Time traveling at the TWA Hotel
The newly opened TWA Hotel is my idea of heaven on earth. I time traveled back to the 1960s and loved every second. I wanted to put together a little guide to make the most of your visit, and even if you never make it in person, I hope this post can allow for a bit of vicarious travel.
Fasten your seat belt and enjoy the ride. Transport yourself through JFK Jet Blue terminal 5, and elevator down to the 1960s terminal. (Pay attention to the elevator buttons when you do). I’ll be your guide, as I sit behind TWA founder Howard Hughes’s desk, and take you back to the Jet Age.
The iconic terminal opened in 1962 was designed by Finish architect, Eero Saarinen. Little did I know, but I was familiar with Sarrinen’s work already: the St. Louis arch, Dulles Airport, and the MIT chapel (where my parents were married!) and auditorium. The TWA Flight Center is open and welcoming and was built for a different era—one before jumbo jets. It was nearly outdated the day it opened, and officially closed its doors in 2001. Two tunnels connect it to the main terminal.
Two new towers (designed by Lubrano Ciavarra Architects) flank the terminal building that house the 512 hotel rooms. And while it’s contemporary architecture, the details in each room keep the retro vibes. (Just be aware, that when the blinds are open, it’s easy for anyone to see inside the rooms.)
Some guests will prefer the runway views (the priciest rooms), but I opted for a view of the historic terminal (you can see into the restaurant here). The red womb chair was also designed by Eero Saarinen for Knoll. The bed was one of the most comfortable hotel beds I’ve slept in.
Each room had great details including rotary phones, TWA hotel pencils, and a copy of LIFE magazine. Speaking of phones, one of my favorite hotel experiences was calling the hotel before I booked my stay. The hold “music” made me smile and I love how the reception desk answered the phone. It all fits the time! (There are vintage pay phones in the lobby near the “sunken lounge” that are worth checking out too.)
The 1960s were known as the Golden Age of Travel. One step in the TWA Hotel and you’re instantly reminded that travel is not what it used to be. (On the flip side, it’s great more people can afford to travel now and have experiences outside of what they know.)
My friend Kristina came out from the city for the night to enjoy me for the adventures. The minute we had our mini reunion we started dancing, drawn to the amazingness of the place we found ourself standing in. The smiles and happy dance continued the entire stay. We hope the people behind the security cameras got a kick out of us!
Outside the terminal is a restored and repurposed 1958 Constellation Starliner plane dubbed the “Connie.” Inside is a bar!
Servers are dressed as flight attendants from the 60s. We made friends with other “passengers” as people loved that we dressed up (we met in Paris, and it’s just how we dress). I highly recommend putting a little effort into what you wear while at the TWA Hotel. While it’s not required, it definitely enhances the experience and makes you feel like you belong in the time and place. (My dress is Gorman FYI.)
I highly recommend reserving for the Connie, and restaurant, which you can do through the hotel website. It’s not required, but it put us at ease. And I figure that the hotel is only going to get more popular as people learn it exists. We stayed for one drink before it was time for our 9:15pm reservation at the Paris Café restaurant back inside the terminal.
The Paris Café was beautiful and quite reasonably priced for an airport restaurant. I found all the food very tasty too. It’s a simple menu that’s a throw back to Americana. There’s an open kitchen but unlike many restaurants today, it doesn’t smell like a restaurant (a good thing). Also, the acoustics are great and you can hear your table mate. The restaurant is divided into color zones, and there’s another devoted bar on the airport side. And be sure to check out the carpet too! (Every detail was considered.)
The spaces are open and lofty and a dream to explore while a 1960s soundtrack plays overhead.
The staff is dressed in 1960s airline inspired uniforms, which is a great touch. When I arrived there where three actor/models dressed as a pilot and flight attendants. It definitely made me smile. Later I saw them talking to other flight attendants, and for a minute I didn’t know who really worked for an airline, and who was just playing the role.
Kristina and I had a field day snapping photos. Every angle was so photogenic. It made selecting my Instagram posts (see more photos here; they’re also tagged #PAVnyc), and putting together this blog post a challenge.
Remember that Tom Hanks movie where he lives in an airport? Yeah, I’d be perfectly happy if I never left this place.
On one of the upper levels of the historic terminal there are TWA uniforms over the ages on display, many by major names in design. If you poke around a bit more there are two small lounges—a gold one, and the rainbow room—that are worth peeking into.
When you check in, make sure you enjoy the TWA vintage posters by David Klein too! They’re a great reminder of another age of travel.
And a visit to the hotel would not be complete without a visit to the rooftop pool overlooking the runway. We visited twice and found morning the better time to see takeoffs and landings. (We were naive to think we’d have the pool to ourselves at 7am when it opened). It’s fun to spot planes and take in the different paint jobs and guess the airline.
While most social media and press shots will show the pool relatively empty, the afternoon we arrived it was quite popular (also, it was peak summer, so if you want a table, you also need to reserve). Still, we enjoyed a couple cocktails from the Pool Bar, and the smashed avocados (code: guacamole) were delicious! We couldn’t help but admire the tile work and red terrazzo tile. Every detail of this place is AMAZING.
Back inside, the long tunnels get you between the hotel room towers and the historic terminal. They are a great tool for making the time warp a reality. (Not pictured here, the Gift Shop is worth a visit too with great souvenirs.)
I knew this experience is something I wanted to take full advantage of “staycation style” and not just a place to rest my head or pass through. I was going with intention. It was a last minute idea that popped into my head while I was stateside. Heck, I didn’t even stop in NYC to see anything or anyone there. (The other irony is that I took the train to and from the airport. I wasn’t even flying out! Ha!). I figured the hotel is only going to get more popular with time, which means prices may go up too, along with more wear and tear. Why wait??
For the record, this is not a sponsored post. I paid full price (for the record, NY has a bunch of surprise taxes from the prices listed on the website, so keep that in mind when planning a trip.) Still, I LOVED every second and happy to finally be able to share it with you. The TWA Hotel has raised the bar for travel inspired experiences. It builds on history too, not just creativity and trends.
It was also a joy to experience it with a friend who appreciated the details as much as I did. Thanks to Kristina Parsons for being a fun travel buddy + taking the great photos of me.
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