TWA Hotel at JFK airport, New York

TWA Hotel Review: Reliving the Golden Age of Flying!

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Wow. I’ve just returned from a visit to the TWA Hotel and it’s one of the best things I’ve done in a while. I think I had more comments on my Instagram stories than anything else I’ve posted.

I had briefly seen pictures of this hotel on Instagram and when I found myself at JFK Terminal 4 for my Global Entry interview, I noticed signs around the terminal pointing to the TWA Hotel. Intrigued, I hopped on the Airtrain to Terminal 5 and followed the markers to the entrance.

The TWA Hotel combines two of my main loves; aviation and mid century modern furniture. When I finally moved into my own place sans roommates, I decked my apartment in mid century modern pieces and found my very own authentic Eero Saarinen tulip table on Facebook Marketplace. I’m in love with it. 

Eero Saarinen not only designed some of the world’s most iconic furniture pieces; he also happened to design the TWA Terminal, which is out-of-this-world. If you’re an aviation geek like me then you’ll love this hotel – it really transports you back in time to the 1960s and the Jet Age, with tunes from the likes of Elvis and Petula Clark adding to the nostalgia. 

With the lyrics of “Downtown” playing in the background; “The light’s so much brighter there, you can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares…” I couldn’t help but feel inspired and a tad excited.  OK, very excited.

For an aviation geek a visit to the TWA Hotel is like being a kid in a candy store. Visitors get to escape the chaos of Terminal 5 and go back in time to a glamorous era where everyone received the royal treatment when flying. Best of all, you don’t have to be staying at the hotel to experience it; anyone can come and have a look around. 

Here’s my full TWA Hotel review:

About the TWA Hotel

TWA Hotel JFK Airport

The TWA Hotel is housed in the former Trans World Airlines terminal at JFK Airport, which was designed by Eero Saarinen, one of the world’s most iconic mid-century designers. TWA was a popular airline in the 1960s but fell into decline by the 1990s and was eventually acquired by American Airlines. 

The terminal shut down in 2001 and sat empty for many years before it was eventually turned into a first class hotel. To much excitement, the TWA Hotel opened in 2019 and is the only airport hotel at JFK.

Facilities at a Glance

TWA Hotel Entrance, JFK Airport Terminal 5

The TWA hotel is enormous and features numerous food options, as well as a gym and heated outdoor pool. Here’s a quick rundown of the main facilities:

  • 512 guest rooms with views of JFK’s runways
  • 50,000 square feet of meeting and event space
  • Food Hall with grab-and-go food
  • The Paris Café restaurant and The Sunken Lounge bar
  • Heated outdoor infinity pool with runway views
  • A Lockheed Constellation aircraft called “Connie”, which has been transformed into a cocktail lounge
  • 10,000 square foot fitness center
  • Multiple museum exhibits
  • TWA souvenir shop
  • Twister Room where guests can play Twister.
  • Photo room with photo booth 

How to Book the TWA Hotel

TWA Hotel Booking Page

You can book the TWA Hotel directly on the website. It’s not currently available for booking on Hotels.com or Booking.com. 

The website gives you the option to book one or more nights, or you can book a Daytripper stay of four hours or more. 

I decided to search a random week night in February and the price came up as $189 (before tax) for a Deluxe King. I then searched a random Saturday in February and the price displayed was $269.  

Day rates are not much cheaper but might be suitable if you have a short layover and just need somewhere to freshen up and nap for a few hours. For four hours on a weekday the price I was shown was $149 before tax for four hours. 

With taxes, you can expect to pay a minimum of $200 for a night at the TWA hotel. That isn’t cheap by any means, but it’s incredible and worth a stay at least once in your life if you’re flying in or out of JFK. Splitting it between two people will keep costs down. 

The TWA hotel is a unique experience and if you love aviation or mid-century modern design, you’ll love the experience this hotel provides.

The Lobby

TWA Hotel Staircase

The lobby is out-of-this-world. It’s enormous. The TWA Hotel is not just a hotel, it’s an architectural masterpiece. It almost feels like you’ve walked into a space station on another planet thousands of years into the future. Or perhaps a Salvador Dali painting, I’m not sure. 

As you walk through the doors you’ll notice the grand staircase and a clock hanging from the ceiling. In the middle of the space is a retro departure board, which functions as the concierge desk. 

TWA Hotel departures and arrivals board

To the left of the entrance you’ll find an Intelligentsia coffee and a row of check-in desks, which look like airline check-in desks complete with baggage scales. To the right is the food court, which features multiple food stands serving things like tacos, crepes, pizza and hot dogs. There’s also a vintage Chrysler with a TWA license plate at the far end. 

The Food Hall at the TWA Hotel, JFK

Up the staircase is The Sunken Lounge, which features Chili Pepper red carpet, upholstered benches, a split flap departure board and floor-to-ceiling windows with views of the famous “Connie” aircraft.  Here you can sip on 1960s cocktail favorites served with swizzle sticks that are modeled after TWA’s original sets. 

The Sunken Lounge at the TWA Hotel, JFK Airport

You could easily just sit in The Sunken Lounge for hours enjoying drinks and casting your eyes over the stunning architecture. 

Surrounding the lounge you’ll find a TWA gift shop, a boutique by watchmaker Shinola, a photo booth, a shoe shine station and a Twister Room where guests can play the game Twister. 

Curved staircases take you to the upper level, which is connected by a series of bridges that link one side of the terminal to the other.  On one side is the Paris Cafe restaurant, and on the other side is The Pope’s Room and the exhibition of TWA’s uniforms.

It’s a really vast space with so many things to check out that you could easily spend a few hours just roaming around. I’m not usually the type of person who reads the information boards but at the TWA Hotel I did.

Museum Exhibits

Saarinen's office at TWA Hotel

To either side of The Sunken Lounge there are two wings – The Hughes Wing and the Eero Saarinen Wing. Both sides feature really interesting museum exhibits. 

If there’s one thing the exhibits taught me, it’s that air travel was much more glamorous back in the 1960s. This really was the golden age of air travel. I even found myself googling, “will they ever bring back TWA Airlines?” Sadly, it doesn’t look like that will ever happen. 

1960s home and TV at the TWA Hotel

Exhibits are curated by The New York Historical Society and mainly document TWA’s history and Eero Saarinen’s design of the terminal at Idlewild Airport (now JFK). The offices of both Saarinen and TWA’s owner Howard Hughes have been recreated, allowing visitors to step back in time and imagine what it was like to sit at their desks.

My favorite exhibit is the exhibit of the TWA uniforms, which were glamorous and colorful. The 36 uniforms on display include designs by Hollywood dresser Don Loper, Jackie Kennedy’s official designer Oleg Cassini and luxury fashion designer, Valentino. 

Exhibit of TWA flight attendant uniforms at the TWA Hotel, JFK

In the 70s Valentino created a belted safari shirt dress that could be unbuttoned to the waist and worn over hot pants…I can’t imagine the cabin crew wearing that today! 

Another interesting exhibit is the recreation of a 1962 living room, complete with mid-century modern furniture, old school record player and an original Barbie Dreamhouse.

1960s living room

Scattered throughout the terminal you’ll also see several inspirational quotes, my favourite being this one:

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Will Durant. 

This really resonated with me because if there’s one thing I’ve found, it’s that the most successful people are usually the most disciplined ones. 

Don’t miss “The Pope’s Room” on the upper level, which features a gold-domed ceiling with an opening that creates a halo effect. It was here that TWA welcomed the first Pope to ever visit the United States – Pope Paul VI – in 1965. 

The Pope's Room at the TWA Hotel, JFK

All the exhibits are free, so if you’re an aviation geek then you’ll probably want to spend a good hour or so walking around the displays. 

Before the opening of the TWA Hotel, MCR/MORSE Development collected more than 2,000 artifacts for the exhibits, many of which were donated by former TWA employees and their families. 

Restaurants and Food Options

Paris Cafe at the TWA Hotel, JFK Airport

Food-wise guests have two main options: The Food Court and The Paris Café. 

The Paris Café serves breakfast, lunch and dinner with a menu created by French chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, who has been awarded numerous Michelin stars throughout his career. 

Saarinen tulip chairs and tables at the TWA Hotel, JFK

During my visit, the menu included dishes such as Caesar Salad, Roasted Cauliflower, Burrata & Cranberry, Crispy Calamari and a Cheddar Cheeseburger. I ordered the Crispy Salmon Sushi, which was really yummy. Prices aren’t cheap ($22 for my appetizer) but the sushi was good.

Salmon sushi at Paris Cafe, TWA Hotel, JFK

What I loved most about The Paris Café was the decor. I loved the pink tulip chairs and the floor-to-ceiling windows; very Instagram worthy! 

If you’d prefer something more casual (and less expensive) then visit The Food Hall, which features an array of food options including tacos, crepes, jerk chicken, bagels and more. This spot is ideal if you need to grab something quick to eat before your flight.

Rooftop Pool

TWA Hotel Rooftop Pool, JFK

On a chilly winter’s day I assumed the rooftop infinity pool would be closed but as it turns out, it’s heated! With steam rising up from the water it reminded me of swimming in the Blue Lagoon in Iceland. What a unique experience to swim on the roof at an airport, soaking up views of the runway. On the left is runway 4 and on the right is runway 22. 

The pool is open-year round, from 7am to 11pm. Pool reservations are recommended, although they’ll accommodate you if it’s not too busy. 

TWA Hotel Rooftop Pool in Winter

Reservations are free for hotel guests, or if you’re just visiting, you can pay a fee. The fee is $25 for adults and $20 for children Monday through Thursday, or $50 for adults and $20 for children Friday through Sunday.

Each reservation is for one hour and 45 minutes. If you plan on booking a room at the hotel, there’s an option to make a pool reservation in the online booking system. Alternatively if you’re visiting, you can email [email protected]

Next to the pool you’ll find The Pool Bar, which is open from 11am to 11pm. In winter this is turned into The Chalet – an “après ski”experience complete with vintage fireplace and cozy seating. 

Connie Cocktail Lounge

Connie Cocktail Lounge at the TWA Hotel, JFK

Turn left at The Sunken Lounge towards the Eero-Sarinen wing and you’ll find an exit that takes you outdoors to the famous “Connie” N8083H Airplane, which now functions as a cocktail lounge. 

The interior of the aircraft has a luxe feel, decked out with red carpet, upholstered seating and Eero Saarinen tulip tables. It’s definitely a unique bar and a great place to enjoy a light snack and a cocktail or two! Try the Vodka Is My Co-Pilot (vodka, dry vermouth and olives) or the Eero Dynamics (bourbon, orange bitters, Angostura bitters and Demerara sugar).

Inside of the Connie Cocktail Lounge at the TWA Hotel, JFK

Lockheed Constellation “Connie” propliner planes were first commissioned by TWA’s owner Howard Hughes in 1939 and quickly made headlines. One “Connie” broke the era’s transcontinental speed record in 1946 and another served as Air Force One under President Dwight D. Eisenhower. 

Each plane featured murals by artist Mario Zamparelli, depicting 25 destinations from around the world. The two murals inside Connie N8083H have been restored to their former glory.

Before Connie N8083H  became a cocktail lounge, she had a very colorful past. Here’s a quick timeline of Connie N8083H:

Signage explaining the Connie Airplane Story at TWA Hotel
  • Connie N8083H flew her first passengers in 1958 but unfortunately for her she faced a new rival in the form of the Boeing 707, which could carry more passengers and was 300mph faster. 
  • In 1960 the Connie aircraft fleet was forced into retirement and Connie N8083H became a cargo plane. 
  • She carried cargo until 1962 and then became an Alaskan bush plane shuttling supplies to Prudhoe Bay. 
  • All Connie propliners were retired in 1969.
  • 10 years later, in 1979, Connie N8083H was sold to the highest bidder at auction. She sold for just $150. 
  • A year later Airborne Enterprises restored and flew her to Anchorage, Seattle, followed by Chandler, Arizona in 1981. 
  • In 1983 she was modified to airdrop marijuana but got stuck in the mud with a damaged propeller at a remote landing field in Colombia.
  • Outfitted with a new prop, she flew to San Pedro Sula, Honduras, where she was abandoned.
  • The owner of Maine Coast Airways rescued Connie in 1986 and ferried her from Ft. Lauderdale to Maine. 
  • In 2007, the charity Deutsche Lufthansa Berlin-Stiftung bought Connie N8083H and two others at auction, hoping to fly a Connie Starliner L-1649A across the country. Her flaps, engine and rudder were removed.

But her story wasn’t over yet. Eventually she was destined for a more glamorous life as a cocktail lounge at the new TWA Hotel. She made an epic 300 mile road trip from Maine to New York and even parked in the middle of Times Square for a night before undergoing her transformation.

Connie hours: Wednesday through Sunday 4 PM to 10 PM.

Gym

An interesting fact for you; the TWA Hotel’s fitness center is the largest hotel gym in the world. Measuring 10,000 square feet, the gym boasts 12 treadmills, 10 ellipticals, a cycling studio with 14 Peloton bikes, a full yoga studio and a TRX Suspension Trainer. You’ll also find apparatus such as kettlebells and resistance bands. 

The fitness center is free for registered TWA Hotel overnight and Daytripper℠ guests. If you’re just visiting you can buy a day pass for $25 or a $30 monthly membership. 

Gym hours: open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Rooms

TWA Hotel Deluxe King with Runway View

Full disclosure; I never stopped the night at TWA Hotel, but here are some photos of the rooms.  Next time I have an early flight out of JFK I definitely want to book a night’s stay.

The 512 guest rooms and suites all feature floor-to-ceiling windows with views of JFK’s runways, as well as mid-century modern furnishings and terrazzo-tiled bathrooms with Hollywood-style vanities. You access them by walking through the tunnel in the Hughes Wing and making a right to the elevators.

TWA Hotel Tunnel

Rooms feature:

  • Ultra-quiet, floor-to-ceiling windows (second-thickest in the world) with blackout shades.
  • Fast Wi-Fi
  • Eero Saarinen mid-century Knoll furnishings
  • Luxurious bedding and Sealy mattresses
  • 50- to 65-inch HDTVs
  • Custom crystallized glass and walnut desks
  • Hidden-in room safe
  • Retrofitted vintage Western Electric 500 rotary phones for making unlimited local and international calls
  • Wireless Smartphone chargers with two USB ports 

TWA Hotel is Pet Friendly!

If you plan on flying with a dog or a pet you’ll be pleased to know that the TWA Hotel is pet friendly. The only caveat is that you have to pay a $65 fee when booking your room and you’ll need to sign a liability form when checking in. 

After you select your room type on the website you’ll see a page that says “Enhance My Stay”. Scroll down until you see “Bring a Pet!” and then click the button that says “Add to My Stay”. 

How to Get to the TWA Hotel

TWA Hotel Exterior, JFK Airport Terminal 5

The TWA Hotel is located at JFK’s Terminal 5 and is connected to the terminal via Saarinen’s iconic flight tubes. This is the terminal that JetBlue operates out of, so it’s ideal if you’re flying with JetBlue.  

However, the hotel is also easily accessible via Airtrain from any of JFK’s terminals. Just take the Airtrain to Terminal 5 and then follow the signs, which will take you outside and to the main entrance of the hotel. 

Riding the Airtrain is free between all JFK terminals, however, if you start or end your journey at Howard Beach or Jamaica train stations, you’ll need to pay a $7.75 fee via Metrocard.

My Verdict…

I loved the TWA hotel so much that I couldn’t wait to share it with you. Even if you don’t spend the night, definitely pop on over to Terminal 5 if you’re traveling in or out of JFK. It’s 100% worth a visit to explore the museum and have a cocktail or a bite to eat.  If you want to relax and unwind before/after your flight, make a reservation at the pool so you can go for a dip while watching planes taking off and landing. 

As I left the hotel two pilots were excitedly snapping photos in the lobby of the hotel. As I watched one of them grin from ear to ear, posing with his carry-on bag, I couldn’t help but smile to myself. The TWA Hotel seems to have that effect on everyone – even pilots.

I hope you found this TWA Hotel Review informative and interesting! What do you think of it? Would you like to stay there? Let me know below!

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