On a recent trip, my husband and I were stuck at JFK Airport for an overnight layover of fewer than 12 hours, so we opted for the convenience of a night at the iconic TWA Hotel in the original TWA terminal. What an incredible experience.
It began after we picked up our bags in Terminal 5 and followed the directions to find the elevator marked “TWA Hotel.” The bright red and white logo colors beckoned us. We exited the elevator right into 1962.
The long red carpet directed us to the hotel and music from the ‘60s played on the sound system. That — along with the vintage touches, such as payphones and typewriters at the check-in desk — transported us to Trans World Airlines in the 1960s. It was especially poignant for me, as 1962 is the year of my birth. I was returning from Grenada, where I celebrated my 60th birthday.
Pro Tip: When you exit the elevator, make sure to go to the right and check out a replica of TWA owner Howard Hughes’s office.
Here are some of the unique experiences at the TWA Hotel.
The TWA Hotel hosted me on a press trip, but all opinions are my own.
1. Connie Cocktail Lounge
Enjoy a classic martini in the Connie Cocktail Lounge. This 1958 Lockheed Constellation “Connie” airplane has been lovingly restored to her original condition and converted into a lounge serving cocktails and light snacks. After retiring from TWA, this “Connie” served as an Alaskan bush plane and a marijuana dropper. The painstaking restoration included finding authentic parts to bring her back to her former glory.
There are no reservations and it is first come, first served. Make sure to try the “Vodka is My Co-Pilot,” a classic, dry vodka martini. The lounge is located on the tarmac and is sometimes closed for private events. If closed, you can see the plane through the many huge windows in the lobby.
For a true retro experience, head out to the tarmac around the 1958 Lockheed Constellation “Connie” airplane to the Roll-A-Rama skating rink. It is the only roller rink in the world at an airport. After a long flight, get some exercise skating to vintage tunes with a little disco thrown in. Did you know roller skating burns 350 calories an hour? Tickets are on a first-come, first-skate basis and all skates are disinfected after each use. If you forgot socks, they are available for sale at the gift shop.
Editor’s Note: The outdoor runway roller rink is a seasonal offering.
3. Sunset At JFK
The sunsets are stunning over JFK, especially when viewed from the TWA Hotel. My room had an incredible sunset view. There is just something about a sunset at the airport that just feels cinematic as the day transitions into night and the runway lights up. Another option is to head to the rooftop pool deck where you can enjoy the view with a cocktail from The Pool Bar.
4. Museum Exhibits
Experience the Jet Age at the museum exhibits spread throughout the TWA Hotel. MCR/MORSE Development collected more than 2,000 TWA artifacts in the years before the hotel opened with a plan for future exhibits. The New York Historical Society curated the exhibits. Current exhibits in the hotel include items from Howard Hughes’s ownership and architect Eero Saarinen’s blueprints for the TWA terminal. You can also view 37 complete TWA uniforms from 1945–2001, many by famed designers. It was so interesting seeing how the uniforms looked over the decades.
The exhibits are tucked all around the hotel, so make sure to take the time to explore the grounds so you don’t miss anything. I loved the examples of in-flight amenities such as playing cards and the silver serving ware. Period TWA travel posters by David Klein line a wall and highlight the Jet Set Age. One wall has an extensive timeline highlighting what was going on during 1962 when the terminal opened. Since I was born in 1962, I found it fascinating and read every word. All of the exhibits are free of charge and open to the public.
5. The Largest Hotel Gym In The World
I was seriously bummed we didn’t have more time at the hotel when I saw this gym. The fitness center is 10,000 square feet which makes it the largest hotel gym in the world. Access to TWA Fitness is included for registered hotel guests and is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I am a huge Peloton fan and the cycling center has 14 Peloton bikes which I think is the most of any hotel. There are also 12 treadmills, 10 ellipticals, a full yoga studio, and a variety of strength-training options including the TRX Suspension Trainer. There are a variety of group classes and personal training available. There is really a workout for everyone.
6. Super-Quiet Guestrooms
The guestrooms at the TWA Hotel are stunning. Each hotel room has floor-to-ceiling windows, which are surprisingly quiet due to the very sturdy glass and is the second thickest in the world. Unlike at other airport hotels, I didn’t hear a single airplane during my stay. The rooms are 1960s-inspired with rotary phones and mid-century modern furniture designed by Eero Saarinen, the terminal’s original architect. Vintage touches are nice, but it also has plenty of charging options for your smartphone and other electronics.
I stayed in an executive king suite with a historic TWA view. Runway views are also available, but the view of the original TWA terminal allowed you to really see the architectural features of this landmark building. The king-size bed was super comfy with a Sealy mattress and premium bedding. Standard king guestrooms feature blackout shades. The rate included unlimited local and international calls on a retrofitted vintage Western Electric 500 rotary phone and the Wi-Fi was super fast. As a plus-sized gal, I appreciated the large, fluffy towels in the pristine bathroom.
7. Rooftop Infinity Pool And Observation Deck
The rooftop area is pretty cool. You can watch the jets take off from JFK and at night, the airport lights are magical. The infinity pool is a swimming pool in the summer and in the winter, it is heated to 95 degrees Fahrenheit and turns into a pool-cuzzi. The Pool Bar offers a variety of aviation and water-themed cocktails. Food offerings include appetizers, sandwiches, and flatbreads. After being cooped up in an airplane, it is a great location to get some fresh air.
8. Throwback Decor
The TWA Hotel has a couple of unique features you won’t find in any other hotel. The Twister Room has the game board spread across the floor and walls for a truly unusual version of the 1960s game. In the lobby, you will find a Solari split-flap message board, a classic with the original mechanical operation manufactured in Udine, Italy, displaying sample arrivals and departures.
9. The Paris Café
The Paris Café is in the footprint of the TWA terminal’s original Paris Café and Lisbon Lounge. It was originally designed by Raymond Loewy, a Parisian industrial designer who created the iconic Coca-Cola contour bottle and the 1959 TWA twin globes logo. Now-famed Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten serves up his specialties at the new Paris Café.
“As an avid traveler, I am very excited to be a part of recreating a culinary destination in this iconic landmark,” he said.
The menu took its culinary inspiration from historic in-flight menus. Make sure to have reservations. We did not as we weren’t sure how long it would take to get through customs. We were able to snag a seat at the long, white counter and enjoyed appetizers and cocktails. It was pricey but the food was very good and how often do you have the opportunity to stay at such an iconic location? Stop by The Sunken Lounge in the lobby for a pre- or post-dinner cocktail. The cocktail bar has a fun, vintage vibe.
10. The TWA Shop
I am glad we stayed at the TWA Hotel. It turned an otherwise arduous layover into a fun experience that I will long remember. There is such an energy in the hotel that it is infectious. I went from tired after a long flight to wanting to see everything the hotel had to offer. Make sure you check out the gift shop, which has a great selection of TWA-themed items in the signature red and white colors, perfect for last-minute gifts.
Pro Tip: If you have a long layover at John F. Kennedy International Airport, you don’t have to stay at the TWA hotel to enjoy many of the experiences mentioned above. You can even buy a pass for the pool. Just make reservations so you won’t be disappointed.