We just had an incredible staycation at the TWA Hotel in New York City. As you may remember, Trans World Airlines went out of business back in 2001, but the vintage brand lives on in this hotel, located in what used to be the TWA Flight Center at JFK Airport. The hotel really captures the glamor and modernity of the Jet Age, with its sleek lines and curved walls. It’s a must-see for any fan of aviation and modern design.
I’m only a casual fan of architecture and design but I was floored by the beauty of this building. It was designed by Eero Saarinen, the renowned Finnish-American architect and industrial designer who was known for his neo-futuristic style and organic shapes. (He also designed the Tulip chair and Womb chair, both of which have become classics of modern furniture design.)
When the TWA Flight Center opened in 1962, it was a marvel in modernity and really captured the futuristic spirit of what came to be known as the Jet Age. When the jet engine was introduced to aviation, it revolutionized the travel industry. Suddenly, air travel was no longer a luxury just for the wealthy and flying became accessible to many. The city’s football team even renamed themselves the New York Jets as a nod to the New York’s dominance in aviation!
Sadly, TWA ran into financial troubles and went bankrupt twice, first in 1992 and then again in 1995. The TWA Flight Center became impractical, as it couldn’t accommodate the larger aircraft that became more common in the 80s and 90s. Also, the terminal’s Iayout made it impossible to install metal detectors and other modern security devices. In 2001, the TWA terminal stopped serving passengers and closed completely.
For the next 20 years, it sat mostly empty and unused, save for a few public open houses for architecture fans. Luckily, it was designated a New York City landmark in 1994 and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005, which protected it from being torn down.
In 2016, construction began on the TWA Hotel and it opened last spring. I’m so grateful not only that this building was saved, but that it was restored so beautifully to match Saarinen’s original vision.
We stayed in an Executive Double Queen Suite With Runway View. There were two queen beds, a sitting area, a desk, a bar area and a gleaming white bathroom. The floor to ceiling windows gave us incredible views of the JFK airport runways. We loved all the touches of vintage design, from the working rotary phone on the desk to the vintage TWA flight posters on the walls.
There are several impressive exhibits throughout the property. In the years before the TWA Hotel opened, the owners collected more than 2,000 artifacts that trace the story of TWA. Most of the items were donated by former TWA employees and their families, and these items make up the exhibits.
Among our favorite exhibits was the collection of 37 full TWA uniforms from 1945 to 2001. Many of the uniforms were designed by legends of the fashion industry, including Oleg Cassini, Pierre Balmain, Valentino and Ralph Lauren.
We also enjoyed the authentic recreation of a 1962 living room, which includes the first-ever original Barbie Dreamhouse. (Ella, a Dreamhouse enthusiast, was hilariously unimpressed that all the original furniture was made of cardboard!) There are even retro outfits you can try on to really get into the spirit of things.
The recreation of Saarinen’s office was also really interesting. All the period-perfect details brought us back to what it must have been like for him to design this legendary building.
Connie the Airplane
The property is full of artifacts from TWA’s glory days, but none is more impressive than Connie, the Lockheed Constellation that has been meticulously restored to its former glory. When the hotel’s owners purchased her in 2018, she was in bad shape. (Her entire nose was missing, for one!) They tracked down authentic parts, installed flooring and windows, and even outfitted the cockpit with controls.⠀
After the restoration was complete, Connie was transformed into a cocktail lounge. You can sip on drinks while sitting in the plane cabin! Well, in non-pandemic times at least. It’s temporarily closed due to government restrictions on indoor dining. Still, we were lucky enough to be allowed a peek inside.
Rooftop Infinity Pool
We haven’t been to a pool since our last pre-Covid trip in February, so getting to enjoy this rooftop infinity pool was such a treat. Like the rest of our experience at the TWA Hotel, it felt very safe.
In order to access the pool and observation deck, you need to be a hotel guest and book a separate reservation just for the pool. The pool opens to guests for 1 hour and 45 minutes at a time, after which the area is thoroughly cleaned and sanitized before accepting the next group of reservations. There is a bar and restaurant there, but due to current government regulations, if you plan to order an alcoholic drink, you’ll need to order food to go along with it.
If you’d like to swim for free, you can do so between 7 am and 10:30 am each day. At other hours, pool reservations cost $25 per adult and $12.50 per child Monday through Thursday. If you go Friday through Sunday, it’s $50 per adult and $25 per child.
Now, for the aviation fans, here are some fun facts about the runway the pool overlooks!
- 4L/22R is one of the biggest runways at JFK at 12,079 feet long.
- You’ll also be able to see the famous Bay Runway which measures 14,511 feet long – almost 3 miles!
- The Bay Runway is actually Runway 13 Right/31 Left, and it’s the second-longest commercial runway in North America.
If you enjoy plane-spotting, this is a great place to do it. We’re not av geeks by any stretch of the imagination, but even we enjoyed spotting some planes we hadn’t seen before, like the JetBlue Boston Celtics livery and the JetBlue New York Jets livery. We also saw lots of cargo planes, including some from DHL and Amazon Prime!
Why TWA Hotel Is a Bucket List Attraction
We had an incredible time at the TWA Hotel. It was a chance to really take in the work of a giant in the world of modern design, but also full of family fun. Our girls loved getting to spot planes right from the rooftop pool! I highly recommend a stay here if you’ll be in New York City.
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About Carmen Sognonvi
Carmen Sognonvi is a luxury family travel content creator at Top Flight Family, named a top 10 family travel Instagram account by Time Out New York and Brit + Co. Her insights on travel have been featured in The Washington Post, INSIDER, Huffington Post, Wanderlust Travel Magazine, TravelPulse, HOTELS Magazine, and more. Carmen firmly believes that you can (and should) travel with your kids from a young age. She offers families practical solutions for travel, as well as tips on how to travel in luxury for less. She lives in New York City with her multiracial and multicultural family of four. Follow her on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
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