Travel Writing by Cory Hanson

Ghostbusters Film Site Tour

 

If you only have one day in New York and you have high walking endurance, a surprisingly substantial chunk of Manhattan can be explored on foot. If you are a fan of Ghostbusters (1984) and Ghostbusters II (1989), so much the better—you can visit a number of actual Ghostbusters film sites while stopping by some of New York’s other famous landmarks.

See the embedded map for the selection of our target points. As you can see, the full route is long and can be strenuous. Plan to take regular breaks to sample some of Manhattan’s bars, restaurants, parks, and people watching. Try to get an early morning start so you can take a leisurely pace through the city. For a shorter route, cut out Columbia and begin at 55 Central Park West. You can also use the subway to skip the walk between the 5th Avenue Library in Midtown and the Firehouse downtown.

 

 

Columbia University

Nearest subway stop: Columbia University 116 Street (1 Train)

The full-length tour route begins in the morning at New York’s famous halls of Ivy League learning, Columbia University. In the film, Peter, Ray, and Egon are fired from their cushy academic jobs and are forced to go into business catching ghosts. Most of the shots are centered around the main courtyard and its overlooking statue.

Columbia Statue

“Call it fate, call it luck, call it karma…”

As a bonus, non-Ghostbusters site, snap a photo of Tom’s Restaurant on 112th and Broadway, just a few blocks south of Columbia. The exterior was made famous in countless slap-bass-accompanied cafe establishing shots in the television series Seinfeld.

Tom's Restaurant

Tom’s Restaurant

Cory Trivia: I found a turntable/stereo receiver in the trash just across the street from this restaurant on a high school trip in 2003. The turntable didn’t work, but the receiver was the main hub of my stereo setup until it finally shorted out when I was in college.

Central Park and the Jacqueline Kennedy Reservoir

Nearest subway stops: 86 Street or 96 Street (B or C Train)

After Columbia, there is a bit of a walk to get to the next cluster of film sites. Luckily, you can go right through (or right along) New York’s famous Central Park. The Park itself can provide a whole day of entertainment, but we’ll just walk through it on this tour. If you care to, take a picture of the Upper East Side from the west edge of the large central reservoir. It’s a beautiful look at one of the most expensive neighborhoods in America, and the site of a short scene in which the ‘Busters capture a ghost running on the reservoir-circling track.

55 Central Park West, Lincoln Center, Columbus Circle

Nearest subway stop: 59 Street Columbus Circle (A, B, C, D, or 1 Train)

At the southwest corner of Central Park, a cluster of Ghostbusters film sites await. The high-rise apartment building that is known as “Spook Central” and houses Dana’s apartment is located at 55 Central Park West. The filmmakers added a roof addition to the building digitally, but the resemblance can clearly be seen today.

Also note the church next door, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church. This is the building that inspires the classic line, “No one steps on a church in my town!” when the Stay-Puft Marshmallow man smashes it en route to Spook Central.

Spook Central at 55 Central Park West

“I find her interesting because she sleeps above her covers…four feet above her covers!”

Just one long block behind Spook Central is Lincoln Center. This famous performing arts venue is worth a visit on its own, but one famous Ghostbusters scene was shot here in the plaza. Peter surprises Dana after her orchestra rehearsal. She spies him hopping on one foot in front of the fountain, and he famously asks of her pretentious companion, “Who’s the stiff?”

Following an agreement to meet for a date/professional meeting, Peter celebrates with a famous twirl.

Lincoln Center

“I don’t have to take this abuse from you! I’ve got hundreds of people dying to abuse me!”

Down Broadway from Lincoln Center is Columbus Circle. This roundabout is marked by a statue of Columbus on top of a pillar, the street is packed with cars, and the sidewalks are filled with gaping tourists (including you and me!) and people aggressively selling street tours.

In the film, we first see the possessed Louis Tully ask a bridled horse if it is the Gatekeeper, “Wait for the sign, then all prisoners will be released! …YOU WILL PERISH IN FLAME!”

Later, we see the Stay-Puft Marshmallow man come up through Columbus Circle on its way to Spook Central seven short blocks up. “The choice is made! The traveler has come!”

New York Public Library, 5th Avenue

Nearest subway stops: 42 Street Bryant Park (B, D, F, or M Trains), 5 Avenue (7 Train), or Grand Central Terminal 42 Street (S, 4, 5, 6, or 7 Trains)

After Columbus Circle, you have a number of sightseeing choices. Looking at the map, see that the route to the 5th Avenue Library takes you right through Midtown. If you wish, you can see Times Square, Radio City Music Hall, Carnegie Hall, Rockefeller Center, and a number of other famous New York notables. This might be a good time to take a break in one of the most famous square miles in the world.

When the crowds become overwhelming, continue on to the 5th Avenue branch of the New York Public Library and its famous lions, Prudence and Caution. The opening shot of Ghostbusters is the unforgettably creepy swinging look at the right-side lion and the first statement of the spooky musical motif.

NY Public Library Lion

“Listen! Do you smell something?”

The library basement shots were filmed in a Hollywood studio, but some of the upper-level stacks were filmed here at the library. Go ahead and take a stroll through the archives and think to yourself, “…No human being would stack books like this!”

Ghostbusters Firehouse Headquarters, Moore Street

Nearest subway stop: Franklin Street (1 Train) or Canal Street (A, C, or E Trains)

Now you’re faced with a choice. The next Ghostbusters film site on this tour is in the Tribeca neighborhood, way downtown. The walk from the 5th Avenue Library is about three miles, but takes you by the Empire State Building (if you continue down 5th Avenue) and some exciting and colorful neighborhoods. If you are pressed for time or endurance, consider catching a train downtown.

On the corner of Moore Street and Varick Street is the crown jewel of this tour: the Ghostbusters’ firehouse, Hook and Ladder 8. The interior shots of the firehouse were shot on a Hollywood set, but the outdoor looks were all shot here on this corner.

Ghostbusters HQ

“I think this building should be condemned. There’s serious metal fatigue in all the load-bearing members, the wiring is substandard, it’s completely inadequate for our power needs, and the neighborhood is like a demilitarized zone.”

Ghostbusters II Logo at Hook and Ladder 8

“No job is too big, no fee is too big…”

The building was and is a working F.D.N.Y. fire station. Moore Street is very close to the former World Trade Center site, and many of these firefighters served on 9/11, one of whom lost his life.

The firefighters of Ladder 8 are proud of their connection to the Ghostbusters universe and display the logo on a sidewalk mural. Just inside the door, they have on display the marquee sign used in Ghostbusters II, with the ghost holding up two fingers.

This should go without saying, but when visiting, remember that this is a working fire station. Do not block the door and do not bother working firefighters. They may allow you to approach and take a photograph, but be respectful to and do not interfere with the work of the Ladder 8 crew.

Don’t ask if you can go inside and ask, “Hey! Does this pole still work!? You gotta try this pole!”

…But feel free to sing or whistle this Bobby Brown classic on your way by.

National Museum of the American Indian, Bowling Green

Nearest subway stop: Bowling Green (4 or 5 Trains)

Heading south from the firehouse, you can visit a number of downtown landmarks. The former World Trade Center site is now the site of the new Freedom Tower and the 9/11 Memorial. Northeast of the WTC is City Hall (used for various outdoor establishing shots, if you’re interested), and the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge. Heading farther south, pass by Wall Street and the New York Stock Exchange on your way to Battery Park and the last film site on the tour.

In Ghostbusters II, the center of psychic turbulence is the painting of Vigo—”The Scourge of Carpathia, The Sorrow of Moldovia!”—housed in an upscale art museum. The building used to film the exterior museum shots was the U.S. Customs House building, now home to the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.

National Museum of the American Indian, Bowling Green

“Where the hell are you from anyway, Johnny?”
“…De Upper Vest Side?”

Where to Go from Here

Now that we’ve seen most of the major Ghostbusters film sites and are on the southern tip of the island, we can end our tour. From here, if you have the time and the strength, you can get a great view of the Lower Manhattan skyline by taking either the (free!) Staten Island Ferry (eastern edge of Battery Park) or the (sometimes free, other times cheap!) Governor’s Island Ferry (just east of Staten Island Ferry).

Both of these boat rides provide a great view of the Manhattan, Brooklyn, and New Jersey skylines and a nice look at the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island without the cost and airport-security-style-shakedown of the Liberty Island or Ellis Island Ferries.

If you take the Staten Island Ferry, just exit the boat and get right back on to ride back to Manhattan (and civilization, according to New Yorkers). Governor’s Island is a unique former military base turned park. Check beforehand for opening and operating hours of Governor’s Island if you want to tag this on to the end of your long walking tour.

Conglaturation!

You’ve made it through Manhattan in a day, and seen the iconic filming locations of both Ghostbusters films. Get some rest and enjoy the rest of your time in New York.

Please feel free to get in touch with me through the Contact page on the blog or leave a comment below if you have questions, comments, or recommended additional stops on the tour. I know this tour doesn’t cover every film location, but some sacrifices had to be made for time and distance.

As a reward for your hard work, enjoy this, the infamous ending sequence of the Ghostbusters NES game!

Special Thanks

This walk was inspired by a fantastic video from cinemassacre.com and its creator James Rolfe, better known as the Angry Video Game Nerd. In the video below, he visits these film locations and several more in New York with side-by-side video analysis of the film and the sites today. Without his inspiration, I wouldn’t have planned and routed this walking tour. I’m sure he’ll never read this, but thanks, James!

Here’s a link to the informative short film, Follow that Marshmallow: A Ghostbusters Tour

See also The Angry Video Game Nerd series of the awful collection of Ghostbusters video games.

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