You might think taking a trip to the airport without having a flight to catch or someone to pick up is, well … crazy. Not so. I encourage you check out Eero Saarinen’s reincarnated TWA Flight Center, now known as the TWA Hotel at JFK airport. Visiting the new lobby of this classic 1962 venue is a trip in itself! While the entire experience isn’t especially geared toward children, there’s plenty to keep the kiddos curious and occupied. You might have to drag them away from the giant Twister game (it fills an entire room). However, let’s start at the beginning.
Upfront and center
Driving up to the hotel you can’t help but marvel at the shape of the building with its two large wings that inspire the feeling of flight. We parked in the JetBlue Terminal 5 parking lot directly across from the Hotel entrance. Even the walk up to the building is a time warp. We drooled over the 50s Citroën and the 60s VW Bus parked in the front lot. Then just outside the lobby doors was a beautiful 1960s Lincoln Continental convertible.
Young actors happily playing the parts of 1960s stewardess’ and pilots greeted us. They gladly posed for photos and were quick with easy banter. There’s a small dining hall to the right of the entrance and to the left, you’ll find the self-check-in desk. Period music plays quietly setting the mood. Taking the center stairs you can’t miss the dramatic, lipstick red Sunken Lounge. This is where crowds once gathered to watch the Beatles arrive in 1965. Floor to ceiling windows offer expansive views of the runways and a rotating schedule board clicks away as you settle in for a cocktail. Just opposite the Sunken Lounge is the lovely Paris Café by Jean George where you can have a meal.
In the corridors
The enchantment continues as you explore the corridors to the left and right of the lounge as well as an area that’s up one level of stairs. Don’t miss the museum of TWA flight attendant and crew uniforms on the upper level. The outfits, some designed by the likes of Valentino and Ralph Lauren, are posed elegantly on headless mannequins along with vintage carrying cases and accessories.
Downstairs pause by the bank of payphones. They might be something your kids have never seen before – and they really dial! There’s a newspaper shop with vintage candies and actual magazines from the 60s on display.
To the right, you’ll also find a small gift shop and a free photo booth circa 1960. Step inside and take some photos. Tell your kids it’s an old-fashioned selfie machine.
In the left corridor don’t miss the giant Twister game! Spin the wheel and have fun trying to get your hands and feet on the giant colored circles. Play as long as you like – it’s free.
You should also look for the recreated 1960s living room. There’s a framed letter from JFK and Jackie on the wall, a bar sporting crème de menthe, a very small TV, a record player, and LP albums.
Walking through the corridor pause at the Reading Room, a library dedicated to architecture and design. Take a book from the shelf and be amazed. The corridor walls are adorned with framed vintage TWA posters celebrating travel destinations from Tunisia to Thailand.
Up, up and away
At the end of the corridor walk outside onto the tarmac past a TWA baggage cart full of old Samsonite suitcases. You can take a seat at the wheel and get some cute photos here. Then climb aboard Connie, the retired Lockheed Super Constellation aircraft that has been reimagined with a full-service bar and snack menu. Take a look at the original cockpit. Feel free to just walk through, there’s no pressure to imbibe or nibble.
If you have time take the elevator up to the rooftop and take a peek at the rooftop bar and heated swimming pool. You can have a drink here and dangle your feet in the pool if you like or just be wowed by the view of planes landing and taxiing. Any kid that likes planes will be in heaven.
We didn’t go into the actual hotel, but that’s not the idea. The lobby is a great destination spot unto itself. Make the trip or stop by if you arrive early or, heaven forbid, your flight is delayed.
When you go …
Queens, New York
Admission: There is no cost to visit the lobby.
Parking: Enter either from the Terminal 5 JetBlue parking lot or from inside the JetBlue terminal. You can also take the AirTrain. See the website for more specific information.