In the spirit of celebrating soul mates and meet cutes, here’s how to spend a day in New York replicating the beloved romantic comedy You’ve Got Mail.
It’s been 19 years since the movie You’ve Got Mail debuted in theaters. While technology has certainly made major strides since the days of AOL messaging, the majority of the Norah Ephron-directed film was ahead of its time in foreshadowing the online dating world to come. Replace “You’ve got mail” email announcements with Bumble, Tinder and OkCupid phone notifications, and you’ve fast-forwarded to present day.
The film is timeless. It took a taboo topic—online dating—and made it cute and relatable. In the romantic-comedy flick, Shopgirl (the screen name of Meg Ryan’s character, Kathleen Kelly) and NY152 (the screen name of Tom Hank’s character, Joe Fox) capture the mystique and curiosity found in not entirely knowing who you’re talking to. They exude the instant gratification found in gleaning incremental nuggets of new information about the other, and they practice the art of conversational inhibition, or as Shopgirl might say, voicing a “whole bunch of nothings that mean more than so many somethings.”
Rewatch the film and then romanticize, with the following recreation, what it might be like to spend a day in New York City in Shopgirl’s shoes.
252 Broadway at 81st Street
Start your morning off on the right foot by ordering a complex brew at the same Starbucks location Hanks and Ryan frequent in the film. As Hank’s character, Joe Fox, alias NY152, says about the corporate coffee chain, “The whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people with no decision-making ability whatsoever to make six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee: short, tall, light, dark, caf, decaf, low-fat, non-fat, etc. So people who don’t know what the hell they’re doing or who on earth they are can, for only $2.95, get not just a cup of coffee, but an absolutely defining sense of self: tall, decaf cappuccino.”
2. Argosy Bookstore
116 E. 59th St.
Literarians be warned. This six-floor building in Midtown Manhattan houses volumes upon volumes of rare, first-edition and out-of-print books. Founded in 1925, Argosy Bookstore is a bookworm’s dream come to life. It’s the polar opposite of what Fox Books might have been like, and setting foot in Argosy is refreshing proof that independent, family-owned bookstores can, in fact, stay in business. After you’ve successfully perused and flipped through the stacked shelves, ponder a walk two blocks east to Serendipity 3 for a taste of the shop’s famous frozen hot chocolate.
3. Loeb Boathouse Central Park
East 72nd Street and Park Drive North
The West 79th Street Boat Basin is the real location where Joe Fox hung his hat for the night after breaking up with his girlfriend, Patricia, but the Loeb Boathouse Central Park—just a few blocks east, as the crow flies—is too picturesque to pass up. A short stroll through Central Park leads you to the boathouse, where you can join in the lakeside property’s 150-year tradition and rent a rowboat. Or arrange for a personal gondola ride out on the lake to look for birds and butterflies. (To date, 26 species have been identified from the boathouse.)
4. Books of Wonder
18 W. 18th St.
Because the plot of You’ve Got Mail centered around two competing bookstores, it would be sacrilege not to spend your day in the comforting company of books. Unlike Argosy, Books of Wonder specializes in children’s books. In fact, this is the location Ryan’s bookstore, The Shop Around the Corner, was modeled after in the film. Founded in 1980, it’s New York City’s largest and oldest children’s bookstore.
5. Lunch at Atlantic Grill
49 W. 64th St.
Sparks started to fly between the couple as they dined alfresco at Ocean Grill, which shuttered in late 2015. Instead, hail a cab and take a short 10-minute ride south to the seafood restaurant’s still-open sister restaurant, Atlantic Grill.
6. 79th Street Greenmarket
79th Street and Columbus Avenue
Peruse the aisles of in-season produce at this farmers market, open every Sunday year-round. In the film, Joe and Kathleen share a bout of healthy banter as they take a spontaneous stroll through a farmers market before parting ways. In true Joe Fox fashion, pick up a fresh bouquet of daisies to bring back to your hotel.
7. 91st Street Garden
91st Street in Riverside Park
In the spirit of searching for butterflies, retreat mid-afternoon to the 91st Street Garden. The gardenóplanted with a wide array of flower and plant varieties, from blossoming yellow roses, red tulips and pink lupin to ornately shaped boxwood topiariesóhas been around since 1984 and is regularly maintained by a dedicated group of volunteers called The Garden People. For those unfamiliar with the name, this is the location of the last scene in the movie. Itís where Hanks and Ryanís characters finally reveal their true identities. ìI wanted it to be you. I wanted it to be you so badly,î Ryan says before Somewhere Over the Rainbow is cued and the two embrace in their first kiss.
8. Café Lalo
201 W. 83rd St.
Known for its divine cakes, pies and tarts (Try a slice of one of the 29 cheesecake offerings!), Café Lalo is where Shopgirl and NY152 originally agreed to meet in person. It’s also where, upon realizing that he’s been e-chatting with Ryan all along, Hank’s character decides to sabotage his own date. With glistening string lights adorning the building’s brownstone exterior and dim, European-coffeehouse-like interior lighting, it was hard not to see the growing chemistry between the two.
9. NYLO New York City
One can dream, but not everyone can return home to a stately three-story brownstone townhome on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. But you can do one better at NYLO New York City. Short for “New York Loft,” the modern, industrial-chic hotel exudes the essence of cool and sophisticated eloquence. The hotel boasts a 1920s-inspired bar, library and piano lounge, in addition to rooms with balconies featuring both city skyline and Hudson River views.