We’re still a little less than a year out until Newt Scamander and the gang grace the screen yet again in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, but if you find yourself in need of filling the fantastic void before then, how about a full immersion into J.K. Rowling’s world? We’ve trekked New York City to find as many real-life locations that helped shape the magical 1920s backdrop of the first film, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. While we cannot guarantee a Niffler sighting, we can assure you that this is the most fantastical NYC tour you can go on.
Ellis Island & the Statue of Liberty
When Newt arrives in New York City by boat (as apparition would have been too risky for such a long distance), he would have passed through customs in Ellis Island with his Muggle-approved suitcase packed with fantastical creatures.
Ellis Island held the promise of a better life for over 12 million immigrants, but receiving entry into the country was no easy feat. For those who made it past medical tests and other severe immigration regulations, newcomers would be granted access to the land of liberty.
To check this out, take the ferry to Liberty Island where you can make your way to the top of the statue’s crown, and then finish the loop to Ellis Island. While the Fantastic film doesn’t venture inside the Statue of Liberty, it’d be a shame to miss this landmark on your way to Ellis Island. There’s also an impressive museum in the Main Building, which features artifacts, immigrants’ stories, and the American Immigrant Wall of Honor, a permanent exhibit celebrating the immigrant experience.
Getting there: Ferries depart regularly to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty from either Battery Park in downtown Manhattan or Liberty State Park in New Jersey.
City Hall Park
New York City Hall
To find where Senator Henry Shaw meets his demise, head over to New York City Hall. The re-election fundraiser scene, in which Shaw is ultimately attacked by the Obscurus, takes place in this massive government building downtown, which also happens to be the oldest city hall in the U.S.
Free public tours of the historic building are offered with a reservation on specific weekdays, and non-reserved tours run most Wednesdays on a first-come, first-serve basis at the tourism kiosk located in the southern end of City Hall Park.
Old City Hall Subway Station
In the epic final battle against the Obscurus, Newt and Graves end up underground in the City Hall subway station. This is also the spot where Graves ends up revealing his true identity as wanted criminal Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp).
The City Hall station opened in 1904 with the very first subway ride in New York City. Much like the extravagant time period itself, Spanish architect Rafael Guastavino imagined up stunning vaulted ceilings illuminated by several skylights and electric chandeliers for the station’s interior. Today, even though the station is no longer in operation, City Hall station is considered the MTA’s “jewel in the crown” for its magnificent curves and natural light.
Now an abandoned station, the only way you can visit Old City Hall is through the New York Transit Museum. For $50, museum members can take a 90-minute tour of the station, which starts above ground in City Hall Park. Or, for a cheaper, slightly less legal option, you can ride the 6 train downtown until the end of the line at “Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall” and stay onboard while the conductor makes the loop back around by passing through Old City Hall.
The city has also preserved the original stairway entrance kiosk at Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall station, the same entrance Jacob walks up during his heart-wrenching goodbye to his new wizarding friends before his memory is wiped clean with the Swooping Evil venom. Today, the historic entrance serves as an elevator to the station concourse.
Getting there: Broadway & Chambers Street, accessible by the 4, 5, 6 or R, W trains.
The Woolworth Building
After getting caught using magic in front of everyone’s favorite No-Maj, Jacob, and failing to wipe his memory clean, Newt is escorted to MACUSA by a career-hungry Tina, who’s desperate to get back in the Congress’s good graces.
After being inside the building, J.K. Rowling had the Woolworth stamped in her memory. Though it wasn’t just the lavish architecture that inspired the use of the Woolworth as the magical headquarters, but rather a small stone owl above the entryway to the building. For Rowling, it was kismet. “Of course, that’s why the owl is there, so yeah, that’s why,” she remarked in the special features for Fantastic Beasts.
From the outside, the Woolworth looks unassuming, but once a wizard steps up the lobby’s main flight of stairs, they’re transported into a different dimension. “The same building is occupied in different dimensions. So it’s a Muggle building ‘till you know the right way to get in,” said Rowling. The owl is the only visible sign of magic from the outside.
While they don’t allow tourists past a certain point, you can marvel at the ornate detail from the entryway, or from just across the street in City Hall Park.
Getting there: Take the 4, 5 ,6 or R, W trains to 233 Broadway, right across from City Hall Park.
The Lower East Side
The anti-witch organization known as the Second Salemers, are often seen passing out pamphlets in front of their home to expose the truth — that wizardkind is among them.
Getting there: 30 Pike Street between Madison and Henry Street, close to the F line.
The Tenement Museum
Jacob ends up back at his apartment, frustrated from a failed attempt to get a loan for his bakery, when a Murtlap leaps out of the suitcase, bites him, and proceeds to destroy the already run-down building. He quickly realizes he must have switched suitcases with Newt.
During the 19th and 20th century, Manhattan’s Lower East Side was considered home to many working-class immigrants because the rent was affordable. The LES housed many cramped tenement buildings, once single-family homes that were turned into multi-family occupancies to better accommodate the growing population in NYC. When Jacob returns home from the war, he works in a canning factory, so it isn’t surprising that he lives in one of these small, deteriorating tenements.
In 1988, founders Ruth Abram and Anita Jacobson discovered 97 Orchard Street, a condemned building that was formerly tenement housing, and turned it into a museum. Currently, the Tenement Museum offers daily tours of the building and walking tours of the area.
Russ & Daughters
Using Occamy egg shells as bank collateral, Jacob finally opens up the bakery of his dreams — including his grandmother’s famous ponchkes recipe with the orange zest — at 443 Rivington Street, just off of the now-historic Orchard Street.
Much like Jacob’s experience, immigrant Joel Russ starting selling herring out of a vat to the Eastern European Jews inhabiting the Lower East Side in the early 1900s. He eventually worked his way up to opening his own business on Orchard Street, where he named it “Russ & Daughters” after his three children: Hattie, Ida, and Anne. One-hundred years later his great-grandchildren run his brick and mortar shop, now called Russ & Daughters Cafe, in the same location where it all started.
Getting there: Orchard Street between Delancey and Stanton Street, accessible by the B, D, F, M trains.
124 Rabbit Club
In need of some vital information as to the whereabouts of Dougal the Demiguise, the gang heads down to The Blind Pig, a popular wizard speakeasy, for some answers.
Enchanting. Beguiling. Alluring. Unlike the Harry Potter films, The Blind Pig is one of the few visual moments where we get a true sense of the wizarding world in New York. Stuart Craig, a production designer for the movie, described the grimy feel they wanted for the underground bar in the special features for Fantastic Beasts: “It’s absolutely dripping in nicotine-stained filth, runs, and effervescence from the mortar.” Tinkling glass, scat jazz, and wanted posters add to the sleazy vibe of the underground watering hole that was common in the Roaring Twenties.
Thankfully, we no longer have to drink cocktails in secret as the Prohibition Era is far behind us, but that hasn’t stopped the city from trying to recreate these underground speakeasies. While we don’t have The Blind Pig to patron, we do have a comparable seedy cellar bar known as 124 Rabbit Club nestled in the heart of Greenwich Village. It’s hardly recognizable from the street, and you have to ring a buzzer to enter the dark, dank joint, but folks consider it a New York gem amid the flashier downtown bars.
Getting there: Take the A, C, E or B, D, F, M trains to 124 Macdougal Street, only a few blocks away from Washington Square Park.
New York County National Bank
The Steen National Bank intertwines each of the main characters’ narratives. As Jacob applies for a loan, Tina scopes out the Second Salemers rally on the front steps, and Newt chases his adorable jewel thief, the Niffler, into the bank after he escapes.
Much like the grandiose architecture of the bank featured in the film, the former New York County National Bank is also elaborate in design. Though the building now serves as a residential space, the neoclassical, limestone façade of the bank remains the same.
Getting there: 300 W 14th Street between 8th and 9th Ave, bordering Greenwich Village.
Tina takes Newt and Jacob to her apartment to prevent them from causing more chaos, even though Newt’s more concerned with his beasts still loose around the city.
Tina and Queenie live in a quaint brownstone apartment, which was a popular style home for the middle class in the 1920s as sandstone was a cheaper building material. The Writer’s House, built with a red brick exterior and iron railings, has a similar feel and aesthetic to their apartment in the film.
Now one of the largest literary agencies in the world, the Writer’s House has a long and colorful history. Brothers William Waldorf and John Jacob Astor III built the Victorian-style row house, and by the 1940s it became the Communist Party’s headquarters, where the socialist newspaper the Daily Worker was published.
Getting there: Take the R, W trains to 21 W 26th Street between Broadway and 6th Avenue.
When Graves/Grindelwald learns the Obscurus’s true identity, he takes off after him into Times Square, hoping to use him in his larger plan to take control over the wizarding community.
Originally known as Longacre Square, the area soon developed into a bustling neighborhood full of frenetic energy as brighter lights, theater advertisements, and a new transit system began to occupy the once open space. By 1905, the New York Times moved their headquarters over to the newly-built Times Tower, thus renaming the district Times Square.
Getting there: 48th and Broadway, close to most major train lines.
The Diamond District
Because Nifflers have a fondness for anything shiny, Newt and Jacob head down to the Diamond District in an attempt to find the magical beast. They find him in the storefront window for Volcain & Co. attempting to steal jewelry from one of the displays.
Stretching down a single block from Fifth Avenue to the Avenue of the Americas, the Diamond District is strewn with stores selling diamonds and fine jewelry. Though the area along 47th Street was hit hard during the recession, New York is still considered to have the largest concentration of diamond traders and jewelers.
Getting there: West 47th Street between 5th and 6th Avenue, accessible by the B, D, F, M trains.
Newt and the crew head up to Fifth Avenue when Gnarlack tells them there were reports of something invisible near Macy’s, which could only mean his missing creature Dougal the Demiguise. They end up at the Ginzberg Delaunay department store only to find Dougal was not the only beast who was missing.
Home to high-end department stores, mansions, and five-star hotels, Fifth Avenue has become a symbol for luxury and aristocracy. When the socially elite began migrating to this stretch of land, it became known as Millionaire’s Row, where prominent figures such as William Astor could be seen.
Getting there: From West 143rd Street in Harlem to Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village.
“So where would you say that a medium-sized creature that likes broad, open plains — trees, water holes — that kind of thing. Where might she go?” Newt asks Jacob in an attempt to find his rhinoceros-sized Erumpent.
Naturally, they make their way to Central Park and end up at the Gapstow Bridge when they hear the creature in the distance.
The Gapstow Bridge arches over the 59th Street Pond and is one of the most widely known landmarks in Central Park. Due to its view of the Plaza Hotel and prominent New York City skyscrapers, tourists flock to this destination for its picturesque view.
Central Park Zoo
One of the more difficult creatures to capture, Newt tries to lure the Erumpent into his suitcase with “great difficulty” when he finds her hanging out in the zoo.
From snow leopards to the California sea lions, the Central Park Zoo is home to a variety of species and is one of the most-frequented attractions in the park.
Getting there: Between East 61st and 64th Street off of Fifth Avenue.
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