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Ghostbusters is turning 40 – so I explored the streets of New York like one

Ahead of the release of a new Ghostbusters movie – and four decades after the original hit cinemas – Richard Franks ‘set jets’ into the Big Apple for a tour of the films’ starring locations

Wednesday 20 March 2024 14:36 GMT
‘Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire’ is on the horizon 40 years after the original movie
‘Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire’ is on the horizon 40 years after the original movie (Richard Franks)

There was one movie I was glued to as a (mildly terrified) 10-year-old: Ghostbusters. My dusty old VHS cassette – a re-release of Ghostbusters I and II together – was played to death so much that it jumped about on my chunky TV set more than I did when Dana Barrett discovered Zuul in her refrigerator. I still rue the day the film was accidentally recorded over.

Aged 10 I never thought I’d be running around New York City in my early thirties on a tour of Ghostbusters filming locations, let alone among a group including a super-fan dressed as Egon Spengler – complete with beige jumpsuit, inflatable proton pack, and toy neutrona wand. But there I was, prancing up the steps outside the New York Public Library, where Alice the librarian was the unfortunate first person to encounter a ghost. It was here the Ghostbusters were born.

“As adults, we probably look back now and laugh at scenes like the ghost in the library, but if you ever saw the film as a child it really was terrifying,” says On Location Tours guide Chris Trieber, a life-long Ghostbusters fan and pioneer of a new bus tour to mark a trio of ghost-busting milestones.

The New York Public Library is where the Ghostbusters were born (Richard Franks)

This year is indeed an important one for the franchise and fans alike: not only does the original film turn 40 and the follow-up turns 35, but a new release, Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, is on the horizon. There’s been so much demand for Ghostbusters locations on their other set-jetting tours that Triebel begged his bosses to let him run this one.

“In the six-and-a-half years I’ve been running general TV and movie location tours across New York City, there’s always one location people want to see the most,” says Triebel, holding on to a secret for later on. I have an inkling. But first, our tour begins at Central Park restaurant Tavern on the Green – where Louis Tully (Rick Moranis) was chased by the demonic hellhound and bangs on the windows for help.

Read more on US travel:

Louis Tully was chased by the demonic hellhound to Tavern on the Green (Eric Mudsker)

Within 30 seconds of getting on the bus we loop around Columbus Circle, where the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man wreaks havoc in the first movie. “[He] destroys everything in his wake and steps on the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church,” says Triebel. “This scene was filmed between here and a giant soundstage in Los Angeles. They filmed people in the street, but the wizardry of director Ivan Reitman was that he weaved the scene between here and a green screen in Burbank and you had no idea.”

From Taxi Driver to Breakfast at Tiffany’s, some *of the world’s favourite movies have been shot in NYC. And whether it’s feasting on a pastrami sandwich at Katz’s Delicatessen, as seen in When Harry Met Sally, or following in the footsteps of Luca Brasi in The Godfather at the Hotel Edison, people love nothing more than visiting this giant production set of a city. Waking up at Virgin Hotels New York to a glorious Manhattan skyline view, and being walking distance from filming sites like the New York Public Library, also adds to a set-jetting trip.

Film fanatics can follow in the footsteps of The Godfather in the Hotel Edison’s corridor (Triumph Hotels)

But it’s on tours where you really get under the skin of a movie. We pass the Rockefeller Center, where I’m told a real security guard was chasing the Ghostbusters away as they didn’t actually have a permit to film. Most people in street shots aren’t actors either. Here, the world-famous Saturday Night Live has been filmed inside NBC Studios since 1975 and is where Dan Ackroyd and Bill Murray got their breaks. “Aykroyd said when they were at SNL, they invented ‘pizza frisbee’,” says Triebel.

“As they’d be writing until 3am they were always exhausted,” he continues. “Plus it was the Seventies, so their cocaine had probably run out by then. In winter they’d order pizza from a 24-hour delivery place and put it out on the windowsill to freeze solid, with the aim of trying to shatter it on a building opposite. Whoever threw it the furthest would win.”

It was such adolescent camaraderie that would eventually inspire Aykroyd (Raymond Stantz) to team up with Harold Ramis (Egon Spengler) and write Ghostbusters. “Without those flying frozen pizzas would we even have Ghostbusters today? Who knows,” says Triebel.

It’s on city tours where you really get under the skin of a movie (Richard Franks)

Sites like the Lincoln Center also feature in the first Ghostbusters, where Murray’s Peter Venkman and Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver) met for the first time. Barrett worked as a cellist in the Center’s orchestra. “This was actually the only scene in the entire film that had to be dubbed with audio, as the fountain is too loud,” Triebel adds, as we pass by.

We also drive down a stretch of Fifth Avenue which features in the opening of the new movie, with Ecto-1 streaking past Roma Pizza and Banana Republic. “They had to close Fifth n a Saturday to film this,” says Triebel.

On Broadway, we spot Venkman’s Ghostbusters II apartment, before passing through the East Village to see the original location of Ray’s Occult Books, now a restaurant. Then, our two-hour whizz around New York City ends where any respectable Ghostbusters tour should: the Ghostbusters’ firehouse, or Hook & Ladder Company 8, a real-life working FDNY station in Tribeca.

“Hey, does this pole still work?!” quips one (adult) tour guest, mimicking an excitable Ray Stantz when spotting the fireman’s pole. It seems I’m not the only one unlocking my inner childhood.

Hook & Ladder Company 8 is a working fire station in Tribeca (Richard Franks)

Travel essentials

How to get there

Norse Atlantic operates daily flights between London Gatwick and New York JFK, increasing to double daily flights during the summer peak season. From £299 return; premium seats available from £779 return.

How to do it

A Private Ghostbusters Sites tour with On Location Tours costs £105pp; minimum three people.

Visit top NYC attractions as seen in movies, including the Rockefeller Center (Top of the Rock Observation Deck) and the Empire State Building, and save 40 per cent on listed prices with a New York CityPASS. An adult pass costs £114.

Tavern on the Green, as seen in Ghostbusters, Wall Street, and Mr Popper’s Penguins, is open for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch.

For more information on Ghostbusters and New York City, visit

Where to stay

Wake up to a glorious Manhattan skyline view at Virgin Hotels New York (Virgin Hotels)

To live in the heart of it all and feel like you’re on a movie set, stay at Virgin Hotels New York.

Read more on the best hotels in New York

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