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10 Things to do on a layover at JFK Airport

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Traveling isn’t always glamorous or fun, especially when long layovers test your patience. This is especially true at the busiest of all three New York Airports, John F. Kennedy International Airport. Luckily JFK offers plenty of options to have mini NY adventures at the airport and nearby! After all, this is the airport where Tom Hanks’ character in The Terminal managed to keep himself entertained for months. Your layover at JFK is sure to be shorter than that! Here are a few cool ways to enjoy your JFK layover both inside the airport and nearby.

JFK has 6 terminals and is located in Queens, New York, 16 miles southeast of Manhattan. The JFK AirTrain connects all the terminals with Jamaica station, from where you can get to Manhattan pretty quickly. Like the city itself, the AirTrain never sleeps and is available 24/7! Depending on how long your layover at JFK is, you’ll find plenty of things to do in and around the airport.

1.    Grab great grub

JFK offers a wide range of dining options across all 6 terminals. There are quite a few must-not-miss food joints during your layover at JFK Airport. JikJi Café at Terminal 1 dishes up delicious East Asian dishes, while the New York Hotdog & Coffee in the food court gives you a taste of authentic NYC daily life with its hot dogs. Due Amici by Caesare Casella offers Italian fare in a refined and elegant ambiance at Terminal 2. Tagliare is another Italian food option at terminal 2 and offers pizzas. In Terminal 4, you can enjoy a classy dining experience at the Uptown Brasserie with its superb menu of classic Southern dishes like catfish and waffles.

JFK Airport parking

Danny Meyer’s Southern-style barbecue restaurant Blue Smoke on The Road serves up delectable Southern-style barbecue fare like pulled pork or brisket sandwich. Deep Blue Sushi in Terminal 5 offers tasty sushi, as its name suggests! Also, in Terminal 5 is Piquillo, a Spanish-themed restaurant serving Spanish delicacies like paella and charcuterie boards. The JetBlue Food Hall in Terminal 5 offers made-to-order cuisine from around the globe, as well as a salad bar and a hot buffet. AT Terminal 7, you’ll get to enjoy an espresso with locally roasted coffee beans at the  Irving Farms Coffee Roasters. Here, you’ll also find another celeb chef outlet – Wolfgang Puck Express, offering soups, salads, and gourmet pizzas. Bobby Van’s Steakhouse at terminal 8 serves salads, sandwiches, and of course, steak, while Wok and Roll offer a Chinese buffet.

2.    Find a watering hole


There’s nothing quite like a long cold drink to ease your travel woes. Luckily, JFK offers plenty of options for that. At Terminal 1, there’s the Martini Bar for martinis and wine, the Idlewild Wine Bar for a glass of red or white, and the Medalist Bar for a no-fuss sports bar feel. Terminal 2 has beers on tap at BKLYN Beer Garden with a perfect pub-like menu to go with it created by celebrated chef Laurent Tourondel. Mi Casa Cantina and Restaurant at Terminal 4 serves up tequila and mezcal while the Caviar House & Prunier Seafood Bar offers caviar and wine.

If you want to stay off spirits, Terminal 4 also has Shake Shack and Jamba Juice outlets. Terminal 5 has the Bar Veloce with its modern Italian wine bar and the Piquillo Tapas Bar. At Terminal 7, you’ll find a Le French-inspired wine bar at the Le Grand Comptoir and a full bar at the Thirsty Beer & Wine Bar. Terminal 8 plays host to the New York Sports Bar, the Vino Volo Lounge, and the Drink Martini Bar.

3.     Surf the Web


Wifi is free and unlimited here, making your JFK layover the perfect option to catch up on your work emails or social media streams. Free Wireless Internet service is available all throughout the JFK airport.

4.    Unwind at a lounge


Several of the lounges at JFK Airport will let you in, irrespective of which class of ticket you’re flying on if you purchase a day pass. A day pass may cost you anywhere upwards from $40. But it might be worth paying a little extra if you’re really fatigued and want to unwind in peace and quiet away from the bustle of the airport. Most lounges will allow you to shower, eat food, and relax or even doze on their comfy chairs.

5.    Pamper yourself


Use your layover at JFK to give yourself a treat. After all this time in a cramped airplane seat, you’ve won more than earned it! JFK Airport has Xpress Spas in Terminals 1, 4, and 7. Go in for a head and shoulder massage or even spend a few minutes on an electric massage chair. If you’re feeling a little adventurous, you can even get yourself a brand-new hairstyle before you land at your destination!

6.    Get some shut-eye


Terminal 5 has GoSleep pods where you can settle down for a nap during your JFK layover. Terminal 4’s Minute Suites have private suites that have a napping couch, television, and work desk. If it’s comfortable, uninterrupted sleep, you need the TWA Hotel in Terminal 5. The hotel offers both short-stay as well as overnight stay options. We wouldn’t really recommend any other terminal unless you’re okay making do with a spot on the floor. The airport’s seating is mostly all metal with armrests (except for a few padded benches at Terminal 4) and does not offer much in the way of comfort. There are quite a few hotels nearby that offer free shuttle pick-up and drop-off if you don’t mind spending a little for that luxury.

7.    Try retail therapy


If shopping’s your thing, you will have fun checking out designer boutiques lining Terminal 1 and Terminal 4 on your layover at JFK. This includes Cartier, Hermes, Coach, Guess, Victoria’s Secret, Jo Malone, Hugo Boss, Kiehl’s, and Salvatore Ferragamo. The rest of the terminals offer comparatively slimmer pickings, though there is a MUJI To Go at Terminal 5, a Juicy Couture at Terminal 7, and a L’Occitane at terminal 8.

8.    Let the little ‘uns play


Traveling with toddlers can be quite a pain. JFK’s Terminal 5 offers a pretty awesome option for tykes to let off some steam. There’s a really cool pirate ship for them to scamper around at Amazon’s Tumble Leaf playground. Kids will also enjoy exploring the cockpit and cabin simulation at JetBlue Junior.

9.    Commune with a higher power


If you need to get in touch with your spiritual side, there’s an Interfaith Alley in JFK Airport at Terminal 4. Chapels can be great places to sit and meditate away from the chaos of the airport. JFK Airport offers not one but four places of worship that sit side by side on – a Jewish synagogue, a Protestant chapel, a Roman Catholic church, and an Islamic center. Whatever your faith or otherwise, you can find peace and quiet here during your layover at JFK Airport.

10. Explore the Big Apple!


If your layover at JFK Airport is going to be pretty short, we suggest that you settle for the many things that Queens offers. You could take a short ride on one of the airport buses or JFK AirTrain to get there. Jamaica Bay, Rockaways, Corona Park, and the Queens Botanical Garden are nearby places where can spend a little time. You could also go to Jackson Heights for great food. If your layover at JFK layover is at least 6 hours or longer, head over to the most happening place in New York – Manhattan.

A train ride to Manhattan from JFK will take around an hour, a taxi ride will get you there sooner, in about 40 minutes or so. Central Park, Broadway, One World Trade Center Observatory, Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 9-11 Memorial, Chinatown, Times Square – these popular tourist spots are all easily accessible from Manhattan. If you have JFK layover is 12 hours or more, you should consider booking yourself on a one-day tour of the city so that you can cover all these spots easily.

JFK airport things to do

JFK  Airport Travel Tip:

  • If you want to spend time enjoying all that JFK Airport has to offer, be sure to reach the airport early. Make sure you book your JFK Airport parking spot ahead of your travel so that there’s no last-minute hurrying. 
  • Avoid public transportation and services like rideshares or taxis as far as possible. Instead, drive yourself to the airport if you need to catch a flight. You can further minimize your risk by booking your contactless JFK airport parking spot online.

Check out more on the best parking spots in your city, the most affordable insurance for your car, and top-rated car washes near you.

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