By BENÉT WILSON
I have always been an airport geek. I love the wonder and possibilities that they offer. You walk by gates and can dream about all the places you can go. Back in 2006, I took over the airports/security beat, which meant I was yet again being paid to cover my hobby.
On Wednesday, I flew down to Orlando for the day to speak at a conference about the joys and pains of social media. I was excited about the speech, but I was even more excited about going to Orlando International Airport.
If that airport feels like Disney World, that’s the plan.
Full disclosure — I’m a good friend and mentee of Carolyn Fennell. Her title is director of public affairs for the airport, but she’s the actual power behind the throne there. You can read a great profile of her here.
Officials at Orlando Airport know that their facility is the first thing people see when they arrive to visit Disney, Universal Studios and other attractions in the city. So it was important to make the facility feel welcoming.
If you squint and use your imagination, the monorail that gets you from the concourse to the main terminal feels just like the Disney monorail and is just as clean. The airport is light, bright and airy, with a great mix of retail/food outlets. And it’s one of those airports that offers free wi-fi.
I had about an hour and a half to kill, and in some airports, that can feel like a lifetime. Not at Orlando. There are comfy chairs and tables where you can relax or get in some work. You can go shopping, and there are some great stores, including: Harley Davidson, Johnston & Murphy, Ron Jon’s Surf Shop and Swatch. You can pick up last-minute souvenirs from the Disney Earport store (my daughter loves her Disney Fairy Tea Set, $19.95), Sea World and Universal Studios.
And the airport has one of my all-time favorite brands — Lush, which sells freshly made cosmetics and bath/shower items. I discovered them during a trip to London and have been hooked on the red rooster soap and bath bombs ever since. But I digress.
On the food side, they have the usual fast-food outlets, but there’s a Krispy Kreme – complete with the “Hot Donuts” sign — in the Food Court. There’s a Hyatt Regency smack in the middle of the airport that’s actually owned and operated by the Greater Orlando Airport Authority. And they have a spa — D_parture, which offers hair services, massages, spa treatments and nail services. Most of the sundry/news stands even sell bags of Florida oranges!
So the next time you’re at the airport, take a look around and see the possibilities!
Text and photos by B. Wilson
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