love & romance

From Woody to Kermit, how much does big-screen lurve in NYC cost?

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It’s no coincidence that so many romantic movies take place during a New York autumn. Say what you will about summer love; real romantics know there’s nothing like a 15-degree temperature drop and some fiery red foliage to make a casual date feel as though Nancy Meyers is directing it. The natural glow of the city bursts open in one last breath before winter, and as these rom-coms from days of yore know, it hardly costs a thing to take it all in. Love may be a four-letter word, but Woody Allen teaches us that “lurve” is five and much more fun to say.

We set out to price check some famous scenes to find out what it takes to evoke a cinematic fall romance and the smell of the “freshly sharpened bouquet of pencils” as Tom Hanks says. I’ve re-watched these films featuring love in brassy NYC in order to see which movie has the most affordable romance. Can modern-day Harrys and Sallys still meet — and fall in lurve — even in this day of the $12 bagel and lox?

I can never tell if this movie actually takes place in the fall, but Diane Keaton’s wardrobe has inspired so much autumn fashion over the years that I think it counts for something. This is the story of a neurotic man and a naive woman falling in love, breaking up, and getting back together, sort of, and on and on, etc. Here are some of the spots they hit up during their bittersweet road to love.

A Walk on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade: The place where Annie and Alvy state their Lurve/Loave/Luff for one another is this span of walkways just south of Brooklyn Bridge Park. Those sparkling city views don’t cost a dime, which is good for the therapy bill your breakup will incur.
($0, Brooklyn Heights Promenade)

Neurotics are sexy.

Movie Date: Annie and Alvy catch their first flick together at the Beekman Theatre, located at 1254 Second Avenue before it closed in 2005. But you can get the same golden era feel at The Village East Cinema if you head downtown a few miles. Channel your inner Alvy to produce cutting witticisms on the despondency of NYU kids while you make your way to the theatre.
($26 for two evening shows, 181 2nd Ave)

Play A Game of Tennis: Who could forget their first meeting at the tennis club? If you want court time at a club in Manhattan (like where our lovebirds were), the cost will be at least $60 an hour. But take up a game on the outdoor Riverside Clay Courts on the Upper West Side and you’ll have all day to volley compliments to each other.
($15 for a day permit, Riverside Drive and W. 96th Street)

8 baby lobsters ($10.95 per pound at Fairway) = $153.30
Supply of coke: $60 for two (that’s if you’re as modestly anxious about your use, like Alvy)
Subway costs: $15.00 (3 stops for 2 people)

Total in 1977: $71.93
TOTAL in 2011
: $269.30

While it hardly looks modern anymore (the whole AOL thing makes for unexpected comedy), You’ve Got Mail is a fairly recent tale of Upper West Side online love, which starts in the fall. We know, the Upper West doesn’t scream broke lover’s paradise, but Meg Ryan’s Kathleen Kelly is just a small indie bookseller who falls upon rough times when the big chain moves into the nabe. If it had been 10 years later, she probably would have been living in “East Williamsburg.” This film actually covers decently affordable UWS ground.

Hot Dogs at Grey’s Papaya: Their slogan is: “Nobody, but nobody serves a better frankfurter.” But at $1.50 a dog, it doesn’t matter all that much. Just don’t be fooled by the New York mainstay’s famous recession special, which rose to $4.45 a few years back from $3.50. With most of the chain’s locations closing shop in the last few years, this seems like a cruel joke.
($3 for two hot dogs; 2090 Broadway)

Hanks explaining how books are like olive oil

“Mochachino” at Cafe Lalo: Two more strikes against Hanks for being the a-hole to order a nonfat Mochaccino, decaf during this famously awkward scene in the film. But the cafe, boasting a full food menu and bar, as well as live jazz, is still a charming little spot to get to know your online pen pal. May I suggest revealing your identity up front to avoid the nasty avalanche of insults our two protagonists endured here?
($4.25 for a decaf mocha cappuccino; 201 West 83rd St.)

91st Street Park: Riverside Park, stretching four miles from 72nd Street to 158th, may not have the reputation of Central Park, but its ceremonious change of the seasons is just as pronounced. Plus, it’s got waterfront views. Just don’t wait 100 minutes before making your move, like @Shopgirl and @NY152 who finally meet IRL at the 91st Street Garden for their very first kiss at the end of the movie.
(free; 91st Street and Riverside Drive)

Subway: $5 (everything is in walking distance from Grey’s Papaya)

Total in 1998: $11.85
TOTAL in 2011: $16.50

Some consider this movie the ultimate rom-com after it turned certain modern rules of dating into household terms. You can consider it an example of how to draw out a courtship for a whole decade, or just appreciate the gorgeous walks they take through city parks. Harry and Sally may have taken their time to say the L-word, but consider this list your fast-forward button and tweet me your thanks later.

Afternoon at the Met: After revealing some odd dreams to each other in Central Park, the two ‘friends’ take in an afternoon exhibit at the Met. In front of the floor-to-ceiling windows, Harry sidesteps around asking Sally to a movie that night, and talks in a strange accent to boot. I suggest letting Stieglitz do the talking here.
($25 per adult, recommended; 1000 5th Ave.)

The roast beef is so good, you'll...

Katz’s Deli: The quintessential New York deli has boasted a bustling rotation of patrons, both famed and ordinary, ever since it opened on the Lower East Side in 1888. One hundred years later, the famous fake orgasm scene was shot, and no one will ever eat a pastrami on rye the same way again. This will be one of the most expensive stops on your date, so make sure you come hungry.
($15.75 for one pastrami sandwich, 205 E Houston St.)

Tinker with Gadgets at Brookstone: Perhaps another product of our recession-age: the Brookstone where Harry took Sally is now closed, leaving only one location in the Financial District. Seems like it’s really just the 1 percenters who need those portable sauna blankets, after all. Also take note of an iPod controlled spy tank and of course, massage chairs to rival theme park simulators.
(Free to enter!, 18 Fulton St.)

SUBWAY: $15 for 3 stops and 2 people

Total In 1989: $44.12
Total in 2011: $80.75

Don’t feel bad if your life is more like the struggling Muppets’ than the heroes and heroines from the films above. This crew kept it real. I’m not even sure if this movie happens in the fall. But it features a love story that everyone who lives here can wax poetic on. That is, our own heart-stopping romances with New York.

Pig luv frog

Carriage in Central Park: Yes, it’s expensive; yes, it panders to tourists, and yes it’s possibly animal unfriendly. But, if nonconformist lovebirds Kermit and Ms. Piggy could get all hopped up on romance despite the cliches and smells of horse manure, then it’s good enough for me. The rides range from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours, and can be customized to include specific sites along the way. A standard 20-minute carriage ride is the most affordable option, but you’ll still get the luxury of peeping attractions such as the zoo, the Carousel, and the Dakota Hotel.
($50 plus tip for standard carriage ride; Central Park)

Dinner in Sardi’s: Every Broadway fan’s holy grail, this is the Italian joint famous for feeding the city’s brightest stage stars for the better part of the 20th century. The Tony Award was conceived here in 1946, and more recently, you may have caught it on an episode of Mad Men or Glee. During the movie, Kermit pisses off a young Liza Minelli after he replaces her caricature with his on the famous walls. If you’re sitting down for a pre-theatre dinner here, make sure to keep your eye out for it.
(Approx. $115 for a two-person dinner with drinks and gratuity, 234 W 44th St.)

Empire State Building: By this point, I’ll bet you’re wondering where in that frog suit is Kermit keeping the cash to fund this landmark tour. Sure, there are other spots in the city that will carry the sound of your New York City dreams after you’ve shouted from their tops, many of which are free (and illegal), But who doesn’t want to follow in those green furry footsteps?
($22 for one adult pass; 350 5th Ave.)

SUBWAY: $15 (3 stops for 2 people)

Total in 1984: $104.87
TOTAL in 2011: $229

(Past prices estimated using online inflation calculators.)

Follow Karina: @karinabthatsme.


  1. I really did enjoy this post, but I have to say, my one qualm is that you suggest a brokelyn reader would actually pay the RECOMMENDED ticket price for the met when it’s basically free. This doubles the final cost of the entire date. 

    • Karina

      I see your point! But just to err on the safe side, we thought we’d show the max. cost, and leave it up to readers to decide what they’d pay. We love the Met! And cost-conscious dating!

  2. Grumpoid McQuack

    Considering that apartments make up as much as 50 percent of living in NYC, you leave out the important parts. Each of these characters lives in a fairly ridiculous space. Annie has her own place with a balcony; Alvie Singer has an open floor apartment; Tom Hanks’s apartment is ginormous. These subtle class hints cost money and shape how people try to live in New York. You could break down the rents per day and add it to the cost of the date; or potentially look at short-term rentals. No doubt, each of these excursions would triple or quadruple in price.

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