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'Sex and the City' fans flocking to New York

Image: "Sex and the City tour"
Shaley Griffin of Abilene, Texas, samples a cupcake from the Magnolia Bakery while walking through Greenwich Village with fellow participants on a "Sex and the City" tour in New York.Seth Wenig / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Forget the Empire State Building.

Some New York tourists are eager to see the city's other landmarks: Carrie's stoop, Charlotte's gallery and that restaurant where Samantha threw a martini in a boyfriend's face.

Fans of "Sex and the City" have long arrived here eager to see the $500 shoes, the Cosmopolitan-drinking fashionistas and the glamorous serial daters for themselves. Now, with the movie follow-up to the show set to premiere later this month, a number of them are planning trips so that they can see "Sex and the City" ... in the city.

"Once we found out there was going to be a movie, we thought what a great weekend to do a girls' trip to New York City, the weekend of the premiere," said Amy Walker, a 31-year-old accountant from Minneapolis who says she has watched the entire series twice on DVD.

Along with three female friends, she's planning to relax at a spa mentioned on the show, take a "Sex and the City Hotspots" tour and see the movie on its opening weekend.

"The producers have said that New York City is the fifth lady of the show," says Lisa Blythe Perlman, a guide for the hotspots tour. "Eighty percent of the show was filmed on location."

Perlman and her colleagues bus about 1,000 tourists a week to see Carrie's stoop, check out her favorite sex-toy shop, sample her signature cocktail and eat the same cupcakes that they first spotted on the show. The tour company says it has already seen advance purchases more than double for the May 30 opening weekend.

Tourists watch actress Sarah Jessica Parker, who plays Carrie Bradshaw, on a monitor during the "Sex and the City" tour in New York, Tuesday, April 1, 2008. Some New York tourists are eager to see the city's other landmarks: Carrie's stoop, Charlotte's gallery and that restaurant where Samantha threw a martini in a boyfriend's face. Seth Wenig / AP

"'Sex and the City' has been one of the all-time great commercials for the city of New York," says George Fertitta, who heads NYC & Company, the city's tourism office. "There's all of the fabric and the texture and the vibrancy of New York. ... It shows everything: from a great shopping component to a nightlife component, to a restaurant component."

Fertitta, who peppers his conversations with journalists with mentions of the show, said he was surprised on a recent visit to China when he found himself flooded by questions from local female reporters about the series.

"They look at this as a window into New York City," he said.

With its glossy shoots at parks, restaurants, nightclubs and shops around the city, the series has been something of an international ambassador for New York, showing in more than 200 countries around the world, according to HBO. About one-third of "Sex and the City Hotspots" tour-goers are from outside the United States, says On Location Tours spokeswoman Cathy Epstein.

The city is looking to capitalize on that interest. NYC & Company is launching a Web site to help visitors plan a "Sex and the City"-themed visit, and is organizing sweepstakes for such trips in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Britain and around the U.S. On Location Tours is offering an opening-night package that includes its hotspots tour, the movie, and a cocktail party.

One company is charging visitors $15,000 and up for a luxurious four-day trip based on the show. Participants in the Destination on Location tour, launching the weekend the movie opens, will dine at restaurants frequented by Carrie and her friends, visit their favorite boutiques with personal stylists and even have the option to stop for some Botox injections.

Although their visit will be less extravagant, Walker and her three friends are also planning to walk in the footsteps of Carrie, Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte.

"There definitely will be some shoe shopping," she said of their upcoming getaway. "Minneapolis has the Mall of America, but it's nothing like SoHo."