When a movie—any movie—is filmed in New York City, the media capital of the world, it’s a safe bet that photos of the outdoor scenes will turn up in a celebrity gossip magazine or Web site. But what happens when that movie is "Sex and the City," the feature film based on the wildly popular television show that made Sarah Jessica Parker a household name? With just a few clicks of a paparazzo’s camera, every location chosen by director Michael Patrick King could become the Next Big Thing almost immediately.
After all, the HBO series turned local favorites into national landmarks. Magnolia Bakery, to name just one, became famous after being featured on the show. "The location scouts were wonderful about picking places no one knew about—and made them huge," says Georgette Blau, CEO of On Location Tours, which operates a "Sex and the City" bus tour.
More than any other program at the time, Carrie Bradshaw and "Sex and the City" made the right-now restaurants and clubs sexy and accessible to out-of-town visitors. Even several years after the show’s final episode, says Blau, "people want to see the hipper side of New York” by visiting the show’s landmarks.
Twice a year, Bryant Park is taken over by the world’s most famous designers and models for Fashion Week. As "Sex and the City" fans know, whenever fashion tents pop up, Carrie Bradshaw isn’t far behind. The gossip site Gawker.com, reported that Fashion Week was actually re-created for the film. A wedding reception, too, may have been filmed—a black limousine was spotted and Sarah Jessica Parker was seen “tromping around” in a “hideous” veil in front of the Bryant Park Hotel.
Even without Fashion Week (maybe more so), Bryant Park is a destination unto itself. Tucked behind the New York Public Library's twin guardian lions and just a few blocks from Times Square, Bryant Park is one of midtown Manhattan’s finest green spaces. As soon as the spring weather arrives, tots can be seen bobbing up and down on Le Carrousel, a $1.50-per-ride merry-go-round, surrounded by midtown professionals taking advantage of the Park's free Wi-Fi on their lunch hours.
Had anyone heard the name Manolo Blahnik before "Sex and the City" stormed the gates of pop culture? Along with Carrie Bradshaw's ubiquitous pink drink, the Cosmopolitan, her $500 Manolos click-clacked onto the set in countless episodes. The Manolo Blahnik boutique is in a prime midtown Manhattan shopping location; its neighbors on West 54th St. and 5th Avenue include Bergdorf Goodman's, Saks Fifth Avenue and, of course, the world’s most famous jewelry store, Tiffany's.
From designer shoes to big flower pins, the clothing on "Sex and the City" became just as famous as the stars, thanks to costume designer Patricia Field. Expect more of the same outrageous outfits in the film. (Gawker’s spies spotted Parker in "a terrifying tutu thing" and "hot motorcycle boots" at various points of filming last autumn.) For the rest of us, there’s Patricia Field's boutique on the Bowery in lower Manhattan, which promises clothing, accessories and household items of varying degrees of practicality—from high-waisted sequin shorts to a "pink cupcake dress," which looks exactly how it sounds.
If a $1,000 tutu isn’t in your budget, stroll over to the West Village for a real cupcake—the first New York City cupcake to become a tourist attraction, in fact. Of the many eateries that counted Carrie Bradshaw among its regulars, none became quite as famous as Magnolia Bakery. To find this once locals-only sweet shop, follow the tourists to Bleecker St.—it's a stop on the "Sex and the City" bus tour, of course. Once the bakery’s daily batch of 3,000 cupcakes is gone, the neighborhood can be littered with cupcake boxes. But not surprisingly, nary a crumb.
Paris may be considered the city of romance, but New York City does romance with a unique luxury bent. When it was time for Trey MacDougal, played by Kyle MacLachlan, to buy an engagement ring for Kristin Davis’ Charlotte York, they naturally went shopping at Tiffany’s, home of the famous blue box. Snitches on the street report that scenes from the movie were filmed here as well. On a busy Saturday, the flagship store on Fifth Avenue can be more popular with browsing tourists than buyers, so if the struggling U.S. economy hasn’t affected your portfolio, consider a trip to the other location on Wall Street.
For Carrie Bradshaw, though, New York City was a place where romance fell apart more than once. While legendary little girls like Eloise cavort at the luxury Plaza Hotel, big girls get their hearts broken under the twinkle of the famous Beaux Arts chandelier. In one episode, Carrie saw her ex-boyfriend, the pseudonymous Mr. Big, with his young bride, Natasha, at this Manhattan landmark. Considering the Plaza’s century-long history, surely hers isn’t the only heart to be broken here. Following a $400 million, two-year renovation, the Plaza reopened to the public in 2008, offering nearly 300 rooms for hotel guests as well as 150 private apartments. (Crocodile tears were shed city-wide when the New York Times reported that many of those apartments were still vacant upon the re-opening.)
When the "Sex and the City: The Movie" was filming on location last autumn, one of the paparazzi’s most prized photos was of Carrie Bradshaw clobbering Mr. Big, screaming "You've humiliated me!" outside of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Considering the location—and Carrie’s white wedding dress—gossip sites ran rampant with plot speculations. Much to the delight of die-hard romantics (and Carrie + Big fans), the New York Post's Page Six gossip page mused that the fight is actually in a dream sequence. After all, what's more dreamy than a wedding at St. Patrick's Cathedral, one of midtown Manhattan’s most spectacular buildings—and the largest Gothic church in America?
According to Amy Sohn’s book, "Sex and the City: Kiss and Tell," 40 percent of the series was shot on location. This means, unlike with so many “New York” movies that are filmed on soundstages in faraway cities, fans of "Sex and the City" can honestly retrace their favorite character’s steps.