NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Climbing the Statue of Liberty or catching the view from the Empire State Building are still top New York attractions but tourists are also scrambling to see where their favorite TV shows are filmed.
Whether it’s the exterior of Carrie Bradshaw’s Greenwich Village apartment in “Sex and the City” or the Bada Bing club made famous in “The Sopranos,” TV location tours are a booming business in the Big Apple.
More than 15,000 people from 40 countries have taken “The Sopranos” tour since it was launched in 2001, and at least a thousand people a week board buses to see the locations featured in “Sex and the City.”
Fans are also heading to the swanky Upper East Side of Manhattan to get a peek into the privileged lives of the teenagers in the popular TV series “Gossip Girl.”
“We keep our eyes on shows that feature New York City prominently. For “Sex and the City” people considered New York to be the fifth girl character,” said Meagan Hess, online marketing manager for On Location Tours, which conducts the tours.
“Gossip Girl takes place in New York City. It plays a prominent role, not only in the settings but in the shaping of the characters,” she added in an interview.
Eighty percent of the filming of “Gossip Girl,” which follows the lives of Serena, Blair, Chuck, Dan, Vanessa and Nate who are wealthy teens living in one of new New York’s richest areas, is done on the city’s streets.
“There is a lot of money that goes into the show,” said Rachel Moulton, a 25-year-old actress and guide said during a recent tour.
Launched in May, the three-hour “Gossip Girl” bus tour which runs twice a week on Friday and Sunday afternoons ferries tourists, from the U.S. and abroad, to the shops, restaurants, bars, museums and hotels featured in the show.
Moulton said the $40 tour, which also includes a few stops at stores frequented by the characters in show, are always packed. Buses are also equipped with TV screens that show clips from the shows with the New York locations.
“Are you guys excited?” Moulton asked the busload of mostly French, German, Dutch and English tourists as she launched into a commentary peppered with trivia questions about the show and observations about living in the city.
As many as 70 percent of the tours are made up of international tourists who know the shows and their characters well, according to Hess.
“Sex and the City is by far our most popular tour,” she explained, adding that there are two three-hour tours daily and as many as three to five on Saturday and Sunday.
Most guests on the “Sex and the City” tour are women ranging in age from 20 to 40. Some are accompanied by husbands and boyfriends. The Gossip Girl tour attracts more teens and 20-somethings.
“I think people like the escapism nature. We do some celebrity spotting on the tours. It feels as if they have some connection with the celebrity and the lifestyle.”