Join me on my quest to find some of the real-life locations where one of my all-time favorite romantic comedies, YOU’VE GOT MAIL, was shot.
Since the city of New York is practically a character in this 1998 movie, my daughter and I had to check out some of the shooting locations. While a few have changed dramatically and others are still similar to how they appear in the movie, just being there and seeing them with our own eyes felt like we’d been sprinkled with a little movie magic.
1. Books of Wonder Bookstore
Our first stop isn’t technically a shooting location, but it served as the inspiration for The Shop Around the Corner, the children’s bookstore owned by Kathleen Kelly, Meg Ryan’s character. It wasn’t on our list but when we stumbled on it, it felt like a bonus.
Spoiler Alert! If it troubles you that Kathleen has to close her charming bookstore because the monster that is Fox Books steals all her business, take heart. Books of Wonder is still alive and well on New York’s Upper West Side.
From the Books of Wonder website:
In 1997, You’ve Got Mail was being directed by longtime customer and friend, director and writer Nora Ephron. She and her sister, co-writer Delia Ephron (another longtime friend and customer), had Books of Wonder in mind as the model for the children’s bookstore in the movie. To our surprise, one day a group of set designers descended upon us to ask if they could photograph, observe, and measure so as to recreate as well as possible our store on a sound stage. For the next two months, we were regularly visited by folks working on the film. Meg Ryan even spent a day working at the shop to prepare for her role in the film. And when it came time to arrange the books on the set, we were asked to send staff members up to assist so the film’s store would look authentic. When the film came out, we were delighted to discover the filmmakers had thanked us in the movie’s credits. To this day, people still ask, “Was this where they filmed You’ve Got Mail?”
2. Kathleen Kelly’s apartment.
Look at me, waiting outside my good friend Kathleen’s apartment. I know, I know. It’s the fictional apartment of a fictional character. But I like to think that if we could actually meet, we would be friends.
We love this neighborhood. And the fact that when Kathleen leaves her apartment near the end of the movie, she really does just have a short sprint up the street to reach her designated meeting place with NY152 at Riverside Park (see stop #9).
Among the places where Kathleen Kelly and Joe Fox almost cross paths is this charming corner Starbucks.
Being from Seattle, I’ve been to many, many Starbucks locations. You might think there’s not much to distinguish one from another, but it was fun waiting for my grande iced almond milk coffee in the very spot where both Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks had once stood. And that was a good cup of coffee.
4. Verdi Square
I thought if I stood there long enough, either Meg or Tom might pass by. It was a fun thought!
Just look at how much this spot has changed since 1997 when the movie was shot. The light post really threw us, but if you take a careful look at the trees and the buildings in the background, you can see that it’s the right spot. And it’s a lovely place to linger.
5. The Shop Around the Corner
If you don’t know what you’re looking for, it would be easy to walk right past this iconic piece of movie history and not even know it.
Today, the shop is home to a dry cleaner (I’m happy to report that they’re organic), but at the time of the filming, it housed an antique shop. It’s a tribute to the skill of the set designer and crew that they were able to transform the exterior of this establishment into the charming little shop we all know from the movie.
6. Fox Books
The only location not actually in the Upper West Side is the site of Fox Books. We sought it out on a different day when we were down south seeing a show. Since I knew this building isn’t (and wasn’t at the time) really a book store, my expectations weren’t huge. But, I was disappointed to see it shrouded in scaffolding. Oh well. That’s New York for you.
I really wanted to stop and gaze at it from the spot where Kathleen and her co-workers stood, but I was a little afraid of getting hit by a cab. Or trampled by pedestrians.
Remember the scene in the movie where Kathleen, flustered by her near-encounter with Joe in the grocery store, accidentally gets in the cash-only checkout line? That scene was shot at Zabar’s.
8. Cafe Lalo
Once again, we almost walked past this lovely little cafe because it was hidden behind scaffolding. Apparently, in this city, scaffolding rental is the business to be in.
We peeked through the windows (it looks the same!) and plan to go back later to dine and pretend we’re waiting for NY152 to join us. Maybe we’ll leave an empty chair and a rose, just in case.
9. Riverside Park
Have I told you how much I love a happy ending? And this is one of my absolute favorites. It was shot in the most beautiful spot in this lovely park. Nice choice for a meeting/identity reveal, Joe!
That’s it for our tour. Have you ever sought out (or happened upon) a shooting location for one of your favorite movies or shows? I’d love to hear about it!
If you’re in the mood for a Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan movie marathon (and why wouldn’t you be?), you can find them all here:
Take a “YOU’VE GOT MAIL” Walking Tour of NYC! CLICK TO TWEET!
Do you love Meg’s You’ve Got Mail wardrobe? I found a fun interview with the man who designed her costumes. You’ll find it here.