I knew that if I ever went to New York City, it would be for one reason: to live out my fashion dreams.
And this February I finally made it! I was there for New York Fashion Week (tick!), but I knew I wouldn't be leaving without a quick shopping trip to 5th Avenue (more fashion ticks!) and ticking off item no.1 on my NYC bucket list: A Gossip Girl tour of the Upper East Side (so many ticks!).
Fashion got me into Gossip Girl and Gossip Girl kept me interested in fashion, so it's kind of been an endless love cycle since I first laid eyes on Serena's perfect hair and Blair's Jimmy Choos. But enough about my slight obsession - let's talk about the tour itself.
The NYC Gossip Girl Tour
It was a rainy day in New York City and I rushed out of my central Manhattan hotel near Times Square almost bursting with excitement. The day had finally come and even my soggy toes and spoiled hair couldn't bring me down.
Until I arrived at the Palace Hotel... and there was no sign of a tour group in sight. It was 10:01 and the tour began at 10AM - sharp.
After a Google Maps mix-up had cost me more than the 10 minutes I thought it had, the next 10 minutes went something like this:
- Desperately look around just in case they're hiding somewhere
- Feel completely deflated at realising what actually happened
- Frantically search my emails and the whole internet for somebody - anybody! - to help
- Get through to On Location and explain the mix-up (thank goodness they answer their phones on Sundays!)
- Feel a HUGE sense of relief when he tells me I can join at one of the next stops... followed by a second round of despair when I realise the next stop is 55 minutes away by public transport and I only have 15 minutes to get there.
Finally, I found the On Location bus by the steps of the Met - two stops and 50 minutes into the 3-hour tour. It wasn't a great start, but I'm just so grateful they waited for me while I ran the entire length of Central Park in the rain.
Exploring Manhattan on the On Location bus
After getting off to a less than glamorous start and trudging through Manhattan in the rain for a total of 1 hr 30, I leapt onto the bus with barely a glance at the Met Steps. It was, of course, one of the things I'd most been looking forward to seeing on the Gossip Girl tour, but by this point I was so desperate to get out of the rain for a minute, I was happy enjoying it from the bus's dry seats.
When I booked onto the tour with On Location, I hadn't really thought about the bus (who does?). I'd never been on a bus tour before and wasn't sure what to expect, but the majority of the two hours was spent on the bus.
If someone had told me that, I might have been a little apprehensive. But the bus turned out to be one of the best parts (and not just because it was raining!). We could enjoy the Gossip Girl sites like Nate's House without having to leave our seat, watched video clips to put everything into context and cheer and clap as our bus driver, Michael, navigated through the narrow streets and sharp corners of Midtown Manhattan.
Every 15-20 minutes, the bus parked up so we could explore somewhere more. The stops were usually more interactive places, such as Dylan's Candy Bar (where we all stocked up on sweets for the rest of the ride!) or Bendel's, where we could add some Blair-inspired accessories to our own wardrobes. The tour ended at Grand Central, so we could relive the moments where it all started - with Serena arriving off a train from Boarding School - setting us up to re-watch the whole show from the beginning as soon as we got home.
Who is the Gossip Girl tour for?
The On Location bus passes through a lot of Manhattan and I found it a really great way to familiarise myself with the city. In fact, I enjoyed seeing the streets of New York just as much as I enjoyed seeing the Gossip Girl locations!
It goes without saying that the tour is a must-do for any Gossip Girl fans, but what about their travel companions who haven't seen the show?
I ended up sitting next to a lady from Louisiana, who was visiting New York with her two daughters. Both were big fans of the show, but she'd never seen it herself. The thing we had in common was that we were both first time visitors to New York, and agreed that the On Location tour was a great way to get a taste for the city and see New York on a budget (especially in the rain!). If you only have one day in New York City, I'd recommend an On Location tour for that reason alone.
The video clips he
Is the Gossip Girl tour worth it?
The Gossip Girl tour is the kind of tour you could have easily done yourself because there were no passes needed or special entry included. But it was the tour guide and the interactive nature of the tour - along with the bus full of fellow Gossip Girl fans! - that brought the whole thing to life.
Some of the video clips shown were a little bit random, but as we passed through the streets of Manhattan, the scenes became a lot more real and I can't wait to re-watch the entire show with a better understanding of where it's set.
Our tour guide also shared plenty of facts about New York City as well as the show itself. As we squeezed down the street of the Archibald's residence, we learned that a single family lives in the house and rented out the entire place for filming, and that the filming locations cost between $10,000 and $80,000 to rent per episode. I won't tell you any more because I don't want to spoil it, but let's just say we learnt some VERY interesting facts about the original cast, too...
At $49, the Gossip Girl tour comes in at just over $16 per hour. For such an expensive city, an On Location tour is fantastic value for money and a really great way to see the city in a day - even if you're not interested in the show. And if you are a fan of Gossip Girl, it's pretty much a no-brainer given that the hop on bus tours cost at least the same (and don't feature Chuck Bass).
I was given a complimentary tour in exchange for a blog post, but everything is 100% honest as always. Plus, I would have happily paid double the price for this tour!
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