At the risk of sounding like a postcard (or a T-shirt), I love New York. I’ve been a city girl all my life. Growing up on the Jersey shore, especially central NJ, you hear about the city constantly. As a kid, it starts to sound like the North Pole. My family has New York in its blood: My mother was born in Brooklyn and my father in the Bronx. I can feel that lifestyle buried deep inside me somewhere. When I get off the train at Penn Station and ride the escalator up to street level and the noises and smells start to reach me, it feels like coming home.
I was eight when I went for the first time. My parents bought tickets to Beauty & the Beast on Broadway for my birthday and we went in with my best friend and her parents. I don’t remember many details, but I do know that my lifelong love affair with Manhattan had to have begun that very day. I’ve since gone in countless times, at least a couple times a year. School bus trips. Annual family visits. Nights out with friends. Ten Broadway shows. The Met. Madame Tussauds. The Museum of Natural History. The Rosie O’Donnell Show. Rockefeller Center. The NY Public Library. Battery Park. Little Italy. The Harry Potter Exhibition. Darren Criss and the StarKid SPACE Tour. An ED2010 panel. Strand Book Store. Bryant Park. SoHo. NBC Studios Tour. Chelsea. Central Park Zoo. Ellis Island. The Empire State Building. Essentially all the tourist traps and then some. I actually hate feeling/acting like a tourist because even though I have yet to be able to call it home, it’s my city. It’s the city.
Times Square, ironically the most heavily congested tourist area, is my favorite. To me, it feels like the heart of Manhattan. I rang in 2012 at a bar with my friends and walked through it on the way back to the bus at 3:30 a.m. The area was deserted, except for the cleaning crews hard at work. It was peaceful. Beautiful. I snatched a piece of confetti off the ground; it’s still pinned to my bulletin board.
My time spent working as an intern in 2011 for a travel magazine in midtown has been the highlight of my “career” so far. Spending day after day for five months walking down 40th St. past Bryant Park on my way to the office, attending press events, having one hell of a view for snowstorms and lightning, just the thrill of working on a legitimate national magazine … all of it reignited the burning desire for that way of life to become a permanent reality. I’ll never stop fighting for it.
The other cool factor—the one that strengthened my affection for entertainment specifically—was the number of times I walked past a movie set. My office was right around the corner from Grand Central Station and the Chrysler Building (notable NYC landmarks) and after a while it became a common occurrence for me to have to re-route down a different block because of a massive assembly of scaffolding and lighting and boom mics.
Zac Efron and Michelle Pfeiffer filming a scene from “New Year’s Eve”
on the corner of 40 St. and Park Ave in early 2011.
Which takes me to yesterday’s trip… I went in with my mom and my sister for a walking cupcake tour through the Village. After lunch at Max Brenner in Union Square and some shopping, the sun finally came out. We walked through Union Square’s Greenmarket to join our group and began our trek through six delicious dessert stops: Baked by Melissa (our family’s favorite and a traditional stop on our visits), Crumbs, Amorino, Molly’s, Milk & Cookies, and Magnolia.
Forget the cupcakes.
The highlight of the day for me was walking through
Washington Square Park.
For all the times I’ve been to New York, there is still so much I haven’t seen. Our itinerary usually keeps us in midtown, but I adore downtown Manhattan. I love the tree-lined residential streets. The gorgeous parks. The friendlier atmosphere and the absence of walking suits(1:28) everywhere. So to finally see the spot where so many notable scenes had been filmed was a thrill. That and the fact that it was a beautiful day in a classic New York spot: When we broke through the trees, there was a man playing a baby grand off to one side. There were kids literally doing cartwheels in the fountain. There was a crystal clear view of the Empire State Building through the arch and the Freedom Tower in the other direction. I could have ditched the tour right then and there just to soak it all in.
Here are some iconic Washington Square Park film spots:
Sally Albright and Harry Burns share a car ride from Chicago to New York upon graduating from college. After determining they can never be friends because Sally can’t order pie in one sentence and Harry’s a jerk or something, she drops him off at the park and they go their separate ways. One of Nora Ephron’s best and one of my personal favorites.
Robert Neville is the last remaining survivor after a viral plague wipes out most of the population and turns the rest into zombies with a temper not to be messed with. At least his fortress of solitude has one hell of a view. Too bad he’s forced to blow it up in the climax of the film.
Before half of Glee actually picked up and moved to New York, it was the season 2 finale that brought our favorite student singers to the Big Apple. They sang their way across Manhattan, which included a pit stop on a bench under the arch at 1:20.
Then in the season 4 premiere, Rachel and Kurt reunited near the fountain (with fans watching from behind barricades, cameras at the ready).
Evan (“August”) meets a musician in the park who, unbeknownst to both of them, is actually his biological father. They test out each others’ guitars, engaging in a little musical duel.
I was going to include the episode of Gilmore Girls where Rory visits Jess and finds him in the park, where he says he likes to read. Then I watched the scene more closely, went on IMDb, and realized it was filmed in Burbank. Still, a name drop.
Can you think of any more film appearances from the Washington Arch?
Are you a New York lover? What are your favorite spots to visit?
P.S. As an added bonus, we also found ourselves at the corner of Bedford and Grove on the tour, which is the building they used as the exterior for the Friends’ apartments.
Photo by Danielle S. Tepper.