Avgeeks and travel buffs alike have, of course by now, heard of the iconic TWA Hotel.
Opened in Spring 2019, the TWA Hotel is a marvel of mid-century modern architecture and has been designated a New York City landmark since 1994. Built in 1962, and designed by renowned Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen — who also designed the St. Louis Gateway Arch — the original TWA Flight Center was designed to embody the “Golden Age of Travel.” However, in 2001 when TWA went bankrupt, the terminal closed down to passenger and flight operations, and it sat dormant until 2016 when developers began construction on the new hotel.
I’ve stayed at this iconic airport hotel both pre and post-pandemic, and I have to admit, it lives up to the hype! Even with very high expectations going in, the TWA Hotel is unlike any place in the world, and it is one of the best and most unique hotel stays you’ll ever experience!
And what makes this hotel so special is the details. You literally feel like you are transported back in time to the 1960s. The hotel is similar to Disney World, in terms of its attention to detail. And from the moment you walk through the door, you’ll feel like you’re an extra in the famous Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks film Catch Me If You Can.
During my most recent stay at the TWA Hotel, I stayed in a Deluxe King with Runway View room ($500).
Right off the bat, you can tell by the pricing that this is not your average airport hotel. But for the convenience of being the only airport hotel at JFK, it being an easy walk from the AirTrain Terminal 5 station, and for the phenomenal, one-of-a-kind experience, I think it’s 100% worth the money.
Of note, I made my booking directly on the TWA Hotel website and paid with my Chase Sapphire Reserve to earn 3X, since this is coded as a travel purchase. It looks like the TWA Hotel doesn’t currently accept reservations via OTAs like Hotels.com or Expedia, so keep that in mind if you’re looking to book.
Now back to the room… The Deluxe King Runway View is the best room option, in my opinion, since there really is nothing quite like sitting in bed in the morning, drinking your coffee and watching planes take off and land. And thanks to some magic sorcery of sorts, runway view rooms are thoroughly soundproofed. The floor-to-ceiling windows are actually the second-thickest in the world, and your slumber won’t be disturbed by a peep of airport noise.
Clocking in at about 300 square feet, the room is definitely on the small side. But for a quick, one-night stay ahead of flying Emirates First on the A380 to Milan, this was more than enough room for my husband and I to get a comfortable night’s sleep.
The king bed was plush and cozy, and the decor and interior design of the room is just off the charts! From the rotary phone, to the vintage TWA posters, to the Knoll red womb chair, the TWA stationary, the Hollywood style-vanity, the wood paneled mini bar and coat rack, and to the terrazzo-tiled bathroom — the room in and of itself was a work of art and an immersive experience.
Knowing that this hotel is more of a stopover for folks versus a destination for an extended stay, it didn’t bother me that there was no luggage storage or closet in the room. However, I know for some folks that this may be an annoyance, so keep that in mind if you’re planning to stay here.
Another thing that felt off to me, and that left a bad taste in my mouth, was the toiletry situation. The toiletry dispenser did not look like it was cleaned or filled properly, and was grimy. Given the $500 a night price point, you’d expect for this to be properly sanitized and filled up after each guest. I made a comment to the hotel staff about this, and was given the proverbial — “Okay we’ll handle it” — but of course no one ever showed up to do so before we had to check out.
The Guest Experience
The overall guest experience is what makes the TWA Hotel truly amazing, but that being said, don’t expect five-star hospitality and service here even though you’re paying five-star prices.
While some of the hotel staff are lovely, the vast majority of the staff are more-or-less phoning it in. Likely they do so because they can — but hey, this hotel is kind of a tourist attraction and a short stopover for folks after all.
I myself can put aside the fact that the service is subpar, simply because this hotel is such a masterpiece of architecture, design, and decor, and given the convenience of the location.
TWA Hotel Overview
- 512 ultra-quiet guestrooms with thrilling views of JFK’s runways and the iconic TWA Flight Center
- A rooftop infinity pool and observation deck with runway views
- A Lockheed Constellation “Connie” L-1649A transformed into a cocktail lounge
- Classic Solari split-flap message board with authentic original mechanical operation manufactured in Udine, Italy
- The Paris Café and The Sunken Lounge, plus Food Hall grab-and-go dining
- The world’s biggest hotel gym — a 10,000-square-foot fitness center
- Museum exhibits on TWA, the Jet Age and the midcentury modern design movement
- A Twister Room, where you can play a wall-to-wall version of the 1960s game
- A Photo Room filled with snapshots from fans — and a booth to capture your own memories
- Fun seasonal activities, such as curling, ice skating, bumper cars, croquet, and more.
- 50,000 square feet of meeting and event space that can host up to 1,600 people
Rooftop Infinity Pool and Observation Deck
There are pools, and then there’s the TWA Hotel’s rooftop infinity pool overlooking the runways and terminals at JFK. It’s literally an avgeek’s dream come true!
Located on the roof of the Hughes wing, you’ll find this crown jewel just a short elevator ride up from the first floor.
The TWA Hotel infinity pool is heated up to 95 degrees year round, and no matter what time of year I have visited, it has always been warm enough to take a dip. The pool faces both Terminals 4 and 5, so you’ll see a bunch of JetBlue planes, along with aircraft from Delta, Emirates, Etihad, Singapore Airlines and Virgin Atlantic, among others.
It’s a fantastic pool in a truly one-of-a-kind setting! But, as the pool area itself is not all that large, this spot can get crowded, especially in the warm, summer months. Fortunately, there were only a handful of people up at the pool during all 3 of my stays (May, October and December).
In addition, at the Pool Bar you’ll find a variety of beverage and food options to enjoy as you watch planes take off and land. Surprisingly, the best meal I had during my stay was here at the Pool Bar, which was the yummy Ranch Chicken Flatbread.
The pool and observation deck have two seasons — Summer/Fall (May 26 to October 31) and Winter/Spring (November 1 to May 25). Each season has different reservation policies, and you should consult the chart on the TWA Hotel site to see if complimentary pool access is included during your hotel booking.
That’s right — in the Summer/Fall timeframe, the TWA Hotel charges hotel guests a $25 per adult and a $10 per child (ages 5-12) cover charge. On top of that, even given the extra charge, pool reservations during the Summer/Fall months are limited to only 1 hour and 45 minute time slots. It’s a real twist of the knife to pay $500 a night for a hotel room, and to then have to pay an extra $25 per person to then only get access to the pool for less than 2 hours.
Now all of that being said, there is a free, no-reservations-required swim period for hotel guests between 7 and 10:45 AM daily. But that means you’re going to have to get up early in the morning, and possibly swim when it’s chilly out, so be prepared.
For those visiting the TWA Hotel in the Winter/Spring timeframe you are in luck! There is no charge for hotel guests to use the pool during this season and there are no time limit restrictions.
HOT TIP: If you don’t want to fork out a hotel room at the TWA Hotel, non-hotel guests can pay for pool access. In the Winter/Spring timeframe it costs $25 per adult and and $10 per child (ages 5-12) and there is no reservation time limit.
During the Summer/Fall period, it costs $50 per adult and and $20 per child (ages 5-12) for non-hotel guests, but reservations are limited to one hour and 45 minutes.
Reservations are strongly encouraged for non-hotel guests — as pool seating capacity is limited — and you can email email@example.com for booking inquiries. FYI this is a GREAT way to experience the hotel at a fraction of the cost!
Connie Cocktail Lounge
The hotel has turned its signature Lockheed Constellation (aka Connie) plane into a bar called The Connie Cocktail Lounge. And for avgeeks, there is literally no cooler place in the entire world to enjoy an adult beverage.
This 1958 aircraft — which served as an Alaskan bush plane shuttling supplies to Prudhoe Bay and a marijuana dropper after retiring from TWA! — seats 75 guests. Fully restored, the plane features murals by artist Mario Zamparelli that once graced the cabin, an original navigation system and the emergency device people used to escape danger: a rope! The cockpit even has a feed to air traffic control.
The bar is available on a first-come-first-serve basis and does not take reservations. The lounge is open from 4 PM to 10:30 PM, seven days a week, and is open to both hotel guests and non-guests alike. Cocktails start at $17 and light snacks are also served (menu).
Personally, I think Connie is one of the most amazing bars that I have ever been to. Even if you just have a layover at JFK, you should 1000% check this place out even if you only have time to have one drink!
Dubbed “the world’s biggest hotel gym,” this 10,000-square foot facility is located in the hotel’s basement, and it’s an impressive space. The fitness center is free for hotel guests to use and is open 24/7.
There are plenty of weight and cardio machines, including 14 Peloton bikes, 12 treadmills, 10 ellipticals, a TRX Suspension Trainer, kettlebells, resistance bands, and more.
There’s even a small yoga studio, along with three group fitness classes scheduled throughout the week. Changing rooms with showers, salon-style vanities and grooming supplies are also available.
Overall, the food at the TWA Hotel is decent, but nothing to write home about.
The Paris Café is the TWA Hotel’s flagship restaurant. The Paris Café is currently open for breakfast from 7 to 11 AM and open for lunch and dinner from 12 to 10 PM. Paris Café encourages reservations, but I’ve never had a problem getting a table as a walk-in.
Located in the heart of the 1962 Eero Saarinen-designed TWA terminal, the Paris Café by world-renowned Chef Jean-Georges encompasses the entire footprint of the terminal’s original Paris Café and Lisbon Lounge. The spaces were once 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 decor itself is fantastic and an ode to mid-century modern design. Sadly though, the food and service don’t necessarily live up to the Jean-Georges hype. I’ve eaten breakfast here all three times during my stay — proximity eh? — and while decent, the food at Paris Café is not nearly as good as the food at other Jean-Georges restaurants.
In the front part of the lobby there’s a variety of grab-and-go food options dubbed The Food Hall. There are several outposts, like a convenience store, bagel shop, coffee bar, panini spot, Coney Island hot dog stand, Mr. Softee ice cream outpost, crepe stand, and more.
In addition, there’s also The Sunken Lounge, which is located in the main lobby of the hotel. The drink menu is great, with a ton of fun, aviation-themed and history-inspired cocktails like the Eero Dynamics (aka the TWA Hotel’s little spin on an Old Fashioned). This is a great spot for taking in the aura of the hotel and immersing yourself in the 1960s vibe. Between the click clack of the departures board, the view of the Connie, the 1960s playlist, the people watching and the cool TWA swizzle sticks, this bar is definitely one to visit while staying at the hotel.
The TWA Hotel is more than just a hotel — it’s a time capsule and a work of art. This hotel is totally immersive, and should be on everyone’s bucket list.
While the subpar food and lackluster service aren’t what you’d expect from a hotel at this price point, to gripe about that would be a mistake. Want an incredible meal or five-star service? Then head into the city – those things are a dime a dozen in NYC. Because you will not find any hotel like The TWA Hotel anywhere else in the world.
The TWA Hotel is a captivating amalgamation of numerous passions—aviation, travel, architecture, history, design, and culture. It’s a unique chance to experience the Golden Age of Travel and the days of yesteryear. Plus, as far as airport hotels go — let’s be fair — this one is still leagues above the norm.