Right up there with Los Angeles, New York City remains one of the most popular movie filming locations of all time. With incredible architecture, world famous landmarks, beautiful parks, and an unparalleled history, it’s no surprise that so many notable films have used the city as a backdrop. From Times Square, to Central Park, to the Brooklyn Bridge, these iconic sites (and many others) have placed the city high up on filmmakers list of ideal urban movie destinations.
Wollman Ice Rink
Featured in: Home Alone 2 (1992), Serendipity (2001)
Location: 830 5th Ave. New York, NY 10065
Skating has been a favorite NYC winter pastime since the beautiful Central Park Wollman rink opened back in 1950. While many ice rinks have opened in cities big and small across the country since then, most pale in comparison to this 33,000 square foot rink surrounded by the beauty of one of the country’s most gorgeous parks. Not surprisingly, the park has been featured in numerous holiday films.
The holiday season would not be the same without the quintessential big city skating experience. Thus, it’s no surprise that so many Christmas movies feature the trademark ice skating season. Both Home Alone 2 and Serendipity feature iconic scenes filmed at the world famous timeless rink.
Home Alone 2 – Marv is seen skating while stealing mittens, scarves, and ear muffs off fellow skaters. This is also the scene where Marv and Harry discuss plans to rob Duncan’s toy chest.
Serendipity – The famous ice skating scenes in the John Cusack/Kate Beckinsale romantic comedy about fate filmed at the Wollman. It’s hard not to want to recreate a romantic skating session here after watching this love story (it’s the best rom-com of all time imo). On a side note, the dessert cafe (Serendipity) is a real place known for their famous frozen hot chocolate. If you are up for standing in a really long line, it’s pretty delicious! The cafe is located at 225 E. 60th Street.
Also take a look at my list of Things to do in NYC for Christmas
The Big Piano at FAO Schwartz
Featured in: Big (1988), For Love or Money (1993), The Smurfs (2011)
Location: 30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10111
NYC’s iconic toy store stood for more than 150 years on Fifth Avenue (the store moved several times on 5th since it’s original opening in 1901). The whimsical toy shop was a place where kids of all ages could escape via a fantasy like interactive experience. Tourists came from all over to enjoy the unique amenities which included an original theme song, a musical clock tower, and guards dressed like palace guards.
The store became even more famous after a giant floor mat piano was featured in the Tom Hanks’ classic Big. Almost every 80’s kid wanted to recreate that iconic Chopsticks scene. Really, it looked like so much fun! It’s such a cool experience for fans to get the opportunity to dance on the real piano. You may not be a master on the keyboard, but it’s a fun experience nonetheless. Note: lines can be long on busy weekends, but it is a free & fun experience for 80’s movie buffs!
According to the NY Daily News, the piano measures 16 feet long and 3.5 feet wide and has 48 keys. It was designed by designed by Remo Saraceni especially for the film.
Note: Big filmed at the old Fifth Ave location (767 Fifth Ave), although the piano from the film, along with the Zoltar machine, is now located at the new Rockefeller location. Note: they sell mini versions of both the piano and zoltar where you can practice your moves minus glaring crowds!
Read more about the new FAO Shcwartz location in Rockefeller . Also check out this cool article featuring 15 fun facts on the filming of Big.
Empire State Building
Featured in: Sleepless in Seattle (1993), An Affair to Remember (1957)
Location: 20 W 34th St, New York, NY 10001
“She wants to meet me at the top of the Empire State Building – on Valentine’s Day.” Most Tom Hanks fan will quickly remember this line from the classic 90’s romantic comedy Sleepless in Seattle. The movie was inspired by the 1950’s classic An Affair to Remember, which featured a storyline involving a couple meeting at the Empire State building. In Sleepless, Hanks son calls into a radio show to find a new wife for his grieving dad. A woman (Ryan) falls in love with his story, and writes a letter asking to meet him at the Empire State building.
And, what a great place to meet if any! The views from the 86th floor observatory are simply out of this world, whether you visit day or night. Or better yet, purchase a 2 for 1 combo deal and enjoy the views in two drastically different, but equally enchanting settings.
While Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks finally meet in the end and enjoy a quiet moment of privacy, it will likely be packed anytime you visit. Sometimes, it is so busy a line runs down the street. Somehow, I lucked out and visited on a rare dead day with absolutely no wait. This likely will not be the case! Even going through security takes a while, even though Sleepless makes it look like Hanks just waltzes in and goes up an elevator. Nevertheless, the scenery from way up here is just as exhilarating.
Many movies filmed at the Empire State building. A roster of more than 200 films includes favorites such as Elf, King Kong, and Independence Day. You will see lots of memorabilia and movie clips during your visit.
Macy’s at Herald’s Square
Featured in: Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
Location: 151 W 34th St, New York, NY 10001
Macy’s is much more than a simple department store. The Manhattan location of the iconic retailer is known worldwide thanks to its’ extravagant annual Christmas windows, the famous Thanksgiving Day Parade going strong for 160+ years, and it’s presence in countless movies and TV shows. As the world’s largest department store (the 2+ million square foot space takes up an entire city block!), it’s well worth a visit for the 11 floors of retail heaven alone.
Let’s not forget that the store became even more famous after one of the most beloved Christmas movies of all time filmed here. Perhaps the most memorable movie filmed at Macy’s is the original Miracle on 34th Street. Not only was the movie filmed at the department store, but scenes were also filmed while the 1946 Thanksgiving day parade was taking place. According to an article by Mental Floss, Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn) really played Santa in the 1946 parade.
Take a look at this interesting article about the history of the Thanksgiving Day parade. If you do happen to be in the city on Thanksgiving, do consider checking this fabulous parade off your bucket list – it’s well worth the hassle, the cold, and even setting your alarm at 3 in the morning to get a front row view! Check out my pictures from the 2019 Thanksgiving Day Parade.
New York Public Library
Featured in: Ghostbusters (1984), 13 Going on 13 (2004), Spiderman 3 (2007)
Location: 476 5th Ave, New York, NY 10018
The beautiful marble lions sitting outside the gorgeous New York Public Library became famous themselves after appearing in the opening scenes of Ghostbusters. The main building, designed in beautiful Beaux Arts style, opened on 5th Avenue in 1911. While the architectural masterpiece is a sight to behold from the outside, it’s even more mesmerizing inside. Do take a self guided tour of this marvelous building to see the pretty murals.
On this tour, you will get to enjoy a little bit of art, architecture, and history, plus get to see one of the most famous movie sites in the city. 80’s movie fans will quickly remember the Reading Room as scene of the 1st ghost encounter.
Touring this gem will cost you absolutely nothing, so be sure to add this one to your bucket list. And also if you have time, consider taking a walk past the real working firehouse located at 14 N. Moore Street. Ghostbusters fans will also want to be on the lookout for 55 Central Park West (Dana’s apartment), a beautiful Art Deco building. Also check out this long list of movies filmed at the library.
Grand Central Station
Featured in: Men in Black (1997), Hackers (1995), The Untouchables (1987)
Location: 89 E 42nd St, New York, NY 10017
Dozens of notable movies have included scenes at Grand Central Station. The transportation hub is also a city landmark, not to mention a shopping, dining, and entertainment hotspot. The terminal opened in Midtown Manhattan back in 1913. The beautiful Beaux Art style building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. The grandiose building is beautiful inside and out, and not surprisingly, one of the city’s top tourist draws.
Due to the station being a popular meeting place, the phrase “Meet me under the clock, became a popular saying. Lots of movies filmed here/used exterior shots including Will Smith favorites Men in Black and I am Legend, blockbusters like Armageddon, and even little known gems like Hackers. For a full list of movies featuring scenes at Grand Central, take a look at this IMDB list.
Featured in: Countless movies, most notably Home Alone 2 (1992), Enchanted, Night at the Museum, Elf, When Harry Met Sally
Beautiful Central Park, an 843 acre urban oasis, is easily one of the country’s most gorgeous public parks. Located in the heart of Manhattan, it’s the perfect place to stop anytime of the year for a peaceful break from the tourist traffic. The park varies in scenery throughout the year, from gorgeous foliage in autumn, to a dusting of snow followed a winter storm.
It’s no surprise that the park has been featured in so many films. Most famously, Home Alone 2 featured numerous scenes at the park including the Pigeon Lady scenes. Other popular movies which featured shots of the park include Ghostbusters, Night at the Museum, Elf, Enchanted, and When Harry Met Sally. Movie buffs may want to consider booking a Central Park movie tour.