. Staring at your bags. Trying to keep the kids from running amok. Thinking that your only options are to nurse a drink or pick up a paperback to ease those long airborne hours ahead.

Time to put your seats and tray tables in the upright position and pay attention. While you still can’t click your heels three times and magically appear at your destination, you can amuse yourself while hanging at the airport.

These days, you can get a massage, work out, enjoy art exhibits, learn about tropical marine life, practice putting, shop without the kids or quaff a cold one at the brew pub. It’s enough to make killing time between flights or weathering a delay downright enjoyable.

Here’s a sampling of what’s available around the Sunshine State:

Orlando Sanford International Airport

OSI caters to charter flights and package tours from the UK, and so concentrates its special services on the international side of the terminal.

Perhaps the most popular option – surpassing even the pool tables – is the free child care. The service is sponsored by Airtours Airline, but is open to any departing international passenger. Staffed by professional child-care workers from Kinder Care, a pre-school/kindergarten chain, the facility accepts kids between the ages of 2 and 10 (though the little ones have to be potty trained).

Parents can shop, hit the coffee shop or bar or shoot that last game of pool before boarding.

Speaking of shopping, the airport’s duty-free stores operate a little differently. In most airports, the shops are in the main terminal. Buyers show their tickets when making a purchase and goods are delivered after the flight takes off. The precaution prevents domestic travelers or local bargain hunters from buying the tax-free goodies.

OSI’s duty-free shops are beyond the checkpoint on the international side of the terminal. The only folks back there are international passengers, so buyers can carry their purchases onto the plane with them.

Jacksonville International

Nothing works out the kinks caused by a long flight – or the anxiety of the plane ride to come – like a good massage. You can get one without leaving the Jaxport terminal. The massage therapists offer a variety of types of massage that work on specific muscle groups and that soothe nerves frayed by flying.

The airport pays attention to quality of life in other areas as well. There’s valet parking, which was inaugurated in response to consumer requests, and artwork in a small gallery. Plus, a mostly-jazz musical combo serenades passengers on Friday afternoons.

Golfers will want to arrange their schedules to fly in in March when the Players Championship, one of the top tournaments in the nation, comes to town. That’s when the airport rolls out the putting green and lets passengers tee up. Those who do well get a prize.

For those who seek contemplation or quiet time, there’s a non-denominational chapel.

Orlando International

You can buy a drink in any bar in any airport in the Sunshine State. But can you hoist a brew made on the airport premises? In Orlando you can.

Shipyard Brewing, a Maine-based beer maker, opened the first – as in, first-ever – airport brew pub at OIA in 1997. Shipyard makes six beers and three seasonal brews, which also are available in local restaurants. The brewery and brew pub are located in the main terminal between the A side and the atrium of the Hyatt airport hotel. Beers also are available at the Shipyard Brewport on airside C.

You simply can’t leave Orlando without enough souvenirs for the kids and the folks back home. If you still need one last t-shirt, stuffed Shamu or set of mouse ears, you can get it at one of the Disney, Universal or Sea World gift shops in the terminal.

Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International

Watching airplanes take off and land used to be a form of family entertainment. If seeing jet-powered behemoths break the bonds of gravity seems like more fun than browsing gift shops, go up to the top floor of this airport’s new seven-story parking garage. That’s the place with the best view of everything – runways to the west, ocean to the east. You’re so high up, it’s almost like being in the plane already.

There’s a special spot set aside for those who like to park and watch – the Ron Gardner Airport Viewing Area.

You also can get in a pre-flight jog on a path that winds through a reforestation area that parallels the south runway. The airport spent $1.4 million to replant the area with native Florida species.

Palm Beach International

If your short game needs some work before you hit the links, head for the putting green in this airport. Located outside Sam Snead’s Tavern, a golf-themed eatery, the putting green is a hit with both kids and adults. Several different putters are available. If you find one you like, you can buy it at the nearby PGA tour shop. Or vice versa – if you’re shopping for a putter, you can try before you buy.

The airport also displays several works of fine art by both local and nationally known artists.

Miami International

The fastest-growing segment of Miami International’s passenger traffic is the international-to-international connecting flier. Many are flying on business and have several hours of ground time between flights. The airlines have their own clubs and lounges for first-class and business passengers, of course, but the nation’s ninth-largest airport also offers a variety of places for travelers to do business or just relax.

Among them are a consular lounge, open to U.S. and foreign dignitaries; an armed forces lounge for active-duty and retired personnel and their dependents; and a press center for working journalists, complete with phones, faxes, computers and databases. There’s also a conference center at the MIA Hotel where business travelers can conduct meetings without leaving the airport.

Also at the hotel is a rooftop Health Club that features Nautilus equipment, sauna and steam rooms, a racquetball court, jogging track, heated swimming pool and whirlpool and a sun deck.

Sarasota-Bradenton International

Lots of Florida airports hang pictures on the walls. Sarasota-Bradenton likes to clown around with its artwork. The many circus-themed paintings showcase the area’s ties to Ringling and other circus companies.

A separate series of paintings depicts all the ways earlier Floridians, both locals and visitors, hauled their gear. The pictures are displayed, appropriately enough, in the baggage claim area.

Area sea life is showcased in a 6,000-gallon aquarium sponsored by Mote Marine Laboratory. Located on the main concourse, this crowd pleaser contains young sharks, snook, angelfish and other species native to the Gulf of Mexico.

Tampa International

Art is a big deal at Tampa International. The airport features not one but two exhibits: a long-running public art program that brings fine art to the walls of the airport, and a rotating exhibit begun in late ’99 that showcases local talent. Works include painting, sculpture, mixed media, glass, tapestries, photos, tile and other pieces. Most have a Florida theme. The most eye-catching is probably "Birds Leaving the Earth," a huge work of art that also includes sound.

Two aquariums, one at each baggage claim area, feature the underwater life of the region. They’re sponsored by the Florida Aquarium and can be seen from outside the airport ad well as inside – great entertainment if you’re the one who has to wait with the car.

Those who want a little fresh air can check out the fountain (outside near the blue baggage claim) or the patio at the airport Marriott. The roof of the parking garage, meanwhile, is a dandy place to see aircraft taking off and landing on both runways.

If you need to do a little business while you wait, the Marriott lobby also has a business center with computers, dataports, fax machines, UPS and FedEx shipping and other business needs.

For food with a view, there’s CK’s, a revolving restaurant atop the airport Marriott. If you’ve got an hour to spare, stick around – that’s how long it takes the floor to make a complete revolution.

Tallahassee Regional

If flying is a pain in the neck – literally – give those stressed muscles some relief at the massage station located in the central concourse. You can pick from several varieties, including a seated massage.

The airport art gallery features local talent. The exhibit changes every month, so even frequent fliers can enjoy work that’s new and different.

In April, the airport began a Wall of Fame to honor the area’s aviation history. Eventually, pictures of fliers connected to the airport will fill the space. So far, there are two: area aviation pioneers Dale Mabry and Ivan Monroe.

Melbourne International

The way it usually happens is, your cruise ends long before your flight home is scheduled. So you’re stuck at the airport for hours. What a way to end a nice, relaxing vacation.

Melbourne International is building a cruise lounge designed to help people ease back into the hectic normal world after those stress-free days at sea. The nautical-themed lounge will contain TVs, videos for the kids, food and music. Even the bathrooms have a nautical theme. It’s expected to be in operation by the end of 2000. Though intended for returning cruisers, nobody will kick you out if you, a regular passenger, happen to wander in.

Out in the main concourse is a place for kids to amuse themselves. The play area features games and coloring books with a local slant – picture of manatees to color, for instance, or the words "Brevard County" to find in a word game. All the kids get a pair of wings, too.

The airport also inaugurated valet parking last spring. For $8 a day, valets will park your car, take your luggage to the check-in counter and have your vehicle waiting when you return.

Okaloosa Regional Airport -

The Okaloosa Regional Airport, located just 25 minutes north of Destin in Florida's Panhandle, has a restaurant, lounge, and arcade, all located inside the terminal.


Brush up on your strokes at the putting green at Palm Beach International Airport.
The popular child care center at Orlando Sanford International Airport is free.
Stop in for a cold one at Orlando International's own brewpub, The Shipyard Brewing Company.
The rooftop of the new parking garage at Ft. Lauderdale/
Hollywood International Airport offers fantastic vistas of the ocean, downtown Ft. Lauderdale, and of course, airplanes landing and taking off the runway.
Palm Beach International provides plenty of places to relax with a drink, a light snack or a hearty meal.
The rooftop health club atop the Miami International Hotel (adjacent to the airport) is a very cool place to enjoy a long wait.
Mote Marine Aquarium sponsors this educational kiosk as well as a 6,000 gallon aquarium at the Sarasots-Bradenton International Airport.
"Birds Leaving the Earth" is one of many large pieces of artwork showcased at Tampa International Airport.
After a relaxing cruise, Melbourne International's new cruise lounge is a good place to ease your way back into the normal world, and brush up on your shopping.