Ghostbusters has been my favourite film since I was a little kid. My first introduction to Ghostbusters was when I was 5. My family went over to a family friends house and they had just bought their first ever VCR. They had rented 2 movies and we watched them both that night. The first was Back to the Future and the second was Ghostbusters.
Growing up with the Ghostbusters
Something about Ghostbusters just drew me in from the start. I can’t say it was the humour or the effects or even the story. I can’t put my finger on it, but I loved that film! As soon as my family could afford a VCR, the first movie I made sure we recorded off TV was Ghostbusters. I watched it over and over. I’m quite sure I still have that old VHS tape somewhere, edited for television and full of cheesy 80s commercials.
As a kid, I watched the Real Ghostbusters cartoon, collected the action figures, read the books, and even had tubs of Ghostbusters slime. When the sequel, Ghostbusters 2, was released, we saw it on opening weekend. I would go over to my friend Adam’s house and we would play Ghostbusters in his garage. He had his dad build a secret compartment (it was just a cupboard) that we used as our Ghostbusters headquarters.
As I entered my 20s I started traveling. On one trip to New York City, well before I was a location hunter, I booked a city tour of with On Location Tours. We went to a variety of filming sites on the tour, but I specifically took it to see the Ghostbusters firehouse. That visit to the firehouse is what kicked off this crazy hobby and ultimately lead to this website.
It was a magical experience. To be looking at the actual building that I’d been seeing on screen for so many years. To know that I was standing in the actual spot where the actors stood… where Dan Aykroyd drove the Ecto-1, and where the evil Walter Peck got covered in Marshmallow.
Of course, the tour continued, and I got to see other sites like the Friends apartment building, the house from the Cosby Show, and a number of other sites I wasn’t familiar with. That tour really kicked off my location hunting, although I wouldn’t realize it until years later.
Returning to the Firehouse
Over the years, I would return to the Ghostbusters building several times, usually to show it off to family and friends. I was especially excited to show it to my parents, who politely faked the excitement that I was expecting. Now it seems like a trip to NYC isn’t complete without a quick visit to the firehouse.
If you are going to visit, keep in mind the firehouse is a working NYC fire station, but you will notice the Ghostbusters logo painted on the sidewalk. Also, if the coast is clear, peak through the garage windows and you can see the sign from Ghostbusters 2, which is hanging on the side wall of the firehouse.
These are busy Manhattan streets, with lots of cars and pedestrians. The On Location Tours also still stop there as well, so you may need to be patient or try different angles if you want a photo or selfies without crowds of people or cars in your shot.
New York Public Library
The New York Public Library on 5th avenue is featured right at the start of the first movie. It hasn’t changed since the movie was filmed. The scaffolding in the movie is gone, but the lion statues are right where you would expect them.
Interior shots were filmed in the Reading Room at the Library. The team is shown meeting Egon and talking about the ghost in the reading room. In addition, there is a book processing area in the middle of the room, and this is where Dr. Venkman questions the librarian.
As Dana Barrett is a musician, it makes sense to have a scene take place at Lincoln Center. This is where Dr. Venkman tracks down Dana to speak to her about the investigation.
Dana Barrett’s Apartment
Dana Barrett’s apartment plays a major role in the climax of the film, and it’s a real apartment building located at 55 Central Park West. The roof is different, as they used matte paintings to enhance the look of the building. In addition, the scenes where the sidewalk breaks apart and the police car falls into a sinkhole is not in New York at all. The building was meticulously recreated on a Hollywood set where they could control and stage the scene. Nonetheless, you can visit the apartment exterior, and yes, the church is still next door.
Across the street from building is a stone wall bordering Central Park. This is the wall that Louis Tulley jumps over to escape the terror dog.
Tavern on the Green
After Louis flees from the apartment building, he runs into Central Park and ends up at Tavern on the Green. This restaurant is just across from the apartment, situated within the park. He runs to the Crystal Room but is not allowed inside, thus leaving him to the mercy of the Terror Dog.
During a closure of the restaurant for several years in the late 2000s, the restaurants famous Crystal Room was demolished. When the restaurant reopened in 2014, the Crystal Room was rebuilt, although with a different appearance than it previously had.
As it is just a few blocks away from Spook Central, Columbus Circle is seen several times in the movie. During one scene, a possessed Louis Tully talks to a horse about the coming of Gozer. In another scene, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man emerges from buildings and walks through Columbus Circle, heading up Central Park West towards the apartment.
As the educational home to the Ghostbusters at the start of the story, Columbia University was featured in numerous scenes. While interior scenes were filmed on a soundstage, all the exterior shots were filmed on the university’s Morningside Heights campus.
One of the most dramatic scenes in the movie is when the containment unit in the Ghostbusters firehouse blows and releases all the ghosts into the city. The shot of the Manhattan skyline was taken from the Top of the Rock observation deck at Rockefeller Center. The skyline had changed quite a bit since the early 1980s, but the Empire State Building still anchors the shot.
Manhattan City Bank
The Ghostbusters are seen exiting a bank after Ray obtains a 3rd mortgage on his family home, in order to fund the business. The bank is actually located right across the street from the New York Public Library. The glass doors have been changed since filming, and bears little resemblance to it’s appearance in the film.
New York City Hall
Scenes were filmed outside the New York City Hall, as the Ghostbusters are summoned to meet with the mayor. While the city hall grounds are mostly off-limits, it can easily be seen from the sidewalks.
The David N. Dinkins Manhattan Municipal Building
After meeting with the mayor, the Ghostbusters are giving the blessing to save the city. They get into the Ecto-Mobile and proceed in a police and military motorcade towards Spook Central. The motorcade is shown driving through the archway in the David N. Dinkins Manhattan Municipal Building, which is just across from City Hall. The motorcade turns out of the archway and heads uptown.
As the ghosts are released from the containment unit at the firehouse, one ghost is seen coming out of the subway system. This was filmed at a subway station just outside of City Hall. There is no longer a food cart next to the station, as there was in the film.
The 63rd Street House
During a montage showing the Ghostbusters, Ray is showing coming out of the basement of a house on 63rd Street with a smoking trap.
Perhaps the most famous movie vehicle of all time, the Ghostbusters can be seen driving Ecto-1 all over New York City.
The story of the Ecto-1 after the movie is rather sad, but has a happy ending. The car ended up being moved to Universal Studios in the 90s and was driven around the park and used in parades. Unfortunately instead of letting the car impress by itself, they felt the need to cover it in Mardi Gras beads. How this added to the fun or connected to the movie… I’ll never understand. But some theme park planner felt that was the best use for this car.
The Ecto-1 Restoration
After the car stopped being used in Florida, it was basically ignored for many years. It wasn’t until the 2000s that they decided Ecto-1 deserved to be restored. There is a documentary on the Ghostbusters blu-ray as a bonus feature. I highly recommend watching it. It will give you great insight into the condition the car was in, and how they brought it back to it’s glory.
Fortunately she is back to the stunning look she had in the movie, and you can see for yourself. The Ecto-1 is on display on the Sony Pictures lot. For me, the Sony tour is worth it alone just to see the Ecto-1.
Be sure to check out the filming locations from Ghostbusters 2 as well.
If you are interested in reading more about the making of Ghostbusters 1 and 2, check out the excellent Ghostbusters: The Ultimate Visual History book. You can read more about it on my Books page.
If you have any questions or thoughts about Ghostbusters or the filming locations, please share with me in the comment section below.