Close this search box.

SMELL: Ice skating and hot-tubbing… at the airport?

Sure, there are many unusual places to ice skate in New York City: by the seaside at Abe Stark Rink in Coney Island, on the rooftop of Brooklyn’s William Vale Hotel, or in a narrow courtyard between buildings at Industry City. Last winter, there was even an ice rink tucked into the men’s department at Bloomingdale’s.


But this winter, the TWA Hotel—housed in the iconic Eero Saarinen terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport—has installed a Runway Rink.

How many chances will you have to ice skate right on the tarmac, in the shadow of a 1958 Lockheed Constellation plane–turned–cocktail bar, with the scent of jet fuel in the air? Though air travel is often marked by halting progress, here you can glide past the battalions of Smarte Cartes, the honking taxis and flashing hazard lights, the harried travelers bumping their suitcases over the curb.

Though the rink is just steps from JetBlue’s Terminal 5 departures gates, you feel worlds away from with a box of Sno-Caps in your pocket (purchased from the rink-side ski chalet) and Beyoncé thumping through the loudspeakers.

The 56-by-44-foot rink is made from 3,500 gallons of New York City tap water kept frozen by tubes filled with coolant that run between the tarmac and the rink. A mini Zamboni makes the rounds every so often, keeping the surface slick.

On a recent Sunday, the rink was almost empty: just two tween girls choreographing selfie videos and an Orthodox Jewish family taking their toddlers for their first spins aboard complimentary plastic push-and-ride ice whales.

After a tour of the ice, you can retire to the plush red Sunken Lounge, where you can sip a Shirley Temple and watch the skaters spinning in circles through the canted windows, an uncanny sight at one of the largest airports in the country.
Or… you can head up to the 64-foot-long rooftop “infinity pool–cuzzi” overlooking one of the airport’s busiest runways. The ninety-five-degree water splashes over the edge, seeming to cascade onto the tarmac, where planes roar past, lift into the sky, and bump down to earth. Steam rises from the 95-degree water, mingling with the scent of chlorine, jet fuel, tar, and rubber. Though during the summer months, the pool may require a day pass, it’s free to all in the winter.
On a recent windy February afternoon, one corner of the pool was occupied by a plane spotter, margarita in hand, snapping photos as a Swiss Air jet soared into the air. Then a group of hipsters arrived, complete with New Yorker tote bags and knit beanies. “It wasn’t so hard to get here,” one of them said, bobbing in the water as an Iberia airlines jet taxied to the gate. “We just took the L train to the A….”

Sense & the City is a monthly blog exploring the hidden corners of New York City. Each month’s post is devoted to one of the five senses. Receive daily sensory impressions via Instagram @senseandthecity.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top