I partially blame the rom-coms of the 90s/early 2000s for my decision to move to New York City. I daydreamed of living my best Meg Ryan life, running a cute little bookshop, and living in a beautiful (rent-controlled) brownstone. Sadly, that kind of apartment is harder to come by than the serendipitous appearance of a soulmate.
Rom-coms may give us unrealistic love stories and expectations, but they take place in some very real places, many of which can be found in New York City.
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, I’ve put together fourteen of my favorite New York rom-com filming locations. I present a rom-com lover’s guide to NYC, and just maybe it’ll lead to your meeting a special someone…
Note: Below may contain spoilers. (But they’re rom-coms, so you can bet the main characters end up together!)
14 Rom-Com Locations in NYC
Sleepless in Seattle: Top of the Empire State Building
Address: 20 W 34th St, New York, NY 10001
What is more romantic than meeting at the top of the most iconic building in New York? And on Valentine’s Day, no less!
If you don’t remember: Tom Hanks plays a widower in Seattle, whose son convinces him to go on a late-night radio talk show. He’s heard by Meg Ryan’s character, who writes him a letter asking to meet at the top of the Empire State Building like they do in the 1957 film, An Affair to Remember. After just missing each other, they do ultimately meet, and fall in love, etc, as the lights of Manhattan twinkle around them.
The most unrealistic part, though? It is the old guy working at the Empire State Building ticket counter who kindly lets Meg Ryan up to the top, even though the building is technically closed for the night.
But really, the view from the top is truly magical and shouldn’t be missed. Built in the 1930s, the Empire State Building is no longer the tallest building in New York City, but it is one of the most recognizable.
You’ve Got Mail: Cafe Lalo
Address: 201 W 83rd St, New York, NY 10024
Ah, in the days of old, before texting or DMs, there was AOL.
In this other Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan pairing, two pen pals/email buddies don’t know that they are actually each other’s business competition until they plan to meet at Cafe Lalo on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
Meg Ryan arrives at the cafe first and puts a rose in the book she’s reading, so her pen pal will be able to spot her. But when Tom Hanks sees her through the window and realizes she is the one he is putting out of business, he doesn’t reveal his identity. Sadly, Meg Ryan’s character believes she was stood-up.
Lucky for us though, the cafe at which they were to meet is a real cafe on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and they serve delicious dessert. The Parisian vibe makes it a cute date spot, assuming your date actually shows up!
Note: Cafe Lalo has been closed for renovations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
P.S. I Love You: The Irish Hunger Memorial
Address: North End Ave & Vesey St, New York, NY 10280
Can we take a moment to appreciate the Gerard Butler suspender dance?
When a man is diagnosed with cancer, he writes letters to be given to his wife after his death, to help her move on. *Sigh* If I were in Hilary Swank’s character’s designer shoes, I would’ve been absolutely heartbroken at his untimely death, as well.
Gerard’s character was Irish, so it would make sense that Hilary Swank’s character would wander around the tiny piece of Ireland in NYC: the Hunger Memorial. Tucked away in downtown Manhattan is a little elevated park that honors over one million Irish people who starved to death from 1845-1852.
The rocks, soil, and vegetation were all transported from Ireland across the Atlantic Ocean. If you close your eyes you can almost pretend that you’re surrounded by rolling green hills and that Gerard Butler is standing beside you.
Maid in Manhattan: The Waldorf Astoria
Address: 301 Park Ave, New York, NY 10022
In this Cinderella-esque story, J. Lo’s character works at a high-end hotel as a housekeeper. When she tries on a designer coat left behind by a guest, Ralph Fiennes (aka Voldemort) mistakes her for a socialite. Of course, they end up together, even when she tells him the truth.
(Having done housekeeping at local hotels as a teenager, I can tell you that housekeepers are some of the most underappreciated folks in the hospitality business.)
The hotel in the film is called The Beresford, and there is a building by that name in New York, but it’s an apartment building. Filming was actually done at the Waldorf Astoria and the now-closed Roosevelt Hotel. The Waldorf Astoria was completed in 1931 and was known for its Art Deco architecture and lavish balls.
Note: The Waldorf Astoria has been undergoing renovations and will reopen as residences in 2022.
Enchanted: Central Park
Address: Throughout the park, mostly between 72nd and 81st streets
Can you watch the “How Does She Know” song and dance number without smiling? I certainly can’t. The sunshine, the bright colors, Amy Adams as a storybook princess…and the magic of Central Park.
Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey, and an insane number of extras, cover a lot of ground and hit many of the well-known places within the park. Many of these filming locations are in the middle of the park, including Belvedere Castle, Bethesda Fountain, and The Lake.
While I’ve never seen that many people singing the same song, you can usually find lots of colorful characters, performances, and live music in Central Park.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s: Tiffany & Co.
Address: 727 5th Avenue and East 57th Street, New York, NY 10022
Name a more beautifully classic look than Audrey Hepburn in the black dress, sunglasses, and pearls…I’ll wait. Her role in the 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany’s is iconic, and it’s a film that many people (especially college-age females) still gravitate toward today.
There’s just something endearing about Hepburn’s Holly Golightly, a “cafe society girl” who lives in a barely furnished apartment with her cat and who is constantly losing her keys. (Now that I’ve written that, it’s no wonder this movie still resonates with us!)
In the opening scene, Holly gets out of a cab, with breakfast in hand, and gazes at the jewelry in the windows of the Tiffany & Co. store. She later tells George Peppard’s character that she does this whenever she needs to stave off the “mean reds”.
The Tiffany & Co. store on 5th Avenue has been the flagship store since 1940, although the company has been around since 1837. It’s currently undergoing a facelift, but it’s still classic as ever. As Holly says, “The quietness and proud look of it; nothing very bad could happen to you there.”
Tiffany’s was also used in the 2002 movie Sweet Home Alabama when Patrick Dempsey’s character told Reese Witherspoon that she could pick any ring in the store.
When Harry Met Sally: Katz’s Delicatessen
Address: 205 E Houston St, New York, NY 10002
Before she worked with Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan worked with Billy Crystal on the beloved story of friends turned lovers in When Harry Met Sally.
Even if you’ve never seen the movie, you’ve probably seen the famous scene in which Meg and Billy are eating at Katz’s Deli and argue over whether or not a man can recognize when his female partner is faking an orgasm…leading to Meg Ryan’s iconic scene and the line, “I’ll have what she’s having!” To this day, the deli hangs a sign above the legendary table that says “I hope you have what she had!”
However, beyond its movie fame, Katz’s is known for its food, particularly pastrami, and has been around since the early 1900s. Beyond Katz’s deli scene, When Harry Met Sally is a beautiful love letter to NYC in the fall.
Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist: Veselka
Address: 144 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003
As someone who grew up in a small town upstate, the idea of gallivanting around New York City in the middle of the night as a teenager sounded both terrifying and super cool.
In Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Michael Cera and Kat Dennings play teenagers on the hunt for a drunk friend and their favorite band’s secret show.
This adventure brings them throughout New York City, where late at night they stop for a meal at Veselka. Even if you haven’t seen the movie, you might have heard of Veselka’s Ukrainian restaurant because their food is just that good.
Known for their pierogies and potato pancakes served with sour cream and applesauce on the side, Veselka has been serving delicious meals since 1954. Located in the East Village, Veselka is popular amongst locals and tourists alike.
Address: 1000 Third Avenue 59th Street and, Lexington Ave, New York, 10022
Tom Hanks was also making his way in rom-coms even before he started working with Meg Ryan, including when he starred in the 1984 flick, Splash, with Darryl Hannah. (As one of those kids who desperately wanted to be a mermaid, I watched this one a lot.)
In Splash, the mermaid, Madison, (named after the avenue in New York), just has to get her tail dry for it to turn into human legs. After saving Tom Hanks’s character from drowning when they were both young, Madison makes her way to New York City to find him as an adult and arrives in town wearing absolutely nothing…until someone hands her an oversized I Love NY t-shirt.
Obviously, Madison doesn’t speak English at first, but after spending hours in front of the television display at Bloomingdale’s Department Store, she magically learns! (She also leaves with a fancy new array of clothing.)
Bloomingdale’s Department Store in New York was first founded by brothers Joseph and Lyman Bloomingdale in 1861. Since then it has expanded all over the United States, with its flagship store remaining in New York City on 59th Street.
Working Girl: Staten Island Ferry
How epic are the shots of the Manhattan skyline with Carly Simon’s “Let the River Run” playing? (Answer: very.)
Working Girl is the story of administrative assistant, Tess, played by Melanie Griffith, who dreams of rising through the ranks of the 1980s Manhattan workplace.
When her boss (Sigourney Weaver) is stuck with an injury in Europe, Tess poses as her equal and proposes a profitable merger idea to Harrison Ford’s character. With grit, wit, (some white lies), and shoulder pads, Tess makes her own way in the business world, securing her own job…and an office with a killer view.
She travels to work on the Staten Island Ferry, which runs between Lower Manhattan and Staten Island. It is free to ride and offers beautiful views of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty!
Moonstruck: Revson Fountain at Lincoln Center
Address: Lincoln Center Plaza (63rd St. and Columbus Ave.), New York, NY 10023
In this Academy-nominated rom-com of the 1980s, Cher and Nicholas Cage star as Italian-Americans (with incredibly thick New York accents) Loretta and Ronny. The two become unlikely lovers…even though Loretta is engaged to Ronny’s brother.
Loretta and Ronny go for a romantic date to the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. They meet outside in the courtyard, in front of the famous fountain that has also been seen in Ghostbusters, Center Stage, and The Producers.
Lincoln Center consists of a collection of buildings housing the Metropolitan Opera, the New York City Ballet, and the New York Philharmonic.
Officially called the Revson Fountain, the fountain in Lincoln Center was installed in 1964. The fountain was redesigned in 2009 and can shoot water up as high as 60 feet in the air!
13 Going on 30: Jenna’s Apartment
Address: 51 5th Avenue and East 12th Street
Ah, to be 13 and think that by 30 years old you’ll have your life together…like Jennifer Garner’s character believes.
In the 2004 flick 13 Going on 30, Jenna wishes to be “30, flirty, and thriving”, and after the sprinkling of some magic dust, she suddenly is. She awakens to find herself living in a beautiful apartment on 5th Avenue in New York City, as an editor of a style magazine.
(Of course, she discovers that she burned the wrong bridges in this potential future and with help from Mark Ruffalo gets a second chance to grow up a better person.)
Much of 13 Going on 30 was filmed in New York in well-known spots like Central Park, Greenwich Village, and Times Square.
The apartment building Jennifer Garner walks out of is still there on 5th Ave. and East 12 Street. It was built in the 1920s and still has luxury residential apartments.
Serendipity: Serendipity 3
Address: 225 E 60th St, New York, NY 10022
Fun fact: Serendipity was the first PG-13 movie I ever saw! That was also the day I learned the definition of serendipity: according to Oxford Languages: noun 1. the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.
I just fell in love with the word, the idea…and with New York in the snow. (Of course, the rom-coms filmed in New York City don’t show the sidewalk slush puddles one must cross after it snows.)
Serendipity is the quintessential New York rom-com. After attempting to buy the same pair of gloves during the busy holiday season, John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale are instantly smitten with each other and go for a romantic skate in Central Park.
They also treat themselves to the famous frozen hot chocolate at Serendipity 3 on the Upper East Side. Kate Beckinsale’s character says she first went into the restaurant because of the name. Yes, the name is super cute, but the frozen hot chocolate is actually worth going for, whether it’s snowing or ninety-degree heat.
Kate and Leopold: Brooklyn Bridge
In this 2001 rom-com Hugh Jackman’s character is a physicist/duke who accidentally falls from the unfinished Brooklyn Bridge and time-travels from the 1870s to the 21st century New York City. There, he meets Meg Ryan’s character and falls in love, of course.
The Brooklyn Bridge figures prominently throughout the movie, from the duke sketching the unfinished bridge early in the film to it becoming the site of a time-traveling portal.
Construction on the Brooklyn Bridge did indeed begin in 1870. It was completed in 1883, with thousands of people attending its opening ceremony. Spanning between the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn, the bridge is a little over one mile long.
Today, it has one level for cars and one level for pedestrians and bicycles. The Brooklyn Bridge offers stunning views of the Manhattan skyline.
New York is certainly full of romance…and full of fantastic rom-com filming locations.
Plus, there are so many people in this giant city, you never know when you might meet someone- whether by fate or just because you’re squished next to them on the subway.
What are some of your favorite New York rom-coms?
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