Lisa and I recently went to the airport for a night out to celebrate our anniversary.
Yes. You read that right.
We got all dressed up and went to the airport. But we didn’t pack any bags. In fact, we had a great time and didn’t have to go through any TSA screenings!
Arrival at the TWA Hotel
Our plan for the evening was dinner and drinks at the TWA Hotel, which is located inside John F. Kennedy International Airport.
It was Lisa’s idea, and I was totally on board with it.
The TWA Hotel opened in 2019 and immediately made Time Magazine’s Greatest Places list for that year. While the buildings that house the actual hotel rooms are new, the lobby is in the historic TWA terminal building. The hotel fittingly pays homage to the fabulous “Jet-Age” of travel in the 1960s. It features restaurant and several lounges.
With a restaurant from a world-renowned chef, and a unique lounge experience, it had all the makings of a great date night.
The 60s Jet-Age Vibe
We decided to dress the part for our 60s evening. Lisa found a great dress at a thrift shop and our daughter picked out a matching tie for me to wear.
After an hour in rush-hour traffic, we pulled up in front of the TWA hotel and got our first taste of the modern vs vintage vibes.
The neo-futuristic architecture of the old TWA terminal is a bit diminished by the added hotel wings and the JetBlue terminal that stands behind it. It is still impressive but must have been even more striking when the building stood alone in front of the runways.
Instead of a paper ticket, the valet texted me a link to use to request my car and utilize contactless payment.
We left our vehicle in their capable hands and stepped inside the iconic TWA terminal and into the past.
When the TWA terminal first opened in 1962, it was state-of-the-art. It was a time when you could fly anywhere in the country and anyplace in the world in a matter of hours. Passengers who passed through this lobby and gawked at its departure/arrival flipboard and baggage carousels, did so with a sense of wonder and adventure.
We were filled with a similar sense of wonder and adventure as we took it all in.
The hotel designers put a lot of effort into recreating the original feel of the TWA building interior. The “chili pepper red” color TWA made famous is prominent in the tiling, carpeting, and furnishings.
While the baggage carousels are gone, there are two replicas of the original arrival/departure boards on either side of the building. We heard the telltale sound of the flipping boards as soon as we walked in. The board near the main entrance incessantly cycles through fictional flights as if to say hello to new visitors and goodbye to those departing.
And the more we looked around, the more it became apparent to us that the TWA Hotel is not just paying homage to the Jet Age. It’s collecting and preserving it.
Everywhere we looked there were fun things to be found: A display of flight attendant and pilots uniforms from years past, a shoeshine booth, rotary payphones, an oversized twister spinner, Tab soda.
And the whole time a soundtrack of 60s music played throughout the building. I half-expected to see Tom Hanks chasing Leonardo DiCaprio through the lobby.
We loved it.
Dinner at the Paris Cafe
The Paris Cafe sits on the upper level of the hotel lobby. The design of the space is largely unchanged from when it was a restaurant and coffee shop many years ago.
The hostess sat us at a small table near the huge floor-to-ceiling windows, which brought in a lot of natural light but afforded nothing spectacular in the way of a view. I longed to be able to see out that window and into the past, but the comings and goings of the monorail at the station across the street only served to disrupt the vibe.
So, we mostly people-watched while enjoying the crooning of Frank Sinatra and the Beatles.
As you might expect, the crowd was a mixed bag of business people, families, and couples. We were pleasantly surprised to see that we weren’t the only ones who dressed for the occasion. One lady literally looked like she could have been a stewardess from the 1960s.
Our dinner was very good, and the attention of our server made it excellent.
We split a Caesar salad. At our server’s suggestion, Lisa chose the roasted cauliflower from the few vegetarian options and a side of fries. I opted for the beef tenderloin with mashed potatoes and broccoli rabe. (Lisa and I may have traded some broccoli rabe for a few fries).
I was apprehensive about the sriracha that the beef tenderloin was served with. But, to my surprise, it worked nicely. The beef was also tender enough to cut without any discomfort to my broken wrist. Lisa enjoyed her cauliflower, but it was too large for her to finish.
For dessert, Lisa had the almond cake and I chose the jumbo chocolate chip cookie, which was more like a warm, chocolate chip cookie pie. Both were delicious.
A Toast to Tab
After dinner, we explored the lobby a bit more before heading outside to the TWA Hotel’s pseudo tarmac for drinks.
From the Sunken Lounge, we could see “Connie” outside on the hotel’s tarmac area right in front of the Jet Blue terminal. The display board here simply read “TAB” in giant letters. Every night at 7pm they toast the now retired beverage.
Apparently they stashed a considerable supply of Tab after it went out of production.
I made the mistake of not asking for one then. Little did I know I wouldn’t be able to later.
Drinks Aboard “Connie”
It took a few minutes to locate the doors to get outside, but soon we were sauntering down a ramp, under the angled walkway that leads from the lobby to one of the hotel wings, and out onto a fake runway. Waiting for us were a roller skating rink and an actual 1958 Lockheed Continental airplane.
The plane is “Connie”.
To get inside, you use one of two sets of stairs reminiscent of the days of air travel before planes pulled right up to the gate. Stepping aboard, we were immediately amazed by how spacious it was inside.
On today’s planes, there is hardly any room to walk or stand up straight. Inside Connie, we could have danced!
There were no overhead luggage bins. The aisle was wide enough for two people to walk side-by-side. The floor was carpeted in the same bright chili pepper red from inside the hotel. Couches lined against each wall in the front and back sections. Pairs of traditional airline seats made up the middle. Small round tables dotted the fuselage.
There were perhaps a dozen people on board.
We poked our heads into the cockpit to get a look at it before looking for a place to relax. We chose the familiar airline seating. After perusing the menu of drinks and snacks, I nominated myself to be the steward and made my way to the bar in the rear of the plane.
As I waited to order I noted that the music inside was not of the same vintage as the songs that were playing outside and in the lobby. We had gone from “Pleasant Valley Sunday” outside to “Sweet Child O’ Mine” inside.
Someone else must have asked about it right at the same time because I heard the bartender explain that she likes to play songs from the 70s and 80s inside Connie so she doesn’t get sick of Frank Sinatra. To each his own.
Thankfully, she did play several of our favorites. We sang along, enjoyed our drinks, and watched a lot of the same people we saw at dinner come to check out the lounge. Some stayed for drinks. Others just popped in for a few photos and left.
I had thought “Connie” would have been more of a full-service experience. I imagined being greeted at the door of the plane and shown to available seats. Maybe an attendant would bring your order up the aisle in a little cart.
But despite the more casual than expected atmosphere, it was definitely a unique experience.
Before we knew it, it was time to go.
It was hard to believe we had been there for almost 4 hours. We lingered in the lobby, checking out the gift shop and looking in corners we hadn’t explored for interesting things. We found the Ambassadors Club, which is now used for events.
In the Sunken Lounge, the flipboard had changed from “TAB” to “Happy Birthday James”. The nightly toast was over and the beverage was once again retired until the next evening.
I remembered to go back to the Paris Cafe and have the hostess validate our valet parking. We used the link the valet sent us and input the code from the hostess. That reduced the $45 parking fee to $0. All we had to pay was the tip.
By the time we walked out to the sidewalk, our car was waiting. I showed the valet my phone’s screen to prove I had paid, and just like that, we were back in the 21st century.
It is not uncommon for a trip to the airport to feel stressful. Our past trips through airports have left us feeling tired, dirty, and sometimes even violated. And that’s not including the time we got caught in that very Jet Blue terminal during a blizzard!
But this was one visit that certainly had a different impact.
It was fun.
We drove home wondering when we might go back to the TWA Hotel. In fact, we even discussed bringing the kids and making a staycation out of it.
As hotel guests, we could access the rooftop pool with views of the actual runway. We might even be able to do some roller skating, get Mister Softee ice cream in the food court, explore more of the hotel and maybe even get to taste Tab soda again.
Even “Connie” is family-friendly. We think the kids would love it!
Know Before You Go
If you’re interested in checking out the TWA hotel for a date night, staycation, or even as a cool place to stay while visiting NYC, you can visit the TWA Hotel Website for the most up to date info and rates.
- Reservations for the Paris Cafe are recommended, but walk-ins are welcome.
- None of the lounges accepts reservations.
- The hotel uses its lounges and spaces for private events. They list the times those spaces are unavailable on their website.
- Roller Skating is only available on weekends, weather permitting.
- The Rooftop Pool and Pool Bar are for hotel guests only and require a reservation.
- The hotel is pet-friendly and ADA accessible.