By Elizabeth K. Mahon
In December, HBOMax gave Sex and the City fans an early Christmas present, a reboot of Sex and the City. And just like that, the show was part of the national conversation again as fans chatted online about Samantha’s absence and whether the reboot lived up to the original's reputation. Since the show ended its original run, new fans have discovered the series on DVD and through repeats on E! Network. The Carrie Diaries, a prequel based on the YA novels by Candace Bushnell, ran on the CW Network for two seasons. And Candace Bushnell even released a sequel called “Is There Still Sex in the City?”
The wildly popular ‘Sex and the City’ bus tour began making their way through the streets again last year after a hiatus due to the pandemic. As a long-time fan of the show (I’m a Miranda with Carrie rising), I knew about the popular tour offered by On Location Tours, but I couldn’t help but wonder what taking the tour was like. Last Saturday I found out. It was sunny in the mid-50s, more like Spring than the middle of February. The pick-up point was right in front of the Plaza Hotel, where Big and Natasha held their engagement party. Who could forget that scene where Carrie quoted from The Way We Were with Big as she brushed a lock of hair off his forehead?
After check-in where we provided proof of vaccination, we boarded the bus, which was spacious and comfortable. The bus even had a bathroom, a necessity when taking a three and a half hour tour. Our tour guide, Lou, explained a few of the rules. Due to COVID, everyone needed to remain masked while on the bus. Although the bus was about three-quarters full, the majority were die-hard Sex and the City fans, with only a few attending solely as support. I was the only person on the bus, apart from Lou, who lived in the city. Although there were drop-down TV television screens at our seats, none of the relevant scenes were shown on tour, which was a disappointment.
On-Location Tours started the tour three years into the series, and the tour reached a peak in popularity at the end of the show but had maintained a high baseline of interest. Seventeen years later, they still run 10 tours per week. Tickets cost $66 for the bus tour, private tours package range from $160 per person for the ‘Charlotte’ to $205 per person for the ‘Miranda,’ which includes dinner at a restaurant from the series.
An actress and singer, Lou has been a tour guide with On Location Tours for 10 years. Believe it or not, she found the job listing on Craigslist, although the company posts job listings on Playbill now. Her two favorite things about leading the tour: meeting fascinating people from all over the world who share a love for all things Sex and the City — friendship, fashion, the quest for love, and the city itself. Lou kept up that enthusiasm during the bus ride, throwing out trivia questions, as well as information about the series, that even hard-core fans might not know. For instance, why the show filmed exteriors mainly in Greenwich Village. Lou explained that given the logistics of setting up and breaking down all the equipment, it made more sense to film in a location suggesting different parts of the city. Lou mentioned that the tour had run into Sarah Jessica Parker on six occasions on her tours alone, and every single time she’s been lovely, stopping to say hello and to take pictures with the fans before diving back into to her busy day.
Highlights of the tour include The Church of the Transfiguration, where Samantha met ‘Friar Fuck,’ Madison Square Park, where Miranda told Carrie she was pregnant, the New York Public Library, where Carrie’s abortive wedding to Big was held. We hopped off the bus in the village, making a pilgrimage to the townhouse on Perry Street that stood in for Carrie’s building. The owner has hung a ‘private property’ sign across the stoop to discourage enthusiastic fans from tromping all over her front stairs.
The next stop was around the corner at The Pleasure Chest, where Charlotte bought The Rabbit vibrator. The Pleasure Chest has just celebrated its 50th year in business, and they have a small shrine to show in the store. Of course, no tour would be complete without a stop at the original location of Magnolia Bakery, where Lou presented us with miniature red velvet cupcakes for a quick sugar fix.
Next, we popped into Buddakan, the Asian fusion restaurant where Carrie and Big held their rehearsal dinner in the first film. The final stop was at O’Nieal’s Speakeasy, which stood in for Steve and Aidan’s bar Scout. It was Cosmopolitan Time at a discounted price of $10. I had a great time chatting with two women from Atlanta, who had spontaneously decided to come to New York for the weekend. We talked about the original series and the reboot, and I gave them recommendations for their final night in New York. I came home with a renewed love of both the show and my city.