Whether or not we admit it, I think most girls have a favorite romantic comedy. Mine is, without a doubt, You’ve Got Mail, starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. It makes me smile every time I catch it on TV and I’m a sucker for the love-conquers-all message of the sweet film. But mostly, I love the incredible on-location filming that shows all four seasons of the best and most picturesque spots in my home city. The entire movie is like a scenic sightseeing tour of the beauty of New York.
Birthday wishes are in order for this beautiful film, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year! You’ve Got Mail was released in 1998 as a modernized take on the 1940 classic The Shop Around the Corner, and suggests that the love of your life may be right under your nose.
Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) is the big business enemy of Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) as his huge book chain is about to put Kathleen’s neighborhood bookstore out of business. Joe and Kathleen squabble and rival each other in real life, all the while unknowingly falling in love with each other in an anonymous online relationship. The excitement of Joe and Kathleen’s anonymous communication adds to the giddiness of this classic rom-com. “What will NY152 say today, I wonder. I turn on my computer. I wait impatiently as it connects. I go online, and my breath catches in my chest until I hear three little words: You’ve got mail. I hear nothing. Not even a sound on the streets of New York, just the beating of my own heart. I have mail. From you.”
The beautifully written emails and poetic instant messaging between Joe and Kathleen are part of the romantic charm, and result in some very memorable lines from this film. “The odd thing about this form of communication is that you’re more likely to talk about nothing than something,” ShopGirl writes to NY152. “But I just want to say that all this nothing has meant more to me than so many somethings.”
You’ve Got Mail takes place on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Since I went to Columbia University, I love that the film highlights some of my favorite spots in New York.
In honor of Mail’s 20th birthday, I want all you New Yorkers and New York tourists to look at Manhattan a little more carefully the next time you’re in Joe and Kathleen’s neighborhood. I’ve put together a sightseeing tour of all the memorable spots on the Upper West Side. Now go grab a Gray’s Papaya and enjoy the tour!!
The Shop Around The Corner – 106 West 69th St., Between Broadway and Columbus Avenue
This quaint little shop was so special to Kathleen, and it’s where she dishes to her coworkers everyday about the romantic words she shared with her online mystery man the evening before. The actual store was never a bookstore and today it’s an organic dry cleaners. But the store was supposedly based on the real Books of Wonder located at 18 West 18th Street, in case you want to check out the inspiration.
Fox Books – 150 West 17th St. at 7th Avenue
Joe Fox and his family were building their mega-bookstore while he was getting to know Kathleen… and the real construction going on for this movie (in the abandoned Barney’s) was so realistic that local New Yorkers actually thought a new bookstore was going up! You can check out the location but it’s actually in the Chelsea neighborhood.
Zabar’s – 2245 Broadway, Between 80th and 81st Streets
This famous New York deli/grocery store was the neighborhood shop for both Joe and Kathleen, who ran into each other there when shopping around the holidays. And if you’re like me and always use your debit or credit card, you’ll appreciate the moment where the stern cashier won’t accept Kathleen’s credit card… until Joe charms her into doing so. Seriously, everyone needs to take credit cards! And ApplePay… but it’s 1998 so I guess I’m asking a bit much 😉
79th Street Boat Basin – 79th Street on the Hudson River
This is the place where you need to look across the water and shout like the Foxes, “Helloooooo New Jersey!”
Cafe Lalo – 201 West 83rd Street, Between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue
This cute cafe is one of the most authentic spots on your tour, as the actual interior and exterior were both used in the film and it still looks the same today. It’s the infamous place where Joe learned that the mystery love he was about to meet was actually Kathleen. Try to snag the same table where these two exchanged jabs and bring a red rose with you for effect.
Verdi Square Farmers Market – Intersection of Broadway/Amsterdam Avenue and West 73rd Street
That excited little look these two budding lovebirds get as they suggest meeting again for lunch is the epitome of new-love flirtation. Have a seat on their bench and be sure your farmers market mango is ripe 😉
Ocean Grill – 382 Columbus Avenue Between 78th and 79th Streets
Kathleen and Joe began enjoying each other’s company more and met for lunch at Ocean Grill…where she almost guessed his home address and made him squirm a bit!
Joe’s Apartment – 152 Riverside Drive, Between 87th and 88th Streets
Joe’s infamous address/username is not actually a real apartment building on Riverside Drive, so for the interior scenes of his building (including the stuck elevator) they filmed inside 210 Riverside Drive at 93rd Street. Have a peek inside and see if Patricia is still there “making coffee nervous” (one of my favorite lines!)
Kathleen’s Apartment – 328 West 89th St., Between Riverside Drive and West End Avenue
Kathleen’s absolutely adorable apartment is in this brownstone where we see her skipping in and out throughout the movie. Of course, the inside of her unusually-large-for-NYC apartment was filmed on a set in New Jersey. But the best moment in front of this iconic stoop has to be when Joe — who by this time knows she’s “Shopgirl” — finally suggests he has feelings for her. “If I hadn’t been Fox Books and you hadn’t been The Shop Around the Corner, and you and I had just, well, met… I would have asked for your number, and I wouldn’t have been able to wait twenty-four hours before calling you and saying, ‘Hey, how about… oh, how about some coffee or, you know, drinks or dinner or a movie… for as long as we both shall live?’ ” And I swoon. Every. Single. Time.
The 91st Street Garden – Riverside Park on Riverside Drive at 91st Street
This small but picturesque garden is exactly where it suggests — at 91st Street in Riverside Park. NY152 asks ShopGirl to meet him there, and Kathleen leaves Joe to go meet her mystery man. When she finally learns it’s really Joe (thanks to a little help from Brinkley,) her emotions get the best of her. “I wanted it to be you…I wanted it to be you so badly,” she whispers before they lock lips in the long overdue kiss.
Joe pats Brinkley on the head, corny music plays, and the camera pans the New York City neighborhood which was the real star of the film. It’s dreamy and rose-colored and just what we all need once in a while. Happy Birthday, You’ve Got Mail. Enjoy it in the greatest city in the world ❤️