If you go past seven levels of the Candy Cane forest, through the sea of swirly-twirly gumdrops, and then walk through the Lincoln Tunnel, you will make it to no place other than the heart of Manhattan.
That is, according to Buddy the Elf.
The Will Ferrell holiday classic Elf is filmed in the most iconic holiday city in the US: New York City. While the Elf movie was filmed in other locations including Hollywood and Toronto, some of the most memorable scenes happened right here in the Big Apple.
So, if you’re planning to be in New York this winter, it is totally worth it to pay the Elf movie filming locations a visit.
One thing to note is the word visit. Most of the places on this list are stopping points rather than attractions. However, Buddy was a pretty fantastic tour guide– the three main areas he hung around are some of my midtown faves.
So, without further ado, here are the top Elf movie locations to visit on your next trip to New York!
Top Three Spots In Elf The Movie
When asking where Elf was filmed, “New York City” is a bit too broad. There are three main locations in which the movie takes place. Rockefeller Center, Central Park, and the Flatiron District are the top three places to visit.
And luckily, they are all within walking distance of one another. Central Park is a bit higher up, but Rockefeller and the Flatiron are super close.
If you’re asking where was the mountain scene in Elf filmed, we may just be out of luck. All of the North Pole scenes are very much not in New York.
8 Elf Filming Locations You Can Visit IRL
Here are all of the top stops for your magical Elf NYC journey.
1. Lincoln Tunnel
So, there’s not much in the way of pictures and photo ops– it’s pretty tough to do as Buddy did and hop right out onto the Lincoln Tunnel.
But if you are coming to New York in a car from New Jersey, keep your eyes peeled as you exit! One of the funniest scenes in the film is as Buddy exits Lincoln Tunnel, making his New York City debut. You can also pop by East 38th Street where Buddy enthuastically waves at the man waving a cab as he journeys to find his dad.
2. Empire State Building
We have to start with the Empire State Building. This is where Buddy’s dad, the notoriously grumpy Walter Hobbs (played by James Caan), works. And practically half of Manhattan.
Located on West 34th Street, there are a couple of options when it comes to how best to explore.
One of the most popular is a tour, especially if it’s your first time in New York. You can also pay to get to the top of the building and get a sweet view. Literally all of the island is viewable, and it’s a view you don’t want to miss.
The day I stopped by, I hung out by the front door to get a glimpse into the lobby where Buddy is busted for reentering. A must visit first stop.
3. 5th Avenue and East 30th Street– “Gimbels Dept Store”
Also known as “Gimbels Department Store,” this semi-abandoned building on Fifth Avenue is the Gimbels Elf Location, and is such a cool place to visit in person. Just imagine the massive nutcracker on the side and you’ve got it.
Some fun trivia– New Line Cinema Elf director John Favreau wanme decided to recreate the vibe of Gimbels, a department store competitor of Macy’s that went out of business decades prior. Shady but funny AF move on his part!
4. Pine Bank Arch Bridge– Central Park
I have been running by this bridge for the past couple of years COMPLETELY oblivious to the fact it is in the best Christmas movie of all time! Right near West 62nd Street in Central Park, you will find the Pine Bank Arch Bridge.
This is, of course, from the very memorable snowball fight scene (not too far from the family apartment in Central Park West). While there hasn’t been much snow in New York in recent years (yikes), this is one of the best elf filming lcoations to get away from the hustle and bustle of midtown.
Michael’s school where Buddy picks him up before the famous snowball fight is also on West 68th Street. It’s an actual school unlike the house that serves as the school in Princess Diaries.
Not too far away, you’ll find Bethesda Terrace. This is where Buddy and Santa have their big show down with the Central Park rangers. This scene is filmed in the dark, so it’s a bit less memorable scenery wise, but is definitely worth a visit if you’re in thearea.
5. Queensboro Bridge
This one is a little rogue, but the views are impeccable. After he ruins his dad’s big sales meeting (“Oh, you’re an angry elf!”), Buddy takes a pensive walk around New York. All the way to Queens.
The Queensboro Bridge is a bit tough to get to and out of the way of the other locations, but it’s possibly the best view of Manhattan you can get. Just don’t stare over the side railing in despair like Buddy.
6. Rockefeller Center
Even this spot being one of the movie locations, you can’t visit New York in the winter without seeing the christmas tree in Rockefeller Center. It is the end all be all for holiday festivities.
Buddy sees the Rock Tree during his big date with Gimbels elf Jovie. They go ice skating at the Rock Rink, and then pay a visit to the world famous hundred foot tree.
Rockefeller Center has a ton to do in general, but especially during the holiday season. Besides ice skating and the tree, there are pop-up bars, outdoor shopping centers, visits to the famous FAO Schwartz toy stores, and access to tours of 30 Rock.
7. 10 West 33rd Street
Ahhh, the famous Elf rotating doors. In front of a very nondescript (but festive) midtown apartment building, you will find the revolving door Buddy uses to make himself sick.
It was super fun stopping by and checking it out, but I wouldn’t try it yourself. It’s a real, operating apartment building and one of the most underrated Elf NYC locations!
8. Broadway & 23rd
Visiting the spot where Buddy snacks on free candy (AKA used gum) was probably one of my favorite Elf locations because of how nondescript but totally recognizable it is.
This scene was truly filmed at a nondescript subway stop at East 23rd Street. Seriously. Apparently to make it look as real as possible, the crew of Elf took gum chewed by Will Ferrell and stuck it to wax paper on the subway railing. That’s still pretty nasty, but I respect the hustle!
Where to watch Elf in NYC?
My absolute favorite, favorite theater in the city is the Alamo Drafthouse in the Financial District. They are known for playing oldies throughout the year, but seasonal oldies like Elf are their speciality.
Maybe watch the movie and then use this guide to Elf filming locations New York has?
In addition to having a cool, classic feel, this theater is one of the best dine-ins I’ve ever been to. The food is actually really good, and the cocktails are equally as delicious.
It is my strong opinion that the holiday season lasts well into January. January and February can be some of the dullest months of the year, so why not keep some of the festivity through the month?
Whether it’s your first time seeing Elf or you one hundredth, I suggest you take a spin around Buddy’s favorite spots the next time you’re in New York!
As for the North Pole scenes, those were all filmed at sites in Vancouver, British Columbia on the other side of North America.