Traveling by air this summer?
Did you know that July and August are the busiest months of the year at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport? (Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the heaviest due to business commuters.)
That can make for nearly full parking ramps — and passenger-clogged concourses, too.
Fortunately, MSP — rather than cutting back on perks like so many airlines seem to be — is adding more features with a top-to-bottom refresh, said Metropolitan Airports Commission spokeswoman Phoebe Larson.
Travelers can expect to see changes at both terminals — now through 2018 — affecting everything from the ticketing, security and baggage claim to the shops, restaurants and even restrooms, Larson said.
Here’s a sampling of MSP’s newest features:
This new-in-2015 12,000-square-foot golf facility at Terminal 1 — above Ike’s Food and Cocktails and the French Meadow Bakery — features a putting green, a pro shop, a restaurant (Champions’ Grille), a lounge and a golf simulator that can take you to 59 virtual golf courses, including Pebble Beach in California, TCP Sawgrass in Florida and St. Andrews in Scotland. The simulator costs $60 for 60 minutes or $40 for 30 minutes.
There’s also a virtual driving range that costs $20 for 15 minutes or $25 for 30 minutes as well as golf lessons for $35 for a 15 minutes or $75 for 30 minutes with a tech.
Lounge-only access costs $10 and includes business-class Wi-Fi. See pgamsp.com.
Avoid the hustle and bustle of the terminal and await your departure in this new lounge for all airline passengers, located above the entrance to Concourse E, just inside the north Security Checkpoint in Terminal 1.
For an entrance fee of $40 in advance ($30 per child) or $45 at the door ($38 per child), passengers gain access to a large selection of complementary beverages (including a full bar), a breakfast buffet of pastries, breakfast burritos and steel- cut oats in the morning, plus snacks, soups, sandwiches and salads served all day. Food and drink upgrades are available for an additional charge.
There’s also a business center, free high-speed Wi-Fi, plush chairs, a library of newsstand magazines and newspapers, complimentary tablet computers and sweeping views of the airfield.
Bringing the grandkids? Let them burn off extra energy at aviation-themed playgrounds at Concourse C in Terminal 1 and at Gate H6 at Terminal 2. Each playground features a climbable mock airplane and an air traffic control tower, complete with slides. Adult seating areas nearby include easy-access electrical outlets. Learn more about family-friendly areas at MSP, including lactation and nursing rooms, at mspairport.com.
Operated by the UK-based Manchester Airports Group, the 5,000-square-foot space includes separate areas for serious business travelers (who may require quieter spaces) and leisure travelers who are kicking off their vacations. Children age 23 months and younger can enter the lounge free of charge with advanced notice.
Reviews so far on TripAdvisor are positive for the new $2 million lounge, which opened in December (and doesn’t require a membership with any airline club).
Hours are 4 a.m. to 9 p.m. Learn more at escapelounges.com or call 844-413-7227.
QUICK RIDE RAMP
Located a mile from Terminal 1 off Highway 5 at the Post Road exit, this ramp opened in March 2015.
It offers parking for $14 a day, compared to $24 a day for general parking at Terminal 1, also known as Lindbergh. Free shuttles run 24/7, offering five-minute rides to or from Terminal 1 only. Payment is credit card only.
Larson said there are seven shuttles in the loop, so there’s no waiting on either end for your ride.
“It is the easiest, fastest and least expensive way to park if you’re departing from Terminal 1,” she said. “Don’t let the park-and-ride aspect fool you.”
Travelers can get real-time parking availability for the ramps at Terminal 1, Terminal 2 (Humphrey) and the Quick Ride Ramp at MSPairport.com or from the FlySmart mobile app or by calling 877-359-7275.
NEW RESTAURANTS, SHOPS
More than 50 new restaurants and retail stores are set to open as part of MSP’s next round of renovations.
Republic — a gastro pub perhaps best known for it original location in the Seven Corners district of Minneapolis — is expected to open this fall in Concourse D. The restaurant will double as a live music venue with St. Paul’s McNally Smith College of Music students offering free entertainment.
Other new eateries expected in the coming years — in addition to new boutiques for shopping — include Red Cow, Black Sheep Pizza, Smack Shack, Holy Land Deli, Lolo American Kitchen, Salty Tart Bakery, Angel Food Bakery, Dunkin Donuts and Qdoba.
Travelers with disabilities or medical conditions can request assistance during the security screening process by calling the TSA Cares helpline — 855-787-2227 — 72 hours in advance of their departures. Learn more at tsa.gov/travel/passenger-support.
Passengers age 75 and older can leave their shoes and light jackets on during screenings.
Stone Arch, a Minnesota craft-beer restaurant, is expected to open this fall in the former Chili’s space in the Airport Mall (near the entrance to Concourse F). (It was set to open this summer, but the date was recently pushed back.)
Developed through a partnership with the nonprofit Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild, the venue will showcase a variety of the state’s beers, including many brews that are newly released or that haven’t yet seen wide distribution.
In the Stone Arch Craft Lab, “a bar within the bar,” guests can take part in beer tastings and classes hosted by brew masters from around the state.
Menu items will come from locally sourced, sustainable ingredients. An accompanying Craft Market will sell fresh-made sandwiches, salads and healthy snacks for travelers on the go, as well as retail merchandise from the local breweries represented in the bar.
AIRCRAFT VIEWING AREA
Newly opened in 2015, this mini park, open from dawn to dusk in the heart of MSP’s airfield, provides spectacular views of takeoffs and landings from multiple runways, plus convenient parking, picnic tables, benches and newly planted landscaping. Get directions at mspairport.com.
Sarah Jackson is the editor of Minnesota Good Age magazine. Send questions or comments to [email protected].