Here are 10 things to do on a layover at JFK Airport.
JFK offers some excellent dining options for all budgets. The Shake Shack has a location in Terminal 4 that offers all the favorites of its outside-the-airport locations including breakfast sandwiches and excellent coffee. Meat lovers will appreciate Terminal 4’s Blue Smoke on the Road, which serves ribs, sausages and sandwiches.
Famous New York chef Andrew Carmellini opened the Croque Madame in Terminal 2. Diners have raved about the sandwich shop’s open faced sandwiches, crepes, and made to order salads.
For those looking for a lighter snack, Deep Blue Sushi in Terminal 5 is known for serving “the best sushi you will probably ever eat in an airport.” Customers often come early before their flights just to try out the restaurant’s fresh selection. Deep Blue Sushi also offers grab and go meals.
While the aforementioned Shake Shack is known for swinging the occasional craft beer along with a variety of other alcoholic beverages, the BRKLYN Beer Garden in Terminal 2 is another great option for any passengers looking to relax before a long flight. Customers are split on the merits of the Beer Garden’s iPad ordering system, though many find its doubling as an internet connection and game station to be an enjoyable amenity. A word to the wise regarding this spot: while the beer selection is great, passengers may be advised to eat elsewhere.
For those with more refined tastes, Vino Volo Wine Shop has a location in Terminal 8 that has been highly appreciated by passengers for its excellent wine, great food selection, plentiful charging stations and free Wi-Fi.
3. Check out an airport lounge
There’s nothing like turning a hectic travel day into a rest and relaxation day. That’s the beauty of JFK’s plentiful airport lounges. Virgin Atlantic’s JFK Clubhouse is rated among the best lounges in the world and known for its distinctive purple lighting, large red leather sofas, and the Clubhouse Spa featuring Dr. Haushka’s products and treatments. Luxury travelers can cash in on the JFK Clubhouse’s massage, facial and foot treatments right after playing a rousing game of pool. They can even get haircuts.
For those of us who don’t fall into the privileged few with Virgin America First Class and Main Cabin Select status, it may be helpful to note that it only costs $25 to gain access to the Airspace Lounge in Terminal 5, which has excellent food, peace and quiet, and even shower facilities. Visit our JFK Airport Guide for more information about the airport’s lounges.
JFK offers a variety of options for the shopping passenger. There are a several shops selling brand-name apparel like Juicy Couture and Coach in Terminal 1, while techies can find the gadgets they need at the Best Buy in Terminal 2. Terminal 4 has a Duty Free location as well as a Guess, MAC, and Victoria’s Secret, and passengers can catch up with their reading in the New York Times Books located in Terminal 5. Regardless of the terminal, travelers can find a variety of flower shops, souvenir shops, and news stands throughout the airport, along with Xpress Spas for those in need of a little pampering.
5. Surf the Web
Stay connected to friends and family, update your social media accounts or surf the internet courtesy of the airport’s free and unlimited WiFi.
Parents will be happy to hear that there’s an enclosed children’s play area in Terminal 5 equipped with some toddler activity toys. The spot doesn’t look like much, but the interactive playthings provided are substantially bright and button-filled to offer up a short-term distraction for kids and a well-deserved break for parents.
7. Pamper yourself between flights
Freshen up with a spa or massage treatment at XpresSpa. Three locations offer manicures, pedicures, massages, facials, and more.
JFK offers prayer rooms throughout the airport. There are four chapels in Terminal 4 alone, all with different religious affiliations: Muslim, Protestant, Catholic and Jewish. Each of these locations can only host about 50 worshippers at once, but this solely presents an issue for the overflowing Muslim mosque, which is sometimes so full that people are forced to pray in the hallway outside of the chaplains’ offices.
9. Head into NYC
If you’ve got a long layover here, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t get out and see what the Big Apple is all about. We don’t recommend leaving the airport unless you’ve got at least 6 hours, but if you do have that time, exploring the city will be worth it!
First up – leaving the airport. The AirTrain connects all terminals with Jamaica Station, so you can hop on the E, J, and Z trains into Manhattan. An express bus called NYCAirporter also connects directly to Penn Station and Grand Central Station in Midtown. For direct service, head to the taxi stands outside all terminals – but don’t be surprised by bad traffic. (Note that you can check your baggage during the day most terminals.)
New York City is huge, so you’re best bet is to pick 1 or 2 sights of interest and add those in. We love a visit to Central Park for fresh air – the perfect way to kick jet lag. Or head into one of the best art collections in the world at museums like the MoMA, the Met, the Whitney, the Guggenheim, and many more. If you’d rather take in the look and feel of the city, hop-on-hop-off buses and boats that circle all or part of Manhattan are great options. For more ideas, take a look at our New York City JFK Layover Sightseeing Guide.
Wherever you’re exploring, definitely leave plenty of time to make it back to the airport. Taxis can mean navigating lots of traffic, and security lines can get pretty long at JFK.
You certainly won’t be the only person trying to catch up on sleep here, but it won’t be a very comfortable experience. The seating is fairly limited for the number of travellers coming and going, and it’s mostly metal benches with armrests. Grab some space on the floor – and maybe bring a sleeping mat along with extra layers and earplugs to fight the chilly and noisy atmosphere. If you’re in Terminal 5, you may get lucky with a quick daytime nap in the two sleep pods – but you better hurry, they are limited to 20 minutes per person. If you’d rather sleep in an actual bed and get some privacy, you’ll have to shell out for a hotel. There are several within a few minutes’ drive of the airport, and most provide free airport shuttle service. See our New York City JFK Airport Guide for details.
These are just a few things to do on a layover at New York City JFK Airport. Visit our New York City JFK Airport Guide for more information about more services and facilities available, such as food, WiFi, mobile charging, luggage storage, nearby airport hotels, and much more.