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Seven Picture-Perfect Airport Gardens

singapore changi sunflower gardenOne of the most effective ways to rejuvenate yourself after the mind-numbing, backache-inducing monotony of a long-haul flight is to immerse yourself in nature. It has a remarkable restorative quality about it -- the fresh air, space to move, splashy light, chirping birds, the whole bit.

Fortunately, some airports around the world have caught the nature bug too, providing restful indoor and outdoor spaces to unwind. If you're looking to take a deep Zen-filled breath before hopping on a flight, or if you're making a connection and need to seek out a happy place, these beautiful airport gardens will do the trick.

Various Nature Gardens, Changi Airport, Singapore
Singapore's airport is a trailblazer in terms of providing multiple natural settings for passengers, and it's hard to pick a favorite spot.

The namesake critters in the tropical butterfly garden in Terminal 3 (in the lounge on level 2), are nice, but the collection of 200 carnivorous plants -- they devour insects! -- is even cooler. The Budget Terminal's outdoor terrace is home to a fragrant plant garden, and Terminal 1 (level 3 lounge) has a cactus garden with species from the Americas and Africa.

Terminal 2 has two koi ponds in fern and orchid gardens. And the sunflower garden in Terminal 2 (level 3 lounge) turns into a chic-yet-chill light display at night, complete with twinkling lights that look like fireflies.

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Green Wall and Chester Johnson Park, Vancouver International Airport
vancouver airport green wallStroll between the Vancouver airport's train station and the international terminal, and you'll lay your eyes on the largest green "wall" in all of North America. More than 27,000 plants cover a surface that stretches nearly 56 feet tall and 36 feet wide.

The Green Wall forms a boundary for another cool natural space at the airport, Chester Johnson Park. The hidden nook contains shade-covered benches, a footbridge over a pond, totem poles and a waterfall -- and it's seldom crowded. Well-placed trees hide the view of a nearby parking lot.

Stargarden, Incheon International Airport, Seoul
Forget about its golf course, posh shops and casino -- the aptly named garden at South Korea's main airport is its star attraction.

The Stargarden comprises two soaring, tunnel-shaped rooms constructed of steel and glass, expertly laid out with seven different theme gardens. These include species native to Korea and its tropical Jeju Island, including a type of fern that looks more like tree for Oompa-Loompas. There are more than 9,000 plants in all, not to mention pretty waterfalls and serene fountains.

Just outside the AREX airport express train station at the Main Terminal, the garden can be toured by strolling along a modern boardwalk.

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Airport Park, Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam
amsterdam airport parkOkay, it's not exactly a real park, but it serves the same purpose. This 20,000-square-foot space in Amsterdam's airport mimics a park setting, with faux trees, log-style benches, "ivy"-fabric upholstered chairs, wooden picnic tables, and a piped-in soundtrack of children playing and birds chirping.

You can't exactly take an actual bike ride through the park, but you can hop on a stationary bike to pretend. And a bonus? The bikes generate energy that you can use to power up your mobile phone or MP3 player.

So while the space might not be green in the nature sense, it's green in other ways. And if you do want some of the real thing, the airport has an outdoor terrace with real plants and trees. Airport Park is in Lounge 1, above Pier D.

Japanese, Chinese and Hawaiian Gardens, Honolulu Airport
chinese garden honolulu airportHonolulu Airport commemorates the cultural influences of Japan, China and native Hawaiians in three tucked-away gardens outside the main terminal. Waterways connect the three spaces, to symbolize the "intermingling" of the three cultures in the island state.

A shingle-roofed pavilion, a pagoda and sculpted weeping willow trees mark the Japanese Garden, which is accessible by a zigzagging walkway and bridge. The Chinese Garden features a pretty yellow-tile-roof pavilion, lily-pad-covered goldfish ponds and an arched bridge. The lush Hawaiian Garden is filled with banana and coconut trees, exotic flowers and fiery luau torches at night.

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Central Garden, Ben Gurion International Airport, Tel Aviv
central garden jerusalem airportJust outside Ben Gurion's Terminal 3 is an award-winning, architect-designed garden. It's not lush by any means -- picture wheat-colored grasses, meticulously lined citrus groves, concrete pathways and stainless steel "ocean waves" cutting across plains of river pebbles. But it converts what was originally slated to be a parking garage into a modern respite that "takes regional landscape types and expresses them beautifully," according to the American Society of Landscape Architects, which honored the garden's architects in 2005.

Aeroponic Urban Garden, Chicago O'Hare International Airport
Nearly four dozen different types of herbs and vegetables grow in a remarkable vertical garden in between Terminals 2 and 3 at O'Hare in Chicago. It's quite a sight to see -- and the first of its kind in any airport around the world.

aeroponic garden ohare chicagoEight-foot-long cylinders filled with a water and mineral solution, plus special lights, provide a thriving environment for plants to grow via a process called aeroponics. The water is recycled too, through a rather high-tech system.

And what happens to all the Swiss chard, lettuce and other goodies grown in this eco-chic garden? Several airport restaurants use them as in their kitchens. Airport eating doesn't get more locally grown than that!

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    --written by Elissa Leibowitz Poma
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