You don’t have to be an aerophile to appreciate the time warp that is the TWA Hotel at JFK Airport in New York. Shimmy back in time to the 1960s when cars were designed for style more than functionality, clothes were created with bright colors and flashy patterns, the skirts got shorter and the hair got longer. Music genres ranged from psychedelic rock to surf music. It was an era of flower power and civil rights and that aura is ever present at the TWA Hotel in New York City.
TWA, short for Trans World Airlines, opened Trans World Flight Center at JFK airport in 1962, which is where the TWA Hotel now stands. Designed by Eero Saarinen, The TWA Hotel is an architectural icon. It encompasses all the best that the 1960s had to offer. The team of architects changed very little of the original design when morphing the terminal into a functioning hotel. It still has the feel of the Trans World Flight Center, from the ticket counters turned check-in desks, the original (functioning) arrivals/departures boards, and there is even an old Lockheed Constellation L-1649A parked outside. Every detail is accounted for. Flight attendants and pilots greet you with a warm smile as you enter and are there to lend a helping hand in any way. It is like stepping into a time machine.
Rooms can be reserved hourly (to take a quick catnap between flights) or overnight. There are two options for rooms, the runway facing rooms and the hotel facing rooms. Each have beautiful views through floor to ceiling, sound proof windows. Each have cozy, comfortable beds, a flat screen TV, a minibar (for a price) and plenty of retro modern details. The fundamental difference is the view.
Hotel View: The hotel view rooms have a panoramic glimpse of the beautifully designed TWA terminal building. Gain a better appreciation for the design of this iconic terminal with this amazing view.
Runway View: If you or your loved one has an obsessions with all things flight, this is the room for you. Each looks out on the international and Jet Blue runways of JFK Airport. You will be glued to your windows as the massive Airbus A380s, Airbus A320s and A321s ascend over the horizon right before your eyes. Get a glimpse of the sunrise as they gracefully land after a redeye flight from Europe. It is a once in a lifetime experience for anyone who has an appreciation for aviation.
Food & Drink
Sunken Lounge: Sip on a dirty martini or creme de minthe in the Sunken Lounge while taking in the bustling TWA hotel and the beauty that is Connie, the vintage plane, out the panoramic windows.
Connie Cocktail Lounge: If you reserve seats in advance, you can enjoy a cocktail in Connie, the refurbished Lockheed Constellation L-1649A. As expected, all the features of the original plane are present, including vintage upholstery, arm rests with built in ashtrays and airsickness bags in the backs of the seats. Don’t have a reservation? Never fear, you can still go in and explore the plane and even check out the cockpit.
The Paris Cafe & Lisbon Lounge: Brought to you by Chef Jean George, The Paris Cafe and Lisbon Lounge offer an elegant spin on some classics. Tasty burgers are piled high with fried onions on a brioche bun and the pasta with meatballs is enhanced by a slightly spicy, chili ragu. Try the parmesan crusted chicken with artichokes for something a little different but equally delicious. Don’t forget dessert! The warm chocolate chip cookie is heavenly and the seasonal sorbet adds the perfect amount of tart.
Light Fare: The Food Hall and Intelligencia Coffee are great places to grab a quick breakfast, light lunch or afternoon pick me up. The Food Hall offers tasty sandwiches and salads while Intelligencia Coffee will perk you up with a cup of gourmet coffee and a variety of fresh pastries.
Exhibits: It’s no secret that this hotel is is a tribute to TWA and the 1960s, but you will also find interactive exhibits beautifully curated by the New York Historcal Society. Explore Howard Hughes’ office, owner of TWA from 1939-1960. Tour a recreation of a 1960s living room, complete with shag carpet, record player and decor in vibrant hues of gold, olive green, orange and teal. TWA uniforms through its history are on display and vintage travel posters adorn the walls. Meander the halls and discover the fine details displayed in every nook and cranny of this hotel.
Skating Rink: Grab some skates and glide around the TWA skating rink. Located at the base of Connie on the tarmac, you can pay one price and skate at your leisure off and on throughout the day. There is a snack bar that offers an array of drinks and snacks. Forgot your winter hat? Make a quick stop at the TWA Gift Shop for all of your cold weather needs. The rink is open seven days a week from 10A to 10P through the end of February.
Rooftop Pool: Has it been your lifelong dream to watch planes take off and land from the comfort of your own heated, rooftop swimming pool? Well, now you’ve got your chance! The pool at the TWA Hotel is accessible all year around and is open from 11A to 11P seven days a week. Towels are provided and the Runway Chalet, complete with cozy fireplace, offers drinks, tapas and a place to dry off. Day or night, this is the perfect spot to watch your favorite planes soar through the air.
The Details: Everywhere you turn there is something new to discover and explore. From working payphones to classic cars (that you can even sit in), the TWA Hotel has definitely thought of every last detail. There is a life sized twister room with a spinner so big it has to be hung on the wall. An old-fashioned photo booth is available for some fun pictures that will be emailed. If you order a coke, it comes in a glass bottle. ’60s music plays in the background that you just can’t help but sing along to.
Cons were few and far between, but here’s a quick list.
Phone Operator: When contacted with questions about whether kids were allowed in Connie (yes) and if a reservation was absolutely necessary (no), the operator replied with short answers and was not very friendly. Otherwise, service was impeccable from the valet parking attendants to the staff members available to answer questions and help as needed.
Room Keys: The room keys deactivated easily. The employee at the desk was more than happy to reactivate and replace keys, but it had to be done often, which was a bit of an inconvenience.
Valet Parking: Valet parking is nonnegotiable and not cheap. Be prepared to pay for parking.
Rooftop Pool Patio: This is strictly a seasonal issue, but in the winter, ice forms on the patio of the rooftop pool. Many people slipped and fell getting out or even just walking to the Runway Chalet.
Summing It Up
You don’t have to be plane obsessed to enjoy the TWA Hotel. It offers something for everyone and is worth a quick trip on your next layover at JFK. You don’t even have to leave the airport, there is an entrance off of the JetBlue baggage claim. Better yet, savor the experience with your favorite flight buff by getting a room for the night. They will thank you.