On a recent trip, my husband and I were stuck at JFK for an overnight stay of less than 12 hours, so we opted for the convenience of a night at the legendary TWA hotel in the original TWA terminal. What an incredible experience.
It started after we collected our luggage in Terminal 5 and followed the directions to find the elevator that said ‘TWA Hotel’. The bright red and white logo colors lured us in. We entered in 2022 and exited the elevator to 1962.
The long red carpet led us to the hotel and 60’s music played on the sound system. That — along with the vintage touches like payphones and typewriters at the check-in desk — really made you feel like you’d stepped back into the 1960s. It was particularly poignant for me as 1962 is the year of my birth. I came back from Grenada where I was celebrating my 60th birthday.
Pro tip: As you exit the elevator, be sure to turn right and look at a replica of TWA owner Howard Hughes’ office.
Here are some of the unique experiences at TWA Hotel.
The TWA Hotel hosted me on a press trip, but all opinions are my own.
1. One of the best hotel bars in the world
Enjoy a classic martini at the Connie Cocktail Lounge. This 1958 Lockheed Constellation ‘Connie’ aircraft has been lovingly restored to its 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 marijuana dropper. The painstaking restoration included the search for authentic parts to restore her to her former glory.
There are no reservations and first come, first served. departures Magazine voted the Connie Cocktail Lounge one of the best hotel bars in the world. Be 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. When it’s closed, you can see the plane through the many large windows in the lobby.
2. Throw a Rama
For a true retro experience, head onto the tarmac around the 1958 Lockheed Constellation “Connie” plane to the Roll A Rama ice rink. It is the world’s only roller skating rink in an airport. After a long flight, get some exercise while skating to vintage tunes with a little disco interlude. Did you know that roller skating burns 350 calories an hour? Tickets are on a first come, first served basis and all skates are sanitized after each use. If you forgot socks, you can buy them in the gift shop.
3. Sunset at JFK
The sunsets over JFK are stunning, especially when viewed from the TWA Hotel. My room had an incredible sunset view. There’s just something about an airport sunset that just feels cinematic as day turns to night and the runway is lit up. Another option is to go to the rooftop pool terrace where you can enjoy the view while sipping a cocktail from the pool bar.
4. Museum exhibits at the TWA Hotel
Experience the jet age in the museum exhibits scattered throughout the TWA Hotel. MCR/MORSE Development collected more than 2,000 TWA artifacts in the years leading up to the hotel’s opening, with a plan for future exhibits. The exhibition was curated by the New York Historical Society. Current exhibits at the hotel include items owned by Howard Hughes and architect Eero Saarinen’s designs for the TWA terminal. You can also see 37 full TWA uniforms from 1945-2001, many by famous designers. It was so interesting to see how the uniforms have looked over the decades.
The exhibitions are tucked away throughout the hotel, so take the time to explore the grounds to make sure you don’t miss a thing. I loved the examples of onboard amenities like playing cards and the silver serving dishes. Contemporary TWA travel posters by David Klein line one wall, emphasizing the jet-set age. One wall has an extensive timeline highlighting what was going on in 1962 when the terminal opened. Since I was born in 1962 I found it fascinating and read every word. All exhibits are free and open to the public.
5. The largest hotel gym in the world
I was seriously disappointed that we didn’t have more time at the hotel when I saw this gym. It’s 10,000 square feet, making 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’m a big 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 elliptical machines, a full yoga studio, and a variety of strength-training options, including the TRX Suspension Trainer. There are a variety of group courses and personal training available. There really is a suitable workout for everyone.
6. Super quiet guest rooms
The rooms at the TWA Hotel are stunning. Each room has floor-to-ceiling windows that are surprisingly quiet due to the very strong glass, which is the second thickest in the world. I didn’t hear a single plane during my stay. Rooms are inspired by the 1960s 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 overlooking the historic TWA. The view of the original TWA terminal allowed you to really see the architectural features of this striking building. The king bed was super comfortable with a Sealy mattress and quality linens. The price included unlimited local and international calls on an upgraded vintage Western Electric 500 rotary phone and the wifi was super fast. As a plus size girl I appreciated the large fluffy towels in the immaculate bathroom.
7. Rooftop Infinity Pool and Observation Deck
The roof 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 summer and in winter it is heated to 35 degrees Celsius and turns into a pool cuzzi. The pool bar offers a selection of aviation and water-themed cocktails. The menu includes appetizers, sandwiches and flatbread. After being crammed into a plane, it’s a great place to get some fresh air.
8. Unique things to check out
The TWA Hotel has a few unique features that you will not find at any other hotel. In the Twister Room, the game board is spread across the floor and walls for a truly unusual take on the 1960’s game. The photo room has a booth to take your likeness and then post it in the room. There are snaps from fans living around the world. In the lobby you’ll find a Solari two-blade massage board, a classic with original mechanical controls, made in Udine, Italy, that displays patterns of arrivals and departures.
9. The Paris Cafe
The Paris Café is located near the original Paris Café and the Lisbon Lounge of the TWA terminal. It was originally designed by Raymond Loewy, a Parisian industrial designer who created the iconic 1959 Coca-Cola contour bottle and twin bullet TWA logo. The now famous chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten serves his specialties in the new Paris Café.
“As an avid traveler, I am thrilled to be a part of restoring a culinary destination to this iconic landmark,” he said.
The menu was culinary inspired by historical on-board menus. Make sure you have reservations. We didn’t 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 expensive but the food was very good and how often do you get the chance to stay in such an iconic place? Visit the Sunken Lounge in the lobby for a pre or post dinner cocktail. It has a fun vintage vibe.
An infectious energy
I’m glad we stayed at the TWA Hotel. It turned an otherwise tiring stop into a fun experience that I will remember for a long time. The hotel has such an energy it’s contagious. I was tired after a long flight and wanted to see everything the hotel had to offer. Be sure to check out the gift shop which stocks a wide range of TWA themed items in signature red and white, perfect for last minute gifts.
Pro tip: If you have a long layover at JFK, you don’t need to stay at the TWA hotel to enjoy many of the experiences mentioned in this article. You can even buy a pool pass. Just make a reservation so you won’t be disappointed.
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