The Ultimate Guide to John F. Kennedy Airport in NYC

As we prepare for 2022 holiday travels, here’s how to get there via subway and AirTrain, and where to eat, drink, and shop before your flight.

The Sunken Lounge at the TWA Hotel boasts a split flap departures board by Solari di Udine — and a view of the hotel’s restored 1958 Lockheed Constellation “Connie.
The Sunken Lounge at the TWA Hotel | Photo courtesy of TWA Hotel, Photo by David Mitchell
The Sunken Lounge at the TWA Hotel | Photo courtesy of TWA Hotel, Photo by David Mitchell

As the largest airport in New York State and the sixth busiest in the country, if you’re flying in or out of the Big Apple during the 2022 holidays season, there’s a good chance it’ll be through John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Opened in 1948 in the Jamaica neighborhood of Queens, the world-famous JFK Airport serves millions of passengers annually (with a record number of 62 million in 2019) through six terminals, 131 gates, and four runways. And recently, a billion dollar renovation initiative—which launched in 2018 and is expected to run through 2030—promises to improve the quality of JFK’s facilities via new indoor greenspaces, public art, renewable energy technologies, and more.

So whether you’re looking for overnight accommodations before an early flight or are in search of reliable spots for pre-boarding bites and cocktails, here’s our ultimate guide on everywhere to eat, drink, hang, and more at John F. Kennedy International Airport in NYC.

AirTrain at JFK Airport
AirTrain at JFK Airport | Markus Mainka/Shutterstock

JFK Airport by public transportation

Bus: If yellow cabs or ridesharing apps like Uber or Lyft are out of your budget, one option is hopping on an MTA bus via routes B15, Q3, Q6, Q7, or Q10.

Subway and AirTrain: Otherwise, the easiest and most cost-effective way is via the subway and AirTrain that’ll cost a total of $10.75.

If coming from Manhattan, hop on the Far Rockaway-bound A train (make sure it’s not the Ozone Park-Lefferts Blvd bound A train, and if you mistakenly take this one, simply get off at the Rockaway Boulevard stop on to transfer to the Far Rockaway-bound one). Then, transfer to the AirTrain at the Howard Beach Station.

If coming from other city locations, take the Jamaica Center-bound subway lines of the E, J, or Z trains to Sutphin Boulevard/Archer Avenue/JFK Airport to then transfer to the AirTrain.

Helicopter: Yes, helicopter! If you’re looking to splurge, flights from BLADE start at $195 and group charters are also available.

H&H Bagels
H&H Bagels

JFK Airport restaurants

Breakfast: Alongside classics like Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts—which can be found in almost every terminal—stop by the H&H Bagels in the food hall of Terminal 5 for artisanal BECs and lox; or Croque Madame in Terminal 2 for crepes and quiches. Other popular eateries include La Brea Bakery in Terminal 4 for breads and pastries; and Apartment 7B in Terminal 7 for grab-n-go sandwiches plus coffee and teas.

The Palm
The Palm

Lunch and dinner: Crush some of that extra wait time with a leisurely feast at The Palm Bar & Grille in Terminal 4 for salads, seafood, and steaks. Chef Marcus Samuelsson’s (Red Rooster) American bistro, Uptown Brasserie, is also in Terminal 4 and serves everything from chicken sandwiches and grilled salmon to grits and pancakes. Also, the menu at AeroNueva in Terminal 5 was created by chef Mark Ladner (Pasta Flyer), and includes Italian offerings like Spaghetti & Meatballs and Chicken Milanese. Launched with the help of chef Robby Cook (Morimoto), Shiso in Terminal 2 serves Japanese items including specialty rolls.

If in a time crunch, Terminal 1 offers Turkish food from Eat & Go Istanbul/New York; Korean and Japanese bites from JikJi Cafe; and Asian fare like ramen and dumplings from Soy and Sake.

At Terminal 2, there’s charcuterie and pastas at Due Amici, as well as slices from Tagliare, which is run by the son of legendary Dom DeMarco who founded Di Fara Pizza.

In Terminal 4, Mexican fare like burritos, tacos, and more can be found at Mi Casa Cantina and Restaurant, plus burgers and fries from an outpost of the NYC-born Shake Shack.

Terminal 5 is home to everything from Pan-Caribbean dishes at Caribbean Kitchen and to-go sashimi from Deep Blue on the Fly to locations of Big Apple favorites including Artichoke Pizza and Baked By Melissa.

Within Terminal 7, burgers are the specialty at True Burger and no-fuss sandwiches and salads are at the ready from Apartment 7B.

Finally, Terminal 8 features options like the automated fridge service of Farmer’s Fridge, which is stocked with veggie-forward salads, wraps, and bowls; Bobby Van’s Steakhouse for American fare including sandwiches and chops; and Mezze Cafe, which serves up paninis and baked goods.

Blue Point Brewing
Blue Point Brewing

Bars: Spread across six terminals, there’s plenty of watering holes to sip on cocktails and beers. With all spots allowed to serve alcohol beginning from 8 am until close, Le Grand Comptoir in Terminal 7 is a wrap-around wine bar with snacks like cheese boards and Bruschetta; and Martini Bar in Terminal 1 turns out wine, beer, and no-frills cocktails. For an ice cold brew, there’s also a pub outpost of New York-based Blue Point Brewery in Terminal 4. Other chill bars include Tigin’s Irish Pub & Restaurant in Terminal 4 and New York Sports Bar in Terminal 8.

Bookstore at JFK Airport
Bookstore at JFK Airport | Sorbis/Shutterstock

JFK Airport shops

Retail therapy and last-minute gifts: Sometimes, a bit of retail therapy really cures any lingering pre-flight anxiety or saves you from showing up to holiday celebrations empty-handed. Among the in-airport options, there’s mini outlets for top tier designers like Cartier, Coach, and Ferragamo in Terminal 1, plus Swarovski, Brooks Brothers, and Juicy Couture in Terminal 4. For more affordable choices, there’s a New York Originals shop in Terminal 8 for all your souvenir needs and a 47 Brand hat shop in Terminal 4 as well.

For reading materials, snag magazines, books, and newspapers from Hudson News stores in Terminals 1, 4, 7, and 8; in addition to a Read bookstore in Terminal 2; and a WhereTraveler Books in Terminal 5.

Be Relax
Be Relax

JFK Airport lounges and spas

Pamper yourself and pass the time between layovers: Whether traveling for business or pleasure, pampering yourself is truly the ticket to having a more laidback flight. After you’ve cleared security, release some tension via a quick shoulder or neck massage at Xpress Spa in Terminal 1 or BeRelax in Terminal 5.

For a swankier spot to kick up your feet, there are several exclusive airport lounges for members/international ticket purchasers including the Air France Lounge in Terminal 1; Delta Sky Clubs in Terminals 2 and 4; Swiss, Emirates, Air India, and Etihad Lounges in Terminal 4; and more.

For long layovers, Terminal 4 also hosts a crew of Minute Suites, which are quaint rooms with a daybed, desk, and TV for travelers looking to rest for a minimum of 1 hour to a maximum of 8 hours.

TWA Hotel terminal
TWA Hotel terminal | Photo courtesy of TWA Hotel, Photo by David Mitchell

Hotels near JFK Airport

Top choice: The crown jewel of lodgings is undoubtedly the TWA Hotel. Accessible through Terminal 5, the hotel debuted in 2019 and flaunts a chic 1960s design. Built within what used to be the TWA Flight Center, the groovy hotel consists of 512 rooms; a cocktail spot called The Sunken Lounge; an aviation history museum; a rooftop pool; The Paris Café by Jean Georges (Tin Building); an airplane converted into a bar called Connie Cocktail Lounge; and a holiday-inspired après swim destination called Runway Chalet at The Pool Bar.

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Izzy Baskette is a Staff Writer for Thrillist New York. Find her on Instagram.