6 Must-See Filming Locations
A favourite of filmmakers, New York City is always ready for its close-up. Pay homage to the Big Apple’s quintessential movie moments with this list of 15 must-see, must-Instagram filming locations.
Taxi Driver, Midnight Cowboy, Date Night, Captain America, Big, Shaft (the original!), A Chorus Line, Vanilla Sky, Birdman. The list of movies shot in the neon-lit heart of New York City is endless.
Times Square is at its brightest and most boisterous at night, but don’t go there hungry. En route, stop at West 51st Street and Broadway for a bite at Ellen’s Stardust Diner—featured in New Year’s Eve—where the showtunes-singing wait staff are part of the experience.
Insta-worthy: For a panoramic view of the world’s most-visited tourist attraction, jostle for a spot on the stepped red roof of the TKTS discount booth just below 47th Street.
Radio City Music Hall
Fans of The Godfather will recognize this famed theatre as the spot Michael Corleone and Kay Adams learn about the assassination attempt on Don Corleone. Billed as the “Showplace of the Nation” when it opened in 1932, Radio City Music Hall continues to host hundreds of concerts and events each year. Don’t have a ticket? Get an insider’s view of the venue and meet one of the world-famous Rockettes during the guided one-hour Stage Door Tour ($27 USD).
Insta-worthy: The marquee shoots best at night from the intersection of 6th Avenue and West 50th Street.
Empire State Building
The most iconic skyscraper in New York City (thanks, King Kong!), the Empire State Building has played a starring role in Elf and Sleepless in Seattle—though, sadly, the latter film’s emotional climax was filmed on a replica set. Head out early in the morning to avoid long lineups for tickets, security and the elevator leading up to the famous open-air Observation Deck on the 86th floor (standard passes start at $34 USD).
Insta-worthy: The only problem with the 360-degree view from the Empire State Building is that it doesn’t include the Empire State Building! For that, you’ll need to visit Top of the Rock Observation Deck at Rockefeller Center 16 blocks north. You can save money and skip lines by purchasing a New York CityPASS ($158 CDN) get access to both experiences.
Although you saw it destroyed by a flying saucer in Men in Black, the real-life Unisphere stands tall in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens. The 12-storey stainless-steel globe was commissioned for the 1964 New York World’s Fair to celebrate the dawn of the space age and “Peace Through Understanding,” and shines like new thanks to recent restoration efforts.
Baseball fans will want to visit nearby Citi Field, home of the New York Mets, while little ones will enjoy the Queens Zoo.
Insta-worthy: If you’re visiting in the summer, a selfie with the reflecting pool and fountains is a must. In the off-season, when the pool is empty, stand underneath the globe for a unique angle.
Grand Central Terminal
A transportation hub for travellers and commuters since 1913, Grand Central Terminal has been the big screen backdrop for everything from chases (North by Northwest) and gun battles (Carlito’s Way) to alien invasions (The Avengers) and flash mobs (Friends with Benefits). To learn more about this Beaux Arts beauty, download the Grand Central Tour app ($5) for an official self-guided audio tour, then stop by the Magnolia Bakery location in the Lower Concourse for one of their deeply delicious cupcakes.
Insta-worthy: Watch the ebb and flow of the bustling main concourse from the east or west balconies or aim high for a photo of the arched windows and constellation-themed ceiling mural.
Conceived by John D. Rockefeller during the Depression as a “city within a city,” Rockefeller Center encompasses six square blocks of Midtown Manhattan. Several of the complex’s most popular attractions have made film appearances, including The Rainbow Room (Sleepless in Seattle), Top of the Rock (The Adjustment Bureau) and The Rink at Rockefeller Plaza (Elf, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York).
After a day of sightseeing, relax with a cocktail at the stately Lotte Palace New York on Madison Avenue—its Tavern On 51 bar offers a cool Old New York vibe. The mansion-turned-hotel appears in the rom-coms 27 Dresses and Just My Luck.