Imagine hopping off your plane at John F. Kennedy International Airport and strolling into your hotel room in a matter of minutes. This isn’t your standard, sterile airport hotel. It’s a playground, a museum, a dining destination, and a time machine that plops you back into the “Golden Age of Flying.” Once you get to know the TWA Hotel, you’ll be booking a longer layover at JFK.
Why stay here?
As a frequent traveler to Europe, I have come to appreciate day flights so much more than overnight ones. I’d rather have a full night’s sleep in the States, fly during the day, and start my international trip sleepy in the morning but alert at night rather than desperately trying to sleep on the plane and then forcing myself to stay up once abroad. But even if you’re just at JFK for a few hours, TWA Hotel welcomes you with open wings.
The convenience of TWA Hotel opens up your travel plans. You can fly into JFK one afternoon and then book the morning flight to your international destination. Delta, Jet Blue, and American fly direct to JFK from Nashville, Atlanta, Charlotte, Charleston, and New Orleans. Your jet lag will thank me, but you’ll also start your trip in the most perfect way. (We love direct flights and have comprehensive guides to no-layover options from Memphis and Nashville.)
Explore the hotel’s architectural wonders
As you walk into the colossus, cavernous main hall, the mid-mod architecture stops you in your tracks. The hotel opened in 2019 and centers around the original headhouse of the TWA Flight Center. It was designed by architect Eero Saarinen in 1962 and stopped functioning as an air terminal in 2001. The developers (Morse Development) added two flanking similarly designed buildings to house the hotel’s 512 rooms, conference space, restaurants, and aviation history museum.
Ogle the original details and historic ephemera
Checking into TWA Hotel feels like checking into a flight in the original 1960s terminal. A conveyer belt with luggage moves hastily to nowhere behind the check-in desk. Multiple old-school split-flap boards magically spell out fresh departure and arrival information every half hour or so. Everything is chili pepper red and high-wattage white, trimmed in brass, and wrapped in boucle and velvet.
Step back in time
After checking in, I wandered over to the Hall of Kleins, where dozens of artist David Klein’s famous, color-drenched TWA travel posters flank the hall. Enlarged photos and news blurbs of historic aviation moments line the tubular walls to the appropriately matching hotel “wings.” Navigating your whole stay is like walking through a museum. You’ll want to read every word on every plaque and, once you’ve documented enough to make your friends jealous, put the phone away and unplug to the soothing tunes of Elvis and Frank.
After taking in the vintage artifacts and photos that paint the airline’s history, it’s time for some FUN. There’s shopping, drinking, dining, swimming, playing, and more.
Hang out in Connie: a 50s plane turned cocktail bar
In 2018, a Lockheed Constellation L-1649 Starliner (cutely named Connie) traveled more than 300 miles from Maine to the hotel site to be converted into a dreamy cocktail bar. She was featured on Saturday Night Live and even made an appearance in Times Square to bolster excitement for the TWA Hotel opening.
Walking outside the hotel and toward the plane, I imagine it’s how you feel walking toward a private jet, with little to no personnel waving things around or yelling over intercoms. But it also just felt beautifully serene. No jet engine noise, just wide open space — a rarity in any airport or during any travel day.
Lift up to the pool club overlooking JFK’s airstrip
There’s nothing like watching planes come and go to tap into that childhood wonder. Before or after dinner, take the elevator up to the hotel’s year-round pool club. The rooftop infinity pool is ready to cool you off in the summer and turns into a 95-degree pool-cuzzi in the winter. The Pool Bar serves mile-high cocktails and delicious fare year-round, but the view is the main event.
The observation deck boasts an unfettered view of the famous Bay Runway. Measuring almost 3 miles long, it’s the second-longest commercial runway in North America and served as the backup landing strip for NASA’s Space Shuttle. But the deck and bar are surprisingly peaceful despite the heavy runway traffic at this bank of JFK gates.
Dine in Paris Cafe: a Jean George restaurant
When appetites rear, head to your reservation at Paris Café. The Chef Jean George restaurant encompasses the entire footprint of the 1962 terminal’s original Paris Café and Lisbon Lounge, which were outfitted by famed Parisian industrial designer Raymond Loewy (the mind behind the 1955 Coca-Cola contour bottle, the 1959 TWA twin globes logo, the 1963 Studebaker Avanti, and the 1962 Air Force One livery). The butternut squash soup, half-roasted cauliflower, and perfect Caesar salad hit the spot before a peaceful night a few floors up.
The only thing that pushed me to leave this hotel was the flight I had to catch to London, but I cannot wait to check back in.
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