A weekend at the TWA hotel at JFK

All photos by Jose R. Lopez

By Caitlin Kelly

Manhattan has so many old-school uptown elegant hotels — from the Pierre and the St. Regis and the Carlyle — to the glossy hip ones downtown.

But Jose made the best possible choice for our anniversary weekend — the TWA Hotel at JFK, which opened in 2019 on the site of the legendary 1961 TWA terminal designed by Eero Saarinen.

I am a hopeless and total #avgeek, and plane spotting is one of my joys, aided by the extremely cool website Flight Radar 24 which tracks aircraft worldwide.

So we sat in bed facing one of the runways and watched planes arriving from London and Paris and Mexico and Jamaica and Lima watched others leave for Beijing and Casablanca and Milan and Madrid and Tokyo and Istanbul and Dubai and Bogota and Seoul.

We also saw a Turkish miltary aircraft take off (destination hidden); I guessed it might have delivered Afghan refugees originating in Kabul but having been processed in Turkey.

Of course I brought my binoculars!

Sigh!

I so so so miss international travel! When each plane took off for my beloved Paris I cried a bit and waved au revoir — my last international flight was on a 747 home to JFK from London in July 2017.

Next year, dammit!

The hotel is gorgeous: white penny tile floors, sleek metal handrails, high ceilings, walls of freshly cleaned glass, everything curved. The signage is beautifully designed, a marble fountain on one floor quiet and lovely, surrounded by fresh green plants.

Two vintage cars, one inside, one at the entrance, show young visitors what a 60s land yacht — aka a Lincoln Cadillac — looked like.

The lobby music is 50s and 60s, fun for older visitors and likely a surprise for younger ones, let alone (!) the black dial phones in the rooms, which work.

THRILL!!! An A380 — the largest commercial passenger plane in the world.

There’s one formal restaurant with thick carpeting (gray, with the TWA logo in the tufting) which makes the room blessedly quiet. The food is very good although expensive — the only alternative is a food court.

There are several indoor bars and tucked one inside a vintage plane.

I loved the hidden lounges, circular spaces tucked inside and easily missed, and quiet places to sit and read alone in silence on crisp red upholstery. Everything is in TWA colors — cherry red and white.

There is a pool and observation desk ($50 for 90 minutes) and a shop selling every possible iteration of TWA stuff — sneakers ($60) red cotton hoodies, playing cards, metal pins. slippers, caps.

I loved the exhibit of TWA flight attendant uniforms, all the way back to 1944. They changed every three or four years, and the most gorgeous — deep plum and chocolate brown — were of course by Valentino.

The only omission, which I found a bit shocking, was no detailed mention (!?) of Saarinen and his design team. That history is essential, too.

The reviews from the NYT when it opened in May 2019 are very mixed indeed, but we really enjoyed it.

Minor complaints to consider:

Only one restaurant and it’s expensive (like $150+ for appetizer/entree/one drink for two people)

A lot of kids and screaming kids in the pool

The music gets a bit much after two days of it 24/7

Valet parking also very costly at $40 day

8 thoughts on “A weekend at the TWA hotel at JFK

  1. What an enchanting fun, inventive, slightly wacky-in-a-good-way anniversary gift! And it sounds like you could spin this into a wonderful travel article, weaving in Saarinen’s history along with the Jetsons 🙂

  2. Your post reminded me of the brunch i had at the TWA terminal when returning to JFK in the fall of 2019. Enjoyable and fun!
    My favorite part was the exhibit of flight attendant uniforms. As luck would have it, the day we were there coincided with some of the grand opening events and many of the flight attendants who’d worn those uniforms were there. A few of them gave us “behind the scenes” peek at the uniforms. They had some great stories!

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