Dan and I recently completed our third stay at one of my very favorite hotels – the TWA Hotel at JFK airport! Yes, this is the former TWA terminal at JFK that reopened as a hotel in 2019. You’ve almost certainly heard about the TWA Hotel, but these are my thoughts over three separate stays spanning three years. In sum, I absolutely love, love, love this hotel, but that’s due to my love of aviation and all things flying and travel, as well as the 1960s. The hotel itself, while fantastic for “av-geeks”, is, without question, overpriced and has never lived up to the standards I expect for the price. My recommendation is to go once if you love aviation, TWA or the 1960s but otherwise, I would skip an overnight reservation. The actual hotel portion of the TWA hotel only “ok” in terms of a luxury property (which its priced as). All of that being said, a day visit to the common area of the TWA Hotel is free and certainly worth the time if you have a long layover at JFK or are in the area and curious!
TWA Hotel Location.
The TWA Hotel is actually located inside the former TWA Terminal at JFK. The TWA Hotel is directly connected to JFK’s Terminal 5 (the home of Jet Blue!) via an elevator, which is very convenient. Those arriving or departing from other terminals can use JFK’s free AirTrain to travel between terminals. The AirTrain station is located across the street from the TWA Hotel in the parking area on the second floor. There are plenty of signs and large elevators for luggage. The AirTrain is easy to use and goes to all JFK terminals. As its free, no tickets or anything of the like are required.
Photos of Entrance to the TWA Hotel from Terminal 5
Photos of the AirTrain from the TWA Hotel
Entrance to the TWA Hotel and Checkin to the TWA Hotel
TWA magic begins before you even enter the TWA Hotel – the exterior is beautiful and often has 1960s era cars parked out front. if you enter from Terminal 5, be sure to step outside and get a good look at the entrance.
Upon entering the building, guests are immediately transported to the 1960s, with red and white and TWA everywhere, as well as a beautiful old school departures and arrivals board. Checkin is to the left of the entrance, at desks that resemble an airline checkin.
The Actual Hotel at The TWA Hotel
I am sure most of you have seen pictures of the TWA hotel – its the space age looking 1960s air terminal with the famous red carpet and round edges from 1962 designed by Eero Saarinen. And if you haven’t seen it, the TWA terminal was featured in Catch Me If You Can and, more recently, Mrs. Maisel! Well, that cool looking terminal now forms the common area to the TWA Hotel, including the checkin area, its food court, the gorgeous Sunken Lounge and its sit down restaurant, The Paris Cafe, as well as a number of other throw backs to the 1960s (discussed below). My favorite thing in the common area is the Sunken Lounge, AKA the sunken waiting area in the TWA Terminal with the red seating and large old-school departure board. This entire area is free for anyone to visit.
Two red-carpeted tunnels lead guests to two banks of rooms, which are in high rise modern buildings. The rooms using the left tunnel lead to those with views of the iconic TWA Terminal. The tunnel to the right, the Hughes Tunnel, leads to runway views, as well as the elevator to the pool. And there is no luck here, guests select the exact type of room they want when booking.
The Room at the TWA Hotel
The TWA Hotel offers several types of rooms, all of which are detailed on its website. For most visitors, three options exist. First, a regular room without a fabulous view. Second, a regular room with a view of the iconic TWA Terminal building. And third, a regular room with view of Terminals 4 and 5 and their runways. While the most expensive of the three, we have always booked a runway room to watch the planes, and I have found it worth the cost. However, similar views are offered from the pool area. Other suites are also available for rent and of note, guests can rent hotel rooms just for the “day” given that some people need to sleep at odd hours during layovers.
Runway view rooms are located in the Hughes Wing, and to access the rooms you walk down one of the famous red carpeted tunnels and scan your keycard at the elevator. Floors above the main level keep in 1960s theme and definitely make you feel like you have gone back in time.
Runway view rooms in the Hughes Wing open up to floor to ceiling windows overlooking the runways! This is incredibly cool, definitely the highlight of the room. And don’t worry, there are blackout shades that work great and the windows are like the second-thickest in the world, so you cannot hear the planes. Otherwise, the rooms are small. Rooms consist of a King bed, a small chair, a TV mounted on the wall, a slender desk area directly behind the bed, a tiny area to hang a couple things and an empty mini bar (which is claimed to be coming back). There is a bathroom attached to each room with a shower, toilet and vanity area. Shampoo, conditioner and body wash are provided in large scale style, and the only other amenity is a hairdryer in the bathroom, a safe, and a TWA branded pad of paper and pencils (which are popular souvenirs). The pencils actually have a whole story on the TWA website.
Finally, despite being small and pricey, the oddest thing is there is no trash can in the room…. Instead, there is a designated area on the desk to place trash and recyclables…. I really dislike this.
The Pool at the TWA Hotel
The TWA Hotel is home to a really fabulous roof top pool open from 7 AM until 11 PM. The pool is open to hotel guests only daily from 7 AM until 11 AM, and I highly recommend going during these hours. After 11 AM, anyone can buy a day pass to use the pool. And, egregiously, the TWA Hotel charges hotel guests to use the pool between 11 AM and 11 PM during the summer. The cost is $50/person for a reservation of one hour and forty-five minutes, with the time limit frequently enforced. Entrance to the pool comes with nothing but rental of a red and white striped towel – not even a chair reservation. My suggestion for hotel guests is to go early or not during the summer. The pool is heated during the winter so its available year round. The pool area also has a restaurant and bar area, which offers good views of Terminals 4 and 5 and their runways. Buying a pool pass is a good way to see the hotel and views without staying overnight.
The Restaurants and Bars at the TWA Hotel
The TWA Hotel is also home to several restaurants and bars, which, while fun, I find to be overpriced for what they currently are. I hope the TWA Hotel improves these in the future, with things such as using real glasses, plates and forks.
Connie The Cocktail Lounge
The most famous food and beverage outlet at the TWA Hotel is The Connie. Connie is a 1958 Lockheed Constellation plane that is permanently parked behind the Sunken Lounge and operates as a cocktail lounge from 4 PM to 11 PM. Although tiny, Connie is pretty cool and great for photos. A sole bartender works in the back of the plane serving cocktails and a small variety of snacks. If Connie is one of your main reasons for visiting, check the hotel website for her closure’s. She frequently books up for private events, which are listed on the TWA website. That being said, Connie unexpectedly closed on our last visit and we did not get to visit due to a film shoot.
Paris Cafe is the TWA Hotel’s main sit-down restaurant run by famous restauranteur Jean Georges. The setting is actually beautiful with tables and booths that look straight out of the 1960s. That being said, the food at Paris Cafe is just “ok” and could certainly use a refresh. We have visited twice and both times we have been left unimpressed, especially with a Jean Georges restaurant. The other side of the Paris Cafe is referred to as the Lisbon Lounge, and now acts as overflow for the Paris Cafe. I *think* the Lisbon Lounge was originally supposed to be a separate restaurant, but it never took off.
The Sunken Lounge
The Sunken Lounge is that gorgeous sunken lounge that is the centerpiece of the former terminal. Clad in red upholstery with views of The Connie, the Sunken Lounge is impossible to miss. The Sunken Lounge is generally open to the public, but there is a small circular bar located to the right of the Sunken Lounge. This bar is the “Sunken Lounge bar and restaurant” and serves cocktails out of plastic cups and a casual menu, with food very reminiscent of that at the Pool Bar. The Sunken Lounge is open all day on the weekends and only in the evening otherwise.
The Pool Bar
As I mentioned above, a casual restaurant/grill is attached to the TWA Pool, which, similar to the Sunken Lounge, serves overpriced cocktails in plastic cups and basic lunch things, such as chicken tenders, french fries, and buffalo chicken wraps. The Pool Bar generally opens at 11:00 and stays open until about 11:00 at night.
The Food Court
The most accessible “restaurant” at the TWA Hotel is its food court. Located on the first level opposite the checkin area, the food court at the TWA Hotel consists of about five “stalls”, each serving a different type of food. On offer is a salad/panini/pizza spot, a crepe stand, an ice cream stand, a bagel stand, and a hot dog stand. The menus vary by stand, but the food is meant to be NY-centric, including over priced. Service is pretty quick. I’ve tried a few things from the food court over our visits, including a bacon, egg and cheese breakfast sandwich this time around. This breakfast sandwich was surprisingly good. I have also had a panini and a pizza, which were also decent. There are always grab and go things available in the food court too, such as chips, soda, water, juice, etc. Expect to pay airport prices.
Finally, Intelligentsia Coffee is an upscale coffee bar located directly across from the checkin area. Hours are 7:30 – 3:00 PM daily. Intelligentsia Coffee serves coffee beverages, as well as a couple muffin type treats. This is certainly the most upscale coffee at the TWA Hotel. Intelligentsia Coffee also has a coffee truck on site outside, but I’ve never seen it open for business. I enjoyed an iced Avena latte, which came with oat milk, spiced orange peel, ginger, vanilla, cinnamon and cayenne, and a vegan banana muffin at Intelligentsia on my recent visit. It was not cheap, but it was tasty.
Amenities at the TWA Hotel
The TWA Hotel is home to a HUGE fitness center, which includes locker rooms and tons of Peloton bikes. In fact, I think it’s the largest collection of Peloton bikes in a public setting. Guests should know that the public can buy entrance into the gym, so there are often non-travelers using the gym. The gym is located in the basement of the hotel.
Shopping at the TWA Hotel
For shoppers or souvenir searchers, there is one gift shop at the TWA hotel located below the Paris Cafe. The gift shop sells all things TWA, including amenity kits should you forget something at home, but not much else. Prices are high, but the things are very cute.
TWA Uniform Museum
One of the coolest things at the TWA Hotel, in my opinion, is its uniform museum on the second floor across from the Paris Cafe. This small museum holds a collection of TWA flight attendant uniforms over the years. I love this exhibit, and have only ever seen like one other person looking at it! Its totally free, so be sure to check it out at the hotel.
There is also a life size Twister room on the first floor of the hotel. This room is free to use and is great for pictures. I have also seen people actually playing Twister here.
There is also a free photo booth on the first floor of the TWA Hotel.
From time to time the TWA Hotel hosts special exhibits. For example, in 2021 there was a Tab soda exhibit and in 2023, there is a Sweet-n-Low hairstyling lounge for pictures (no real hair styling here). There are also all sorts of 19602 era things, from cars to telephones, and almost everything is TWA branded.
TWA HOTEL TAKE AWAYS
- WIFI is great in the hotel rooms and main area, like WFH good. Wifi is spotty at the pool bar, but sometimes works.
- Children are welcome at the hotel and the pool, with the pool even offering discounted rates for children. Take that what you will.
- If you are staying overnight, I cannot stress taking advantage of the special 7 AM – 11 AM pool hours for hotel guests only.
- Food and beverage are pricey, like airport pricey. Bring things like bottled water and snacks from home if you can.
- While connected to Terminal 5, the TWA Hotel is easy to access the other terminals via the free JFK AirTrain.
- If anything is a “must see” for you or the entire reason you are visiting, call ahead and confirm opening times. For example, The Connie was closed at the last minute on our recent visit due to a film shoot.
- For the best views of the hotel, head toward the flight attendant uniform museum and walk across the bridge connecting it to the Paris Cafe!
- The TWA Hotel usually has fun children’s activities. In the Summer of 2023, they were offering “Camp TWA” in front of Connie and last winter, they were doing ice skating in the same area.
- Everywhere at the TWA Hotel accepts credit card.
- While I looooove this hotel, it could already use a refresh. I feel like it was meant to take off and Covid really prevented it from doing so.
SOME DOWNSIDES OF THE TWA TO NOTE
Of course I have raved about this hotel here, but its definitely not all fantastic, and I certainly don’t want you to think that. The TWA Hotel opened shortly before the pandemic, and after staying there a few times, I think the pandemic prevented the TWA Hotel from really taking off and opening as it properly should. For example, there are a number of spaces that go unused, which I think were meant for shops and bar/restaurant outlets. Since opening, the hotel has also quickly endured some wear and tear, which has not been touched up, leaving some of the hotel to just feel a bit dingy, especially in light of the room cost. The bars and restaurants could also use an update – the food at The Paris Cafe is simply not up to Jean Georges standards. The other outlets serve decent “airport food,” but I expected something slightly more elevated and certainly not in plastic cups with plastic cutlery. In any case, I do really enjoy this hotel, but it could use some revamping early in its career. I hope it gets this soon and turns into the fabulous property that it has the potential to be!
STEAL OUR HOTEL
TWA Hotel: John F. Kennedy International Airport, One, JFK Access Road, Idlewild Dr, Queens, NY 11430.
ON A BUDGET
Budget travelers, and honestly anyone not wanting or needing to stay overnight, can visit the TWA Hotel free of charge by simply taking the AirTrain to Terminal 5 and following signs for the hotel. Enjoying the main level, including bars, restaurants and the shop, are open to the public and pay-as-you-go. As mentioned above, reservations are required for the pool but you can visit the pool without a room with a paid reservation.