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Time Travel at the TWA Hotel and Other Retro Accommodations

4 destinations where nostalgia seekers can find a cool 1960s vibe

spinner image TWA hotel at JFK Airport
Courtesy TWA Hotel/David Mitchel

 

Jet-lagged travelers seeking respite at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport don’t have far to venture to find a hotel room — as long as they don’t mind going back to 1962.

The TWA Hotel, the airport’s only on-site accommodation, is a unique destination for aviation geeks, history buffs or nostalgia-seeking jet-setters.

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The former TWA Flight Center — a historic landmark that served as the terminal for the iconic brand from the dawn of the jet age until 2001 — was preserved and restored into a hotel that captures a bygone era.

TWA Hotel

Getting there: The hotel is accessible by ground transport or from any terminal on the JFK AirTrain (Terminal 5 stop). If you’re driving, navigate to 1 Idlewild Drive, New York, New York. Onsite parking is $40 overnight, or $30 per night if you want to park and fly.

Cost: Rooms start at around $230 per night (there’s an extra charge for use of the rooftop infinity pool, which requires reservations), and pets are allowed for a $65 fee.

Reservations: www.TWAHotel.com; 212-806-9000

Guests arriving in the 60-year-old lobby check in where previous generations plopped bags to begin their far-flung journeys. The Eero Saarinen-designed structure lacks square corners — floors transition to walls, which become ceilings, all in curved forms. Other vintage vibes include the red-carpeted Sunken Lounge; a Twister room, with colorful wall-to-wall dots and a huge spinner; an authentic split-flap flight board; a wall of pay phones; a 1958 Lockheed Constellation (serving as a cocktail bar during certain hours) parked just outside floor-to-ceiling windows; and, in the 512 rooms, rotary phones, mod furniture and retro travel posters. There’s also a rooftop pool with views of nonstop runway action, though you need reservations for pool time.

You don’t have to stay here to take in museum exhibits focused on the TWA brand and the golden age of air travel. Curated by the New York Historical Society and free of charge, the collection includes 2,367 TWA artifacts, dozens of uniforms from 1945 to 2001, plus vintage suitcases, Saarinen’s drafting table, and a furnished mid-century living room to explore.

Other retro hotels

For those looking for a nostalgia trip elsewhere in the U.S., the options are growing as old motels are remodeled in vintage style, or boutique hotels are outfitted with mid-century décor. Here are a few:

Hotel Dylan, Woodstock, New York

Peace, love and luxury await visitors at this boutique motel whose 22 rooms give a nod to a certain festival that took place nearby in 1969 (and whose motto is “peace, love, stay”). Rooms are named after one of the rock ’n’ roll greats who played at Woodstock (like The Baez), with photos from the famed concert on the wall and old-style record players accompanied by records to spin. There are also all the 21st century amenities you’d expect, such as complimentary WiFi, a pool (in summer), a modern Mexican restaurant onsite, and outdoor firepit, where guests hang out on weekend evenings throughout the year. Rooms start at $189 per night.

320 Maverick Road; www.thehoteldylan.com; 845-684-5422

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Lone Star Court, Austin, Texas

​​Longing for a classic road trip stay with a 21st-century upgrade? Check out Lone Star Court in the Texas capital. The property is part of an upscale shopping area called the Domain, and centered around an activity courtyard with lawn games, bikes (free to borrow), firepits and a pool that’s meant to evoke the feel of a Hill Country swimming hole. The guest rooms feature mid-century modern-style furniture (“retro ranch,” as they put it here) and an old-school Smeg refrigerator. There’s live music (bluegrass, country) every weekend and comfort food (BBQ ribs, burgers, bread pudding) at the Water Trough restaurant and bar. You can also drive 20 minutes south to downtown Austin to find musical entertainment galore. Rooms start at about $200, with pets welcome for a $50 fee.

10901 Domain Drve; 512-814-2625; www.LoneStarCourt.com

Phoenix Hotel, San Francisco, California

spinner image Phoenix hotel, San Francisco
d747 / Stockimo / Alamy Stock Photo

This 44-room motor court hotel, in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood, is another pick for rock lovers who want to bask in the 1960s. Rooms are bedecked in vintage music posters and rotary telephones. But the Phoenix, built in 1956 as the Caravan Motor Lodge, is no modern confection: It actually served as the second home to traveling bands and musicians through the years, including Neil Young and Debbie Harry. After a period of disrepair, it was refurbished and again became a pit stop for musicians passing through and travelers who appreciate unique accommodations. Rooms start at $169 per night.

601 Eddy St.; 415-776-1380; www.Phoenixsf.com

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