Start off with a brisk 1.4-mile walk along a marked trail. Follow up with a soothing body rub in a quiet, dimly lit room. Perk up your post-massage hair with a professional touch-up, then cap it all with a delicious sandwich and a glass of wine.
That’s my idea of a day well spent — but at the airport?
You can do all that and find other ways to de-stress at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Reflecting a trend among airports nationwide, MSP has slowly been expanding its offerings so that it feels more like a destination itself, rather than the place you endure on the way to somewhere else. The efforts are paying off with a range of thoughtful restaurants, local stores, a full-service spa and plenty of other spots to help soothe the harried traveler.
Here are some of MSP’s secret weapons against tension in Terminal 1. With sequestration potentially adding delays and headaches to the flying experience, travelers may need to rely on them more than ever.
In keeping with the airport’s push to embrace all things local, the newest store to open at the Airport Mall is Aveda. No surprise that the store offers a nice array of body care products in travel sizes (and full sizes, too). But here’s a shocker: the well-coiffed, kind staff will give weary travelers a free hand, scalp or shoulder massage and touch up their hair by adding volume and shine and even blowing it out. The store also features a line of products uniquely suited to its bustling location: Stress-Fix body lotion, soaking salts and oil-based concentrate are scented with lavender, lavandin and clary sage — “clinically proven to relieve feelings of stress,” according to the Aveda website. (In the Airport Mall near Checkpoint 3.)
Anyone preferring the full monty massage treatment can head to XpresSpa. Its kiosk in the Airport Mall offers chair massages, but at two other locations, travelers can repose in a spa room for a full-body massage — or a facial or waxing. Also offered: haircuts, manicures, pedicures, men’s shave and 30 minutes in a private shower room (at the entrance of Concourse D and on Concourse F, near Gate 6).
Burning off the stress
Hop off those people-movers and start walking: That seems to be the philosophy behind the 1.4-mile Start! Walking path, created in partnership with the American Heart Association. Green dots on overhead signs mark the trail and let you know how far you’ve gone. The path officially starts at the Airport Mall near Concourse D, but can be picked up anywhere along its route, which traverses the mall, Concourses G and C, and the transit center that connects those two concourses. Get a map at any kiosk or information booth at the airport.
If it’s the little fliers who need to stretch their legs, head to Gate C12, where a children’s play area entertains with slides, a play airplane and a Snoopy statue. It safely contains children with plexiglass half-walls and only one entrance, where parents can sit vigil.
Want to get away from the airport’s hustle and bustle? Wheel your carry-on to near the entrance of Concourse F and take the elevator up one level, where you’ll find a quiet seating area with electric outlets, dim lighting and few people. There, you can take a seat and overlook the Airport Mall below, where the flow of travelers carries on without you.
If the hubbub is keeping your child from his nap, head to the darkened and quiet Family Room. The tucked-away space near the entrance to Concourse E — reserved for families with young children — offers cushy seating, a crib, a rocking chair and a changing table. The airport also offers a room for nursing mothers. The room is kept locked; mothers can request access at the information booth across from Gate C12.
The art of distraction
Instead of buzzing through the mall at high speed, slow down and check out the artwork underfoot. There are six Minnesota-inspired murals inlaid into the floors of Terminal 1, and they offer a lovely distraction from the hassles of travel. My personal favorite is “Plant, Animal, Season,” in the mall beyond Checkpoint 3. The stone depicts a snowflake, fish and footprints of beaver, bear, moose and other North Woods animals. A goose appears to be flying overhead. For a brochure about the murals found in both terminals and at the light-rail transit station, stop by an information booth.
There are always travelers who can’t fully relax unless they’re hooked into the office or their favorite website. For them, there is Concourse G. While there are electric outlets and free Wi-Fi throughout both terminals, the area at the entrance to G is a technology oasis. Travelers can check out restaurant offerings via iPads at tables and bars throughout the area. At polished white booths, people wait for planes while their electronic devices get charged at multiple outlets. They also dine on a wide range of excellent food. There’s Minnibar, with a menu of globally inspired sandwiches overseen by Andrew Zimmern of “Bizarre Foods” fame, and Mimosa, a brasserie created by Russell Klein of St. Paul’s Meritage. Anyone who has given up on getting a table at the wildly popular Pizzeria Lola in Minneapolis might grab a slice at Vero, whose thin-crust pizzas are the brainchild of Lola owner Ann Kim.
These are just some of the local chefs who are making their mark throughout MSP. At the Airport Mall, there’s the airport branch of the Surdyk’s liquor store and deli, Surdyk’s Flights. You might slip in there for one of its single-serve bottles of wine packaged with a plastic wine glass. Then, head to a sleek booth in Concourse G (whose entire expanse is licensed for liquor) and just hope that your flight gets delayed.